Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This can sometimes be taken to mean that names don’t matter. But in context, the quote was a picture of Juliet’s vow of love and loyalty, that she did not care about their family names.
Many of us do believe that the names we give our babies—or the characters in the books we write—do matter.
For a book lover, a baby name inspired by a literary character or favorite author is a must! After all, what better hero or heroine can you choose for your child to look up to than those you’ve come to love in the books you read?
What Is a Literary Baby Name?
A baby name is considered literary when it’s taken from the characters in books, including those for children and adults, or when it’s inspired by the names of famous authors.
These names have been steadily growing in popularity, with names from the most popular children’s books showing the most growth. These include names like Charlotte (from Charlotte’s Web), Alice (in Wonderland), Sawyer (as in Tom Sawyer), Ramona (from Romona and Beezus), Scout (from To Kill a Mockingbird), and Hermione (from Harry Potter).
Literary Names for Girls
Read up on some of these popular literary names for baby girls, and see if you find one you like!
This Elvish name from Tolkien’s Middle Earth can be considered an artsy version of “Erin,” which means peace and is also a poetic name for Ireland.
Zelda Fitzgerald’s first and only novel, Save Me the Waltz—which turned out to be a commercial flop—features a heroine named Alabama, who, like Fitzgerald, married a man who became wildly successful, but struggled to break out on her own. While the book might have underperformed, we love this beautiful and unique feminine name.
Alice, of English origin, means “of a noble kin.” Popularized by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the name comes from the Old French name “Aalis,” which was a diminutive of the name “Adelais.”
The name Arabella has Latin origins and means “yielding to prayer.” One grandaughter of the King of Scotland, William the Lion, was named Arabella. The name also appears in Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, and from more modern times, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.
Arrietty was the little girl in Mary Norton’s series The Borrowers. Both Harriet and Arrietty are derived from the French name Henriette, a feminine version of Henry, which means home and power, or ruler.
This name, of English origin, means “royal maiden.” In The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Arwen is the daughter of the Elf king Elrond who later marries Aragorn and becomes Queen of the Elves.
The name Aurora, of Latin origin, means “dawn.” Although the children’s fairy tale Sleeping Beauty did not feature a specific name, the Disney film version named her Aurora, which resulted in the risng popularity of this name.
With Latin origins, the name Beatrice means “blessed” or “she who brings happiness.” The name is derived from Beatrix, linked to British children’s book author Beatrix Potter. Beatrice is also the guide in Dante’s The Divine Comedy, and the high-spirited heroine in Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing.
The diminutive form of different names ending in -bella (such as Isabella or Anabella), the name Bella means “beautiful” in Latin, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, and Spanish. Popularized by the vampire-romance series Twilight, Bella has become highly in-demand in recent years.
A Spanish variation of the name Catherine, the name Catalina means pure. The historical figure Catherine of Aragon, who was the first wife of Henry VIII, had the original Spanish name of Catalina de Aragón y Castilla.
The American name Coraline means “maiden” or “heart.” Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novella published in 2002 features the little girl Coraline, and the book also inspired a stop-motion film that was released in 2009.
Cordelia, the legendary Queen of the Britons, was the youngest daughter of King Lear, adapted by Shakespeare in his play King Lear. The name means “daughter of the sea god,”, and was also popularized as the name that Anne Shirley (of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery) wished she had.
This name, meaning “victorious,” was one of the main characters in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, a classic story about the French Revolution.
Although this name appears in many literary works, Jane Austen’s novel entitled Emma is its most popular version. The name means “universal.”
This Welsh name means “fair lady” or “white and smooth,” and is best known as the name of the legendary King Arthur’s beautiful queen.
This Greek name means “well-born,” and is the feminine form of the name Hermes, the messenger in Greek mythology. Harry Potter’s best friend Hermione has popularized this name for modern parents.
This Greek name refers to a flower, or the color purple. Hyacinth is also found in Greek mythology, as the one whom Apollo loved but accidentally killed.
This English name literally means “Mary’s gold,” and is also the name of a small flower, usually golden, orange, or yellow in color. It’s also one of L.M. Montgomery’s main characters, in her book Magic for Marigold.
This French name refers to the color red. The main character in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind is the fiery, headstrong Scarlett O’ Hara.
This American name means “to listen,” and it was used as the nickname of the young narrator of Harper Lee’s modern classic To Kill a Mockingbird.
Unisex Literary Names
Some names may have been used for girls in literary works, but popular use attributes them to boys. Here are some of the most popular unisex literary names for babies.
This French name, which is of Hebrew origin, means “promised by God,” and is the name of a swordsman in The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. However, it’s also popular as a girl’s name.
Although Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale entitled Kim features a boy, the name has been popularized as a girl’s name.
This name, used mainly in Scottish and English and derived from the Celtic language, means “little redhead.” It rose in popularity from the beautiful female lead character in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. A well-known face in pop culture is Rowan Atkinson, who played Mr. Bean.
Literary Names for Boys
Next, here are some great options for baby boy names inspired by your favorite authors or literary characters:
Of Latin origin, the name Albus means “white.” This name of the Hogwarts headmaster has gained popularity in recent years thanks to the Harry Potter franchise.
This important character from The Lord of the Rings is the heir of the Numenorean kings who later returns to claim the throne. His name means “reverend king” in the Middle Earth language.
This Turkish name means “lion” and was popularized by The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
The children’s book series Clifford the Big Red Dog popularized this English name, which translates to “someone living near the cord by the cliff.”
This name is inspired by the classic author Joseph Conrad, best known for his work Heart of Darkness. The name is derived from the Proto-Germanic name spelled Konrad, which means “bold counsel.”
Edmund Rostand’s play features the romantic hero named Cyrano de Bergerac. The name simply means “from Cyrene.”
This Irish name means “dark,” and was popularized by Mr. Darcy, a main character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
This name has Greek origins and means “of the sea,” and also refers to a descendant of the Greek mythical character Dorus. In literature, the name appears in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.
This name, which means “brown warrior,” has Gaelic origins. King Duncan was the Scottish king featured in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
This Native American name means “child of wonder,” and became popular through Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.
This Hebrew name means “God hears,” and in the Bible referred to Abraham’s son by his Egyptian slave, Hagar. The name was further popularized in the first line of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, “Call me Ishmael.”
The son of Thranduil, the elf lord, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Legolas has gained popularity as a baby boy’s name in recent years.
Of French origin, the name Oliver can be traced back to the years of Charlemagne, and gained popularity through the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. It may possibly come from the Latin word olivarius, which means “olive tree,” but other sources link it to Olaf of Viking times.
This name of Italian origin means “famous land,” and is the name of one of the characters in Shakespeare’s play, As You Like It.
This English name means “God’s spear,” but the Irish version means “deer-lover,” and may have become a popular literary name thanks to the famous author Oscar Wilde.
Finding the Perfect Name
If you’re still struggling to find the perfect baby name, you can also check out our list of baby name generators that can help you come up with the best names based on origins, definitions, and more.
And don’t forget your four-legged babies! Find the perfect bookish name for your furry friend by browsing our list of literary dog names.
Do you have a favorite literary baby name you want to share? Post them in the comments below!
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