Female names of literary origin, A-F

Cosette on first-edition 1862 Les Misérables cover, by Émile Bayard

While all names necessarily have to be invented at some point, names created for literary characters are usually more recent creations than other names. Their staying power and popularity seems to hinge on how well they blend into the language of origin; i.e., do they sound like actual names, or do they only work in a fictional world?

This post only covers names invented for fictional characters, not names which already existed but only became popular after their use in literature.

Albena is the heroine of Bulgarian writer Yordan Yovkov’s 1930 play of the same name. It may be based on the word alben, a type of peony.

Amaryllis is a character in Virgil’s epic poem Eclogues. The name comes from the Greek word amarysso (to sparkle). The amaryllis flower is named from Virgil’s Amaryllis.

Aminta is a character in Italian poet Torquato Tasso’s 1573 play of the same name, inspired by the Greek name Amyntas (defender).

Araminta was possibly first used in the 1693 William Congreve comedy The Old Bachelor. Its etymology is unknown. This was the birth name of Harriet Tubman.

Ariel means “lion of God” in Hebrew. It was first used as a personal name in Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611), though the -el ending truly denotes a male name in Hebrew. Authentically Hebrew female forms are Ariella and Arielle.

Armida was probably created by the abovementioned Torquato Tasso for his 1580 epic poem Jerusalem Delivered.

Ayla was created for the protagonist of Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series in 1980. It’s the Neanderthal pronunciation of her unknown birth name.

Bambi is derived from the Italian word bambina (little girl). It’s of course famous as the name of the (male) deer in the Disney movie based on Swiss writer Felix Salten’s 1923 novel. Prior, it was used in American writer Marjorie Benton Cooke’s 1914 novel.

Belphoebe was coined by Edmund Spenser in his 1590 poem The Faerie Queen, derived from French word belle (beautiful) and the Latinized name Phoebe. The latter ultimately comes from the Greek name Phoibe (pure, bright).

Briana was also first used in The Faerie Queen. It’s a female form of the Irish name Brian, which may derive from Old Celtic root bre (hill), and thus by extension mean “noble, high.” This name exploded in popularity in the Nineties, in countless spellings, but has now dropped down the charts significantly.

Rosalind and Celia, 19th century, by Margaret Gillies

Celia is the feminine form of Latin surname Caelius (heaven). Shakespeare introduced it to the Anglophone world in 1599’s As You Like It.

Charissa is an elaborated form of the Greek Charis (kindness, grace). This also comes from The Faerie Queen.

Charmaine was possibly first used in the 1924 play What Price Glory?, either the English word “charm” with the -aine suffix of Lorraine, or a form of Charmian, used by Shakespeare in 1606’s Antony and Cleopatra.

Clarinda again comes from The Faerie Queen, a combination of Clara (clear, famous, bright) and suffix -inda.

Clarissa, derived from Clarice and ultimately Clara, is the title character of Samuel Richardson’s massively long 1748 novel.

Cora comes from the Greek Kore (maiden), another name for Persephone. It arose as a name in James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel The Last of  the Mohicans.

Cordelia is an adaptation of Celtic name Cordeilla, of unknown etymology. Shakespeare used it for the youngest daughter in 1606’s King Lear.

Cosette comes from French chosette (little thing), and was used in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (1862). Her real name is Euphrasie.

Csilla (CHEE-lah) means “star” in Hungarian. It was invented by András Dugonics for an 1803 novel.

Doreen may have been coined by Edna Lyall in her 1894 novel of the same name, from nickname Dora and suffix -een.

Dorinda comes from Dora and -inda, created for John Dryden and William D’Avenant’s 1667 play The Enchanted Island.

Cordelia, from The Graphic Gallery of Shakespeare’s Heroines, William Frederick Yearns

Dulcinea was created by Miguel Cervantes for Don Quixote (1605), derived from Spanish word dulce (sweet).

Eglantine comes from the word for a flower also called sweetbriar. It was first used, as Eglentyne, in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Enikő was coined by 19th century Hungarian poet Mihály Vörösmarty, inspired by Enéh, legendary mother of the Magyars. It may mean “deer” or “cow.”

