Literary Baby Names Inspired by Authors
Along with Emerson and Zora, other names inspired by authors in the US Top 1000 include August, Blake, Cooper, Ellison, Hadley, Langston, Walker, and Willa. Unique literary surnames inspired by female authors include Brontë, Morrison, Didion, and Munro.
If you’re looking to make a statement, distinctive literary surnames such as Thackeray or Kerouac, Salinger or Hemingway are dramatic yet name-worthy. You may even consider using the name Author itself, which, believe it or not, ranked in the US popularity charts until WWII.
An author-related baby name may inspire a lifelong love of reading in your child. In this category, as always, feel free to look to your personal favorite writers for your baby names inspiration. Here, our selection of literary baby names inspired by authors.
Origin:Latinized form of Hugh
Description:Hugo, the Latin form of Hugh, has more heft and energy than the original -- and of course we love names that end (or begin, for that matter) with an o. This one is especially appealing because it's backed up by lots of solid history and European style.
Origin:German form of Latin Augustus
Description:August is THE celebrity baby name of the moment, chosen by both Princess Eugenie and Mandy Moore for their baby boys in early 2021. Before that, August had been heating up in Hollywood – used by Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann, Lena Olin, Dave Matthews and Jeanne Tripplehorn for their sons, and is rapidly becoming the preferred month of the year for boys' names. The month of August was named after the Emperor Augustus.
Origin:Feminine variation of William
Description:Willa has become increasingly fashionable, with its combination of Willa (born Wilella) Cather-like pioneer strength and the graceful beauty of the willow tree.
Description:There's Rhys and there's Reese (now more popular for girls) and there's Reece, and we particularly like the traditional Welsh spelling, which entered the list in 2004, possibly influenced by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, of The Tudors, and Welsh-born actor Rhys Ifans.
Origin:Greek mythology name; Central American Indian empire name; Latinate variation of May; Spanish, diminutive of Amalia; variation of Maia; Hebrew
Description:In addition to being the name of a Central American culture, Maya was the legendary Greek mother of Hermes by Zeus, and means "illusion" in Sanskrit and Eastern Pantheism. It can also be spelled Maia, though both names have so many possible origins and meanings that not all of them are related. To the Romans, Maia/Maya was the incarnation of the earth mother and goddess of spring, after whom they named the month of May.
Origin:Possible variation of John
Meaning:"God is gracious"
Description:Western novelist Zane (born Pearl!) Grey made this name famous. Now, it's in tune with the style of our times, retaining that appealing cowboy image.
Origin:Latin diminutive of Durant
Description:Though closely associated with the great medieval Florentine poet Dante Alighieri -- who's so famous most people skip the last name -- it's not as much of a one-man name as you might think. Heck, it's not even a one-poet name, thanks to British pre-Rapahaelite Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Though especially well used in the Italian-American community, it would make a striking name for any little boy.
Description:Harper is a red hot name for girls, having jumped from obscurity to near the top of the popularity list in less than a decade; it entered the Top 10 for the first time in 2015, and has stayed near there since. Harper is a prime example of the trend of surnames that turn into boys' names and then become girls' names. Harper was rarely heard for either sex before the mid-2000s, entering the girls' list in 2004. (For boys, it was in use until 1906 when it dropped off the scope and didn't reappear until a full century later.)
Origin:English and Irish
Meaning:"bee hive, little brook or bee cottage"
Description:Beckett is one of the big baby name hits of the decade.
Description:Blake -- an early unisex option -- dropped out of the Top 100 in 2017 for the first time since 1988, but remains a sophisticated choice. And yes, both conflicting meanings of Blake are accurate. It originated as a surname in England derived from a nickname. Much of its masculine image was influenced by the wealthy, silver-haired character Blake Carrington in the massively popular 80s TV series Dynasty. Rosie O'Donnell has a son named Blake.
Meaning:"son of the sea"
Description:Dylan was derived of the Welsh components dy and llanw, meaning "sea." In Welsh mythology, Dylan was a legendary sea god who prompted all the waters of Britain and Ireland to weep when he died. The name came to prominence via the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, whose name Bob Dylan adopted in tribute.
Meaning:"son of Emery"
Description:Emerson is a dignified, somewhat serious name associated with transcendental thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson. Much more popular now for girls since Desperate Housewife Teri Hatcher used it for her daughter, it is definitely still a viable boys name.
Origin:English occupational name
Description:The genial yet upscale and preppy Cooper was one of the first occupational last names to catch on -- and Cooper remains a pleasing option.
Description:Hadley, most famous as the name of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, is more sophisticated, professional, and modern than cousins Harley, Haley, or Hayden. The hit book The Paris Wife, a novel told from the point of view of Hadley Hemingway (born Elizabeth Hadley Richardson), has helped popularize the name, which also appears on the vampire show True Blood. Hadley could become this generation's Hailey.
