Male names of literary origin, N–Z

American aviation pioneer Orville Wright, 1871–1948

Nemo means “nobody” in Latin. Jules Verne created it for the captain of Nautilus in his 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Nerle is a character in L. Frank Baum’s 1903 novel The Enchanted Island of Yew. It may be based on Merle, a variant of Merrill or Muriel (“pleasant hill” or “bright sea”).

Oberon is the King of the Fairies in Shakespeare’s 1595 play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s based on Norman French name Auberon, which in turn derives from Ancient Germanic Alberich (elf power).

Orville was coined by 18th century writer Fanny Burney, who may have meant it to mean “golden city” in French.

Othello may be a diminutive of Italian name Otho, of unknown etymology. Shakespeare famously used it as the title character of his 1603 tragedy.

Pantagruel is one of the title characters of 16th century French writer François Rabelais’s The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel series. It derives from Greek pantes (all) and Hagarene gruel (thirsty). Pantagruel was born during a great drought. Rabelais invented hundreds of new words in these novels, based on Ancient Greek. Some of them became part of the French language.

Percival was created by 12th century French poet Chrétien de Troyes for Perceval, the Story of the Grail, which follows a Knight of the Round Table. It was probably based on Welsh name Peredur, which may mean “hard spears.” The spelling was possibly changed to resemble Old French percer val (to pierce the valley).

Pirkka was created by Finnish poet Eino Leino for “Orjan Poka. It derives from pirkkalaiset (a Medieval Finnish group who controlled taxation in Lapland).

Radames is a character in the 1871 opera Aida. Since it’s set in Ancient Egypt, librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni may have included the element Ra (Sun) to sound plausibly Egyptian.

Radúz is a rare Czech name which was created by writer Julius Zeyer for his 1898 play Radúz and Mahulena. It derives from rád (glad, happy).

Ruslan is Russian, Chechen, Ingush, Avar, Tatar, Circassian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Bashkir, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Uzbek, Armenian, and Ossetian. It was used by great Russian poet Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin for his 1820 work Ruslan and Lyudmila, based on the name of Tatar and Russian folk hero Yeruslan Lazarevich. Its ultimate origin is Tatar name Uruslan, possibly from Turkic arslan (lion).

1887 illustration of Ruslan and Lyudmila

Saridan is a king in the 12th century Georgian epic poem The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, by Shota Rustaveli. It’s unclear which Persian root he based it off of, but possible candidates include srudan (to sing, to recite) and srayidan (to protect). Unlike many other names in the poem, Saridan has never been very common.

Sémaphore means “semaphore” (a visual signalling system) in French, ultimately derived from Ancient Greek roots sema (sign, token, mark) and phero (to carry, to bear). Thus, it roughly means “sign-bearer.” This is the name of a character in Franco–Belgian comic Cubitus. Sémaphore owns canine protagonist Cubitus.

Siyavash is a prince in 11th century Persian epic The Shahnameh. The name means “possessing black stallions” in Avestan.

Tuovi (a unisex name) was invented by Finnish writer Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen for his 1859 novel Pohjan-Piltti. It derives from village Tuovila (village of Tove).

Urizen was created by English poet William Blake for the personification of conventional reason and law. It’s a play on “your reason,” and possibly also derived from Greek horizein (horizon).

Vahur means “brave” in Estonian. The name was invented by writer Edward Börnhohe for his 1880 novel Tasuja. I have a character by this name.

Vambola is the title character of a novel by Estonian writer Andres Saal. It may be derived from Varbola Castle or the Old Estonian word vambas (mace).

Siyavash, Copyright Aryzad at Wiki Commons

Winnetou is an Apache chief in several of German novelist Karl May’s books. It may mean “burning water.”

Ylermi is another name created by Eino Leino, for the protagonist of his poem Helkavirsiä I.

Yorick is derived from Danish and Norwegian nickname Jørg (i.e., George). Shakespeare used it for a dead court jester in Hamlet (1600).