Eponine was also used in Les Misérables, and may derive from Empona, a first century Roman Empress in Gaul. The Italian form is Epponina.

Ethel was created in the 19th century, from Old English root æðel (noble), and popularized in several novels.

Evangeline may have first appeared in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 epic poem of the same name. It means “good news” in Greek.

Fantine is another Les Misérables name, possibly derived from French enfant (child).

Fiammetta means “little flame” in Italian. This is one of the members of the brigata in The Decameron.

Fiona was possibly first used in Scottish poet James MacPherson’s 1762 poem Fingal. It’s the feminine form of Fionn (white or fair).

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A name that arose from the earth

Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855), one of Poland’s great national poets, painted 1828 by Józef Oleszkiewicz

Adam means “man” in Hebrew, and may ultimately derive from the Akkadian word adamu (to make), the Hebrew word adamah (earth), or the almost-identical Hebrew word ‘adam (to be red; i.e., a reference to a ruddy complexion). All these etymologies obviously are very symbolic, given Adam is the name of the first man in the Biblical creation story.

The name is also used in English, German, French, Dutch, Georgian, Arabic, Catalan, Romanian, and the Scandinavian and Slavic languages. The variation Ádám is Hungarian; Ádam is Faroese; and Âdam is Jèrriais.

Adam has long been common in the Jewish world, but it didn’t become popular in Christendom till the Middle Ages. After the Protestant Reformation, it became even more popular. The name has been in the U.S. Top 500 since 1880, and began vaulting up the charts in the 1950s. It went from #428 in 1954 to #71 in 1970. Adam attained its highest rank of #18 in 1983 and 1984.

The name has remained in the Top 100 since. In 2018, it was #78. Adam is also #2 in Belgium, #3 in the Czech Republic (as of 2016), #5 in Hungary and France, #6 in Sweden, #9 in Ireland, #11 in Poland, #16 in Catalonia (as of 2016), #17 in The Netherlands, #18 in Northern Ireland (which hopefully soon will be reunified with the rest of Ireland), #24 in Scotland, #25 in Denmark, #36 in England and Wales, #39 in Israel (as of 2016), #40 in Norway, #41 in Spain, #43 in NSW, Australia, #44 in Slovenia, #50 in Switzerland and Austria, #51 in British Columbia, Canada, #55 in Italy, and #96 in New Zealand.

Adam was the name of one of my great-great-grandfathers, the father of the only great-grandfather I have memories of. Judging from the vintage newspaper stories I’ve found about him, he was quite the local character!

Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723–1790), author of one of the most boring books ever written, The Wealth of Nations

Other forms include:

1. Adamo is Italian.

2. Adán is Spanish.

3. Adão is Portuguese.

4. Ádhamh is Irish.

5. Aatami is Finnish.

6. Adomas is Lithuanian.

7. Akamu is Hawaiian.

8. Aadam is Estonian.

9. Aaden is Somali.

10. Adami is Greenlandic and old-fashioned Georgian.

11. Ādams is Latvian.

12. Adamu is Swahili, Amharic, and Hausa.

13. Adda is Welsh, though I’d avoid this in an Anglophone area. Unfortunately, many boys with names ending in A are teased, and there’s no saving grace of this being a widely-known male name like Nikita or Ilya.

14. Aden is Romansh.

15. Ārama is Maori.

16. Âtame is Greenlandic.

17. Áttán is Sami.

18. Hadam is Sorbian.

19. Jadóm is Kashubian.

20. Odam is Uzbek.

21. Adem is Turkish.

22. Y-adam is a rare Vietnamese form.

Feminine forms:

1. Adamina is English, Polish, and Romani.

2. Adama is Hebrew and English.

3. Adamella is a rare, modern English form. I’m really not keen on this name! Some names don’t naturally lend themselves to feminine versions, and look forced.

