Literary 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.
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.
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.
Origin:French and English variation of Heloise
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.
Origin:Aramaic, Latin, Greek
Meaning:"of the forest; or prayed for"
Description:Silas is a Biblical name of debated – or possibly multiple – origins. It may be a simplified form of the Latin Silvanus, meaning "of the forest", or alternatively may be a Greek form of the Aramaic Seila or Hebrew Saul, meaning "asked for, prayed for".
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.
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.
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.
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.
Origin:French, feminine diminutive of Charles
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.
Origin:Latin diminutive of Judah
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meaning:"she who brings happiness; blessed"
Description:Beatrice is derived from Beatrix, a Latin name meaning "she who brings happiness." In the earliest sources it is also recorded as Viatrix, meaning "voyager", so there is some weight in both meanings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.