Yvain is another creation of Chrétien de Troyes, based on Welsh name Owain (possibly a form of Eugene, “well-born”).

Zalán was created by Hungarian writer Mihály Vörösmarty for his 1823 epic Zalán Futása. The name may come from Hungary’s Zala region, which in turn takes its name from the Zala River.

Zorro means “fox” in Spanish, and became famous as the name of a character created by Johnston McCulley.

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).

The Us of Slavic names

Female:

Ubava means “gorgeous, beautiful, delightful” in Serbian.

Ulyana is the traditional Russian and Ukrainian form of Juliana, which ultimately derives from the Latin name Julius. It possibly is related to the name Jupiter (Zeus father) or the Greek word ioulos (downy-bearded). The modern form is Yuliana.

Umihana is a Bosnian name possibly derived from the Arabic name Umm-i-Hani or Umm Hani (mother of Hani [happy]). Umihana Čuvidina (ca. 1794–ca. 1870) is the earliest female Bosnian poet whose work is known to survive.

Uroda is a Slovakian agriculture goddess. The name means “harvest” in Slovak, though it’s unclear if the goddess or the word came first.

Uslada means “delight” in Russian. This is a modern name.

Ustinya is the traditional Russian form of Justina (just). The modern form is Yustina, and one of the nicknames is Ustya.

Male:

Ugljěsa means “black as coal” in Serbian. This was the name of a Medieval noble.

Uman means “intelligent” in Serbian.

Uniedrog is a Polish name derived from roots unie (better, improved) and drogi (dear, precious).

Uniegost means “better guest” in Polish.

Uniemysł means “better thoughts” in Polish.

Uroš is the Serbian and Slovenian form of an old Hungarian name which possibly means “little lord, little man.” Five Serbian kings bore this name.

Doubling up on vowels

I’ve always loved names with two of the same vowel in a row (often found in Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, and Greenlandic). I’ll feature more of these names in a future post, but for now, I’m focusing on names starting with two of the same vowel in a row.

Unisex:

Aajunnguaq means “dear older sibling” in Greenlandic.

Iimaan is the Somali form of Iman.

Ooquna is Greenlandic.

Uukkarnit means “calved ice” in Inuktitut.

Male:

Aabraham is Finnish. An alternate form is Aapo.

Aadam is Estonian.

Aadolf is Finnish, with alternate forms Aatu and Aatto. The lattermost also means “evening before, eve.”

Aage is the modern Norwegian and Danish form of Áki, an Old Norse nickname for names with the element Anu (father, ancestor).

Aali means “sublime, lofty, high” in Arabic.

Aamir is a variant of Amir (prince, commander). When rendered ‘Aamir, it means “substantial, prosperous.”

Aapeli is the Finnish form of Abel, which derives from the Hebrew Hevel (breath).

Aarne is the Finnish form of Arne, which originally was an Old Norse nickname for names starting in Arn (eagle).

Aaron is the English form of the Hebrew Aharon, which possibly means “exalted” or “high mountain.” Other sources suggest it’s more likely of unknown Egyptian origins.

Aarti is a Hindi and Marathi name taken from a ritual where candle and lamp offerings are made to deities, from Sanskrit aratrika. The Tamil form is Aarthi.

Aatami is the Finnish form of Adam.

Aatos means “thought” in Finnish.

Eeli is the Finnish form of Eli.

Eelis is the Finnish form of Elijah.

Eemeli is the Finnish form of Emil.

Eenokki is the Finnish form of Enoch.

Eerik is the Finnish form of Eric. Alternate forms are Eerikki and Eero.

Eetu is the Finnish form of Edward.

Iiggiti, or Iigiti, means “oak,” from Ancient Scandinavian eik. The name is Greenlandic.

Iikkila means “how sweet you are” in Greenlandic.

Iiku is the Finnish form of Igor.

Iisaja is the Greenlandic form of Isaiah.

Iisakki is the Finnish form of Isaac (he will laugh). Nicknames include Iikka and Iiro.

Iissát is the Sami form of Isaac.

