Invented Names Past and Present: From Vanessa to Iridessa
With names, as with other subjects, once I learned my assumptions were wrong, I was put in my place.
Pre-kids, I was a name-snob who openly expressed disdain for invented names, grouping all invented names with experimental spellings, and modern word-play creations such as Abcde (ab-si-dee) and La-A (la-dash-ah).
And then shortly after my daughter was born, I discovered I had unintentionally given her an invented name.
No, I didn’t invent the name. The name was invented by an author, and they seem to have a knack for inventing great names. One author known as a master-namer is Shakespeare.
When deciding which names belonged on this list, I followed one self-imposed rule: no Shakespeare names. Shakespeare names are plentiful and already well-known. The goal was to uncover little-known invented names.
What I found was that there were plenty of invented names from past centuries and even a few from the past 15 years that could become established in time.
Pre-21st Century Invented Names
Carreen / Careen – The two-R version, Carreen, was used in the novel Gone With The Wind as Scarlett O’Hara’s younger sister. Author Margaret Mitchell reportedly created the name out a hybrid of Caroline and Irene. The one-R version, Careen, seems more user-friendly with a more streamlined, intuitive spelling.
Clea – could have possibly been invented by Lawrence Durrell for The Alexandria Quartet in the 1950’s. This is an extremely rare name (there were only 10 born in 2012) with an approachable style like Cleo, Lea and Leah.
Clorinda – was most likely invented by a 16th century Italian poet.
Glinda – is an underused representative of mid-century modern, not to be confused with the more widely used Glenda. Glinda, the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz, enjoyed a brief stay at the lower rung of the popularity chart from 1944 to 1955. Glinda’s mid-century peak was most likely due to The Wizard of Oz movie’s debut in 1939, and its similarity to mid-century power-name Linda.
Myra – was created by the 17th century poet Fulke Greville. What inspired the poet to invent this name is unclear, although one theory is that the name was created by rearranging the letters in Mary. Mira is most modern parents’ preference but since Maya and Mya are both fashionable, a young Myra will have no problems fitting in.
Stella – became familiar in modern times due to Marlon Brando and the movie adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire, but the name’s origins date back to the 16th century. Stella was first coined by English poet Sir Philip Sidney.
Vanessa – was created in the 18th century by Jonathan Swift for his poem Cadences and Vanessa by rearranging the letters of his friend Esther Vanhomrigh’s name. The male character, Cadenus, was also created by Jonathan Swift, but never caught on. Vanessa didn’t even become a popular name until the a couple of hundred years after the poem was written.
Many of the pre-21st century names have become very familiar proving that invented names can have staying power.
21st Century Invented Names
Perhaps these recently coined names could become established in the coming decades.
Iridessa – is a light talent fairy in the Disney Fairies franchise. Presumably the name is a play on the word, “iridescent”. There were only 17 newborn girls given this name in 2012, but it has a mainstream sound that seems like a hybrid of Iris and Vanessa.
Katniss – the heroine in the young adult science fiction series, The Hunger Games, is popular among Nameberries. The author, Suzanne Collins, says that the name was inspired by a water-dwelling plant with edible roots. There were 12 newborn girls named Katniss in 2012, the first year Katniss appeared in the Social Security data.
Siddalee – was technically a late 20th century invention first appearing in the 1996 novel Divine Secrets of The Ya Ya Sisterhood, which was turned into a film in 2002. The character goes by “Sidda” which some parents may find more user-friendly than Siddalee. In 2012 there were 10 newborn girls named Siddalee and 8 named Sidda.
While these newly created names are obscure at the moment, maybe in about 200 years Iridessa could become the next Vanessa.
What are some of your favorite invented names?
Angela created Upswing Baby Names to help parents find names ahead of the curve. A big time name watcher, she has a list of names she’s watching which she adds to every year. You can download your Watch List Report (and get on the list to receive next year’s Watch List report) here.
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on January 22nd, 2014 at 2:47 am
What an interesting topic. Great post, thanks!
on January 22nd, 2014 at 5:22 am
Norma was invented for an opera
Pamela, by a poet, sir Phillip Sidney
Zadie was a creation of the author born Sadie Smith
on January 22nd, 2014 at 9:01 am
Yes, I was about to say that Pamela was invented and was used as the heroine of a 1740 novel by Samuel Richardson, which popularized it. Its roots as a literary invention makes me like it more!
on January 22nd, 2014 at 9:20 am
Why is Stella on this list? It’s a word. So because it was first used as a name by this poet it means he invented it? If I name my child Carpet and it catches on do I get credit for inventing it?
on January 22nd, 2014 at 10:06 am
Great topic! I’ve always loved Lorna and I had no idea it was invented!
on January 22nd, 2014 at 10:19 am
I enjoy this topic and some of the wonderful creations of authors but I wonder what the cutoff is for inventing a name and it still being considered ‘invented’ today. A name used in a poem in 1600 seems like a pretty well-established name by now, compared to something like Glinda or Siddalee.
on January 22nd, 2014 at 1:23 pm
I only know about Caspian, but that’s a boys names list… sorry for trolling!
on January 22nd, 2014 at 1:27 pm
Great post Angela! I too used to look down on invented names until I realized that two names I absolutely adore, Stella and Vanessa, were both invented by poets!
on January 22nd, 2014 at 5:46 pm
Love this post! Love love love Iridessa! Every name is an invented name, what seems absurd today will be commonplace in time. I love that names are like a living entity in this way, growing and blossoming with cultures. As an English Major I’m particularly fond of poet/author invented names. Excellent read.
on January 22nd, 2014 at 5:50 pm
Janice was invented in 1899? A quick baptism search shows a great deal of English Janices born prior to that date, from the early 17th century onwards.
on January 22nd, 2014 at 5:54 pm
If you really want to get technical, *every* name was an invented name at one point.
I’ve loved Greyson/ Grayson since I first heard it on a 40 year old man about 10 years ago. It shows up on the invented name list here on nameberry.
My personal guilty pleasure is Zinnia. Not really a name, but Chasing Redbird is one of my all-time favorite books.
There’s a big difference between Janice or Jamezetta and La-A, C’Mon (Simone) or Abcde.
I used to think, “CRINGE! Invented name!” but I feel like there is a fine line. I can’t stand all these -ayden names, but I love to hear an invented name that have a story. There’s a big difference between banging on a keyboard/ playing with scrabble tiles until it sounds like a name, versus coming up with something like “Ambrielle” named for Amber and Gabrielle. I may not like the invented name, but I like to hear the stories behind them.
on January 22nd, 2014 at 7:41 pm
My own name, Amanda, is said to be invented from the male form Amandus by a playwrite it 1696.
on January 23rd, 2014 at 12:17 am
Fiona is another one, right?
on January 23rd, 2014 at 9:39 am
I adore the name Sidda, unfortunately my SO does not. 🙁
on January 23rd, 2014 at 5:28 pm
my favourite invented name is Dalma 🙂
Invented by Hugarian poet Mihály Vörösmarty (originally as a male name for one of his heroic poem). It might originate in a by nowdays not in use word for “stout”. So the meaning of the name is kinda unknown, but… I still like it 😀
on February 18th, 2015 at 5:46 am
I read somewhere that Neil Gaiman’s Coraline was a typo of the name Caroline. I don’t know if he was the first to use it, but it’s quite pretty.
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