Baby Names from Books: 20 Lost Literary Boys’ Names

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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16 Responses to “Baby Names from Books: 20 Lost Literary Boys’ Names”

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EvanescenceDolly Says:

December 2nd, 2009 at 7:43 am

Thats weird. I just watched Much ado about nothing last night, LOL. Love Balthazar and Jem and Ingio. I’m a big fan of princess bride.

Lola Says:

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:05 am

Love Arkady, Balthazar, Leander, Inigo (and Ignatius) & Philo. Philo’s also Clint Eastwood in “Any Which Way but Loose” (His brother is Orville). I adore Augie as a nickname for August too.
Awesome post today, I love boys names! 🙂 Thanks!

Pamela Redmond Satran Says:

December 2nd, 2009 at 9:44 am

Hey, Lola, nice to see you here again.

November Says:

December 2nd, 2009 at 11:28 am

I love Duncan, it’s both cheeky and legitimate. Inigo and Jabez both have a nice historic feel and Macon would be a good alternative to Mason. Ozias could get to the nickname Oz, which I think is definitely a plus.

punkprincessphd Says:

December 2nd, 2009 at 11:37 am

in TKAM, Jem is actually a nn for Jeremy, which I think works really well.

Salome Says:

December 2nd, 2009 at 11:56 am

I’m REALLY digging Arkady. It gives me the same friendly vibes of Barnaby and Malachy. I’m a sucker for that three syllable rhythm.

And Jem was also the nickname of Anne’s son in the Anne of Green Gables series, which gives it an extra pull on my heart strings.

After that, I’d love to meet a little Balthazar or Oberon. And Ozias, being similar to names like Tobias, would fit in/stand out and offer the great nn Ozzie. Love!

Lucy Says:

December 2nd, 2009 at 6:10 pm

I believe Duncan was also a minor Shakespearian name, right? I live in San Antonio Texas, so Tim Duncan is a huge figure here. I’ve seen Duncan on quite a few boys, from infants to teenagers to grown men. Not all are named after the basketball star, but it seems to be quite common here.

Madi Says:

December 2nd, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I’m reading To Kill A Mockingbird now and I really like both Jem and Scout.

Dove14 Says:

December 3rd, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Yes, Duncan is a Shakespearian character. He’s the king of Scotland in Macbeth, murdered by the title character.

RoseSi)2 Says:

December 5th, 2009 at 10:18 pm

My favorite, unused name from literature is Thayer (Darcy). From F. Scott Fitzgeralds This Side of Paradise.

Anna Says:

December 12th, 2009 at 2:13 am

Ozias is interesting 🙂

M Says:

January 4th, 2010 at 10:16 am

No one ever thinks of Heathcliff..

QuirkFlower Says:

May 22nd, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I really like Jem and Inigo. I think they’re very accesible.

Jennifer Lee Christine Davis Says:

July 23rd, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I actually really like Quintus. I have never known anyone with that name. I’m not 100% sure yet…but I believe it made my list. lol =]

redverity Says:

November 19th, 2012 at 1:29 am

I really like Jem, just wonder if it might be confused as a shortening of the female Jemma/Gemma.

CandaceMarie321 Says:

November 19th, 2013 at 9:25 am

Ugg, Claudio. Even if you ignore the meaning “lame” Shakespeare’s Claudio’s are extremely shallow and kind of sissy hotheads. There are in fact lame.

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