Literary Baby Names: The Lost Generation

Literary Baby Names: The Lost Generation

By Emily Cardoza, Nothing Like a Name

“The lost generation” was a term coined by Gertrude Stein in describing the generation of men and women who had survived World War I, coming of age then and in the subsequent Jazz Age. Referring to the sense of wandering and melancholy that plagued many during the era – especially the expatriates – this term now often applies to artists of the time.

In their books, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway included a variety of characters that personified the period in different ways. Here are some of the names of those “lost” souls who have influenced American literature today.

Hemingway names:


Not a character name the author picked, but that of Hemingway‘s first wife, Hadley was a unique choice for a woman of the era – it had been used occasionally for boys, and wasn’t even recorded for girls until 1964. Her birth name was Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, Hadley being a family name. In 1998, this pretty English surname began its ascent up the Top 1000, and now ranks at #102. It means “heather field.”


With another name more often associated with men, the female protagonist of The Sun Also Rises is Lady Brett Ashley. Her name identifies her as “one of the boys,” and she’s very much an equal in their social group (unusual for 1926). Now that Brett is on the decline for boys, the girls could make a claim for it – it’s not too far off from Brynn or Brooke, either.

EttoreA minor character in A Farewell to ArmsEttore Moretti has a name that would be an interesting choice for an American boy. Ettore is the Italian variant of Hector, and it means “holding fast.” It currently ranks at #64 in Italy, but is extremely rare in the United States. Ettore would be an attractive and uncommon alternative to names like Giovanni or Leonardo.

PilarA beautiful Spanish choice that’s never ranked in the US Top 1000, Pilar can be found in literature, religious texts, and films. It comes from the word for “pillar,” referring to a moment when the Virgin Mary appeared on a marble pillar. The character in For Whom the Bell Tolls is known for her strength and compassion – not a bad namesake for any little girl.

AnselmoA character in For Whom the Bell Tolls, Anselmo serves as a guide to hero Robert Jordan.  Often linked to the eponymous saint, Anselmo is a rare but long-standing choice for speakers of Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. It means “divine protection,” and has two very appealing short forms: Ansel and Elmo. With its soft sound and o-ending, this name could fit in nicely with today’s trends. Other Spanish names in FWTBT include Pablo, Agustin, Fernando, Rafael, Eladio and Joaquin.

Fitzgerald names:

ZeldaLike Hadley, Zelda Fitzgerald (shown) has been referenced in history as the wife of a great author – but she herself was a significant writer and artist (check out Save Me a Waltz). Zelda recently jumped onto the Top 1000, as feminine vintage names become more and more popular. Will Zelda shoot into the Top 100 or maintain a low profile? Only time will tell.

AmoryAn incredibly romantic name, Amory Blaine makes it clear that the protagonist of This Side of Paradise is ruled by passion. Though the name has been growing in use in recent years, it’s still a distinctive choice. But its closeness to Avery and Emory make it more than viable for today’s youth. The etymology is unclear, but Amorys meaning is related to either “beloved” or “industrious.” Other characters in the novel include Burne and Dawson.JordanAnother name signifying that this woman is on par with the men in the novel, Jordan Baker, representing the “new women” of the 1920s, is an important character in The Great Gatsby. She was named for two then contemporary car companies, representing her modern personality. Though Jordan has always been more popular for boys, both genders have seen the name decline since its heyday in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

CollisA variation of an English name meaning “coal miner,” Collis fits right in with Colin or Silas. The Collis Clay character in Tender is the Night is a relatively minor figure, and Collis itself has not been heard since the turn of the last century, but its s-ending might give it some traction. Also in this novel: Devereux, Topsy and Lanier.

Do you have other favorite Hemingway or Fitzgerald names?