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Baby Names from Books: 6 choice choices for girls

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by Anna Otto, Waltzing More Than Matilda

1. Arrietty

Arrietty Clock is a teenage “borrower” from Mary Norton’s classic children’s fantasy book series, The Borrowers. The borrowers are tiny people who live by “borrowing” everyday items from the Big People they call “human beans.” Because of the spirited Arrietty’s curiosity, she and her family have far more adventurous lives than the average borrower.  The borrowers’ names have also been “borrowed,” and used in new ways. Arrietty is reminiscent of the word arietta, meaning “little song, a small aria” in Italian. It is also similar to the name Harriet, and the short form Etty.  As Aria and Harriet are quite popular, and Etta very hip, Arrietty is one of those invented names which we are half-surprised wasn’t used before the books’ publication.

2. Arwen

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy novel, The Lord of the Rings, Arwen Undómiel is an Elven princess, said to be the most beautiful of the last generation of the High Elves. She is the lover of the hero Aragorn, and because she is an immortal, Arwen must sacrifice a great deal to be with her love.  In the Elvish Sindarin language created by Tolkien, Arwen is said to mean “noble maiden.”  However, Tolkien did not invent the name itself, which is a modern Welsh name. It may be a feminine form of Arwyn, which I have seen translated as “very fair, greatly blessed, splendid.” In the UK, Arwen began charting around the time The Fellowship of the Ring came out, and is currently #654 and rising.

3. Bellatrix

Bellatrix Lestrange is an evil witch in the Harry Potter series, the Dark Lord Voldemort’s most faithful follower. Bellatrix was born into the Black family, and like all members of that clan, she is named after a star.  Bellatrix is the common name of Gamma Orionis, a bright star in the constellation of Orion. Its name is Latin for “female warrior.” Bellatrix Lestrange’s name is apt because she is a skilled warrior for Voldemort, and has won many duels. It sounds very usable, because it has the popular Bella in it, and the -trix from hip Beatrix. However, while the Harry Potter character has raised the name’s profile, it’s also a stumbling block, because the character is evil – and not in a cool “strong yet misunderstood woman” way. Bellatrix is a fanatical racist with a love for murder and torture, and a starstruck Voldie fangirl with an annoying little-girl voice. So on one hand: great name. On the other: horrible association.

4. Lorelei

The Lorelei is the name of a famous rock on the River Rhine, and also that of a beautiful water sprite or siren associated with the rock, who is supposed to lure men to their doom. The character of the Lorelei comes from a nineteenth century German ballad which poet Heinrich Heine turned into a poem called Die Lorelei, where a golden-haired siren unwittingly distracts men with her beauty so they crash onto the rocks. The poem has often been set to music and is part of German popular culture. The name Lorelei is a combination of German dialect and Celtic, and means “murmuring rock,” and is the name of the alluring blonde in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, played on screen by Marilyn Monroe. The name also features in garrulous gabfest Gilmore Girls, where both mother and teen daughter share the name Lorelei (the younger goes by Rory). Pronounced LOR-uh-lie, it is #531 in the U.S.

5. Pollyanna

Pollyanna Whittier is the title character of the Pollyanna books by Eleanor H. Porter, an eleven-year-old orphan who is sent to live with her Aunt Polly in New England, where her sunny disposition soon teaches her stern relative, and the whole town, how to play the “Glad Game” – where you always look for something to feel glad about. While many are charmed by the heroine’s upbeat view of life, cynics find her too syrupy and her philosophy simplistic. Because of this, the word Pollyanna has entered our language to mean someone optimistic to the point of naiveté.  This would be a difficult name to give a child in many ways, but would make a sunshiney middle, and easily shortens to Polly.

6. Velvet

Velvet Brown is the heroine of Enid Bagnold’s novel, National Velvet, about a teenager who rides to victory in the brutally difficult Grand National Steeplechase jump race. The story is about the ability of ordinary people to achieve great things – Velvet is a plain, rather sickly girl from a working-class family, and the horse she wins on is a piebald. The movie version chucks most of this inspiring message aside so they can show a radiantly pretty pre-teen Elizabeth Taylor galloping about on a chestnut thoroughbred. Velvet is a fabric that was originally very expensive to make, and therefore associated with nobility and royalty. The word is from Old French, from the Latin for “tuft, down”, because of velvet’s distinctive texture. It has been used as a name since the nineteenth century, and has been given mostly to girls.