Origin:Irish and Scottish
Meaning:"son of the marsh-dwellers"
Description:Carson is one of the most long-running popular androgynous baby names, with a dash of the Wild West via the legendary Missouri frontiersman Kit Carson. Dating back to when it was the name of Nancy Drew's Dad, Carson is still steadily in the Top 100 baby names.
Current Carsons include TV personalities Carson Daly and Carson Kressley, and Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer. Carson Wells was the bounty hunter character played by Woody Harrelson in No Country for Old Men, and Carson is the name chosen by actress Kathryn Erbe for her son.
Description:Octavia began as the Latin, then Victorian name for an eighth child. While there aren't many eighth children anymore, this ancient Roman name has real possibilities as a substitute for the overused Olivia; recommended for its combination of classical and musical overtones. It was chosen for his daughter by Kevin Sorbo.
Origin:Anglicization of French surname de Chiel, meaning unknown
Description:Dashiell, though missing from many other name sources, is among the hottest new names, chosen by such celebs as Cate Blanchett and author Helen (Bridget Jones) Fielding. With its great dash and panache, Dashiell is associated with detective writer Dashiell Hammett (born Samuel, as in Sam Spade, Dashiell being his mother's maiden name). Alice Cooper was ahead of the game: He named his son Dashiell in 1985.
Description:Zora is a meaningful literary heroine name honoring Zora Neale Hurston, an important black writer and leader of the Harlem Renaissance.
Description:Conrad has a somewhat intellectual masculine image, a solid name that has been consistently on the popularity lists, especially well used in the 1920s and 30s, and given a pop of rock energy by the Elvis-like character of Conrad Birdie in Bye, Bye, Birdie--("We love you Conrad, oh yes we do!").
Origin:Catalan and Provencal pet form of Hebrew Anna
Description:Anais is an unusual, alluring name forever attached to the daring French-born American novelist and diarist Anais Nin (born Angela, with Anais as one of her middle names), who became the inspiration for the naming of the daughter of musician Noel Gallagher. Anais is also the name of a popular perfume.
Origin:English occupational name
Description:Walker is both a Waspy surname name—as in the W in George W. Bush—but it also has a gentle ambling quality and a creative connection to such greats as writer Walker Percy and photographer Walker Evans, whose father was also named Walker.
Description:Biblical name Cain was, until recently, seldom heard outside of the Old Testament and soap operas. Although Cain's murderous actions will always make this name difficult for some, Cain, Eve and Adam's firstborn, was a farmer - making this a good choice for those with farming connections. Long outshone by Abel, Cain is starting to find a broader audience, helped along by homophones Kane or Caine.
Description:The poetic, soft-spoken Auden has recently started to be considered as a first name option, used for both sexes, appreciated for its pleasing sound as well as its link to the distinguished modern Anglo-American poet W.H. Auden.
Meaning:"barn for cows"
Description:For centuries, this name had a romantic, windswept image due to its strong connection to the poet Lord Byron, who inspired its use as a first name. It is one of those surprise names that's appeared on the Top 1000 every year since 1880.
Meaning:"descendant of Moses"
Description:This evocative green nature name, heard much more frequently as a surname, is associated with playwright Moss Hart (born Robert), who co-wrote (with George S. Kaufman) such enduring Broadway comedies as The Man Who Came to Dinner and You Can't Take it With You.
Description:Hart could be the hero of a romantic novel, but on the other hand, it's short, straightforward, and strong sounding. The most famous bearer of the name was tragic poet Hart (born Harold) Crane, but it also has musical cred via Lorenz Hart, of the classic Rodgers & Hart songwriting duo and a literary tie to playwright Moss Hart.
Origin:English variation of Sadie
Description:When aspiring British writer Sadie Smith decided to change her name to the more distinctive and zippy Zadie at the age of fourteen, this attention-magnet name was born. But though it might sound like a modern initial-switch, Zadie was actually Number 539 in 1881, remaining in the Top 1000 for almost thirty years.
Origin:Italian place name or Slavic
Description:As Mila rises for girls, so Milan is becoming a more popular option for boys, especially after singer Shakira chose it for her son. After a 55-year hiatus, it reentered the Top 1000 in 2013 and is heading dramatically upward.
Origin:French occupational name
Description:For a generation, this name will always be linked to 1990s hit TV series Friends. Whether this is a positive or a negative will depend on your fondness for the show, and character Chandler Bing, but this name deserves consideration beyond these connotations: Chandler is a fresh take on the professional surname names.
Description:Eudora is the name of five minor goddesses of Greek mythology and a major goddess (in the person of Pulitzer Prize-winning Eudora Welty) of modern American literature. Eudora is pleasant and euphoneous and a possibility for rejuvenation.
