Female names of literary origin, N-Z

U.S. actor Norma Shearer, 1902–1983

Nélida was created by French writer Marie d’Agoult for her semi-autobiographical 1846 novel of the same name, which she wrote under the pseudonym Daniel Stern. It’s probably an anagram of the pen name Daniel.

Nestan-Darejan was created by great Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli for the famous 12th century national epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin (lit. One with the Skin of a Tiger). He coined it from Persian phrase nist andar jahan, “unlike any other in the world.” Nestan-Darejan is a princess.

Norma is the protagonist of Italian writer Felice Romani’s 1831 opera of the same name, possibly based on Latin norma (rule). It may also have been intended as a feminine form of Ancient Germanic name Norman (northman; i.e., Viking).

Nydia is a blind flower seller in British writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1834 novel The Last Days of Pompeii, which was later made into an Italian silent film. It may be based on Latin nidus (nest).

Ophelia as depicted inThe girlhood of Shakespeare’s heroines in a series of tales, 1881

Ophelia was probably created by 15th century Italian poet Jacopo Sannazaro for a character in his poem Arcadia, then later used by Shakespeare in 1600’s Hamlet. It derives from Greek ophelos (help).

Ornella was created by Italian writer Gabriele d’Annunzio for the 1904 novel La Figlia di Jorio (The Daughter of Jorio), derived from Tuscan ornello (flowering ash tree).

Pamela was created by English poet Sir Philip Sydney for the 16th century long pastoral romance poem The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, possibly intended to mean “all sweetness,” from Greek pan (all) and meli (honey). This name exploded in popularity during the 1940s and stayed on the U.S. Top 100 till 1976.

Perdita was created by Shakespeare for his 1610 play A Winter’s Tale, from Latin perditus (lost).

Pippi was created by Karin Lindgren, daughter of Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, for the title character of the Pippi Longstocking series. The first book was published in 1945. Her full name is Pippilotta.

Ronja was created by Astrid Lindgren for Ronja the Robber’s Daughter (1981), derived from Juronjaure, a Swedish lake.

Sandra was introduced to the Anglophone world by English writer George Meredith, who used it on the protagonist of his 1864 novel Emilia in England, reissued in 1887 as Sandra Belloni.

Scarlett, from a surname originally bestowed upon sellers or makers of scarlet cloth, possibly derives from Persian saghrilat. Just about everyone knows Scarlett came to attention as a forename thanks to the protagonist of Margaret Mitchell’s historical saga Gone with the Wind (1936).

Stella means “star” in Latin. This name was created by Sir Philip Sidney for the protagonist of his 1580s sonnet collection Astrophel and Stella.

Tímea was created by Hungarian writer Mór Jókai for his 1873 novel The Golden Man, probably derived from Greek euthymia (good spirits, cheerfulness).

Tinatin was created by aforementioned Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli for The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, possibly derived from Georgian word sinatle (light). Tinatin is the Queen of Arabia, and inherits the throne as the sole child of King Rostevan.

Titania was possibly created by Shakespeare for his 1595 play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Titania is Queen of the Fairies. It may derive from Latin name Titanius (of the Titans).

Tünde was created by Hungarian writer Mihály Vörösmarty for his 1830 play Csongor és Tünde, derived from tündér (fairy).

Undine was created by Medieval writer Paracelsus, derived from Latin unda (wave). He used it to refer to female water spirits.

Detail of The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania, Joseph Noel Patton, 1849

Valmai means “like May” in Welsh. It was created by Welsh writer Allen Raine for her 1899 romance novel By Berwen Banks. Allen Raine was the understandable pseudonym of Anne Adalisa Beynon Puddicombe.

Vanessa was created by British writer Jonathan Swift for his 1726 poem Cadenus and Vanessa, derived from rearranging the first syllables of the name of his friend Esther Vanhomrigh.

Veslemøy means “little girl” in Norwegian. It was created by writer Arne Garborg for the title character of his 1895 poem Haugtussa.

Viviette was created by British writer William John Locke for the title character of his 1910 novel. It’s a diminutive of Vivienne (alive).

Wendy was created by Scottish writer J.M. Barrie for his famous 1904 play Peter Pan, derived from his nickname Fwendy (i.e., Friend). Prior to Peter Pan, it was rarely used as a possible nickname for Welsh names starting with Gwen (blessed, fair, white).

Zerbinette was created by French writer Molière for his 1671 play Les Fourberies de Scapin (The Deceits of Scapin).

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