12 Literary Ladies: Unique names from Abra to Sapphira
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Novels and plays are filled with wonderful character names that provide great naming inspiration–recently we’ve seen that reflected in the newfound popularity of Holden from Catcher in the Rye, Atticus and Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, Scarlett from Gone with the Wind.
Today we’re looking at some of the more unique girls’ names that haven’t gained that kind of popularity–some of them perhaps not likely to. It was hard to make a choice, but here are a dozen that made the cut. We’ll be doing the same thing for boys soon.
Character: In the part of this play set in the year 31920 (yes!), Amaryllis is a baby born from an egg right on stage, who emerges aged 16.
Name: This character was created almost two decades before Blue Ivy Carter arrived on the scene and brought this color name into the spotlight. It’s been picked up in a variety of spellings, mostly in the middle spot, for boys and for girls.
Character: Bonanza Jellybean is an uncompromising but romantic leader of a band of feminist rebels who have taken over a western cattle ranch.
Name: Though the surname turns the whole name into a joke, could this exuberant word possibly be an exuberant middle, or a first nicknamed Bonnie?
Name: This underused Scandinavian name, which means “new day,” has a much brighter and livelier feel than the character does, and is beginning to attract some attention.
Source: The Twyborn Affair by Patrick White, 1979
Character: Judging by her name, she is not surprisingly the daughter of a man who believes himself descended from Byzantine emperors. This Eudoxia is young and romantically mysterious.
Name: Eudoxia (sometimes Latinized as Eudocia) was widely used in the Middle Ages, associated with an early Christian saint, and with Roman and Byzantine royalty. Anne Rice also used it in her novel Blood and Gold.
Source: Show Boat by Edna Ferber, 1926
Name: Magnolia is a lovely floral choice, redolent of the Old South. On the popularity list until 1940, it reentered the Top 1000 this year, as one of the year’s fastest rising names.
Source: The Sandcastle by Iris Murdoch, 1957
There are lots of other wonderful girls’ names to be found in novels—some of my own favorites are Ariadne, Aurora, Cecily, Christabel, Clarissa, Dorothea, Flora, Isadora, Leonora, Maisie, Pilar, Sylvie, Velvet and Zuleika. How about you?
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on October 28th, 2014 at 9:38 am
I love Abra and Magnolia from the list but my favorite from a novel is Aliena from Pillars of the Earth. It’s not just the name but I love how strong the character was adding an extra zip to the name.
on October 28th, 2014 at 11:08 am
I prefer the Hebrew Avra to Abra. It’s a truly beautiful name. And I love the name Tamsin, and also the Cornish version, Tamasin. Thomasin is cool too — but Tamsin is great.
Two literary names I like are Hepzibah (from The House of the Seven Gables and Silas Marner) — I prefer the version without the “h” — and Keziah, who was called Cassie in Hariette Arnow’s The Dollmaker and Kizzy in Rumer Godden’s The Diddakoi.
on October 28th, 2014 at 1:27 pm
Minor correction–Sapphira is a New Testament name…with a tragic story. It’s lovely, but parents might want to read Acts 5 before deciding on it.
on October 28th, 2014 at 7:53 pm
Yes, Titus245Mama, Sapphira, of Ananias and Sapphira fame, is from the NT.
I like the biblical Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon) from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Actually, I would drop the ‘of’ and call her Rose Sharon.
on October 31st, 2014 at 1:41 pm
I like Sapphire and Sapphira to a fault. But, as a Christian, there is absolutely no way around the Biblical account; I almost had my husband fall in love with Sapphire as a middle name, but then he saw comments about it being a stripper name…grrr. Amaryllis and Magnolia are two others I quite enjoy (and would be beautiful as sisters!), but I feel that especially to use the latter, one must have some kind of Southern connection..
My late grandma had a best friend named Daggie, from Dagmar, which I’ve always thought was a cute spunky name.. Dagny’s even better. I’d never use it tho.
But I must say, for one who apparently doesn’t know the East of Eden story, all I see in Abra is an unfinished name: Abraham or “a bra” as in, “one Brassiere”… of which I can totally understand why it’s never been popular here. And for anyone even slightly considering it, I beg of you, no.
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