Eleanor (usually pronounced /ˈɛlənɔːr/ in North America but /ˈɛlənər/ elsewhere; short form Leonor and variants) is a typically feminine given name. It was the name of a number of women of the high nobility in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages, originally from a Provençal name Aliénor.

Pronunciation/ˈɛlənər, -nɔːr/
GenderUnisex (Mainly Female)
Language(s)Old French / Occitan
Region of originFrance (Aquitaine?)
Other names
Variant form(s)Eléanor, Eleonora, Éléonore, etc.
Nickname(s)Nora, Ella, Ellie, Elly

In modern times, the name was popularly given in the United States in the 1910s to 1920s, peaking at rank 25 in 1920. It declined below rank 600 by the 1970s, but has again risen above rank 150 in the early 2010s.

Common hypocorisms include Elle, Ella, Ellie, Elly, Leonor, Leonora, Leonore, Nell, Nella, Nellie, Nelly, Nora (name), etc.


The name derives from the Provençal name Aliénor which became Eléanor or Eleonore in the northern Langue d'oïl and from there also to English.[1]

The origin of the name is somewhat unclear; one of the earliest bearers appears to be Eleanor of Aquitaine (1120s1204). She was the daughter of Aénor de Châtellerault, and it has been suggested that having been baptized Aenor after her mother, she was called alia Aenor, i.e. "the other Aenor" in childhood and would have kept that name in adult life. The name Aénor itself may be a Latinization of an unknown Germanic name.[2]

Eleanor of Aquitaine, the most powerful woman in 12th century Europe, was certainly the reason for the name's later popularity. However, the name's origin with her, and the explanation of alia Aenor is uncertain; there are records of possible bearers of the name Alienor earlier in the 12th, or even in the 11th or 10th centuries,[3] but the records of these women post-date Eleanor of Aquitaine, at a time when Alienor had come to be seen as an equivalent variant of the name Aenor (so that presumably, these women during their own lifetime used the given name Aenor):

  1. Alienor, the wife (m. 935) of Aimery II viscount of Thouars and mother of Herbert I (b. 960).
  2. Alienor, the grandmother of Aénor of Châtellerault, and thus Eleanor of Aquitaine's own great-grandmother, born c. 1050 as a daughter of Aimery IV of Thouars. Her name is also recorded as Ainora, and may have been corrupted to Alienor in genealogies only after the 12th century.
  3. Eleanor of Normandy (11th century), aunt of William the Conqueror, was so named by the 17th-century genealogist Pierre de Guibours, but de Guibours' sources for this remain unknown and the application of this name may be a mistake of his.[4]
  4. Eleanor of Champagne (1102–1147), in 1125 became the first wife of Ralph I, Count of Vermandois who was displaced by Eleanor of Aquitaine's sister Petronilla of Aquitaine, leading to a two years' war (1142–44) in Champagne.

Notable people



Fictional characters


See also

  • All pages with titles beginning with Eleanor
  • All pages with titles beginning with Elinor
  • All pages with titles beginning with Elenor
  • All pages with titles beginning with Elynor


  1. Charlotte Mary Yonge (1863). History of Christian names, Volume 1. Parker, Son, and Bourn.
  2. behindthename.com
  3. The suggestion of alia Aenor was considered "ridiculous" already by Gilles Ménage in his Histoire De Sable (1683, p. 70).
  4. "ELEONORE de Normandie. The Genealogica Comitum Flandriæ Bertiniana refers to 'filiam secundi Ricardi ducis Normannorum' as wife of 'Balduinum Barbatum' after the death of Ogiva. The Annalista Saxo states that the mother of Judith was 'cognatione beati Ethmundi regis', without naming her or giving a more precise origin. Guillaume de Jumièges records that Duke Richard and Judith had three daughters, of whom the second (unnamed) married 'Baudouin de Flandre'. The primary source which confirms her name has not yet been identified" (Cawley, Charles, Medieval Lands Project: NORMANDY,DUKES, Medieval Lands database, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy). The first known source giving her name as Eleanor is apparently Pierre de Guibours (d. 1694). De Guibours claims to base this on the authority of William of Jumièges, but the information is not actually found there, suggesting that de Guibours drew from another source, which has not yet been identified. See George Beech in Brown (ed.) Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1986 (1989), p. 8 fn 29.
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