While taking baby-name inspiration from a post-apocalyptic wasteland patrolled by zombies may sound all wrong, there’s one baby girl name — regal, potent, sweet, traditional and trending all at once — that makes it right. While we can’t say for sure that the rise of Ellie is thanks entirely to the popular video-game-turned-critical-HBO-darling The Last Of Us, the main character of that show, which came out in 2022, is named Ellie Williams, a girl who traverses the countryside with Joel Miller avoiding “clickers” and committing major acts of violence to survive. Bella Ramsey’s performance as Ellie has made waves — and the character, a compelling but complicated hero for the ages, is beloved by audiences.
While Ellie might be having a pop-culture moment, the name’s roots go much deeper. An English diminutive of the French name Eleanor — long the name of queens, meaning “bright shining one” — Ellie started as a playful nickname that’s now come into its own and is blowing up in popularity everywhere. While Eleanor is the 16th most popular baby name in the U.S., Ellie is a bit more under-the-radar — coming in at 33.
But, if you live in North Dakota — and uniqueness matters to you — you may want to reconsider. According to Social Security Administration data, Ellie was the fourth most popular name in North Dakota last year, behind Olivia, Amelia, and Nora. No other state has Ellie in its top five, though the name is on the rise in several states, including Idaho, where it’s ranked 13th, and Kentucky, where it came in at number 15.
While you might hesitate to name your daughter after the edgy heroine of a harrowing and straight-up scary video game/television show, Ellie is a truly timeless name, one that can ride the pop-culture waves without ever losing its classic ring. And if you love the name but want to give your kid the freedom to explore future nicknames, consider Eleanor. It’s all right there for the taking.