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Literary Names for Boys

Literary Names for Boys
These literary boy names are derived from characters in books from all genres. Some of these literary heroes and anti-heroes, such as Romeo and Tristan, come from works of fiction written centuries ago, while others, like Kafka and Edmund, are contemporary.

Along with Tristan and Romeo, other literary boy names in the US Top 1000 include Atticus, Axel, Holden, Magnus, Orlando, Rhett, Samson, and Santiago. Some names for boys remain inextricably tied to their literary namesakes, such as Heathcliff, Gogol, Ishmael, and Zooey.

Here, a selection of the most distinctive literary boy names from books. It might also be worth checking out your own bookshelves for literature-inspired baby names that are relevant to you.
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MiloHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin and Old German
  • Meaning:

    "soldier or merciful"
  • Description:

    Milo is most commonly considered to be Germanic name derived from the Latin word miles, meaning "soldier." However, there is evidence to suggest it also may have independently spawned from the Slavic root milu, meaning "merciful." Milo predates brother name Miles, a variation that evolved when the name immigrated to the British Isles in the Middle Ages. Mylo is an alternate spelling.

AtticusHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "from Attica"
  • Description:

    Atticus derives from the Greek Attikos, meaning "from Attica," the Ancient Greek region that contained Athens. Atticus is a literary name in more ways than one. Before it became synonymous with Atticus Finch, the name Atticus was associated with Titus Pomponius Atticus, a Roman literary figure.

SilasHeart

  • Origin:

    English from Latin
  • Meaning:

    "wood, forest"
  • Description:

    Silas is based on the name Silvanus, and the two are used interchangeably in the Bible. In the New Testament, St. Silas was a leading member of the early Christian community who accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey. Sylvanus was the Roman god of trees and his name was originally bestowed on people who lived in wooded areas or who worked with wood.

JudeHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin diminutive of Judah
  • Meaning:

    "praised"
  • Description:

    Jude is an example of a name whose image was turned on its head primarily by one appealing celebrity. So take a bow, Jude Law: You--in collaboration with the Lennon-McCartney song "Hey Jude"--have erased Jude's old connections to the traitorous Judas Iscariot and Thomas Hardy's tragic Jude the Obscure, and inspired a legion of new babies named Jude.

JasperHeart

  • Origin:

    Persian
  • Meaning:

    "bringer of treasure"
  • Description:

    Jasper originated as a variation of the Latin Gaspar, which ultimately derived from the Persian word ganzabara, meaning "bringer of treasure." As a given name, Jasper’s etymology is unrelated to that of the gemstone, which comes from a Semitic word meaning "speckled stone." Jasper is the usual English form for one of the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to the infant Christ according to medieval tradition and appears in the Bible as a reference to the stone itself in Revelations 4:3.
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SebastianHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin from Greek
  • Meaning:

    "person from ancient city of Sebastia"
  • Description:

    Sebastian is derived from the Greek Sebastianos, meaning “from Sebastia.” Sebastia was a city in Asia Minor—modern day Sivas, Turkey. Sebastian is a name with a substantial history, first as the third-century martyr whose sufferings were a favorite subject of medieval artists, then as the name of memorable characters in such varied works as Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and The Tempest and Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.

ArcherHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "bowman"
  • Description:

    Archer is an Anglo-Saxon surname that feels more modern than most because of its on-target occupational and Hunger Games associations. And it's a nice way to bypass the clunky Archibald to get to the cool nickname Archie.

SawyerHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "woodcutter"
  • Description:

    Sawyer is a surname with a more relaxed and friendly feel than many others, and is one of the hottest occupational names right now, with the Nameberry seal of approval. Sawyer is becoming one of the top unisex names. Both Sara Gilbert and Diane Farr used Sawyer for their daughters, while it was given a boost as a boys' name by the character Sawyer on Lost, an alias for the character really named James Ford.

MagnusHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "greatest"
  • Description:

    Magnus is a Latin name, literally meaning “greatest,” that has a Scandinavian feel. It dates back to Charlemagne being called Carolus Magnus, or Charles the Great. Norwegian king Magnus I, named after Charlemagne, introduced it to his culture, and thus Magnus was the name of six early kings of Norway and four of Sweden. It is still a highly popular name in Denmark and Norway.

