I have had a lifelong passion for reading and writing and graduated with a bachelor's in English literature.
Bookish Baby Names
The best names have the best stories. On the other hand, some of the best stories have the greatest names. There is no end to the baby names for boys and girls that can be found in literature. Whether you're looking to name your new child after a favorite author or character, I've put together a list of unique baby names from literature to help inspire you.
If you are having a tough time deciding on a name for your baby, maybe try hosting a naming party where friends and family can put different options up for a vote.
Author Names for Girls
For hundreds of years, there have been some pretty impressive female authors that have produced some of the greatest literary works of all time. Here are five well known women writers with some pretty interesting names that can make for a unique baby girl's name from literature.
Beatrix Potter is a famous English author known for her children's books. Born Helen Beatrix Potter, she published about 23 books total, including The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902).
The name Beatrix most likely came from Viatrix, a feminine form of the Latin name Viator, which meant "voyager" or "traveler." The spelling was later altered with association with the Latin term beatus, which means "blessed."
CharlotteBrontë was yet another English author and poet. She is most well known for her classic, Jane Eyre (1847).
Charlotte is the feminine form of the name Charles. Charles simply means "man" or "manly," so Charlotte is more like "feminine manly."
The first American author to make this list is Harper Lee, who is known for her classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). While her real name is Nelle Harper Lee, Harper still makes for a great potential name for a baby of either gender, since it is considered gender neutral even though it is mainly given to girls.
Harper simply means "harp player."
One of my personal favorite female American authors is Toni Morrison. Morrison's works include Beloved (1987) and The Bluest Eye (1970).
In English, Toni is simply an abbreviated version of Antoinette or Antonia. In French, it means "beyond praise."
Willa Cather is another American female novelist, known for novels about frontier life, such as My Ántonia (1918).
Willa is the feminine form of William and means "resolute protection."
Baby Name Spellings
Almost every name out there has a different variation on how it's spelled. Don't be afraid to take your favorite name inspired by literature and choose a different spelling if you don't like how it looks.
Author Names for Boys
Of course, there is also no end to the number of boy's names that can be found in the list of male authors over the centuries. Just like women writers, the men can inspire some unique baby boy's names as well.
Bram Stoker was an Irish author whose best known work, Dracula (1897), continues to inspire Hollywood and entertainment today.
It's no surprise to learn that Bram Stoker's real first name was Abraham, since Bram is the short form of Abram or Abraham. The meaning of Bram is "bramble" or "raven."
For those looking for inspiration from authors a little more kid friendly, C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956) is one of the best. Ever wonder what that C and S stand for? Clive Staples Lewis.
The meaning of Clive is "cliff" or "slope."
Elie Wiesel is a Romanian-born author of 57 books, including the infamous Night (1960).
Elie is a variant form of Eli, which means "high."
Yet another of my personal favorites, Aldous Huxley was a British author, best known for Brave New World (1932).
Huxley is an Old English name, meaning "Hugh's meadow,"
Jules Verne was a French novelist who wrote science fiction and adventure novels. His best known works include Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864).
Jules is a Latin name that means "youthful."
Literary Character Names for Girls
Whether they are the main heroine, the best friend, or any one of the minor characters within a novel, authors come up with some of the best names that only make their most interesting characters all the more memorable. Here are a few more unique names from literature based on a few popular literary characters.
Victor Hugo's Les Miserables (1862) features Cosette, a child that is left by her mother to be exploited and victimized by those that are supposed to care for her. Despite this, she grows up to be a beautiful girl that is also smart, brave, and positive.
Cosette means "little thing."
Hermione Granger from Harry Potter is most admirable for her smarts, bravery, and loyalty to her friends. She's a bit of a know-it-all but you can't help but admire a young girl who loves books.
The origins for Hermione aren't really very clear. It is derived from Hermes and some say it means "traveller" and "messenger."
Hester Prynne is the protagonist in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850). She's considered one of the most important female protagonists in American literature. Condemned by her neighbors, Hester is defiant, full of contradictions, and a clear example of a good girl gone bad.
Hester is a Greek name, meaning "evening star."
Okay, so maybe Lolita isn't the most admirable of characters, since most might associate the name with underage sex. She's overly sexual for her age, vulgar, and childish but if you're willing to take a leap with this name, go for it. If it helps, the character's real name is Dolores.
