People turn to all kinds of things for baby name inspiration. Some stare at their fruit bowl (Hello, Apple Martin), some stare at their favorite aircraft (OK, Elon Musk), and some turn to their bookshelves. For these literary-minded folks, I've rounded up 20 baby names from classic literature that are guaranteed to make you sound smart and like you read more than Instagram.
When I say "classic", I actually mean classic works of literature, which means this list won't contain a "Draco" or an "Arya". Don't get me wrong — I have nothing against R. R. Martin or the Potter books, but I mean "classic" in the very real sense, as in things you were assigned to read in your Lit class.
The list is a mix of famous characters, famous authors, and even one famous author's muse. I tried to select more unique names ("Jane" did not make it, sorry) and of course tried to select names with positive connotations. Though I admit, I would love to make a list of baby names of classic literature villains. The idea of a baby Moriarty, baby Iago, or baby Big Brother is very entertaining. But perhaps not very useful to expectant parents?
The perfect name for the brooding baby who loves to toddle through the wild, endless moors. This of course comes from the Emily Bronte classic Wuthering Heights, about the tragic love affair between Catherine and the dark, tortured Heathcliff. It means, well, "cliff near a heath", and it's a name that inspires drama and passion. Or if your baby is way more chill than all that, you can just call him "Cliff".
Meaning "strong woman", this one technically isn't from literature, but rather is the name of one of literature's great muses — Zelda Fitzgerald. The beloved wife of literary giant F. Scott, Zelda led a troubled life, but she was also a wild, extraordinary figure, and if you've never read the Nancy Milford biography, you absolutely should.
"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." So says the iconic character Holden Caufield, of J.D. Salinger's coming-of-age classic: The Catcher in the Rye. Meaning "hollow valley", this name will forever score high on the cool name quotient. It's considered a boy's name, but I actually think it would be a pretty rad name for a girl, no?
This feminine, flowery name means "grace", and was the moniker of the famous writer Anais Nin. The French author was best known for her intensely detailed and poetic chronicles of her own life, though she also wrote short stories and novels. (She also happened to be one of Henry Miller's lovers. Ahem.)
Another great A name. The most well-known Aldous is Aldous Huxley, the writer and philosopher who penned the dark, literary masterpiece Brave New World. The name means "old", which sounds about right as it is quite an old timey name. It's also the kind of name one rarely comes across these days, which means you won't have to worry about three or four Aldouses in your kid's kindergarten.
Meaning "gift of god", this strong, memorable girl's name is featured in two great works of literature: both George Eliot's Middlemarch and Cervantes's Don Quixote. It's a unique and pretty spin on the more traditional Dorothy, and gives you the option for some really cute nicknames, like Dot or Dottie.
You know E.B. White, the creator of both Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little? Well, this is what the "E" stands for. This English name means "noble friend," which is really very fitting when you think of White's books, which at their heart were about friendship. This is another one that I think could be a cool unisex name, as Elwyn would also be very cute for a little girl.
I have friends who just named their daughter Iseult, and while initially I went "huh?" I now think it's a gorgeous choice. This Irish name means "ice ruler" (and is pronounced "ee-sult".) It's a variation on the name Isolde, which you may recognize from the tragic, medieval story Tristan and Isolde. This romantic tale of forbidden romance is both a Richard Wagner opera and a James Franco film!
The poet Langston Hughes was a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance, and the creator of iconic lines like: Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. A beautiful, old English name for a boy, it means "from the tall man's town".
This is another nod to a J.D Salinger character, that of Franny Glass, from the short story collection Franny and Zooey. Meaning "of France" or "free one," the name is like Holden in that it's always going to get a nod of approval from hipsters of a certain ilk. (Salinger is a favorite of filmmaker Wes Anderson. You get the idea.)
Jarvis Lorry is a character from Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. He is a cold-hearted businessman who is later revealed to be a tender and loyal friend. The name Jarvis means "servant of the spear," and to give it a little extra dash of cool, it's also the name of the lead singer of the Brit Pop band Pulp.
Why not give a nod to Zora Neal Hurston, another revolutionary figure from the Harlem Renaissance? Hurston wrote the classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, and is known for many gorgeous, famous quotes, including: Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. (Which is kind of the perfect description for what having a baby is like, really.) Also, the name means "dawn". What's prettier than that?
OK, so yes this is the name of a tragic character who trades his soul in order to gain eternal youth, but! I stand by the fact that it's still an awesome name. (And could be great for a girl, no?) Surely enough time has passed since Oscar Wilde first published The Picture of Dorian Gray that the name can now be reclaimed? (Though if you do choose it, be sure to regularly check on that baby photo stashed away in the attic...)
This one means "elm grove" and is a character in both Macbeth, as well as the last name of the heroine in "The Secret Garden." It also could be a nod to singer Annie Lennox, which I realize isn't literary, but I mean, who is cooler than Annie Lennox?
Author Ralph Ellison penned the groundbreaking novel The Invisible Man, a book about a black man's experience in 1950s America. The book is considered an American classic, and Ellison is widely regarded as a literary genius. The name "Ellison" is generally considered a girl's name, though it totally could work for a boy as well. It means "son of Ellis."
This is not only the name of a lovely instrument, it is also the main character in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Viola is the quick-witted heroine of the play — a woman who disguises herself in men's clothing in order to track down her twin brother. And as is the way of Shakespearean comedies, a woman wearing pants leads to many a mishap. At any rate, the name is both unique and pretty.
Leopold Bloom is the protagonist from the enormous James Joyce novel Ulysses. Meaning "brave people", the name is likely to be shortened to Leo by friends, unless you really put your foot down and insist on the "-pold." Of course, if you are this hardcore about the name, it might mean you'll have to actually read all 700 pages of the book...
Elinor Dashwood is the thoughtful, practical heroine from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. The name means "bright one" or "shining light," and of course offers the adorable nickname option of "Ellie." Side note: if you've never seen Emma Thompson's film version (featuring a 19-year-old Kate Winslet), I suggest you download it at once.
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever," so wrote the English Romantic poet John Keats. The name Keats means "shed worker," which OK, isn't the most romantic thing ever, but when you're named after someone who once penned "Love is my religion...I could die for it..." it doesn't really matter, does it?
Why not give a nod to one of the most important writers of the 20th century, Virginia Woolf? Woolf is considered one of the great early pioneers of feminism, and her groundbreaking essay A Room of One's Own is a feminist masterpiece. (Also, the nickname Ginny is super cute.)
Corin is another Shakespearean name, this one coming from the Willie Shakes rom-com As You Like It. It puts a more unique spin on the traditional "Corey" or "Colin." It also seems pretty unisex to me. And if you're the type of parent who wants to avoid having their kid be given a cutesy nickname by peers, this one is a pretty safe bet.