The Meaning of the Name Eleanor
After studying its Old French origins, I’ve found the meaning of the name Eleanor. A feminine given name dating back to the 12th century, this popular girls’ name symbolizes illumination and brightness.
Meaning of the name Eleanor: Derived from the French Provencal name Alienor, the meaning of the name Eleanor is “bright,” “light” or “shining one.” It’s a feminine name that’s been given to girls for centuries.
Origins of the Name Eleanor
The consensus among etymologists is that the name Eleanor originated in Provence around the 12th century. Found in the southeastern corner of France, Provence is a coastal region bordering the Mediterranean Sea. During the 12th century, some families living in Provence named their daughters Eleanor, with the usage of the name expanding into other territories in the years to follow.
One of the first documented reports of the name Eleanor occurred in the 1120s with Eleanor of Aquitaine. A member of the House of Poitiers royal family, she was the Duchess of Aquitaine from 1137 to 1204. Eleanor of Aquitaine also served as the queen consort of France from 1137 to 1152.
Because of her royal status – she was often regarded as the single most powerful woman in Europe throughout the 12th century – Eleanor of Aquitaine played a pivotal role in exposing this name to the general public. Before her royal ascendance as the Duchess of Aquitaine and queen concert of France, not many people had heard of the name Eleanor.
Eleanor of Normandy also helped popularize the name, Eleanor. The daughter of Richard II, she was the countess consort of Flanders in the French region of Normandy. Eleanor of Normandy didn’t receive the same recognition as Eleanor of Aquitaine, however, so she’s often overlooked by etymologists when researching the meaning and origins of the name Eleanor.
The name Eleanor is believed to be derivative of the French Provencal name Alienor. At some point, Alienor was translated to Eleanor in the langue d’oïl, a French dialect that was widely spoken in Provence.
The popularity of the Name Eleanor
Usage of the meaning of the name Eleanor has experienced several ups and downs since its 12th-century origins. In 1880, it was the 127th most popular girls’ name in the United States, according to birth records. By 1920, its popularity had increased to become the 25th most popular girls’ name. The popularity of the name Eleanor has since declined, though it remains a common girls’ name in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.
Popular variations of the name Eleanor include Ella, Leanor, Leonore, Ellie, and Elise.