Lolita is the Spanish variant of Lola and means "sorrow."
Scarlette O'Hara is the protagonist in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936). She's a little vain and spoiled but highly intelligent and independent.
Scarlett simply means "red" or "one who sells or wears scarlet cloth."
Baby names don't always have to be inspired by an author or literary character's first name. Even last names can make for some unique baby names, like a few of the names featured on this list.
Literary Character Names for Boys
Just like girl's names, there are plenty of boy's names that can be found in literature inspired by your favorite literary characters. Here are just five unique baby names for boys.
Published in 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, This Side of Paradise, features Amory Blaine. Amory is handsome, egocentric, and has great literary ambitions.
The meanings behind Amory include "brave," "hard working," and "powerful."
Atticus Finch is one of many characters in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird with a pretty awesome name. Finch represents morality and reason and never changes his position on an issue in the story.
Atticus is a Latin name that means "from Athens."
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890) features a protagonist named Dorian Gray. He is young, extremely good looking, and a bit vain.
Dorian is used as both a boy and girl's name and means "descendant from Dorus."
Lemuel Gulliver is the storyteller and main character of Jonathan Swift's satire Gulliver's Travels (1726). Gulliver isn't described as being very extraordinary. He is respected, unimaginative, and a bit gullible.
It's difficult to find the name meaning for Gulliver, since it is usually an English surname.
Holden Caulfield is the unforgettable protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Discontented, vulgar, and a questionable narrator, Holden still manages to be one character many readers can't help but relate to.
Ironically, Holden means "gracious."
Shakespearean Baby Names
While it may be pretty modern to come up with very unique names, going back to the classics like Shakespeare is a great way to find names you may have never heard of before. Here are two unique girl's names and two boy's names from Shakespeare.
In Shakespeare's Hamlet, poor Ophelia is beautiful, sweet, and innocent, but a little crazy.
Ophelia comes from the Greek word ophelos meaning "help."
In Twelfth Night, Viola disguises herself as a man. She has the purest love and, like many of Shakespeare's female characters, she doesn't have many faults, which makes her very likeable.
Viola means "flower" or "violet."
In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Demetrius isn't a very developed character but he does have a few insensitive moments toward Helena.
Demetrius is a Latin name, meaning "of Demeter."
Fabian is another character from Twelfth Night and also isn't very developed. He is Olivia's servant and plays a pretty minor role.
Fabian is an English name derived from the Roman clan name Fabius.
Baby Names From Literature
Whether you want to go with a unique baby name from literature or something a bit more simple, there is no end to the inspiration that can be found on a bookshelf. Good luck!
Please feel free to share any of your favorite names from literature in the comments section below.
© 2013 Lisa
okay on January 13, 2020:
For a girl I would use Beatrix and for a by I would use Holden they are just so cute names!!!
Colin Garrow from Inverbervie, Scotland on May 06, 2015:
Some great names here and interesting background info. However, I really don't think I would have any sympathy for parents who named their kid Lolita - the associations (in the UK at least) are generally of the "You've got to be f------ joking" variety. Great Hub. Voted up.
Kelley Bentley from Quincy, KY on July 11, 2014:
Loved your blog Lisa. Both of my DD's names are popular literary characters--Daisy & Scarlette. Interesting how my Daisy is so confident and lives in a world of butterflies and rainbows while Miss Scarlette is very so very independent!
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on July 02, 2014:
Since I'm no longer ovulating, this article won't apply to me. However, I have dogs and these are great suggestions if I should get a new batch of puppies.
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on June 22, 2014:
Interesting read. thank you.
LisaKeating on June 03, 2014:
Love this hub.
Jessie from West Virginia on June 03, 2014:
This is an amazing hub! If our last baby was a girl, there was a good chance her name was going to be Harper (for Harper Lee, as you mentioned).
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on April 19, 2014:
This is a wonderful hub. A great read. Very helpful and informative. I voted up and away. I admimre your writing style and know that only good things will happen to you with works like this.
I am following you and left you some fan mail. I cordially invite you to check out my hubs and be a follower of mine. That would make my day.
