How an Ancient Germanic name became a French classic

French scholar, intellectual, writer, and nun Héloïse d’Argenteuil
(ca. 1090–16 May 1164)

Helewidis is an Ancient Germanic name derived from roots heil (healthy, hale) and wid (wide). In Proto–Germanic, the name was Hailawidis, “holy wood.” Due to cultural osmosis, it eventually was adopted into Old French as Héloïse. Probably the most famous bearer was the above-pictured Héloïse d’Argenteuil, one of the most educated and intelligent women of the Middle Ages. She was famous in her own right long before Pierre Abélard came along!

Other forms of this lovely name include:

1. Éloïse is modern French. This is my character Adicia’s middle name. Though her dad cares less about any of his nine kids, he nevertheless made sure they all got at least one French name, because he’s so proud of having 100% French blood. Without the diacritical marks, as they both say several times, the name would look like it’s pronounced El-WAZ.

As simply Eloise, the name is English. Many people are familiar with the 1950s Eloise series about a girl who lives in Manhattan’s glamourous Plaza Hotel. “Dear Eloise” is also a 1966 Hollies’ song, after which I named my tenth journal.

Dr. Eloísa Díaz Insunza (1866–1950), first woman to attend the University of Chile’s medical school, and South America’s first female doctor

2. Eloísa is Spanish, Catalan, and Galician. The variant Eloisa is Italian. Eloïsa is also Catalan.

3. Heloísa is Portuguese. The variant Heloïsa is a rare Catalan form. Heloisa is German, Slovak, and Czech.

4. Elouise is English. I’m not a fan of this spelling!

5. Helouise is also English. I have a character by this name, who goes by Hellie, but if I’d created her at a much older age, I probably would’ve used the more traditional spelling.

6. Heloiza is Polish and Slovenian.

7. Eloiza is Russian, Azeri, and Brazilian–Portuguese. The variant Eloīza is Latvian.

8. Elouisa is English.

9. Eloisia is Italian.

5 thoughts on “How an Ancient Germanic name became a French classic

  1. I love ELoise so much! And all its variants! Helo(u)ise nicknamed Hellie is so sweet. I love how this name is very subtle and sophisticated but at the same time has a very regal, majestic feel. I used to really dislike our Polish Heloiza and the way it sounds, and while I still don’t think it’s the prettiest variant out there, it has grown on me a whole lot and now I think it does have a lot of quirky, very vintage charm, and I find it sad that it’s not really used, and I guess has never been even slightly popular. I guess the name was only polonised for the sake of translating the name of Héloïse d’Argenteuil, though I might be wrong and I hope I am wrong, and I am only basing this on that I’ve never seen the name Heloiza used in reference to anyone else other than her.

    • It would be interesting to see if it was used for anyone else.

      Would Poles go for Hedwig/Jadwiga/Jagoda if they didn’t do this? [or gone with the “healthy and wide” and “holy wood” meanings … ].

      Seems, too, to connote a sense of stardom and perfection – like being a star of your class or your school or being a high achiever in some way.

      Thinking, too, of Maria/Manya Skodolowska Curie and how Polish names go to France/Francophone countries and vice versa.

      Were you surprised to discover Slovenians use it too? I wonder if they would use it more?

      And my younger self is twinging here. That whole “Louise with an E at the beginning” [the reverse of Anne-with-an-E at the en].

      Why not ElouisA as a younger sister to Pamela [which itself was more or less an invented name for literary purposes – like Clarissa and Wendy].

      I am sure I saw the whole “Eloise” thing and thought … like with honour and colour and flavour …

      That name really does fit the native New Yorker hospitality habitue, doesn’t it?!

      And I see you can get Lois out as a short.

      • Oh no, I don’t think they’d use Jadwiga instead of Heloiza. Hedwig may sound a bit similar, but Jadwiga doesn’t really, and Jagoda is, as far as I’m aware, a more recent invention as a stand-alone name. Perhaps they’d use Hedwiga, which isn’t really an actual Polish name but people make up a whole lot of strange things in translations, but she doesn’t really feel like a Hedwiga, nor even a Jadwiga to me, haha. I think if they didn’t use Heloiza, they might have used something like Helena or Luiza, if they really wanted to do a translation. Or if there was no easy way to translate it accurately they might just have used Heloise.
        Okay, so I’ve just looked in the data for this year (from January), for the whole population, and Heloiza shows up twice as a middle name, but not at all as a first name. It wasn’t used as baby name either, not surprisingly. There are 6 women named Heloise, however.

      • Ah: thank you for the pointer about Luiza/Helena.

        Or if they wanted to go English: Edwiga with no H.

        How recent was Jagoda? Probably in the last 50-100 years?

      • I can’t say exactly, and can’t find any reliable info either – other than that it was used as a nickname in the middle ages – but I’d hazard a guess that mid-20th century. Perhaps a little earlier, because Jagoda started being used more commonly as a stand-alone name in the 60’s, but was still a pretty rare and unique – dare I say eccentric – name (jagoda means berry and names from words aren’t, or certainly weren’t, really a thing as stand-alone names, except for some traditional names like Róża, or back when only Slavic names were in use in pagan times). Seriously, what a pity we don’t have baby name rankings from earlier than the 2000’s, Or at least I have no idea about such existing, then it would be easier to trace for sure.

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