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Literary Baby Names: Wilde Ones, Part 2

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Importance of Being Earnest

By Emily Cardoza

There is no play that illustrates the biting wit of Oscar Wilde better than The Importance of Being Earnest. And with a pun on names central to the plot, how could I miss the chance to make it my newest installment of Literary Names, in which I play the game of finding substitutes for the character names?

Let’s begin!

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Cool Baby Names: Character Names


Cool baby names today may reference celebrities, sure, but more and more parents are looking to fictional characters for inspiration when naming their children.

Based on nearly two million visits to Nameberry’s individual name pages over the past three months, we see these character names — from classic literature and futuristic fantasy, Old Hollywood films and modern animation — attracting big jumps in interest.

This is one cool baby names trend that makes sense.  Fictional characters embody positive, uplifting qualities that their mortal counterparts often fall short on.  And in the ever-broadening search for names with personal meaning, parents may find referencing a favorite book or film to be a perfect way to make an important style statement and give their child a namesake to look up to.

Here, the hottest character names on Nameberry right now:

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Literary Names: The Bronte Sisters


We’ve talked a lot about Shakespearean literary names and characters in Dickens and Jane Austen, but we’ve overlooked three of the best namers in literary history—the sisters Brontë.  We love their own names—Charlotte, Emily and Anne, and we love their initial-appropriate male pen names—Currer, Ellis and Acton.  We even love their surname, which a number of parents have chosen for their daughters.

But it is the particularly rich cast of character names in their novels that we love the most.  One of them, in fact, had a considerable effect on baby naming of its era.  Though it’s long been said that it was Shirley Temple who promoted her given name in the 1930s, she wasn’t the first.  In Charlotte Brontë’ second novel, following Jane Eyre, the protagonist of Shirley was given that name because her father had anticipated a boy, and Shirley was a distinctively male name at the time.  The novel’s Father Keeldar made a gender switch that has proven to be permanent.

Here is a selection of Brontë bests;  the list isn’t meant to be complete—some of the more common names have not been included. (The initials AB, CB and EB represent Anne, Charlotte and Emily.)


Adèle, CB—Jane Eyre

Agnes, ABAgnes Grey

Alice, AB- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall; CB- Jane Eyre

Annabella, AB- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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Today’s Question of the Week: Is there a name from a book you read when you were younger that made enough of an impression on you that you’ve loved it ever since?

(After all, at least some of those hundreds of new babies being named Atticus must have some connection to that inspirational lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird  and all those recent little Holdens to that cynical adolescent Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye—whether conscious or not.)

So think back—can you trace your long-standing attraction for a particular name to an impression it made on you at an impressionable age?

Anyone out there who actually has used such a name for their child?

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There are countless names that have been plucked from books and transferred to birth certificates, including current favorites like Atticus (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Holden (Catcher in the Rye) and Emma (Emma), not to mention Romeo and Juliet.

But there are lots more literary names that are not as obvious, some from more obscure books, others of less prominent characters.  Here are 50 such  examples of creative literary names that have not made it into the mainstream, but could make interesting choices—25 of them for each gender.

But bear in mind that though these names all have literary cred, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re attached to the most heroic characters.


  1. AbraEast of Eden, John Steinbeck
  2. AdelaidaThe Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  3. AliaDune, Frank Herbert; Midnight’s Child, Salman Rushdie
  4. Clea —  The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell
  5. ClemencyThe Battle of Life, Charles Dickens
  6. CosetteLes Misérables, Victor Hugo
  7. DabneyDelta Wedding, Eudora Welty
  8. FantineLes Misérables, Victor Hugo
  9. Honoria —  Bleak House, Charles Dickens; Babylon Revisited, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  10. Lindo – The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
  11. Lizaveta – The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  12. MaltaBleak House, Charles Dickens
  13. Marilla —  Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery

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