4. Adamia is English.

The many forms of Eleanor

Queen Eleanor of Aquitane (1122 or 1124–1 April 1204), painted 1858 by Frederick Sandys

The name Eleanor, in the U.S. Top 100 in 1895 and again from 1897–42 (with its highest rank of #25 in 1920), is now quite trendy again. It began slowly rising in 1987, and was up to #32 in 2018. It’s not such a secret that more than a few parents choosing this name just want the trendy nicknames Ella and Nora.

Eleanor is also fairly popular in England and Wales, at #54, and New Zealand, at #76.

The name derives from the Old French form of the Occitan name Aliénor. One of the earliest known bearers was the above-pictured Queen Eleanor of Aquitane, named for her mother Aenor (of unknown etymology) and called alia Aenor, “the other Aenor,” to tell them apart.

It’s uncertain if other early bearers were Aenors to whom the name was retroactively recorded, or if the name has an alternate etymology.

Other forms of this name include:

1. Eleonore is German and Breton.

2. Eléonore is French. A variant is Éléonore.

3. Eleonora is Russian, Polish, Italian, German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Ukrainian, Greek, Bulgarian, Georgian, Czech, Latvian, Slovenian, Croatian, and Icelandic. The variant Eleonóra is Hungarian and Slovak.

4. Eleonoora is Finnish.

5. Eleonor is a Swedish variant.

6. Leonor is Portuguese and Spanish.

7. Leonora is Spanish, Italian, and Latvian.

8. Ellinor is Scandinavian.

9. Eilionoir is Scottish. The nickname is Eilidh.

10. Elinor is English.

Holy Roman Empress Eleonora Gonzaga (1598–1655), painted ca. 1623/24 by Justus Sustermans

11. Eleanora is English and Belarusian.

12. Elenora is also English.

13. Elnora is another English form.

14. Lenora is English, and is also an independent invented Soviet name meaning “Lenin is our weapon.” Some fool at Behind the Name thought my comment indicated I believed the name was created in the USSR and has no other etymology or history. Absolutely nowhere did I indicate I was ignorant of its other usage!

15. Leanora is English.

16. Lenore is English, most famous as the dead love interest in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” I have a character by this name, who indeed was named for the literary character.

17. Elionor is Catalan.

18. Alionor is Aragonese.

19. Eilénóra is Irish.

20. Eilionora is also Irish.

British novelist Elinor Glyn (1864–1943), whose work was hugely influential on early 20th century popular culture

21. Ailionóra is a rare Irish form.

22. Elenola is Hawaiian.

23. Eleonoor is Dutch.

24. Elianora is Sardinian.

25. Elinore is English.

26. Ellinoora is Finnish.

27. Léionore is Norman.

28. Lenoa is Provençal.

29. Llinor is Welsh.

30. Lonore is a rare Basque form. The variant Lonôre is Jèrriais.

The many forms of Anthony and Antonia

Saint Anthony the Great (ca. 12 January 251–17 January 356), by Giovanni di Nicola da Pisa

Though I’ve never been a huge fan of the English name Anthony, I love the Slavic form Anton. Its origins are in the Roman family name Antonius, ultimately of unknown Etruscan origin. The name became popular in the Christian world due to Saint Anthony the Great, an Egyptian who founded Christian monasticism.

Anthony became even more popular in the Middle Ages, thanks to Saint Anthony of Padua in the 13th century. He’s the patron saint of Portugal. Though the name was traditionally spelt Antony, the H was added in the 17th century due to an incorrect association with the Greek word anthos (flower).

The name was #103 in the U.S. when records began being kept in 1880, and has been in the Top 100 every year since except 1882, when it was #105. It was in the Top 50 from 1905–33, and again from 1936 till today. To date, its highest rank was #7 in 2007 and 2008. The name has been dropping in popularity rather sharply, and was down to #38 in 2018.

Anthony is also fairly popular in Ireland. It was #81 in 2017.

Other forms of the name include:

1. Anton is Russian, Scandinavian, Estonian, Macedonian, Icelandic, Finnish, Bulgarian, Slovenian, Ukrainian, Dutch, German, Romanian, Slovak, and Croatian. The variant Antón is Galician.

