Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Top 10 Literary Baby Names: The Girl Edition

Naming someone is a big responsibility.  The name you choose will be intrinsically connected to them for the REST OF THEIR LIVES.  I certainly felt the pressure when selecting a name for our daughter.  I wanted something feminine, on the atypical side, with a history of being an actual name.  (No made up words passing as a name, if you know what I mean.)  

I was also convinced that her name would contribute to the direction her life took.  If we named her Vivian, she might grow up to be an actress.  If we named her Erin, she would be really good at soccer.  If we named her Dianne, she would probably spend a large portion of her life working with Habitat for Humanity.  WHAT NAME/FUTURE SHOULD WE PICK?  (Obviously I took this whole thing way too seriously.  I'm happy with what we ended up with, though, so it was worth it in the end.)  (Also Obviously, name preferences are completely subjective.  This is just my opinion.) 

And, because I am bookish, I thought it might be nice to select a name that had strong literary roots.  It's a great idea, but actually pretty hard to pull off.  There are plenty of literary women who I adore and admire, but I'm not doing my kid any favors if I name her Desdemona.  (This plight is similar to those who want a biblical baby girl name [SERIOUSLY limited number of usable names there] or to those who want to use a family name, even if their family immigrated from somewhere far away and is full of unpronounceable names with no fewer than five syllables.)

What literary names are there, then, that are pretty and usable?  After doing some research, I came up with a few that might work:

10. Juliet
"Juliet" is from the well known Shakespearean classic story of star-crossed lovers.  This name is so lovely.  It's a slightly more uncommon name than the more ordinary "Julie" or "Julia," but still well known enough to prevent any raised eyebrows.  Just promise me not to name any of her brothers "Romeo."

9. Tess
Tess is the beautiful heroine of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. The name is iconic and feminine and beautiful, and pretty unique.  There aren't many baby girls being named Tess these days, so, in my book, that's a point in this name's favor.

8. Arabella
"Arabella" has been featured in many novels, including: Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, The Vicar of Wakefield, Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers, George Eliot's Felix Holt, Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure, and more recently in Harry Potter.

7. Cressida
This name is found in works from Shakespeare to Chaucer to Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games. And, bonus, the name is Greek for "gold."

6. Matilda
Taken from the protagonist in Roald Dahl's fantastic book of the same name.  I kind of love that "Matilda" is apparently German for "battle-mighty."

5. Alice
You might first think of Alice in Wonderland when you hear this name, but the name has roots in novels by Munro, Walker, Sebold, Hoffman, McDermott, Adams, and Elliott Dark, too.

4. Sylvie
Nameberry claims that this name is on the rise among baby name trendsetters.  I would like to know exactly who the said "baby name trendsetters" are, first of all.  If it's true, this could be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view.  Regardless, it's a name used in Roderick Townley's The Great Good Thing and in Lewis Carroll's lesser known fairy story Sylvie and Bruno.

3. Calliope
Calliope is the narrator of the Jeffrey Eugenides novel Middlesex.  You could always call her Callie, if you wanted to shorten it.  This name has actually been around for a looong time, so if you selected it, you'd be bringing it back rather than starting a new trend.

2. Cecily
Cecily is the name of one of Beatrix Potter's bunnies, as well as one of the main characters in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest.  The name has been featured more recently in works by Cassandra Clare (The Clockwork Prince series) and Lauren DeStephano (The Chemical Garden series) and even once on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  (Not a book, but Buffy is awesome, so there.)  

1. Cordelia
Cordelia is one of my favorite names of all time, largely because of Shakespeare's play, King Lear.  Cordelia is the epitome of strength and grace and kindness.  Plus, the name is just so elegant.  There are loads of nicknames you could use (Cora, Deli, Lia, Cory, etc.) if you wanted to.  But nickname or no, Cordelia is a sound choice for any little girl.

What are your favorite literary baby girl names?


  1. Also, wasn't Cordelia what Anne of Green Gables wishes she was named?


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