While the Elizabethan/Jacobean playwright William Shakespeare has had a long influence on the names of children, his Restoration successors haven’t had as much impact on the name game. But when looking through character lists of these Restoration comedies, written between 1660-1710, there are some fabulous names to be found, some that have been heard of since, like Amanda, Julia and Sylvia, and some that are extremely rare. Here are thirteen of the more interesting feminine names from the most popular Restoration comedies of the day.
Amaryllis – As seen in 1671’s The Rehearsal, which was published anonymously, though prominent courtier, George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, was most likely the writer. The name Amaryllis is of Greek origin and means ‘to sparkle’.
Araminta – As seen in 1693’s The Old Bachelor by William Congreve, the name is actually a disguise for the character of Sylvia. Araminta is a hybrid of the names Arabella and Aminta as well as having the Greek meaning of ‘defender’.
Bellamira – As seen in 1687’s Bellamira: or, The Mistress by Sir Charles Sedley, she is the heroine of the story, the daughter of a bankrupt merchant who becomes a scheming courtesan. The name Bellamira is made up of two names, Bella and Mira, and means ‘beautiful peace’ or ‘beautiful world’.
Berinthia – As seen in 1696’s The Relapse by John Vanbrugh, she is a vivacious young widow in the play. The name was seemingly created for the play but if broken down to its Latin roots, it means ‘fair happiness’ of ‘fair joy’.
Florimel – As seen in 1667’s The Maiden Queen by John Dryden, this play is noteworthy for being performed by an all-female cast to highlight the fact that women could now perform on stage for the first time. The role of Florimel was originated by the noted Restoration actress Nell Gwyn, who would go on to become on the most famous of King Charles II’s mistresses. The name Florimel is of Latin origin and means ‘honey flower’.
Lucretia – As seen in 1678’s Sir Patient Fancy by Aphra Behn, who was the first female playwright in England. The character is the young and beautiful second wife to the title character who is an older alderman. The name is of Latin origin and is the female form of Lucretius, but the meaning is unknown.
Margery – As seen in 1675’s The Country Wife by William Wycherley, she is a naive and pure country girl married to an older man. The name Margery is a medieval variant of the name Margaret and has the meaning ‘pearl’.
Millamant – As seen in 1700’s The Way of the World by William Congreve, she is the young and beautiful love of the male Mirabell. This seems to be another name created by Congreve, but it is similar to the name Millicent which means ‘hard worker’.
Narcissa – As seen in 1696’s Love’s Last Shift by Colley Cibber, she is the daughter of the main male character, Sir William Wisewood and lover to Young Worthy. The name is of Greek origin and means ‘daffodil’.
Palmyra – As seen in 1673’s Marriage à la Mode by John Dryden, she is the daughter of the Usurper of Sicily, Polydamas, and is in a romance with the rightful Prince, Leonidas. The name is of Latin origin and means ‘pilgrim, city of palms’.