Literary Baby Names: The Wilde ones
Oscar Wilde, one of my favorite authors, was well known in his day for biting one-liners and quick takedowns of the pretentious London nobility, as reflected in his books and plays. Here are some of his most interesting character names, excluding the great ones in The Importance of Being Earnest, which I’ll take up in a separate post.
The twisted antihero of Oscar Wilde’s only novel would make an interesting namesake for a child of readers, though Dorian isn’t much to aspire to. But his name is fantastic! It comes from an ancient Greek tribe, and may have been first used as a name by Wilde himself. With its similarities to Damian, I think Dorian could be a great option.
A personal name crush, but definitely has its cons: how many pesto jokes could one child handle? Older generations might also associate with early Sherlock Holmes portrayer Basil Rathbone, though that reference is definitely decreasing. As for the pros: it means “regal,” has quite a few saintly namesakes, and has the cute nickname Baz. And with other nature names moving up the charts – River, Forest, and Phoenix – it wouldn’t be too out of place.
Another name that comes with conflicts, but is rising out of the negative shadows. While the multiple personality Sybil was exposed as a fraud, fictional namesakes Sybil Trelawney of Harry Potter and Sybil Crawley of Downton Abbey make this name more desirable. It’s also aurally close to Sydney, and has the excellent meaning of “seer” from ancient Greek mythology.
This name is trending up the charts quite quickly! And why not? It’s got the popular -lee ending, three syllables, and a floral first part. Characters in Twilight and Grimm have added to its trendiness. Yet Rosalie is an undeniable classic that won’t result in eye-rolls. Here, Wilde was more than ahead of his time.
Another personal name crush, based on a dear friend. But my own bias aside, I think Vera is ready to come back in style. It’s from the Russian for “faith”, and has a similar sound to Lena and Nora. Some great women working today are named Vera, including designer Wang and actress Farmiga. It also works well across cultures – Vera is currently trending in both Sweden and Spain.
Salomé – Salomé
While it’s a beautiful name that means “peace”, the connection to the biblical seductress who took part in the death of John the Baptist might be a little much. If you can get past that, though, why not? Other similar alternatives include Simone, Selma, or Esme.
Not too far from Cyrus or Silas, this name means “lordly.” It’s definitely got a pretentious air, but the right child could make it friendlier. Cyril was the favorite son of Oscar and his wife, Constance (shown in the illustration); Cyril was killed by a German sniper in World War I.
While this name is definitely decadent, it’s unusable quality stems more from Vivian‘s takeover by the female gender. Vyvyan‘s son Merlin would go on to be a major Wilde biographer, and Vyvyan himself published some memoirs on life with his notorious father.
Any names I missed, or mischaracterized? Let me know in the comments!
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on October 23rd, 2015 at 10:55 am
Dorian, Basil, Cyril and Vyvyan are absolutely smashing boy names. I adore how elegant and sophisticated they are and the fact that they are so obscure and overlooked in recent years is also a terrific bonus. If I had my way, I’d have three boys named Dorian, Evelyn and Vyvyan but I fear they might be too close for brothers.
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