Literary Names: How To Find One You Love In A Book
There are countless names that have been plucked from books and transferred to birth certificates, including current favorites like Atticus (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Holden (Catcher in the Rye) and Emma (Emma), not to mention Romeo and Juliet.
But there are lots more literary names that are not as obvious, some from more obscure books, others of less prominent characters. Here are 50 such examples of creative literary names that have not made it into the mainstream, but could make interesting choices—25 of them for each gender.
But bear in mind that though these names all have literary cred, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re attached to the most heroic characters.
- Abra – East of Eden, John Steinbeck
- Adelaida – The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Alia – Dune, Frank Herbert; Midnight’s Child, Salman Rushdie
- Clea — The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell
- Clemency— The Battle of Life, Charles Dickens
- Cosette – Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
- Dabney —Delta Wedding, Eudora Welty
- Fantine – Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
- Honoria — Bleak House, Charles Dickens; Babylon Revisited, F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Lindo – The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
- Lizaveta – The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Malta — Bleak House, Charles Dickens
- Marilla — Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
- Medora — The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
- Meridian – Meridian, Alice Walker
- Oriane – Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust
- Persis – The Rise of Silas Lapham, William Dean Howells
- Placida — Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Márquez
- Temple— Sanctuary, Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner
- Thomasin— Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy
- Trillian—Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
- Valencia – Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
- Velvet – National Velvet, Enid Bagnold
- Waverly – The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
- Zenobia – The Blithedale Romance, Nathaniel Hawthorne; Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
- Arkady—Crime and Punishment, A Raw Youth, Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev
- Brinker – A Separate Peace, John Knowles
- Camden – Middlemarch, George Eliot
- Carver — Lorna Doone, R. D. Blackmore
- Caspian – The Return to Narnia, C. S. Lewis
- Cato —Henry and Cato, Iris Murdoch
- Dexios – The King Must Die, Mary Renault
- Dunstan – Silas Marner, George Eliot
- Golden – Jazz , Toni Morrison
- Joss — Jamaica Inn, Daphne Du Maurier
- Jupiter — The Gold Bug, Edgar Allan Poe
- Kenyon —The Marble Faun, Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Lemuel – Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift; A Cool Million, Nathanael West
- Marius — Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
- Ozias — Armadale, Wilkie Collins
- Phileas – Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
- Reuven—The Chosen, Chaim Potok
- Rodion – Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Seneca — Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis
- Septimus – The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens; Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
- Shreve – Absalom, Absalom, William Faulkner
- St. John (pron. Sinjin) —Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
- Tertius – Middlemarch, George Eliot
- Victory – Jazz, Toni Morrison
- Yancey — Cimarron, Edna Ferber
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on November 11th, 2010 at 2:59 am
I think Meridian is an adorable name!
Emmy Jo Said
on November 11th, 2010 at 3:13 am
I’ll second Meridian being an awesome name! It has been one of my favorite “guilty pleasure” odd word names for a girl — I had no idea it was actually used as a given name in a book. How neat!
I love the Les Miserables names, especially Marius and Cosette. I do wonder why they haven’t caught on. They’re attractive, and they are tied to likable characters.
But, really, there are quite a lot of good names here. I had forgotten Camden was in Middlemarch (and that is one of my favorite novels). I’m also loving Abra and Clemency and Arkady. Great list!
Stacy Lou Said
on November 11th, 2010 at 3:24 am
I love Abra! I just don’t like the character, and if it was just “some book” I might be able to look past that, but East of Eden is one of my top 5 faves.
on November 11th, 2010 at 6:53 am
I know a young girl named Cosette, her nickname is Cosie 🙂
DH and I are reading the Sword of Truth series in our spare time, and are considering using the name Erilyn as a middle name for one of the girls we are adopting from Ethiopia. It doesn’t mean anything and she (so far) isn’t a big character in the books, but it’s a name we both like and we can tell our daughter that the books helped passed the time while we waited for her.