2. Antonio is Spanish, Italian, and Catalan. The variant António is Portuguese, and Antônio is Brazilian-Portuguese.

3. Antoine is French.

4. Antoon is Limburgish and Dutch. Dutch nicknames include Theunis, Toon, Ton, Theun, Teunis, and Teun.

5. Antonie is Dutch.

6. Antoniu is Romanian.

7. Antoni is Polish.

8. Antonije is Serbian and Bosnian.

9. Andon is Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Albanian.

10. Antono is Esperanto. The nickname is Anĉjo.

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, my third-fave writer, 17/29 January 1860–2/15 July 1904

11. Antonios is Greek.

12. Antonis is also Greek.

13. Tõnis is Estonian.

14. Anttoni is Finnish.

15. Anakoni is Hawaiian. The nickname is Akoni.

16. Antanas is Lithuanian.

17. Andoni is Basque.

18. Antton is also Basque.

19. Antnin is Maltese.

20. Atoni is Maori.

Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, 4 March 1678–28 July 1741

21. Antone is Corsican.

22. Atonio is Maori.

23. Jaontek is Vilamovian.

24. Pipindorio is Caló Romani.

25. Tönu is Swiss-German.

26. Tunièn is Emilian-Romagnol, a Gallo–Italic language.

27. Antanv is Konkani, an Indian language spoken along the Konkan coast in the southwestern area of the country.

28. Ante is Croatian, and the name of the vile leader of the fascist Ustaše during WWII.

29. Antonín is Czech.

30. Antal is Hungarian.

Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, 8 September 1841–1 May 1904

31. Antonijs is Latvian.

32. Antons is also Latvian.

Female forms:

1. Antonia is Italian, Spanish, Scandinavian, German, Dutch, Romanian, Greek, English, and Croatian. The variant Antónia is Portuguese, Hungarian, and Slovak. Antônia is Brazilian-Portuguese; Antònia is Catalan; and Antonía is Icelandic.

2. Antoniya is Bulgarian.

3. Antonija is Serbian, Slovenian, Sorbian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Croatian.

4. Antonie is Czech. The last two letters are pronounced separately, not as one.

5. Antoinette is French.

6. Antía is Galician.

7. Antona is Sardinian.

8. Antanė is Lithuanian.

9. Antonina is Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, and Italian.

The many forms of Alfred

King Alfred the Great of England, ca. 847-849–26 October 899, my 36-greats-grandfather

Alfred is an English, French, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Polish, Estonian, Slovenian, Finnish, Catalan, Georgian, Armenian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, and Serbian name derived from the original Old English Ælfræd (elf counsel). Its roots are ælf (elf) and ræd (counsel). Though many Anglo–Saxon names fell out of use after the Norman invasion and occupation, Alfred stayed popular thanks to my amazing ancestor Alfred the Great, a fellow scholar and person of letters.

By the Middle Ages, the name had become rare, but returned to common use in the 18th century. When the U.S. began keeping track of name popularity in 1880, it was #35, and stayed in the Top 100 (albeit on a very gradual downward decline) till 1950. Its highest rank was #32 in 1882.

Since dropping out of the Top 100, it’s mostly declined in popularity each year. In 2018, it was #872. The name is much more popular in England and Wales (#107), Sweden (#12), Denmark (#8), and Norway (#52).

The variation Alfréd is Slovak, Czech, and Hungarian, and Alfreð is Icelandic. Other forms of Alfred include:

1. Alfredo is Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Galician, Aragonese, and Esperanto.

2. Alfrēds is Latvian.

3. Alfredas is Lithuanian.

4. Alfrid is Tatar.

5. Alfredos is Greek.

6. Alfreeti is Finnish.

7. Alfried is a Dutch and German variation.

8. Alured is Manx.

9. Elfried is an alternate German and Dutch form.

10. Alfredu is Asturian and Sicilian.

11. Alperda is Basque.

Female forms:

1. Alfreda is English, Italian, German, and Polish.

2. Alfrédie is a rare Norman form.

3. Albrea is Middle English.

4. Alfredine is a rare French and English form.

5. Alverdine was occasionally used in English in the 19th century.

6. Alvedine is the 20th century form of the uncommon Alverdine.