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Literary Baby Names

Literary baby names, drawn from the characters in books for both adults and children as well as from the names of well-loved authors, are gaining in popularity. Literary names can confer meaning on a child as well as provide a worthy hero or heroine to look up to.

Names from the best-loved children's books may be gaining the most in popularity. While many of these -- Alice (in Wonderland) and Charlotte (of the Web), say -- carry references that go far beyond the literary, other names are closely identified with the characters who inspired their popularity. Along with Alice and Charlotte, literary baby names from children's and young adult books ranking in the US Top 500 include Sawyer, Matilda, Finn, Holden, Lyra, and Eloise. Unique literary names from children's books or of young characters gaining attention include Huck, Ramona, Scout, and Hermione.

Historical novels also provide a rich source of popular literary names. Drawn from the works of authors from Shakespeare to Jane Austen to F. Scott Fitzgerald, top historical literary names include Juliet, Archer, Scarlett, and Darcy, for both genders. Emma, a Top 10 name in the US, France, Germany, Italy, and Ireland, among other countries, also has a strong literary influence as the title character from the Jane Austen novel.

Names of historically-important authors are also notable. These might be first names, such as Willa (Cather), Edith (Wharton), Dashiell (Hammett), and Hart (Crane). The newest literary names are drawn from the surnames of famous authors. Along with Austen and Bronte, unique literary surname names we love include Auden, Poe, Angelou, and Baldwin.

Literary works adapted in recent years for popular television shows and movies have had a strong influence, especially from the name-rich works of J.K. Rowling and George R. R. Martin. Literary names that have been created or popularized by the Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Hunger Games, and Twilight franchises include Arya, Khaleesi, Katniss, Albus, and Bella.

The best place to start your search for the perfect literary baby name is with your favorite books and authors, of course. But you might love the name first and read the book or research the author afterwards. For even more choices, check out our lists of Literary Girl Names and Literary Boy Names.
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LunaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "moon"
  • Description:

    The name of the Roman goddess of the moon, Luna is derived straight from the Latin word for moon, luna. Luna’s divine complement is Sol, the god of the Sun. In Roman art, Luna is often depicted driving a chariot.

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.

AuroraHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "dawn"
  • Description:

    Aurora is the name of the Roman goddess of sunrise whose tears turned into the morning dew. She was said to renew herself by traveling from East to West across the sky, announcing the arrival of the sun each dawn. Aurora is also associated with the scientific term for the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis.

EloiseHeart

  • Origin:

    French and English variation of Heloise
  • Meaning:

    "healthy; wide"
  • Description:

    To some, Eloise will forever be the imperious little girl making mischief at the Plaza Hotel, while the original version Heloise recalls the beautiful and learned wife of the French philosopher Peter Abelard, admired for her fidelity and piety.

    Along with many other names with the El- beginning and featuring the L sound in any place, Eloise is newly chic. Eloise jumped back onto the popularity list in 2009, possibly thanks in part to the Eloise Hawking character on the popular TV series Lost. Eloise was the name of Jennifer Aniston's character in Love Happens. Denise Richards named one of her daughters Eloise.

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.
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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.

HazelHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "the hazelnut tree"
  • Description:

    Hazel is a name applied from the English word hazel, referring to the hazelnut tree. The word was derived from the Old English hæsel of the same meaning. Historically, a wand of hazel symbolized protection and authority.

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.

AugustHeart

  • Origin:

    German form of Latin Augustus
  • Meaning:

    "great, magnificent"
  • 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.

MayaHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek mythology name; Central American Indian empire name; Latinate variation of May; Spanish, diminutive of Amalia; variation of Maia; Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "water"
  • 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.
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EsmeHeart

  • Origin:

    French; Persian
  • Meaning:

    "esteemed, beloved; emerald"
  • Description:

    Esmé comes from the past participle of the Old French verb esmer, meaing “to esteem” or “to love.” It can also be considered a derivative of the Spanish name Esmeralda. Esmé was traditionally as masculine name, as in its original bearer, Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox, and Esmée, with the same pronunciation, was the feminine form. Today both spellings are used as feminine given names.

HugoHeart

  • Origin:

    Latinized form of Hugh
  • Meaning:

    "mind, intellect"
  • 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.

AliceHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "noble"
  • Description:

    Alice was derived from the Old French name Aalis, a diminutive of Adelais that itself came from the Germanic name Adalhaidis. Adalhaidis, from which the name Adelaide is also derived, is composed of the Proto-Germanic elements aþala, meaning “noble,” and haidu, “kind, appearance, type.” Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland popularized the name in modern times.

CharlotteHeart

  • Origin:

    French, feminine diminutive of Charles
  • Meaning:

    "free man"
  • Description:

    Charlotte is the feminine form of the male given name Charles. It derived from Charlot, a French diminutive of Charles meaning “little Charles,” and the name of Charlemagne’s son in French literature and legend. The name was popularized by England's Queen Charlotte Sophia, wife of King George III.

RhysHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh
  • Meaning:

    "ardor"
  • 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.
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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.

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.

LyraHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "lyre"
  • Description:

    Lyra is a constellation name taken from the lyre of Orpheus. It contains the star Vega and thus could make a melodic choice for a parent interested in music, astronomy, or mythology. It has more depth and history than Lyric, is more unusual than Lila (which it rhymes with). It debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2015.

EthanHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "strong, firm"
  • Description:

    Ethan derives from the Hebrew name Eitan. There are several Ethans in the Old Testament, the most prominent of whom, Ethan the Ezrahite, is praised for his wisdom. International variations include Etan and Izan.

MaisieHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish diminutive of Margaret
  • Meaning:

    "pearl"
  • Description:

    Maisie, a hundred-year-old favorite, is in perfect tune with today. Spelled Maisy in a popular children's book series, Maisie is rising in tandem with cousin Daisy. While Maisie might be short for Margaret, Mary, or even a name like Melissa or Marissa, it stands perfectly well on its own.
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ArabellaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "yielding to prayer"
  • Description:

    Arabella was used as a given name beginning in the 12th century with the birth of Arabella de Leuchars, granddaughter of William the Lion, King of Scotland. It is derived from the Latin orabilis, from which Arabella gets its meaning. Some scholars tie Arabella to Amabel, claiming that the former developed as a variation of the latter in Scotland, much like the name Annabel.

EvangelineHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "bearer of good news"
  • Description:

    Evangeline is a romantic old name enjoying a major comeback, thanks to its religious overtones, Eva's popularity, and the star of the TV megahit Lost, Evangeline Lilly. Evangelia and Evangelina — two variants of Evangeline — are sure to tag along for the ride.

CordeliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin; Celtic
  • Meaning:

    "heart; daughter of the sea"
  • Description:

    Cordelia, the name of King Lear's one sympathetic daughter, has style and substance, and is exactly the kind of old-fashioned, grown-up name that many parents are seeking today. If you're torn between Cordelia and the equally lovely Cora, you can always choose Cordelia for long and then call her Cora for short—or Delia, Lia, Del, or even the extremely different Cordie. Cordelia is a Nameberry favorite—Number 106 on the site—and it reentered the US Top 1000 in 2014 after a 60+ year absence.

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.

MatildaHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "battle-mighty"
  • Description:

    The comeback of this sweet vintage name, one of the most stylish girls' names starting with M, has been prompted by a boomlet of starbaby Matildas, beginning with chef Gordon Ramsey's in 2002 and Moon Unit Zappa's two years later. But the renaissance of this name of the charming Roald Dahl heroine was assured when Michelle Williams and the late Heath Ledger chose Matilda for their daughter.
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JaneHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    No, we don't consider Jane too plain. In fact, for a venerable and short one-syllable name, we think it packs a surprising amount of punch, as compared to the related Jean and Joan.

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.

ScarlettHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "scarlet, red"
  • Description:

    Scarlett originated as an occupation surname, designating a person who sold scarlet, a luxury wool cloth produced in Medieval Europe. The word is thought to derive from the Arabic siklāt, referring to silks dyed with kermes. The fanciest, favorited color was scarlet red.

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.