This is an adaptation of a blog on Anna Otto’s site Waltzingmorethanmatilda.com.  You can see the full, expanded version here.  Anna blogs about a wide variety of Australian names, and Aussie name trends, at Waltzing More Than Matilda. Boys’ names will be coming soon.

 

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waltzingmorethanmatilda

Waltzing More Than Matilda is the creation of Anna Otto, who blogs about a wide variety of Australian names, and Aussie name trends.
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10 Responses to “Baby Names from Books: 6 choice choices for girls”

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Emma86 Says:

November 18th, 2013 at 1:46 am

In Gilmore Girls, the main character actually uses the spelling “Lorelai”. 🙂 I would love to use the name if I ever have a little girl, but my niece’s name is Laurance, which basically is the same sound/syllable at the beginning of the name. For me, it’s a bit too close to use if I have a daughter.

EmilyVA Says:

November 18th, 2013 at 1:48 am

I like Arrietty, Arwen, and Pollyanna.
That being said, why with all the Harry Potter names out there do people on nameberry writing these posts either go for the obscure or the evil. It’s either a name that is one sentence out of two thousand pages worth of books or it’s the evil Bellatrix. Bellatrix is also the murderer of a Beloved Potter character. Why not go with Hermione or Ginevra or Molly or Lily or even Petunia would be better? Sigh.
Also on Gilmore Girls the character’s name was Lorelai spelled like that. Not Lorelei. Nameberry is always tells me Lorelai is misspelled but it is a legit alternative spelling.

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

November 18th, 2013 at 2:53 am

@Emma86 and Emily VA: Oops, I guess I never read the credits properly on Gilmore Girls! Apologies on the spelling gaffe.

@EmilyVA: These were all names that had been repeatedly Googled to get to my blog, so they seemed like names people were interested in reading about. Also, I tried to pick names that were very strongly connected with a particular literary character, so names like Lily or Molly didn’t seem to quite qualify.

BabyNameCrazy95 Says:

November 18th, 2013 at 3:52 am

Always loved Arietty never been brave enough to add it too my list though x

tori101 Says:

November 18th, 2013 at 3:21 pm

My favourites…
Arriety
Arwen
Bellatrix – despite the evil HP association

: )

AprilRobin Says:

November 18th, 2013 at 7:45 pm

I love Arriety, Pollyanna, and Lorelei/Lorelai. I kind of like Arwen but I am not crazy about Velvet or Bellatrix.

karateleshi80 Says:

November 18th, 2013 at 9:08 pm

call me boring but I only like Arwen out of this list 🙂

Saracita00 Says:

November 19th, 2013 at 7:10 am

Nice article. “The Borrowers” was one of my sisters’ favorite books, so I would feel like I was, well, “borrowing” from her if I took Arietty, but I hope she uses it someday. It would be pretty cute to have a niece named Arietty — and it sounds so on-trend and current now! I admired Bellatrix for the star connection, and it’s too bad HP completely ruined the name for my husband. Velvet *does* make for a great-sounding name with those V’s and the -et ending, but there are way too many seamstresses in my family for anybody to take that one seriously. Arwen is a great character, but believe it or not I actually think her name sounds ugly. Lorelei and Pollyanna aren’t my style but were surprising and enjoyable picks to be featured here.

Nephele Says:

November 19th, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Anna Otto, I love your blog entries – but I am especially intrigued by your name. I noticed that both your first name and last name are palindromes. Now you have me wondering whether your middle name is a palindrome, as well. Could it be Eve? Aviva? Alula? Please – enquiring minds need to know!

taliesin Says:

November 24th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Arwen

also Arwyn

Arwyn Frey

Book(s) A Storm of Swords (Appears)
Born in year 284, Arwyn Frey is the (supposed) sixth daughter of Lord Walder Frey. She is the first born and eldest daughter of Lord Walder Frey and his seventh spouse, Lady Annara Farring. According to Merrett Frey, Black Walder Frey was rumored to be sleeping with Lady Annara casting doubts on the parentage of her children.

I know the ‘wyn’ ending for Welsh names is supposed to designate male, but it looks better.

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