Origin: Old Norse
Meaning: “old age.”
I love this, while it is not a name I’d ever use myself, it is one of those names that you would never suspect had such a long and symbolic history.
The name is often listed as a Germanic diminutive form of Elisabeth, which may be in part, true, but its usage as a given name actually pre-dates Elisabeth’s introduction to the Germanic world.
In Old Norse, elli is the word for old age, and she is personified in the Prose Edda. Her story is recounted in the Book of Gylfaginning, in which she defeats Thor in a wrestling match.
In pre-Christian Norse culture, old age often symbolized wisdom.
Elli has been a popular name throughout Scandinavia and Germany. It experienced a vogue in the 19th-century and seems to be experiencing a revival. It is currently the 172nd most popular female name in Germany, (2011). Another German spelling is Elly.
Elli is also used in Estonia and Finland.