Tuesday, January 24

Elemental Names: Helium

Periodic  Table, found via UNIFORM on Tumblr

Helium takes its name from the Greek god Helios, son of Hyperion and Theia, who drove a sun-bearing chariot across the sky each day. Helios means "sun," and is the root source of the feminine name Helene, which has many sunny variants that would make great homages to the second element on the periodic table —  Scandinavian form Elin has been in the news thanks to Tiger Woods' Swedish ex-wife, Alyona is a softer Russian diminutive of Yelena, Romanian Lenuța ("le-NOOT-sah") is intriguing and fun to say, and nickname-of-a-nickname Nella is a good alternative to uber-popular Ella. There's also cool Hungarian Ilonka, retro sweetheart Elaine and German short form Leni.

The formal discovery of Helium was made in 1895 by well-named Swedish chemists Per Teodor Cleve and Nils Abraham Langlet, though it was first detected in 1868 by French astronomer Pierre "Jules" César Janssen, who observed a yellow spectral line signature in the sunlight during a solar eclipse. English scientist and astronomer Joseph "Norman" Lockyer shares this credit and is responsible for Helium's name — let's all be glad he was a classical namer and not a narcissist — or we'd all be filling birthday balloons with Lockyerium.

There are many names with sunny meanings —  Japanese Youko/Yoko can be written with the characters for either "sunlight" or "ocean" combined with the suffix "-ko," meaning "child." Haru is a Japanese male name that can be written with the character for "sunlight," and Haruki adds the suffix "-ki," which can mean "to shine/radiance" or "life." Heulwen ("sunlight") and Tesni ("warmth of the sun") are pretty, feminine Welsh names, and Solveig ("sun strength") and Sunniva ("sun gift") are Norwegian. I love the look of variant Synnøve, too.

Names with a plain "sun" meaning include French Soleil, Lithuanian Saulė, masculine Ravi (a Hindu god of the sun) and Croatian Sunčana. Speaking of other sun gods and goddesses, Arinna was a Hittite sun goddess, and Surya (also called Aruna) is the Hindu equivalent of Greek Helios. Étaín (also found as Éadaoinis the name of a sun goddess and heroine of Irish myth, and let's not forget the French sun-king name Louis, which I've previously featured.


  1. beautiful! I'm totally in love with Yoko, Haru, Sunniva, Synnove and Ravi. I also know an older man, Arun, who totally lives up to it, so I love it, too.

  2. I wrote this once to Elea on BBN, the Sol-part in Solveig doesn't mean 'sun' but 'hall' the word they used for home in Viking days. She means 'home+strength' and has nothing to do with sun other than the fact the 'sol' is the Norwegian name for sun and that in recent times they have skewed the meaning officially in name books and the likes. In Old Norse though, the name has nothing to do with the sun. Sol on her own however has always meant 'sun' :)


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