I’ve analyzed the data on Alayna/Alaina/Elaina/Elena, trying to figure out how I should group these names.
- Over the past twenty years, but especially the past ten years, all spellings in this name group have grown in popularity. It seems as though it may have peaked within the last 1-2 years, but it’s difficult to tell as the favored spelling is constantly shifting.
- This name group has spread outward from IL-IN-OH-PA to the immediate north, south and east, and is also quite popular in CA.
- In California and Texas, which have a high Hispanic population, ELENA is the preferred spelling by a fairly wide margin. Strangely, Florida and New Mexico do not show this pattern.
- In other states, the spellings are about even, with no special preference given.
- Oldest year of use of each spelling in the national rankings:
- ELENA: 1880
- ELAINA: 1941
- ALAINA: 1946
- ALAYNA: 1945
- States with the oldest occurrences of the name ELENA (different than above because the SSA only starts the state-by-state data at the year 1910):
- Massachusetts (1910)
- New York (1910)
- Texas (1910)
- California (1911)
- Pennsylvania (1911)
- Rhode Island (1911)
- New Jersey (1912)
- New Mexico (1912)
- Arizona (1916)
- Connecticut (1918)
- North Carolina (1917) [Note: the name completely disappeared from NC from 1917 to 1959]
- Ohio (1918) [Note: the name completely disappeared from OH from 1919 to 1941]
- From the 1880s through most of the 1940s, the name ELENA was almost entirely confined to the northeast and southwest.
- The ELENA spelling does not occur in other states until the 1940s or 1950s, and in many states not until the 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s, contemporaneous with the rise of Elaina, Alaina, and Alayna.
- The name ELENA has other valid pronunciations in other languages, and is currently charting in the Top 100 in the following non-English, non-Spanish-speaking countries:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- The name group Alina/Elina/Aleena appears to have followed a different trajectory, with slower and less consistent growth over a longer period of time, and is probably not a significant factor when considering the pronunciation of ELENA.
Other spellings, exclusive of above:
- 2014 spellings that clearly contain the -AY- sound: Elainah 13 Elainna 6 Elayna 227 Elaynah 7 Eleyna 36 Eleina 21 Ellaina 37 Ellayna 10 Ilaina 6 Alayna 1533 Aalayna 9 Alaina 1729 Alainah 34 Alainna 20 Alainnah 5 Alaiyna 8 Alaena 14 Alaynah 77 Alaynna 38 Alaynnah 6 Aleyna 91 Aleynah 9 Aleynna 6 Alleyna 5 Allaina 7 Allayna 13 Allaynah 5
- Ambiguous spellings from the 2014 list: Elenna 12 Ellena 56 Ilena 13
- Spellings that are probably approximate to Ah-LAHN-ah or Ee-LAHN-ah: Elana 170 Elanah 7 Elanna 26 Elannah 6 Ellana 24 Ilana 90 Ilanna 5 Illana 5
- The name ELENA in the United States has a split origin:
- As a historic Spanish name, a cognate of Helen, pronounced Eh-LEH-na.
- As an English name used since at least 1880, origin unclear, usually pronounced Eh-LAY-na or Ah-LAY-na, which produced the variant spellings Elaina, Alaina, and Alayna.
This makes classification difficult. At this time it’s unclear exactly how many of the Elenas carry the AY vs. EH pronunciation, especially in states like California where all the spellings occur in large numbers. As all the spellings in this name group have high numbers, it significantly affects the popularity of the group to add in a spelling or leave one out. I am still mulling this over, but will regroup Elaina with Alaina/Alayna and remove the ambiguous and Ee-LAHN-ah spellings to their own groups. I’m currently leaning towards grouping Elena with Elaina/Alaina/Alayna, but haven’t decided 100%.