Where did the baby name Lelaina come from in 1994?

The character Lelaina Pierce from the movie "Reality Bites" (1994)
Lelaina Pierce from “Reality Bites

The rare name Lelaina first popped up in the U.S. baby name data in the mid-1990s:

  • 1996: 5 baby girls named Lelaina
  • 1995: 5 baby girls named Lelaina
  • 1994: 11 baby girls named Lelaina [debut]
  • 1993: unlisted
  • 1992: unlisted


Because of the Gen-X movie Reality Bites, which starred Winona Ryder as aspiring videographer Lelaina Pierce. The movie came out in February of 1994.

The name Lelaina is very similar to a name we talked about a couple of weeks ago, Lalena, and there’s a reason for that: Reality Bites screenwriter Helen Childress named the movie’s main character after her high school friend, Lalena Fisher, who was, in turn, named after the Donovan song.

Fisher, who’s now an artist, said during an interview:

My dad thought the song “Laléna” by Donovan was a beautiful song, so he wanted to give me that name. He didn’t listen to the words, though — it’s about a prostitute! But I don’t really mind.

(Fisher’s husband, music journalist Chuck Eddy, also mentioned this onomastic connection in one of his books.)

Which of the two names, Lelaina or Lalena, do you prefer?


2 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Lelaina come from in 1994?

  1. I guess I prefer Lelaina, because the pronunciation is more intuitive. Lelena looks like it could be pronounced l?-LEE-n? or to rhyme with Helena (the way the town in Montana is pronounced, HEL-?-n?).

  2. (The schwa symbols from my previous comment are showing up as question marks on my browser, in case anyone is confused.)

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