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Invented Names Past and Present: From Vanessa to Iridessa

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By Angela Mastrodonato, Upswing Baby Names

With names, as with other subjects, once I learned my assumptions were wrong, I was put in my place.

Pre-kids, I was a name-snob who openly expressed disdain for invented names, grouping all invented names with experimental spellings, and modern word-play creations such as Abcde (ab-si-dee) and La-A (la-dash-ah).

And then shortly after my daughter was born, I discovered I had unintentionally given her an invented name.

No, I didn’t invent the name. The name was invented by an author, and they seem to have a knack for inventing great names. One author known as a master-namer is Shakespeare.

My daughter’s name, Fiona, was first used (and believed to have been invented) by Scottish poet James Macpherson in the 18th century.

Other established names invented by authors are Janice and Vanessa. Certain there must be more author-invented names, I set out to find them.

When deciding which names belonged on this list, I followed one self-imposed rule: no Shakespeare names. Shakespeare names are plentiful and already well-known. The goal was to uncover little-known invented names.

What I found was that there were plenty of invented names from past centuries and even a few from the past 15 years that could become established in time.

Pre-21st Century Invented Names

Carreen / Careen – The two-R version, Carreen, was used in the novel Gone With The Wind as Scarlett O’Hara’s younger sister. Author Margaret Mitchell reportedly created the name out a hybrid of Caroline and Irene. The one-R version, Careen, seems more user-friendly with a more streamlined, intuitive spelling.

Clea – could have possibly been invented by Lawrence Durrell for The Alexandria Quartet in the 1950’s. This is an extremely rare name (there were only 10 born in 2012) with an approachable style like Cleo, Lea and Leah.

Clorinda – was most likely invented by a 16th century Italian poet.

Glinda – is an underused representative of mid-century modern, not to be confused with the more widely used Glenda. Glinda, the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz, enjoyed a brief stay at the lower rung of the popularity chart from 1944 to 1955. Glinda’s mid-century peak was most likely due to The Wizard of Oz movie’s debut in 1939, and its similarity to mid-century power-name Linda.

JanicePaul Leicester Ford invented this elaborate form of Jane for his 1899 novel Janice Meredith.

Lorna – was invented by R. D. Blackmore for the 19th century novel, Lorna Doone.

Lucinda – is considered a long form for Lucy, which is actually more modern than Lucy. The name was created by Cervantes for his 1605 novel Don Quixote, and inspired by Lucia.

Myra – was created by the 17th century poet Fulke Greville. What inspired the poet to invent this name is unclear, although one theory is that the name was created by rearranging the letters in Mary. Mira is most modern parents’ preference but since Maya and Mya are both fashionable, a young Myra will have no problems fitting in.

Stella – became familiar in modern times due to Marlon Brando and the movie adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire, but the name’s origins date back to the 16th century. Stella was first coined by English poet Sir Philip Sidney.

Vanessa – was created in the 18th century by Jonathan Swift for his poem Cadences and Vanessa by rearranging the letters of his friend Esther Vanhomrigh’s name. The male character, Cadenus, was also created by Jonathan Swift, but never caught on. Vanessa didn’t even become a popular name until the a couple of hundred years after the poem was written.

Wendy – There were no known women with this name until J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan.

Many of the pre-21st century names have become very familiar proving that invented names can have staying power.

21st Century Invented Names

Perhaps these recently coined names could become established in the coming decades.

Iridessa – is a light talent fairy in the Disney Fairies franchise. Presumably the name is a play on the word, “iridescent”. There were only 17 newborn girls given this name in 2012, but it has a mainstream sound that seems like a hybrid of Iris and Vanessa.

Katniss – the heroine in the young adult science fiction series, The Hunger Games, is popular among Nameberries. The author, Suzanne Collins, says that the name was inspired by a water-dwelling plant with edible roots. There were 12 newborn girls named Katniss in 2012, the first year Katniss appeared in the Social Security data.

Siddalee – was technically a late 20th century invention first appearing in the 1996 novel Divine Secrets of The Ya Ya Sisterhood, which was turned into a film in 2002. The character goes by “Sidda” which some parents may find more user-friendly than Siddalee. In 2012 there were 10 newborn girls named Siddalee and 8 named Sidda.

While these newly created names are obscure at the moment, maybe in about 200 years Iridessa could become the next Vanessa.

What are some of your favorite invented names?

Angela created Upswing Baby Names to help parents find names ahead of the curve. A big time name watcher, she has a list of names she’s watching which she adds to every year. You can download your Watch List Report (and get on the list to receive next year’s Watch List report) here.

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About the author

upswingbabynames

Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.
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