Southern Names: From Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and more

There’s something unique about Southern names, with their smooshes of two girls’ names together, unusual nickname names and old-gentleman surname names, as well as classic appellations dating back to slave-naming traditions, that sets them apart from say, typically New England or Midwestern names.

So here are some interesting choices from books and plays by Southern writers about characters in Southern settings, from classics by George W. Cable and William Faulkner to more modern works like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Since we’ve covered Gone With the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird pretty thoroughly before, you won’t find Scarlett or Ashley or Atticus in this list; here are some less familiar finds.

Girls

AdaCharles Frazier, Cold Mountain

Alma—Tennessee Williams, Summer and Smoke 

AmandaTennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

BlancheTennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

Calpurnia—Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Castalia—Allan Gurganus, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All

CelieAlice Walker, The Color Purple

ChablisJohn Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Clytie (Clytemnesta)– William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom

DabneyEudora Welty, Delta Wedding

Dilsey– William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

DorindaEllen Glasgow, Barren Ground

ElizaThomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel

FrankieCarson McCullers, The Member of the Wedding

HeavenlyTennessee Williams, Sweet Bird of Youth

Idabel—Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms

LeafyZora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

LeoraFlannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

LouviniaWilliam Faulkner, The Unvanquished

MaribelleTennessee Williams, Sweet Bird of Youth

MayellaHarper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Meridian—Alice Walker, Meridian

Narcissa, William Faulkner, Sartoris

NonnieLillian Smith, Strange Fruit

PeytonWilliam Styron, Lie Down in Darkness

PortiaCarson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Rosacoke—Reynolds Price, A Long and Happy Life

Sabbath—Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

SalomeEudora Welty, The Robber Bridegroom

Sapphia—Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

TempleWilliam Faulkner, Sanctuary

Tolitha—Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides

VerenaTruman Capote, The Grass Harp

 Boys

Alcée—Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Battle—Eudora Welty, Delta Wedding

Bayard, William Faulkner, The Unvanquished

BeauErnest Gaines, A Gathering of Old Men

Binx–Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

Bogan—Robert Penn Warren, At Heaven’s Gate

BrickTennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

CashWilliam Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

ChanceTennessee Williams, Sweet Bird of Youth

DabneyEudora Welty, Delta Wedding

DarlWilliam Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

DawsonWilliam Faulkner, Mosquitoes

DolphusHarper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

EmmettBobbie Ann Mason, In Country

HarleyShelby Foote, Love in a Dry Season

Hazel (!)—Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

HoltReynolds Price, Kate Vaiden

HooverFlannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

IgnatiusJohn Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

Josiah (middle name Devotion)—Mary Lee Settle, O Beaulah Land

JuniusTruman Capote, The Grass Harp

Léonce—Kate Chopin, The Awakening

LinkHarper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Loch, Eudora Welty, The Golden Apples

Mathu—Ernest Gaines, A Gathering of Old Men

PlutoErskine Caldwell, God’s Little Acre

RafeGail Godwin, A Southern Family

RingoWilliam Faulkner, The Unvanquished

RufusJames Agee, A Death in the Family

Simons—Padgett Powell, Edisto

SullyErnest Gaines, A Gathering of Old Men

TaurusPadgett Powell, Edisto

TheophilusWilliam Faulkner, Go Down, Moses

WeldonCarson McCullers, Reflections in a Golden Eye

WillistonWalker Percy, The Last Gentleman

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13 Responses to “Southern Names: From Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and more”

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clairels Says:

September 9th, 2011 at 1:18 am

Looking at this list, I’ve concluded that the only thing better than Southern names are Southern book titles. Plus they have names hidden within them–Beaulah, Moses, Absalom, Tiffany.

littlebrownpony Says:

September 9th, 2011 at 8:41 am

What about Siddalee from “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”, Idgie and Buddy from “Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistlestop Cafe” and Rucker from “Cold Sassy Tree.” All cute, Southern fried names.