Logan from Topeka, KS on March 21, 2014:
Those are great names. My wife and I are having our first little girl any day now. Scarlett was actually our second choice to the name that we chose. We decided on Lily Primrose.
Leah Kennedy-Jangraw from Massachusetts on January 24, 2014:
Great idea for a hub, when I was younger my idea for a baby girl name was always Scarlett Aurora (for Scarlett O'Hara and Sleeping Beauty my favorite Disney princesses!). I will most likely not name my child that but still it's fun to think back to it.
I've seen articles where they show the increase of a given name on the top 100 list for baby names and how it correlates to a character's name on a television show, so it is clear we use pop culture to fuel our decisions. I think your suggestions of going with a book character or author are even better than from a favorite TV show or movie.
Jessica B Smith from Sanford, NC on December 23, 2013:
I had to read this post because I love unique and meaningful names. All four of my children have unique meaningful names:
Kaniyah Tomi, my oldest, would've been named Tomi after my deceased father, Tommy, but her father wouldn't let me name our daughter a "boy" name.
Seven Semaj, my oldest boy, was named Seven for religious reasons; it's the number of completion and perfection. Semaj is James from the Bible spelled backwards.
Canaan Koi, my youngest boy, would've been named Koi but my husband said that it sounded like a pet name for a dog. Canaan is the Promised Land and koi symbolizes luck, good fortune, and strength.
Chauncey Sarah, my youngest daughter, was named Chauncey as a spin on British author Geoffrey Chaucer's last name. Writing is my gift so I named her after one of my favorite authors to represent "the gift."
Kaniyah is "my blessing," Seven is "my perfection", Canaan is "my promise" and Chauncey is "my gift."
Nell Rose from England on December 06, 2013:
This is a great list, its something that our parents used to do a lot, my mother, for example was going to name me scarlett! lol! yes Gone with the Wind! but luckily she changed it!
kallini2010 from Toronto, Canada on November 23, 2013:
I find your hub very informative, but from the practical point of view anyone naming their child should dig deeper. Well, maybe most people won't, but that is their choice, isn't it?
Nikita is also a character, a female character in a film, but it is actually a Russian male name (a variant of Nicholas).
There is an actress Misha Barton and even though I try to convince myself that it does not matter how the name transformed since it sailed from its homeland, but I just can't shudder every time I hear it.
Don't take me wrong, I don't disapprove of it. I just can't get used to it.
"Misha" is a diminutive of Michael in Russian and NOW is exclusively used for males. (I suspect that earlier it could have been used for both in its diminutive forms).
One unique literary name I can add to your list is Svetlana. It does not sound unique nor does it sound violating the rules of our language. Yet it was coined Alexander Vostokov for a poem in 1802 and then used in Zhukovsky's ballad "Svetlana" which was very famous. I never questioned the origin of the name as being of ancient Slavic origin until recently when I came across this information (there is more on the Russian site about it).
But when I tell people that my name was born this way, nobody believes me. Maybe because it is no longer unique, it is very common.
As far as "Lolita" goes, it does depend on associations, doesn't it?
I would assume that most Americans would not go further than vaguely remembering "Lolita" as a character from a Russian author, mind you, but there are plenty of other associations.
I would gladly accept the name Dolores with all its variant forms.
And for another association, I would point out a famous Argentinian songstress - Lolita Torres (if anyone is interested, there is plenty of information about her on the internet). I would not even have a faint clue about her, but she happened to be my mother's favourite movie songstress/actress from her youth.
That is what I meant when I said once a parent had decided on a name, a little research goes a long way. But I am sure no matter what the choice would be (going for a common name or for a unique, unusual name) there would be people who strongly approve, strongly disapprove or who would be totally indifferent.
The real suspense, therefore, will the child like parent's choice?
I accept "Svetlana", but go by Dolores whenever I want.
Thanks for writing this hub!
P.S. The clip is old, but all the names are even more older!
FlourishAnyway from USA on November 21, 2013:
I like the idea of a historical or literary name. Of course, you should always consider the possibility of teasing. In high school I knew an Antoinette and an Ophaelia. Ophaelia got a lot of teasing about whether her last name was Peter, which it wasn't. It was Smith.
Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on November 21, 2013:
Delightful hub! I enjoyed reading this. Great idea you have here, and the names from literature are beautiful land meaningful!