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Literary Names: The Bronte Sisters

We’ve talked a lot about Shakespearean literary names and characters in Dickens and Jane Austen, but we’ve overlooked three of the best namers in literary history—the sisters Brontë.  We love their own names—Charlotte, Emily and Anne, and we love their initial-appropriate male pen names—Currer, Ellis and Acton.  We even love their surname, which a number of parents have chosen for their daughters.

But it is the particularly rich cast of character names in their novels that we love the most.  One of them, in fact, had a considerable effect on baby naming of its era.  Though it’s long been said that it was Shirley Temple who promoted her given name in the 1930s, she wasn’t the first.  In Charlotte Brontë’ second novel, following Jane Eyre, the protagonist of Shirley was given that name because her father had anticipated a boy, and Shirley was a distinctively male name at the time.  The novel’s Father Keeldar made a gender switch that has proven to be permanent.

Here is a selection of Brontë bests;  the list isn’t meant to be complete—some of the more common names have not been included. (The initials AB, CB and EB represent Anne, Charlotte and Emily.)

GIRLS

Adèle, CB—Jane Eyre

Agnes, ABAgnes Grey

Alice, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall; CB- Jane Eyre

Annabella, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Bertha, CB—Jane Eyre

Bessie, CB–Jane Eyre

Blanche, CB– Jane Eyre

Caroline, CB—The Professor; CB– Shirley

Catherine, Cathy, EBWuthering Heights

Diana, CB—Jane Eyre

Eliza, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall; CB—Jane Eyre

Ellen nn Nelly, EBWuthering Heights

Esther, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Eulalie, CB– The Professor

Frances, EBWuthering Heights; CB– The Professor

Georgiana, CB– Jane Eyre

Ginevra, CBVillette

Grace, CB—Jane Eyre

Helen, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall; CB– Jane Eyre

Hortense, CB– The Professor, Shirley

Isabella, EBWuthering Heights

Leah, CB– Jane Eyre

Lucy, CBVillette

Maria, CB—Jane Eyre

Matilda, ABAgnes Grey

Millicent, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Modeste, CBVillette

Paulina, nn Polly, CB—Villette

Rosalie, ABAgnes Grey

Rosamond, CB—Jane Eyre

Rose, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Rosine, CB—Villette

Shirley, CB—Shirley

Sylvie, CB—The Professor

Zillah, EBWuthering Heights

Zoraïde, CB—The Professor

BOYS

Arthur, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Edgar, EBWuthering Heights

Edward, CB—Jane Eyre

Fergus, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Frederick, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Gilbert, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Graham, CB—Villette

Hareton, EBWuthering Heights

Heathcliff, EBWuthering Heights

Hindley, EBWuthering Heights

Hiram, CB—Shirley

Hunsden, CB—The Professor

Jules, CB—The Professor

Kenneth, EBWuthering Heights

Linton, EBWuthering Heights

Matthewston, CB—Shirley

Ralph, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall

St. John, CB—Jane Eyre

Walter, ABThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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14 Responses to “Literary Names: The Bronte Sisters”

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hilary Says:

July 14th, 2011 at 2:07 am

Thank you! I’d forgotten so many of these–I love Ginevra and Eulalie, among many others.

One thing, though–I’m pretty sure it’s Charlotte, not Anne, who’s the author of Villette.

Tania Says:

July 14th, 2011 at 3:57 am

Charlotte Brontë wrote Villette, not Anne. 🙂

Lovely names!

Lola Says:

July 14th, 2011 at 8:04 am

Agnes, Frances, Helen & Sylvie are divine! And from the boys, Arthur, Edgar, Jules & Kenneth are favorites. I could easily have 8 kids and name them these! Beautiful!

spotlightstarlit Says:

July 14th, 2011 at 11:46 am

Zoraïde is really intriguing!

n Says:

July 14th, 2011 at 1:05 pm

i actually love the name bronte.

jackiet Says:

July 14th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Heathcliff is one of my favorite middle name possibilities for boys! Many think it’s harsh but I love it. Eulalie, too, is high on my list. One of the reasons I love Adele is because of my long obsession with Jane Eyre.

Leslie Owen Says:

July 14th, 2011 at 10:08 pm

One note: Their surname is pronunced Brunty, not Brontay. Don’t forget Patrick Bramwell, their brother — it was his childhood game that helped the girls get started on their writing careers, even as Bramwell’s fizzled out.

Leslie Owen Says:

July 14th, 2011 at 10:09 pm

pronounced, my bad….

What We’re Reading This Week | giggle GAB Says:

July 15th, 2011 at 8:01 am

[…] you a fan of the Bronte sisters? Consider these character names from their books. – […]

Macy Says:

July 15th, 2011 at 9:00 am

Can you even imagine meeting a little boy name Shirley these days? I wonder if people will think the same about a boy Peyton 50 years from now.

Tori Says:

July 18th, 2011 at 10:31 am

Bronte sister’s novels aren’t the easiest of reads. I’ve had the pleasure of reading two books written by Bronte – Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights – I loved the latter, Wuthering Heights was simply amazing book full of sheer love, excitment and mad passion; also the names were awesome. Where as Jane Eyre was particulary my favourite book. But I have to say the names found in these books are gorgeous. My favourites from your list are as follows…

Girls:
Adèle really french and obviously pretty

Alice, I still like despite a girl with this name potentially stealing hundreds of pounds from me. So must be good

Annabella, I’ve had a crush on this name for ages, so pretty has this great Italian aura really gorgeous.

Caroline, just unbelieveably retro and sounds really American

Catherine, Cathy, the herione of my favourite book so beautiful

Eliza, it’s off beat it’s charming it’s beautiful you have to love it

Ellen I used to not like this name finding it bland but the simplicity is something I crave and it reeks of it.

Grace a very simple virtue name that looks really pretty

Isabella, a great Italian name ultra feminine very pretty with a great history and a gorgeous royal feel a lovely name

Matilda, Once again how can you not like this pretty humble classic

Rosalie, very pretty I just love the whole aura of the name

Rosamond, the traditional beat of this name makes it undenibley cute.

Rose, at last my favourite name of all time so obviously my favourite from this list. The simple Rose is just beautiful summing up beauty and simplicity in a great feminine way.

Arthur, this name is just cute how can you not like Arthur?!

Edward, a gorgeous classic that looks really masculine with a great nickname Eddie it’s very humble and handsome

Frederick, you’ve got to love Frederick especially Freddie it’s so cute, I love this classic and it’s becoming a favourite

Heathcliff, even though in hindsight one shouldn’t like Heathclif how can you not adore this name and all the connatations of it.

Kenneth, aw Kenneth I feel will become popular it’s so vintage and has the nickname Kenny and that is something the British love… a potential nickname!

Walter, I like this it’s been a guilty pleasure of mine for ages it’s really humble lovely and hardly ever comes to ones attention it’s a lovely classic.

Interesting blog!

lalala__lauren Says:

September 17th, 2013 at 9:24 pm

So, I know this is a really old post, but I’m just now reading it. . . Villette was written by Charlotte Bronte, not Anne; it says AB by the names from Villette.

lalala__lauren Says:

September 17th, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Someone else already pointed out the mistake that I addressed in my comment, and I do see that some of the VIllette names were corrected to have CB, but some of them still have the A.

Bronte Sisters Brothers Name | Kreativenews | Post Says:

January 2nd, 2017 at 8:56 am

[…] Literary Names: The Bronte Sisters […]

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