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National Eli Day – May 20, 2023

National Eli Day on May 20 is a celebration of the much-revered biblical name Eli. Appearing in the ‘Old Testament,’ this name has been given mostly to males, although it can be given and used by both genders. The name ‘Eli’ can have two different meanings — ‘uplift’ or ‘God’ — and both have their roots steeped in the Hebrew “Bible,” where the name originated.

History of National Eli Day

The name Eli first appeared in the Hebrew “Bible” and had two meanings. The first one means ‘ascent,’ ‘high,’ or ‘elevated.’ The second meaning is “my God” if it is a derivation of biblical names like Elijah, Eliezer, and Elisha.”

The former meaning comes from the name ‘Eli’ (which appears in the ‘Book of Samuel’ found as two books in the Christian ‘Old Testament’), a high priest of Shiloh — now called the “West Bank” — and the first judge of Israel. His chance meeting with a young woman at the temple in Shiloh set the entire tale in motion. Hannah, as she was named, was struggling to have a child and came to the temple to pray for a son. She finally got her wish, and believing the temple and its priest were responsible for the miracle, sent her son Samuel to train and be raised by Eli.

The link with the “Bible” was the reason behind so many Puritans adopting this name in 17th century England. They emigrated to America and took this name with them. American society went on to adopt this name too, and popularity soared. It was 200th among all baby names in the 1880s, only declining in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The name’s popularity bounced back by the early 1970s, coming in at number 400 among all infant names. By the 2000s, it had soared well into the 100 top names, coming in at 43 by 2013.

The name remains a great name choice for male babies. Why else would famous people like S.N.L. alum Rachel Dratch and CNN anchor Campbell Brown choose Eli for their children’s names?

National Eli Day timeline

December 8, 1765
Eli Whitney is Born

Whitney Jr., the inventor of the cotton engine (one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution), is born.

July 8, 1838
Eli Lilly is Born

Lilly is born; he becomes an American soldier and chemist who makes many advancements in medical drug manufacturing.

April 18, 1972
Indie Horror King Eli Roth is Born

Roth, an American director, producer, actor, and screenwriter, is born.

May 2022
The Eli Young Band Performs

American country rock band Eli Young Band performs at a special pre-parade program for the National Memorial Day Parade.

National Eli Day FAQs

Is Eli a name for a girl or a boy?

Eli has mostly been used as a boy’s name and nickname, although some countries also use it as a girl’s nickname.

Is Eli a rare name?

Eli as a name is an “oldie but goodie” and is certainly not rare if baby name popularity charts are to be believed.

How is the name ‘Eli’ pronounced?

‘Eli’ is pronounced “ee-lie.” There are very rarely any alternatives for the spelling or pronunciation.

National Eli Day Activities

  1. Find the Eli in common names

    Have you ever noticed how many names have an Eli hidden in them? See how many people around you have Eli in their names, and try out this fun name for them.

  2. Read about famous Elis

    You can start by learning more about Eli the prophet and how his entire family came to be cursed for eternity. You can then move on to the other famous Elis you know in popular culture and history.

  3. Throw an Eli-themed party

    Celebrate National Eli Day by inviting all the Elis in your life for a special “name” party. You can binge-watch shows and movies featuring a character with this name, serve food and drink with Eli in their spellings, and use other fun ideas to honor this special name.

5 Awesome Facts About The Name Eli

  1. It doesn’t (usually) inspire nicknames

    The name is so short that at most, people can call the Eli in their life “E.”

  2. It is, however, a nickname in itself

    People with names that have the ‘El’ sound — like Elijah and Elisa — often use Eli as a nickname.

  3. It’s a nickname for females too

    In European countries, a girl or woman named Elsbet or Helena can be nicknamed Eli.

  4. Yale University students are Elis too

    Yale University students or graduates have a special nickname — Eli — in honor of the university’s benefactor, English colonial administrator and philanthropist Elihu Yale.

  5. Eli by any other name

    The name is so short that common variations are few; these include only the English ‘Ely,’ the Latin ‘Heli,’ and the Finnish ‘Eeli.’

Why We Love National Eli Day

  1. It’s easy to remember this name

    It’s very easy, especially for a kid who is just learning words. This two-syllable name is ideal for a child learning to spell and ensures that all Elis around the world can easily write and say their name.

  2. Its meaning is inspiring

    With a name that translates to ‘optimism’ and ‘hope,’ anybody with this name is likely to be successful in life. It’s a great, happy name!

  3. It’s classic and modern

    The early roots of this name belie its link with modern trends. Multiple famous personalities and characters on television and in books all proudly answer to this name even today.

National Eli Day dates

YearDateDay
2023May 20Saturday
2024May 20Monday
2025May 20Tuesday
2026May 20Wednesday
2027May 20Thursday

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