Marginamia Says:

September 9th, 2011 at 8:57 am

I profiled Sully today, too! Fantastic name. And this is a fantastic list! I must say, though, that I never encountered most of these in all my years growing up in the South, and I encountered many, many uniquely southern names. I think Literature names are just in a class of their own, a beautiful, beautiful class.

I’ll list some of my favorites from home. and you of course have to put Ms. or Mr. in front of the *first* names, because that’s how they’re always addressed. and ALL of the double names are kept in tact:

Mary Love
Mary Dudley
Carol Ann
Noni Kate
Janeann
Mary Alice
Avalou
Velvet
Sarah Claire (Sally)
Bettylou (3 of them)
Ann Bruce (2)
Damaris
Tomasina
Georgia Meade
Frankie (by way of Frances)

Hagan
Hoke
Harlan
Sterling
Charles Ed
Tommy Clarence
Kip
Royce
Jasper
Thurman

dotmyiis Says:

September 9th, 2011 at 9:31 am

Is Meridian male or female? I love the sound of it. My other favorite from the list is Temple but I don’t know if I would be brave enough to use it. It’s not a name for everyone!

christylou Says:

September 9th, 2011 at 10:05 am

Great post! Southern names are the best, not that I’m biased or anything! :p

@Marginamia – I adore double names! They are almost expected in my neck of the woods for girls. When I was younger I thought they were hokey and “old lady” but now on a child I think they are so endearing! They run rampant in my own family and my cousins and I are upholding the tradition. Some of our grandmothers/great aunts/ect names are

Mary Lou
Althea Mae
Cricket Lee (!)
Ada Ruth
Kerry Sue
Nancy Gayle
Mollie Kay

We’re taking a modern twist on the tradition. My cousin, Cheri Kay, recently named her little girl Kenzie Kay, and my other cousin, Brandi Anne, named her girl Zoe River nn Zoe Riv. If my little bun in the oven turns out to be a girl, we’re naming her Josephine Wren nn Jovie Wren!

Lola Says:

September 9th, 2011 at 11:25 am

Calpurnia really makes me smile but to my OH, Calpurnia was his beloved childhood kitty. Off limits to me. But He’s allowing Portia in the middle (to lessen possible “piggy” teasing), so I happily go along.
Idgie was Imogen (or Imogene, I forget). Neat nickname.
Celie’s on our list for a girl, it would be Cecily’s main nickname.

from the boys, Binx, Cash & Tull all have that abrupt stop I love in a boys name. Ignatius is a family name for me & Rufus is just behind Rex on our boy list!

There are a bunch of Southern names we love! 🙂

Lola Says:

September 9th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Forgot to mention, Faulkner is one of my very favorite occupation names! means “one who cares for Hawks”. how awesome is that!?! 🙂

crescentmoon Says:

September 9th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I recently noticed that a lot of my sister’s friends have southern sounding names (We do live in the south)- Lillie Jo, Whitney Grace, Danner (family surname)

clairels Says:

September 9th, 2011 at 5:00 pm

@Marginamia–Your list is so fun, it reminds me of an old episode of “The Simpsons” where the country singer Lurleen had siblings named Vonda Mae and Piney Jo.

Mary-la Says:

September 9th, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Tull is actually the surname of Cora and Vernon in As I Lay Dying, so not a character.

I also really like Jewel, Cora, Addie and Samson from As I Lay Dying.

And Maribelle, Frankie, Idabel, Sapphia, Verena, Cash, Chance, Emmet, Josiah, and Rufus.

laurbails Says:

September 10th, 2011 at 12:25 am

What about Dewey Dell?

linzybindi Says:

September 13th, 2011 at 1:57 am

Beautiful names on this list…

Girls
Ada – on my list
Eliza – on my list
Leora – my sister’s name <3
Meridian – love this name

Boys
Ignatius – oh this name is great!
Loch – nice strong name

mamaPrincess Says:

September 14th, 2011 at 1:17 pm

From Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothea Allison–for girls Carr, Alma, Reese (a girl in the book but I have a nephew named Reese)…Grey and Garvey for boys

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