For many parents, choosing baby names is a big challenge. It’s important to choose something unique and meaningful for the newborn and for many parents, the best place to look for inspiration is literature. Think of your favorite books and stories. What characters’ names are tasteful and resonate with you? You can look to stories from your childhood that made an impression on you and think of some of the names from them to help you find the best name for your baby. For instance, if you’re a big fan of Little Women, the names Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy would be fine names for a girl.
Also, consider the names of famous writers you enjoy. Does the name Harper Lee appeal to you? Perhaps Harper would make an excellent name for your child. Don’t just look at first names either. If you’re a big fan of a writer like James Baldwin, consider naming your child Baldwin. His nickname could be, “Win.”
Choosing a name for a child shouldn’t be a chore. Brainstorming a child’s name could simply mean a trip to your bookshelf or library. Flip through some of your favorite books and find names that resonate with you. Think of the goals you have as a parent and the things you’d like your children to enjoy. If you want a life filled with adventure for your child, consider the names of characters who had epic adventures. Names like Huck of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn fame or Alice from Alice in Wonderland would be appropriate. If your child’s life to be full of wonder and magic, think of Hermoine from Harry Potter or Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
If you’re still having trouble pinning down the perfect baby name, take a look at our favorite baby names for readers. We’ve thought about our favorite writers, their works, and the lasting impact they’ve had on us. Here are 20 literary baby names for parents who know how to enjoy a good book.
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Gwendolyn is an elegant and charming baby name for girls. There have been many famous Gwendolyns, but the best known is poet, Gwendolyn Brooks. She won a Pulitzer Prize, a Robert Frost Medal, and the National Medal of the Arts. Her poetry inspired many to reconsider notions of inner-city life.
The Welsh spelling, Gwendolen has a storied use throughout British literature. Gwendolen was a mythical queen of the Britons. A Gwendolen was also a wife to the wizard, Merlin in The Life of Merlin. And last but not least, Gwendolen Fairfax was one of Oscar Wilde’s very best characters from his comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest.
If you grew up reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, there may be no better option for you than the name Harry. The titular wizard, Harry played such an important part in many of our childhoods. Why not impart some of that magic onto your own little one? Other character names from the series would also make excellent baby names. Hermione, Draco, and Ron would be really fun names for a child.
Let’s not forget another magical Harry, Harry Houdini. This Harry published multiple books over the course of his life and has been the subject of many a novel and short story.
Perhaps one of the most storied names on this list, Emma is a classic name that’s appeared in many great works of fiction. From Jane Austen’s novel, Emma to Ransom Rigg’s series, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Emmas crop up everywhere and always make an impression.
Jane Austen describes Emma Woodhouse as “handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition.” We can all agree that those qualities would make for a happy baby. If you want to name your daughter for a character that transformed literary realism, Emma Bovary from Madame Bovary might be a good namesake. Just don’t think about that one for too long.
Henrik might seem like an odd name but it belonged to one of the most influential playwrights of all time, Henrik Ibsen. Known as the “father of realism,” Ibsen brought modernist views to the theater. For fans of A Doll’s House, Henrik would make the best name for a boy.
The name Henrik is Norweigan in origin and means “ruler of the home.” From the sound of the name to its meaning, Henrik conveys strength and power. If you’re looking for a bold children’s name with a nod to the performing arts, Henrik would be an ideal name.
The name Olivia means “olive tree” and has appeared as a character name in many notable works of fiction. From Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to Ellen Potter’s Olivia Kidney novel, Olivias are everywhere. You might also recognize the name from the Olivia book series by Ian Falconer about a fictional pig.
Writers, Olivia Goldsmith and Olivia Manning both penned novels under the name. It’s a great name because it strikes a balance between beauty and strength. Both writers had these qualities in spades.
For fans of Greek mythology, Athos was the name of one of the Gigantes. Additionally, Alexandre Dumas gave the name Athos to a father figure in The Three Musketeers. Athos has a classical sound to it and any child with the name would definitely stand out.
Athos might also sound strong to you. You’d be correct. There’s Mount Athos in Greece and the Athos Range in Antarctica. Aside from the literary connections, naming your son for a mountain seems like a grand decision.
The character, Matilda Wormwood from Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s novel, Matilda is a brave and self-confident child with the power of telekinesis. Therefore, the name Matilda would be an excellent and whimsical name for a little girl. We all know kids are magical, but you could really play into it with this name.
Mary Shelley also wrote a novel named Matilda, but it’s much darker than Roal Dahl’s work. In fact, if you don’t know about Mary Shelley’s Matilda, but like the name, you might want to skip that one. You’ve been warned!
Many people don’t know this, but author E.B. White’s first name was Elwyn. White wrote children’s classics, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. Stories of lively animals that have to make decisions just like people do entertain and educate children to this very day. In addition to the children’s books, White wrote for The New Yorker for nearly twenty years. Parents who wear their “New Yorker” tote bags around town, would do well by their son by naming him Elwyn.
Elwyn is an uncommon name but it has a winning ring to it. The name comes from old English and means “wise friend.”
