Originally a variant of Helen, although now no longer associated with that name. Initial H- tended to be added and dropped rather capriciously, leading to many doublets (compare for example Esther and Hester). It is also sometimes used as a short form of Eleanor, to which, however, it is unrelated.
English and Welsh: patronymic from the Middle English personal name Jon(e) (see John). The surname is especially common in Wales and southern central England. In North America this name has absorbed various cognate and like-sounding surnames from other languages. (For forms, see Hanks and Hodges 1988).