WillaHeart

  • Origin:

    Feminine variation of William
  • Meaning:

    "resolute protection"
  • 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.
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BeatriceHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "she who brings happiness; blessed"
  • Description:

    Beatrice is derived from Beatrix, a Latin name meaning “she who brings happiness.” Beatrice was the name of Queen Victoria's youngest child. And in Dante's epic poem The Divine Comedy, Beatrice is his guide through Paradise and is idealized as the embodiment of the spirit of love. In Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice is the witty, high-spirited heroine. Other variants of the name include the French Béatrice and the Spanish and Portuguese Beatriz.

DaisyHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Margaret or flower name, from English
  • Meaning:

    "day's eye"
  • Description:

    Daisy, fresh, wholesome, and energetic, is one of the flower names that burst back into bloom after a century's hibernation. Daisy is now second only to Delilah among most popular girl names starting with D. Originally a nickname for Margaret (the French Marguerite is the word for the flower), Daisy comes from the phrase "day's eye," because it opens its petals at daybreak.

HarperHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "harp player"
  • 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.)

ZaneHeart

  • 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.

DylanHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh
  • 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.
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JulietHeart

  • Origin:

    English from Latin
  • Meaning:

    "youthful or sky father"
  • Description:

    One of the most romantic names, the lovely and stylish Juliet seems finally to have shaken off her limiting link to Romeo. In Shakespeare's play, it was Juliet who said "What's in a name?"

EmmaHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "universal"
  • Description:

    Emma originated as a diminutive for Germanic names beginning with the ermen root. A very old royal name well used throughout the centuries—Queen Emma married King Ethelred the Unready in 1002—Emma is also historically associated with Lady Hamilton, the mistress of Lord Nelson and muse of painter George Romney.

CalliopeHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek mythology name
  • Meaning:

    "beautiful voice"
  • Description:

    Calliope is the name of the muse of epic poetry -- and also the musical instrument on the merry-go-round. Bold and creative, it would not be the easiest name for a girl lacking such qualities. It debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2016. While Americans usually pronounce this name with a long I sound and the emphasis on the second syllables, Greeks pronounce it with the emphasis on the third syllable -- ka-lee-OH-pee.

EdithHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "prosperous in war"
  • Description:

    Edith was a hugely popular name a hundred years ago that's being revived among stylish parents in Stockholm and London. It's currently beginning to gain traction in the US among those with a taste for old-fashioned names with a soft but strong image.

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.
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BlakeHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "fair-haired, dark"
  • 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.

AriadneHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "most holy"
  • Description:

    This name of the Cretan goddess of fertility is most popular now as the more melodic Ariana, but Ariadne has possibilities of its own. It first entered the US Top 1000 in 2014. The renewed interest in the name falls in line with the revival of other mythological names like Apollo and Athena. The trendy nickname Ari doesn't hurt either.

BeckettHeart

  • 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.

DanteHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin diminutive of Durant
  • Meaning:

    "enduring"
  • 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.

MadelineHeart

  • Origin:

    English variation of Magdalen
  • Meaning:

    "high tower or woman from Magdala"
  • Description:

    This lovely name with a soft and delicate image is an old-fashioned favorite that returned to favor in the 1990's, combining a classic pedigree with a cute nickname option: Maddy.
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JunoHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "queen of the heavens"
  • Description:

    Juno is an ancient name that feels as fresh as if it had been minted — well, not yesterday, but in 2007. Since the release of the popular indie film Juno, this lively but strong o-ending Roman goddess name has become more and more prominent as a potential baby name — Coldplay's Will Champion chose Juno for one of his twins (whose brother is the kingly Rex).

IsoldeHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh
  • Meaning:

    "ice ruler"
  • Description:

    Now that Tristan has been rediscovered, maybe it's time for his fabled lover in the Arthurian romances and Wagnerian opera, a beautiful Irish princess, to be brought back into the light as well.

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.

CressidaHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "gold"
  • Description:

    Cressida is a pretty mythological and Shakespearean heroine name much better known in Britain than it is here — an imbalance the adventurous baby namer might want to correct. For although the Trojan heroine of that name in the tale told by Boccaccio, then Chaucer, then Shakespeare, didn't have the greatest reputation — she was faithless to Troilus and broke his heart — the name today sounds fresh, crisp and creative.

EmersonHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • 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.
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