Literary Names: The Bronte Sisters

July 14, 2011 Linda Rosenkrantz

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.)


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


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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