English form of the Greek ‘Ελενη (Helene)
, probably from Greek ‘ελενη (helene)
"torch" or "corposant", or possibly related to σεληνη (selene)
"moon". In Greek mythology
Helen was the daughter of Zeus
, whose kidnapping by Paris
was the cause of the Trojan War. The name was also borne by the 4th-century Saint
Helena, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine
, who supposedly found the True Cross during a trip to Jerusalem.
The name was originally used among early Christians in honour of the saint, as opposed to the classical character. In England it was commonly spelled Ellen
during the Middle Ages, and the spelling Helen
was not regularly used until after the Renaissance. A famous bearer was Helen Keller (1880-1968), an American author and lecturer who was both blind and deaf.