Baby Names from Books: 20 Lost Literary Boys’ Names

December 2, 2009 Linda Rosenkrantz

Last week we unearthed twenty long lost literary girls’ names–some of which have rarely been used outside of books, plays and poetry– and now we turn to the boys’ equivalents.  The diverse sources of these creative baby names range from Shakespeare to Stoppard– and be aware that, as before, the characters who bear them are not necessarily paragons of virtue.

ARKADY. A Russian saint’s name from the Greek meaning “from Arcadia,” it belongs to a genteel character in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons and a much less benign one in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and is also a key figure in Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith.

BALTHAZAR, the name of one of the three wise men, is scattered throughout literature, from Shakespeare ‘s plays to the rambunctious title character of J P Donleavy’s The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B.

BEALE. Beale Farange is the heroine’s father in Henry JamesWhat Maisie Knew; it’s a surname that comes from the French meaning “handsome.”

CLAUDIO. A Shakespearean favorite, appearing in both Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure; it’s a Latin clan name meaning “lame”–one of those literal meanings that can be ignored in the modern world.

DUNCAN. Duncan Idaho is the brave hero of Frank Herbert‘s classic fantasy series Dune. It’s a Scottish name meaning “brown warrior” and a nameberry favorite, despite some people’s association with Dunkin’ Donuts.

FLINT. A legendary pirate–and also a parrot–in Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Treasure Island. A strong, modern-sounding word name.

INIGO. Inigo Montoya is a dramatic character in William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. In real life, this attractive Spanish vernacular form of Ignatius is identified with the great British architect Inigo Jones.

JABEZ. Jabez Stone is the New England farmer who bargains with the devil in the Stephen Vincent Benet short story The Devil and Daniel Webster. This underused biblical name means “sorrowful” in Hebrew.

JAPHY. This diminutive of the name Japheth was attached to a visionary Buddhist poet in Jack Kerouac‘s The Dharma Bums.

JEM, the level-headed son of Atticus Finch and brother of Scout in Harper Lee‘s To Kill a Mockingbird is a medieval vernacular form of James, and a fresher-sounding nickname than Jim.

LEANDER is an interesting name with some unfortunate references: the tragic romantic hero of Greek legend and an  equally tragic figure in John Cheever‘s The Wapshot Chronicle.

LEMUEL. The first name of Gulliver in Swift’s Gulliver‘s Travels is a biblical name meaning “devoted to God” that has been completely eclipsed by Samuel in the contemporary baby naming world.

MACONboth the birth name of the character known as “Milkman” in Toni Morrison‘s Song of Solomon and the protagonist of The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. And also a place name

OBERON. The name of the king of the fairies in Shakespeare‘s A Midsummer Night‘s Dream is a variant spelling of Auberon.

OZIAS. A name found in the Wilkie Collins novel Armadale which means “helper, supporter” in Hebrew.

QUEBEC. We mentioned his sister Malta in the previous girls’ list; here is another appealing Dickens geoographical choice from the Bagnet family in Bleak House.

QUINTUS. Quintus Slide is a semicomic journalist character who appears in Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels, meaning  “fifth” in Latin.  Other Latin numerical names are SEPTIMUS, who is a major character in Virginia Woolf‘s Mrs. Dalloway, and also appears in Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia, and in the Harry Potter and Septimus Heap series; and TERTIUS , an upstanding character in George Eliot‘s Middlemarch.

PHILO. Philo Vance was the cultured and sophisticated fictional detective hero of twelve crime novels by S.S. Van Dyne played in the movies by William Powell and Basil Rathbone.  The name comes from the Greek, meaning “to love.”

Runners up: AUGIE March, CATO in Henry and Cato, FITZWILLIAM Darcy, GRAY Grantham, ORSINO in Twelfth Night, YURI in Doctor Zhivago.


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