Iivanni is the Greenlandic form of John.

Iivari is the Finnish form of Ivar.

Oochalata is Cherokee.

Ooqi is Greenlandic.

Uugi is the Greenlandic form of Áki. Another form is Ûge.

Uula is the Finnish form of Ola, a Swedish and Norwegian nickname for Olaf (ancestor’s descendant), and a nickname for Uljas (proud, gallant, noble, valiant). Another form is Oola.

Uularik is the Greenlandic form of Ulrich (prosperity and power). Another form is Uulorik.

Uuli is a Greenlandic form of Olaf. Another form is Uuluffi.

Uuloffi is a rare Finnish form of Olaf.

Uumaaq is a modern Greenlandic form of Ûmâk (green, fresh).

Uuno possibly means “one” in Finnish, from Latin unus, or is a male form of Una. It’s very rare today, owing to becoming an insult meaning “dumb, stupid.”

Uuttuaq is Greenlandic.

Female:

Aalis is the Medieval French form of Alice.

Aaliyah is the feminine form of Aali. As anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows, it got really popular and trendy thanks to the late singer Aaliyah Haughton.

Aamina, or Aaminah, is an alternative form of the Arabic Amina (feel safe).

Aamu means “morning” in Finnish.

Aava means “open, wide” in Finnish.

Eedit is the Estonian and Finnish form of Edith.

Eelisi is a Greenlandic form of Elizabeth.

Eerika is the Finnish form of Erica.

Eeva is the Finnish form of Eva. An alternate form is Eevi.

IidaIitu, and Iita are Finnish forms of Ida (labour, work). Sami forms are Iidá and Iiddá.

Iidaliisa is a rare Finnish name.

Iines is the Finnish form of Agnes (chaste; lamb).

Iingili is the Greenlandic form of Ingrid.

Iingka is the Greenlandic form of Inga.

Iintariina is the Greenlandic form of Henrietta.

Iiris is the Estonian and Finnish form of Iris (rainbow). A Finnish varation is Iiri.

Iisimaleq is Greenlandic.

Iista is the Greenlandic form of Esther. Another form is Eersta.

Oona, or Oonagh, is an alternate form of the Irish Úna (possibly meaning “lamb”). The first spelling is also Finnish. Its most famous bearer was Charles Chaplin’s fourth wife, Oona O’Neill, daughter of famous playwright Eugene. Their marriage was far and away Charles’s happiest and most successful, in spite of the 36-year age difference.

Uularikka is the Greenlandic form of Ulrika.

Uulina is a Greenlandic feminine form of Olaf.

Uullat is the Greenlandic form of Olga.

Uuriintuya means “light of dawn” in Mongolian.

The Us of Medieval names

Female:

Umayma (Moorish Arabic): “Little mother.”

Umayna (Moorish Arabic): Form of Amina (feel safe; truthful).

Urraca (Spanish, Basque): “Magpie,” ultimately from Latin furax (thievish).

Ursola (Catalan): Form of Ursula (little bear)

Ustė (Baltic)

Ustilé (Baltic)

Male:

Uallach (Irish): “Pride,” from root uall.

Ubaid (Moorish Arabic): “Servant.”

Udder (Danish, Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Oddr (point of a sword), and the word otr (otter).

Uddolf (Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Uddulfr, from roots oddr and ulfr (wolf).

Ulfkil (Danish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Ulfkætill, from roots ulfr and ketill (cauldron, helmet, hat).

Ulfrik (Swedish, Danish): Derived from Old Norse name Ulfríkr, from roots ulfr and ríkr (mighty, rich, distinguished).

Ulvar (Swedish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Ulfarr/Ulfgæirr, from roots ulfr and geirr (spear), or herr (army).

Ungust (Cornish)

Unker (Danish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Óðinkárr. Its roots are either Old Danish othankar/othinkar (raging, easily furious), or Old Norse óðr (frenzy, rage, inspiration) and kárr (“obstinant; reluctant” or “curly-haired”).

Urdin (Basque): “Blue.”