Mary Beth Said
on November 11th, 2010 at 10:27 am
What about Aglaia from the Idiot?
on November 11th, 2010 at 11:55 am
I’m so happy to see some fantasy books on here. People think that fantasy is full of made-up, unpronouncable names, but there are some real gems. Lyra from His Dark Materials is the first thing that comes to mind. But even from an epic fantasy, like Lord of the Rings, that people are afraid of, you have names like Sam (short for Samwise, but still) and Peregrin. Hopefully, we’ll see more names from fantasy catching on in the future. (Science fiction, too…hello, Valentine.)
on November 11th, 2010 at 12:11 pm
Funny, I just watched National Velvet and was thinking how lovely that name was. Too bad the nicknames include Velvetta Cheese and “Is your sister’s name Silk or Leather?” The better name from that movie is Mi. The name given to her co-star Mickey Rooney. Or the siblings Edwina and Malvolia.
on November 11th, 2010 at 2:54 pm
interesting choice to pick thomasin
I also love Thomasina from Arcadia.
on November 11th, 2010 at 5:59 pm
My name is Waverly! I have never met another, but have heard they exist. Didn’t like it when I was little, but fine with it now. My nickname is Wave.
on November 11th, 2010 at 8:14 pm
I really like Clea…although that’s the soap company that supplies my work.
Joss is really cool too.
on November 11th, 2010 at 11:38 pm
This is really a cool list! I love it!! I remember the first time I read the Joy Look club and how much Waverly liked me, it’s a very original name.
I also love Cosette, I find it pretty and elegant like Cosima. Hero is also an original choice if you love Shakespeare and it’s not common.
on November 15th, 2010 at 10:06 pm
I always like Thayer from F Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise
on November 18th, 2010 at 6:44 pm
Dulcinea. From Don Quixote.
Finnegan. From Finnegan’s Wake.
on November 25th, 2010 at 1:31 am
Velvet is really cute!
on January 31st, 2011 at 12:35 pm
I think Jem from To Kill a Mockingbird is super sweet for a boy.
on March 26th, 2011 at 8:53 pm
Also in Journey to the Center of the Earth is Grauben. Interesting name. I don’t really love it, but it’s sorta cool. There’s Brett, too, from a Hemingway book.
Leslie Owen Said
on April 26th, 2011 at 12:39 am
Keziah, from Hariette Arnow’s The Dollmaker (nn Cassie) and Rumer Godden’s The Diddakoi (nn Kizzy). I too like Joss from Jamaica Inn. Also another DuMaurier name is Honour from The King’s General. And Dafna from Exodus. And Emrys from Mary Stewart’s Arthur trilogy.
on May 27th, 2011 at 7:37 pm
My daughter is named Waverly. The fictional daughter of Buttercup and Prince Westley from Princess Bride. Prettiest name 🙂
on August 26th, 2011 at 8:34 am
I love Joss! My other favourite du Maurier name I love is Maxim from Rebecca (and if Waverly, why not Manderley. For literary girls, I LOVE Phillipa (nn Pippa) from the Browning poem and Lucasta/Lucy. Lucasta is from the Cavalier poet Robert Lovelace (To Lucasta On Going To The Wars) and Wordsworth wrote several poems about a Lucy (also Narnia reference!). Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen is ripe for mining too.
on September 14th, 2011 at 3:14 pm
I like a lot of names from VC Andrews books lol….From My Sweet Audrina…Audrina, Arden (for a boy), Lucrietta (nn Lucky), Jory and Julian from the Flowers in the Attic series
on May 16th, 2013 at 9:31 am
The book is called ‘Prince Caspian’ not ‘Return to Narnia…
on March 12th, 2014 at 10:06 am
Love the name Caspian, but I don’t know if I’d actually use it for a child (mostly because I’m really into the meaning behind names, and I can only trace Caspian back than the Caspian Sea). I’m having the same problem with the name Brigan from Kristin Cashore’s book “Fire.” I love the name, but it doesn’t seem to mean anything.
Had no idea Camden was a real name when I used it for one of my fantasy characters. I suppose I should have read Middlemarch (it’s been on my to-read shelf for months).
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