Elephantine Island is 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) from north to south, and is 400 metres (1,300 ft) across at its widest point. The layout of this and other nearby islands in Aswan can be seen from west bank hillsides along the Nile. The island is located just downstream of the First Cataract at the southern border of Upper Egypt with Lower Nubia. This region above is referred to as Upper Egypt due to land and river elevations being higher than downstream, and than the Nile Delta region to the Mediterranean Sea.
The island may have received its name after its shape, which in aerial views is similar to that of an elephant tusk, or from the rounded rocks along the banks resembling elephants. This is the meaning of the Greek word elephas (ελέφας).