Most names you meet when you read a great book existed before the author chose it for a character, but there are some rare occasions when writers just invent names for their characters. You’ll find this often in the science fiction and fantasy genres, however, it’s not limited to the weirder extremities of popular fiction. There are several names for girls that we’ve accepted as completely “normal” although they were probably a touch controversial for babies first getting the name.
We’ll take a look at some baby names you probably didn’t know were invented by the likes of William Shakespeare or Sir Phillip Sidney and also we’ll survey some newer, invented names that we think might have a place today or at least we find extremely entertaining. “Made-up” names could apply to just about all of them because they had to come from somewhere, but we’re talking specifically names of fictional characters that were not prevalent before publishing. Are you ready to nerd out for a little bit? Here are 25 baby names for girls that were invented by writers.
Jonathan Swift invented the name for his 1713 poem Cadenus and Vanessa as a compliment to a woman friend Esther Vanhomrigh, taking parts of her first and last names to create it. Vanessa was one of the mega-feminine three-syllable hits of the eighties but has proved to have had more staying power than others like Tiffany, Kimberly, and Melissa, due to its classic beauty.
Amorette was invented by Edmund Spenser for his poem The Faerie Queen. The character represents married love. While we don’t think Amorette is off the table for a baby girl today, you might want to consider a more mainstream choice. A related unusual-yet-usable choice is Amabel.
Oona is a real Irish name that means “a lamb.” Una, on the other hand, is an invented name that coincidentally means “one” in Latin. Like Amorette, Una was created by Edmund Spenser for his poem The Faerie Queen. We think Una is a completely acceptable choice as it’s so close to Oona. Go for it!
Arwen is well known as the princess of the Elves in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. A lovely name with an authentic ring, Arwen is a form of a Welsh name for boys that means “noble.” However, we think the charming name has been around long enough as a name for girls that it would be totally acceptable.
Thelma was created by Marie Corelli, one of the most popular novelists at the end of the 19th century. She was said to be Queen Victoria’s favorite writer and the inspiration for Lucia in F.E Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books. Corelli wrote the favorite, Thelma: A Norwegian Princess. By all means, yes, pick this name.
The name Careen was invented by Margaret Mitchell. Careen was the younger sister of Scarlet in Gone with the Wind. Careen sounds like someone is about to fly off a cliff so it’s probably best to go with the similar, Corrine.
Stella was derived from stella, the Latin word for “star.” It was coined by Sir Philip Sidney in 1590 for the protagonist of his poem collection Astrophel and Stella. The title literally means “the star lover and his star,” but unlike Stella, Astrophel did not catch on as a given name.
Charmaine was created by playwrights Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings for a 1924 play What Price Glory set at the end of WWI. In the 1960s, the Irish group The Bachelor’s had a hit song called “Charmaine.” Today, this name might get confused for a brand of toilet paper, but if you’re up for defending its honor, this night is beautiful.
Another name invented by Sir Phillip Sidney for his epic poem Arcadia in 1590, Pamela is a hero of the story. While Sidney used it first, it was Samuel Richardson‘s enormously popular novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded published two centuries later that really promoted it.
An attractive and unusual name that may be a variation of Cleo, Clea was probably invented by Lawrence Durrell for a character in his Alexandria Quartet. Actress Clea DuVall is one noted bearer of the name. We’d love to hear this beautiful name more often! Parents, please choose this name.
Records of the name Olivia exist from as far back as 13th-century England, but the name was popularized after Shakespeare used it for the name of the countess in Twelfth Night. Olivia is based off of the Latin word oliva, meaning “olive.” After getting the Shakespeare treatment, this name is now one of the most popular in the entire world.
Clorinda was created by the 16th-century Italian poet Torquato Tasso in the poem Jerusalem Delivered. While the name was probably completely fine way back when, today it sounds like a chlorine fairy.
Norma is not simply the female form of Norman, which means “man from the north.” The name was probably invented by Felice Romani, an Italian poet working at the beginning of the 19th century and writing mainly for opera. In Bellini’s 1832 tragic opera Norma, the main character is a druid priestess at the time of the Roman invasion of England.