RhettHeart

  • Origin:

    English from Dutch
  • Meaning:

    "advice"
  • Description:

    Rhett has been more tied to Gone with the Wind than even Scarlett, but now we're hearing rumblings of its finding new and independent favor among parents, perhaps emboldened by the growing popularity of Scarlett.
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AxelHeart

  • Origin:

    Scandinavian variation of Absalom
  • Meaning:

    "father of peace"
  • Description:

    A classic in its native Scandinavia, Axel has a cool rock 'n' roll flavor in the US, thanks to Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose (born William). Axel is a popular Scandinavian form of the Biblical Absalom, who was a son of King David, and is the name of the title character of William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom.

DorianHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek, name of a tribe
  • Description:

    The Dorians were an ancient Greek tribe, one of the three major pre-Spartan tribes. It literally means “of Doris,” a Greek district, or “of Doros,” referring to the son of Helen of Sparta. Dorian derives from the Greek doron, meaning “gift,” along with related names such as Dorothy and Dora.

TristanHeart

  • Origin:

    Celtic
  • Meaning:

    "noise or sorrowful"
  • Description:

    Tristan -- known through medieval legend and Wagnerian opera -- has a slightly wistful, touching air. This, combined with the name's popular "an" ending, makes Tristan very appealing to parents seeking a more original alternative to Christian.

HoldenHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "hollow valley"
  • Description:

    Holden is a classic case of a name that jumped out of a book and onto birth certificates--though it took quite a while. Parents who loved J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye are flocking to the name of its hero, Holden Caulfield -- not coincidentally in tune with the Hudson-Hayden-Colton field of names. (Trivia note: Salinger supposedly came up with the name while looking at a movie poster promoting a film starring William Holden and Joan Caulfield, though other sources say he was named after Salinger's friend Holden Bowler.) Another impetus was provided by a soap opera character introduced in 1985.

RufusHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "red-head"
  • Description:

    Rufus is a rumpled, redheaded (it was the nickname for red-haired King William) ancient Roman name popular with saints and singers (e.g. Rufus Wainwright); now, Rufus is on the cutting edge of cool.
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CodyHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "helpful, pillow"
  • Description:

    In the early 1990s, Cody was in the Top 25 most popular boys' names in the USA; but it has been in decline since then. It retains a greater degree of popularity in the UK, however. Cody might be short for Dakota but despite its nickname feeling, it's a name of its own.

WolfHeart

  • Origin:

    Animal name or diminutive of Wolfgang
  • Meaning:

    "traveling wolf"
  • Description:

    Wolf is a name with a split personality. It can be seen as one of the fierce animal names, like Fox and Bear and Puma, with a touch of the werewolf, or it can be viewed as a quieter, Wolf Blitzer kind of name, fairly common in German (where is pronounced Vulf) and Jewish families, sometimes as a short form of Wolfgang.

PhineasHeart

  • Origin:

    English, Egyptian
  • Meaning:

    "the Nubian"
  • Description:

    Phineas is the English variation of Phinehas, a Hebrew name likely derived from the Egyptian name Pa-nehasi. Pa-nehasi, meaning “the Nubian” can also be translated as “the bronze-colored one.” The Egyptians distinguished themselves from their Nubian neighbors through differences in skin tone.

EdmundHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "fortunate protector"
  • Description:

    The sophisticated Edmund and its nearly-identical French twin Edmond are coming out of mothballs now that Edward, inspired by Twilight, is once again a hot name.

RomeoHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian
  • Meaning:

    "pilgrim to Rome, Roman"
  • Description:

    It wasn't so long ago that Romeo was considered as outre for an American baby as Casanova or Cupid. But that really changed when David and Victoria Beckham chose it for their second son in 2002, a path followed by Jon Bon Jovi.
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EdwardHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "wealthy guardian"
  • Description:

    Unlike perennials William, John and James, Edward is a classic that moves in and out of fashion. This royal Anglo-Saxon standard has benefited in recent years from the popularity of the hot hero of the vampire sensation Twilight -- Edward Cullen -- who has given his name a new infusion of cool.

MariusHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin, from a Roman family name related to Mars, the god of war
  • Description:

    Marius, frequently heard in Germany and France, is a slightly fusty yet accessible name that has (Les Mis) to Anne Rice. With the rise in interest in such Latin names as Maximus and Atticus, Marius might start attracting more attention. Mario, the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese version of Marius, is much more widely used.

BarnabyHeart

  • Origin:

    English variation of Barnabas, Aramaic
  • Meaning:

    "son of consolation"
  • Description:

    Barnaby, a genial and energetic name with an Irish-sounding three-syllable lilt, is an ancient appellation that manages to be both unusual and highly attractive and deserves to be used more than it is. A sweet-spot name that's a real winner.

CatoHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "all-knowing"
  • Description:

    Cato conjures up images of ancient Roman statesmen and southern antebellum retainers; it could have revival potential, with its 'O' ending and the current interest in the names of Greek and Roman antiquity.

OrlandoHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian variation of Roland
  • Meaning:

    "famous throughout the land"
  • Description:

    Orlando, the ornate Italianate twist on the dated Roland, with a literary heritage stretching back to Shakespeare and before, has appealing book-ended o's, and is open to combination with almost any last name, a la British actor, Orlando Bloom.
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RileyHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "courageous"
  • Description:

    Riley -- one of the most popular unisex names -- is rising faster now for girls than boys. Still, there are lots of athletes and other notable real-life namesakes for a boy named Riley, as well as fictional ones in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight: Eclipse.

SamsonHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "sun"
  • Description:

    With the prevailing popularity of Samuel, some parents are considering this more (literally) powerful biblical name, which shares the desirable nickname of Sam.

SantiagoHeart

  • Origin:

    Place-name or Latin
  • Meaning:

    "Saint James"
  • Description:

    Santiago is a spirited Spanish name with great crossover potential: a place-name (it's a city in Chile), a surname, and the patron saint of Spain. It's a name on the rise in the charts.

DarcyHeart

  • Origin:

    English from French, d'Arcy
  • Meaning:

    " from Arcy"
  • Description:

    Though Darcy is the ultimate Jane Austen hero name, it is rarely used for boys today though it's on the upswing for girls. A shame as it's a handsome, roguish kind of appellation that combines elements of French flair, aristocratic savoir faire, and a soft Irish brogue. And in terms of image, it's one of the quintessential English names for boys.

CullenHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "holly tree"
  • Description:

    Cullen is an appealing Irish surname name that upped its cool factor considerably when it became the Twilight family name of Edward et al. It's considerably less popular than it was at its peak in 2010, but is still widely used.
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ValentinoHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "strength, health"
  • Description:

    A dashing, dramatic and romantic Italian surname, associated with early movie heartthrob Rudolph, and later with Italian fashion designer Valentino (Garavani). Also the name of an early Roman saint, whose feast day marks the beginning of spring. Ricky Martin chose it for one of his twin boys.

SeptimusHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "the seventh son"
  • Description:

    Septimus is one of the more dashing of the birth-order Latin number names that were revived by the Victorians. So even if you don't anticipate son number 7, you might be bold enough to consider this relic, certainly preferable to sixth-son name Sextus.

JupiterHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "godfather"
  • Description:

    Jupiter's partner Juno has entered the mainstream, so it's possible that her divine mate could follow. But not necessarily for boys — Jupiter is over 75% female, thanks to its similarity to Juniper. Actress Ashley Tisdale welcomed a daughter named Jupiter Iris in 2021, which could shift the balance even more towards the girls.

CasparHeart

  • Origin:

    Persian, variation of Gaspar
  • Meaning:

    "keeper of the treasure"
  • Description:

    After half a century, this otherwise feasible name has at last started to lose its link to the friendly ghost; it certainly didn't scare model Claudia Schiffer, who chose it for her son, as did Atomic Kitten Jenny Frost. Iconoclastic namer Jason Lee switched genders and called his daughter Casper. Also related to the revived Jasper, Caspar seems headed towards the path to a similar resurgence.

IshmaelHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • 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.
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ChanceHeart

  • Origin:

    French variation of Chauncey
  • Description:

    Once a cavalier Mississippi gambler type name, Chance has entered the mainstream since being endorsed by such celebrity dads as Larry King and Paul Hogan. Chance the Rapper has also boosted the name's popularity.

HuckleberryHeart

  • Origin:

    Word name and literary name
  • Description:

    Everybody knows Huckleberry Finn, the Mark Twain character named, Twain said, for the 19th century slang term for "humble." A few modern parents have put it on a birth certificate, including "Man Vs. Wild" star Bear Grylls, who, like many parents, will call the boy the much more manageable Huck. It was also the name of a child on TV's West Wing,

MishaHeart

  • Origin:

    Russian, diminutive of Mikhail
  • Description:

    Brought into the American consciousness as the nickname of ballet great Mikhail Baryshnikov, it more recently took on a unisex air via TV and screen actress Mischa Barton. Could become the next Sasha.

CrowHeart

  • Origin:

    Bird name
  • Description:

    From Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, the story of a boy named Kafka -- crow in Czech.

CorinHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "spear"
  • Description:

    Corin was used by Shakespeare in As You Like It, an unusual name that could make a more distinctive alternative to Corey or Colin. It is a name used in the illustrious Redgrave family of actors.
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LemuelHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "devoted to God"
  • Description:

    Lemuel is a neglected Old Testament name, with the friendly nickname Lem, that we're surprised hasn't been picked up on by parents who have known too many Samuels.

OskarHeart

  • Origin:

    German variation of Oscar
  • Description:

    Oskar is to Oscar as Jakob is to Jacob: more distinctive and continental.

JarvisHeart

  • Origin:

    English variation of Gervase, meaning unknown
  • Description:

    Jarvis, one of the original two-syllable nouveau boys' choices, is a saint's name with a certain retro charm and a nice quirky feel. Though Jarvis peaked in the late 1880s, he is beginning to sound fresh again.

AramisHeart

  • Origin:

    French literary name
  • Description:

    One of Dumas' swashbuckling Three Musketeers, now better known as a men's cologne.

BrickHeart

  • Origin:

    Word name, various origins
  • Description:

    This is an Anglicized form of various names; the Irish Gaelic O Bruic; German, Bruck or Breck, meaning "swamp" or "wood"; Yiddish, Brik, "bridge"; and Slovenian, Bric, "dweller from a hilly place." Gosh, and we thought it was just a macho word name invented by Tennessee Williams for the hero of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
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SenecaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin surname and Native American
  • Meaning:

    "people of the standing rock"
  • Description:

    Seneca's distinguished heritage as the name of the ancient Roman philosopher-playwright who tutored Nero, and of an Iroquois tribe makes this an interesting choice for either sex.

HeathcliffHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "cliff near a heath"
  • Description:

    Heathcliff is the name of the original passionate macho hero of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, and also of the cartoon cat. It was chosen by fashionista Lucy Sykes for her son, and inspired the late Heath Ledger's name. But otherwise it's barely used, and perhaps a bit much of a namesake. For a modern boy we'd recommend Heath....or Cliff.

GulliverHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "glutton"
  • Description:

    Gulliver is an obscure Gaelic surname known almost solely through its literary Travels until actor Gary Oldman used it for his son, instantly transforming it into a lively option. British actors Damian Lewis, of Homeland, and Helen McCrory also have a son named Gulliver.

MingusHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish, variation of Menzies
  • Meaning:

    "tenants of a manor"
  • Description:

    Supermodel Helena Christensen named her son in honor of jazz great Charles Mingus, opening up a whole category of jazzy possibilities: Kenton, Calloway, Ellington, Gillespie, Mulligan, Tatum, and Thelonius.

QuintusHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "fifth"
  • Description:

    A literary name figuring in the story of Ben Hur and the novels of Anthony Trollope that has the feel of Roman antiquity that is beginning to appeal to many parents. Quintus was one of only about twenty male first names in ancient Rome.
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