Literary Baby Names
By Aimee Gedge
Like many of you, I am an avid consumer of all genres of books from fantasy to crime fiction. When I’m reading, I love looking for new and unusual names to add to my ever-growing shortlist for future children. But it’s not only fictional characters who can supply us with interesting name ideas: many authors have great names that might warrant a Baby Berry namesake.. Here are some of my personal favourites and I really hope to see some of these amazing names crop up in the Birth Announcements soon.
The wife of The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda (shown in illustration with Scott) was a celebrity in her own right during the Roaring Twenties. A notable socialite, she had a host of different careers, as a poet, magazine writer, ballet dancer and painter, not wanting to be overshadowed by her more famous husband. Often remembered as the quintessential 1920s flapper, her semi-autobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz, is partially based on her turbulent marriage to Scott.
The name is nowadays more commonly associated with Princess Zelda from the ‘Legend of Zelda’ video games – the character was, in actual fact, named after Zelda Fitzgerald. It was originally a short form of the German name Griselda, which is unlikely to have a resurgence any time soon.
Although she is now best known as a novelist, Dodie Smith started her career as an actress, before turning to playwriting under a pseudonym. She wrote her first novel, I Capture the Castle, while she and her husband were living in the US during the Second World War, having left Britain due to their status as conscientious objectors. The character Pongo in her most famous work The One Hundred and One Dalmatians was named after one of her own Dalmatians, of which she had nine.
Dodie Smith’s pen name was actually her childhood nickname, an unusual shortening of Dorothy. With names like Sadie and Elsie gaining ground in the UK top 100 and slowly moving up the charts across the Atlantic, perhaps it’s Dodie’s time to shine?
One of the first women to earn a career in writing, the 17th century Aphra Behn paved the way for authors of her gender and was later remembered by the great Virginia Woolf as having “earned [women] the right to speak their minds.” Little is known about her early life, but as a young adult she travelled to the West Indies, met with slaves and slave-traders, and worked as a spy for British King Charles II before settling down to writing to pay off her mounting debts.
Aphra itself is a feminine and poetic name with the fashionable A-beginning and ending. If Aphra isn’t quite what you’re looking for, you might consider Astrea, which Aphra Behn used as a pseudonym early in her writing career and is a phonetic variant of the Greek name Astraea, the goddess of purity and innocence.
A Polish author whose naval career took him all over the world, Conrad is known for writing rather dark novels and short stories focussing on such moral issues as racism and colonialism. Many of his stories, including his best-known work The Heart of Darkness, were inspired by real events and people he met on his journeys through Africa, Asia and Australia.
The author’s birth name was Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, but he was known to his family as Konrad. The Anglicised form Conrad, which he later used as a surname comes from the German for ‘brave counsel’, and reached its height of popularity in the 1920s and 30s. Many other names from that era have started to reappear, and the recent Ben Howard song has brought the name back into public attention, so perhaps we will start to see more little Conrads in our playgrounds soon.
Born in India during the British Raj, Thackeray was sent home to England at age five and educated at a string of private boarding schools followed by Cambridge University. His mostly negative experiences there influenced his later works, which are critical of the British establishment. His novel Vanity Fair follows the lives of two well-educated young women, Amelia Sedley and Becky Sharp
Thackeray has been suggested on Nameberry as a more unusual alternative to Zachary, and the Th- sound might be attractive to those looking for a more modern-sounding substitute for Theodore, but for those of you who want their children’ names to really stand out, why not try Makepeace?
A prolific British writer who penned over 20 novels as well as poems, short stories and scripts for radio and TV, Kingley Amis was listed as Britain’s 9th greatest post-war writer in 2008. Amis fits into the category of ‘Angry Young Men, reflecting the general mood of Britain in the 1950s and 60s. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990.
Ostensibly a unisex name, Kingsley still feels very masculine, probably due to the first syllable. It was used by JK Rowling for the auror Kingsley Shacklebolt who becomes Minister for Magic after helping to defeat Lord Voldemort. The –ley ending is becoming a Nameberry favourite for boys’ names, with choices like Huxley, Wesley and Oakley coming up more and more on the forums, while girls’ names Hayley and Ashley seem stuck in the 1990s.
Aimee, known on the forums as pebbles320, lives in England with her husband and three cats. In her spare time, she can usually be found playing video games, reading fantasy novels, visiting castles and museums or watching history documentaries – all of which give her plenty of inspiration for beautiful names. She has been a name lover for many years and remembers reading her mum’s baby name book from cover to cover when she was eight years old.”
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on May 10th, 2015 at 7:03 pm
After Rainer Maria Wilke
After Edmund Spenser
After Gabriel Garcia Lorca
After Elizabeth Barrett Browning
After Torquato Tasso
After Torquato Tasso
After Publius Vergilius Maro – aka Virgil
on May 11th, 2015 at 7:10 am
Thanks Anya! Some brilliant finds in your list. Barrett is a great name, a definite contender for those who like Emmett and Beckett, and I feel like Lorca could give Lucas a run for its money.
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