Description:Lowell is an upstanding and somewhat conservative name that calls to mind the genteel patrician families of nineteenth century New England, such as the one poet Robert Lowell was born into. Two other Lowell-surnamed poets are Amy and James Russell.
Meaning:"tall man's town"
Description:The great African-American Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes put this one on the map; actor Laurence Fishburne adopted it for his now grown son, born in 1987. Despite these popular associations, the name didn't make it into the US Top 1000 until 2013. This name is even less used in England or Wales, where as recently as 2014 no births were registered using this name.
Description:Truman is an upstanding presidential name that radiates an aura of integrity and moral truth, values any parent would want for a child. It seems definitely headed for a revival.
Meaning:"God will hear"
Description:Ishmael is most familiar through "Call me Ishmael," the opening line spoken by the youthful narrator of Moby-Dick. Few American parents have followed that advice, though the Spanish and Arabic spelling, Ismael, ranks at Number 362. With its warm and pleasant sound, though, we could see Ishmael tagging along behind Isaiah and Isaac.
Description:An evocative unisex one-syllable name, Poe is most distinguished by its literary reference. Edgar Allan Poe was an influential American author and poet, credited with inventing the genres of detective and science fiction, which might provide inspiration for parents who are fans. And now its choice as the name of the hero played by Oscar Isaac in the new Star Wars movie is sure to catapult it from literary choice to major favorite.
Origin:Hebrew, variation of Aphrah
Description:Aphra would make an interesting choice-- especially since it's the name of the first professional female writer in English, the seventeenth century's Aphra Behn. Born in 1640, she was a prolific dramatist of the English Restoration.
Description:British-born novelist Plum Sykes has taken this rich, fruity name out of the produce section and put it into the baby name basket. It's more appealing than Apple, more presentable than Peaches. The French equivalent, Prune, is very fashionable there but would not fly with English speakers.
Origin:Greek mythological name, meaning unknown
Description:Thisbe, the name of a beautiful but tragic lover in mythology, is lively and cute -- in a slightly thistly, prickly way. Ovid retold the story of Thisbe and Pyramus, young lovers in ancient Babylon kept apart by family rivalry, which was the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. A modern bearer of the name is writer Thisbe Nissen.
In Sarah Dessen's novel Along for the Ride, the baby daughter is named Thisby, nn Isby.
Meaning:"son of Dennis"
Description:Few people would have considered the surname of this famous Victorian poet as a first name until Russell Crowe chose it for his son in 2006. But, as a rhythmic three-syllable patronymic, Tennyson has a lot going for it, not least of all the appealing nickname Tenny; it would make a novel choice for the son of a Dennis.
Origin:Irish and Scottish
Meaning:"son of Gerald"
Description:Made famous by F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Fitzgerald Kennedy; still works best as a middle name.
Description:Homer is a name that has traveled from the ancient Greek scribe of the great classical epics to Bart Simpson's doltish dad, and has also become the surprise hot celebrity pick of such parents as Richard Gere (his father's name), Bill Murray, and Anne Heche. Simpsons creator Matt Groening has both a father and a son named Homer.
Meaning:"place with thatching"
Description:The name of the famous British man of letters might just appeal to some English majors as a more interesting alternative to Zachary. An appropriate playmate for Russell Crowe's boy Tennyson.
Description:Carver is an occupational name with an artistic bent, as is the newly arrived Painter, which has a fresher feel than the 1990's Carter. It also has eminent last-name links to botanist and educator George Washington Carver and short story master Raymond Carver.
Description:This elegant surname has great potential to turn into an unusual first name, especially with its literary associations to both Stephen and Hart Crane.
Description:Long heard as a last name, as in venerable poet Robert, U.K. talk show host David, British actress Sadie and old Jack Frost, Frost has suddenly entered the scene as a possible first, along with other seasonal weather names like Winter and Snow.
Origin:English literary name
Description:Poetic and easier to pronounce (it's keets) than Yeats (which is yates). This one of many poets' names to consider, such as Auden, Eliot, Frost, Byron, Lorca, Marlowe, Blake, Emerson and Tennyson, which was used by Russell Crowe.
Meaning:"meadow of roe deer"
Description:Attractive North Carolina place-name and surname of explorer Sir Walter Raleigh. Distinctive, classy-but-approachable choice for either sex.
Description:In the US, London is popular for both sexes, though as the name rises for girls, it's levelled off for boys. Of course, London is far less popular in the UK and other English-speaking countries.
Origin:Hebrew or Spanish
Description:Paz, currently represented by actresses Paz Vega and Paz de la Huerts, would make a sparkling middle name choice. It originated as a title of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Peace, and is one of the names that mean peace.