Not a literary invention, Coraline was more of an accidental discovery of a name that had been out of fashion for about 200 years. Coraline is the name of the main character and title of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novella of 2002, it started life as a typo. He intended to write Caroline. This mythological name was resurrected and is not in the top 1000 in the US.
Miranda, a lovely, poetic name that was invented by Shakespeare for the attractive and admirable young hero of his play, The Tempest, is still a recommended choice even though its popularity peaked in the nineties, partially as an antidote to Amanda. Shakespeare took the name from a Latin word that means “marvelous.”
Evangeline was introduced to the English-speaking world by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his hugely popular eponymous narrative poem, and can also be found in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Little Eva). Evangeline is a very, very old Greek name that was mostly lost to English ears for centuries. The name means “bearer of good news.”
Fiona is the best known of a group of related Gaelic names, which is ironic because it’s the only one without genuine traditional roots. It was found first in James Macpherson‘s Ossianic poems and then popularized in the late 19th century as a feminine pseudonym for a Scottish male writer. What!? We have Queen Fiona Apple to thank for the name’s popularity in the US today.
As with Fiona, Malvina was also invented by Macpherson who used the name for a character in his poems. The name is based on a Scottish one which means “smooth-browed.” Malvina sounds like a Disney villain so you you should skip it.
Glinda is famous as the name of the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz, invented by author L. Frank Baum. The name may be related to the name Glenda, itself a 20th century Welsh invention. Glinda is fine but it does not seem as fresh as some of the others on this list.
Lorna is the protagonist of the 1869 novel Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore. The invented moniker was then adopted as a name for shortbread cookies. Blackmore claimed to have based it on the Scottish place-name, Lorn. A fairly obscure name, but Judy Garland did pick it for her youngest daughter.
Heidi is from (drumroll….) well, Heidi. The name Heidi actually did exist as a nickname for Adelheid, but Johanna Spyri was the author who universalized Heidi as a stand-alone name. The English-speaking world caught on a bit later, though, with the name growing in popularity only after the famous Shirley Temple film adaptation of the book became popular. By all means, name your daughter for that little girl dancing on a mountain.
Imogen probably originated as a Shakespearean printer’s misspelling of the traditional Celtic name, Innogen, used by him for a character in one of his last plays, Cymbeline. The Innogen of legend, who Shakespeare’s character was based on, was the wife of Brutus of Troy, the first king of Britian. Her name was derived from the Gaelic word inghean, meaning “daughter” or “maiden.”
Jessica was coined by Shakespeare for the character of Shylock’s daughter in The Merchant of Venice, possibly as a form of a biblical name. It’s rumored that the playwright based it on Jesca, a spelling of the obscure biblical names Iscah or Yisca. This name has been with us for some time now and is a top 500 name for girls in the US.
Lucinda, an amplification of Lucia created by Cervantes for his 1605 novel Don Quixote and subsequently used by Moliere in his play The Doctor in Spite of Himself. This would make for a most romantic alternative to Lucy. Lucinda saw a lot of love in the US a couple of hundred years ago, but today most parents are choosing less complicated choices.
Perhaps the most famous invented name of all, Wendy is a familiar classic at this point, although no girl was called Wendy before J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan. He supposedly borrowed it from the nickname Fwendy-Wendy that he was called by a young girl acquaintance.
There you go! 25 names for girls that were invented by writers. These names were either completely invented, based on more established names, or rescued from obscurity by an author. We hope you enjoyed this list!
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 25. Vanessa
- 2 24. Amorette
- 3 23. Una
- 4 22. Arwen
- 5 21. Thelma
- 6 20. Careen
- 7 19. Stella
- 8 18. Charmaine
- 9 17. Pamela
- 10 16. Clea
- 11 15. Olivia
- 12 14. Clorinda
- 13 13. Norma
- 14 12. Coraline
- 15 11. Miranda
- 16 10. Evangeline
- 17 9. Fiona
- 18 8. Malvina
- 19 7. Glinda
- 20 6. Lorna
- 21 5. Heidi
- 22 4. Imogen
- 23 3. Jessica
- 24 2. Lucinda
- 25 1. Wendy
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