Maya is a beautiful name on its own, but knowing that it belonged to legendary poet, Maya Angelou makes it even more special. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. Her poem, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of the most famous American poems of all time.
A notable character named Maya comes from The Adventures of Maya the Bee, a German children’s book that’s popular worldwide. The name Maya is Spanish, Hebrew, and Greek in origin and means “water.”
The Huxley Family was a British family that had many members who excelled at science, medicine, art, and literature. Aldous Huxley was the writer of the family and published many novels. His most famous, Brave New World paints a dystopian picture for future societies. Huxley’s writing saw him nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature seven times.
Huxley would make a handsome name for a boy and could be shortened to “Hux” or “Lee.”
You could honor American poetry and literature and name your daughter for Sylvia Plath. The name Sylvia means “spirit of the wood” which is literary in and out of itself. Sylvia Plath’s poetry is credited with advancing the style of confessional poetry. In addition to her poems, Sylvia also published a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar which served as a way for her to relieve herself from the past.
In addition to Sylvia Plath, Sylvia appeared as the title of Upton Sinclair’s novel published in 1913. Years later it was revealed that Sylvia was actually written by his wife, Mary Craig Sinclair.
When you hear the name, Augustus you might immediately think of the first Emporer of ancient Rome. But, there’s much more to the name and we think it’s time for it to make a comeback. In part because the nickname “Gus” would just be too cute for a baby.
Characters named Augustus have appeared in many works of fiction. Most recently we met Augustus Waters in the novel, The Fault in Our Stars. You might recall an Augustus Rockwood from the Harry Potter series. But before that, Augustus Gloop charmed and delighted us in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Like Sylvia, the name Lisbeth offers a bit of mystery. The name is extremely popular in Denmark and Sweden. Some notable Lisbeths in literature include Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Lisbeth “Bette” Fischer from Honoré de Balzac’s La Cousine Bette. Both of these Lisbeths are tough, independent, and driven women.
Often the name Lisbeth is shortened to “Bette” or simply, “Bet.” Both are very cute and would be fun to say over and over again as your child ignores you.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, The Great Gatsby features one of American literature’s most well-known characters, Jay Gatsby. While “Jay” would be a perfectly acceptable first name, we feel that Gatsby has the most appeal. Now, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want your child to share too much with Jay Gatsby, but you can bestow upon him a classic name with Gatsby.
If you’d prefer to honor the writer, Fitzgerald would also make a great name. “It’s time for dinner Fitz,” just rolls off the tongue.
In the intro, we already brought up Little Women and the names Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Why not Louisa too? Louisa May Alcott published the children’s novel over 100 years ago and it’s still just as popular as ever. She wrote, strong, three-dimensional female characters that many young girls connect with still today. Alcott was a pioneering abolitionist and feminist and dedicated her life to the advancement of women through education and work.
The name Louisa means, “renowned warrior.” If you are looking for a strong name for your baby girl, Louisa is a fine choice.
For the romantics out there, Heathcliff makes an interesting and unique boy’s name. The passionate, macho hero of Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff really shines in the first acts. Although Heathcliff’s luck takes a turn and his character devolves into an anti-hero, we can all remember the Heathcliff that passionately loved Catherine Earnshaw. In total, the character is an incredible one and really makes the entire novel.
The name means “cliff near a heath.” Not too much mystery with this name! “Heath” or “Cliff” are handsome nicknames.
There are so many fantastic characters named Hazel. There’s Hazel Motes from Flannery O’Connor’s novel, Wise Blood. Hazel Shade is the daughter of the poet John Shade in the novel Pale Fire. There’s Hazel the rabbit leader in the Richard Adams novel, Watership Down. So many great Hazels!
The name fell out of fashion in the early 20th century but has made a resurgence starting around 1998. The name is very popular in Ireland and ranks as one of the top 100 names for girls there.
Beckett is most commonly known as an English surname. Think of Nobel Prize winning writer, Samuel Beckett. Beckett wrote the classic, Waiting for Gadot. He is such a treasure to Ireland they named a major bridge for him. There are plenty of other notable Becketts, many of whom are Irish. If you’ve got Irish ancestry and would like to honor it, Beckett would be a great name to give your child.
“Beck” as a nickname is charming and would definitely stand out.
For your baby girl, Lyra is a fabulous literary name. Lyra Belacqua is the protagonist in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The young girl is brave, adventurous, and smart. According to the mythology of the book, Lyra is “destined to bring about the end of destiny.” Intriguing, right? In addition to being an amazing character, Lyra is also name to a small constellation first found by the Greeks.
The name Lyra comes from the word lyre, which is a stringed musical instrument that dates back to antiquity. If you love strong female leads, music, stars, or a lyrical sounding name, Lyra is the perfect girls name for your baby.
For readers, William should be an extremely familiar name. Think of William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, William Faulkner, and W.B. Yeats. In addition to being the name of some of the world’s most famous writers, there are some famous characters named William as well. William Boldwood in Far From the Madding Crowd and William from the Just William books are two great examples.
The name William is Germanic in origin and means “resolute protector.” If you want to raise a novelist, playwright, or poet, you could do no better than naming your child William.
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