Male names of literary origin, A-F

18th century miniature of Tariel and Avtandil meeting in a cave

Aminta was coined by Italian poet Torquato Tasso for his 1573 play of the same name. It’s derived from Greek name Amyntas, from amyntor (defender).

Amiran is the hero of Medieval Georgian poet Moses of Khoni’s great romance epic Amiran-Darejaniani. The name is derived from mythical Georgian hero Amirani, of unknown etymology. I have a character by this name, who breaks out of prison after four years of Soviet torture and walks all the way into Iran, over the Alborz Mountains, to find his wife Alina.

Astrophel was coined by 16th century British poet Sir Philip Sidney for his sonnet collection Astrophel and Stella. The name probably means “star-lover,” from Greek roots aster (star) and philos (lover, friend).

Avtandil is another Georgian name, created by Shota Rustaveli for his 12th century national epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin. It’s derived from Persian roots aftab (sunshine) and dil (heart).

Bayard is a magical bay horse owned by Renaud de Montauban and his brothers in Medieval French poetry. It derives from Old French baiart (bay-coloured).

Caspian is a character in C.S. Lewis’s famous Chronicles of Narnia series. Caspian, who débuts in the fourth book, is Narnia’s rightful king who’s been forced into exile by his evil Uncle Miraz. The name probably comes from that of the Caspian Sea, which in turn derives from the city of Qazvin, Iran, named for the ancient Kaspian tribe.

Cedric was created by Sir Walter Scott for a character in his 1819 novel Ivanhoe. He based it on Cerdic, the first historically-verified King of Wessex (and my 48-greats-grandfather). The name is possibly connected to Brythonic name Caratacos, which comes from Celtic root car (love).

Lithograph of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, date unknown

Csongor (CHON-gor) was created by Hungarian writer Mihály Vörösmarty for his 1830 play Csongor és Tünde. It probably derives from a Turkic root meaning “falcon.”

Cymbeline is the title character of a 1609 Shakespeare play about a mythological king based on Cunobelinus, a British chieftain who’s said to have ruled in the first century of the Common Era. It may mean “hound of Belenus,” from Old Celtic root koun (hound) and Belenus, a Gaulish god of the Sun often equated with Apollo. Belenus may mean “bright, brilliant” in Old Celtic.

Cyrano is famous as the title character of French writer Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac. The name may come from Cyrene, the Latinized name of Ancient Greek city Kyrene (now in Libya), which was named after Queen Kyrene of Thessaly. It ultimately means “sovereign queen.” Rostand’s character is based on a real person, 17th century satirist Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac.

Dorian was created by Oscar Wilde for his 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, derived either from Ancient Greek tribe the Dorians or Irish surname Doran (descendant of Deoradhán). The name Deoradhán in turn means “wanderer, exile.”

Ebenezer means “stone of help” in Hebrew. This is used as a place name in the Bible, but most famously used as a person’s name in Charles Dickens’s 1843 novel A Christmas Carol. This is also the real name of next-oldest child Ben Pepper in Margaret Sidney’s Five Little Peppers series. Ms. Sidney used a lot of strange or pretentious names.

Amato as Cyrano de Bergerac, 1910

Etzel is a character in the great Medieval German saga Die Nibelungenlied. It’s a form of Attila, as Etzel is a fictionalised version of Attila the Hun. The name may mean “little father,” from Gothic root atta (father) and a diminutive suffix.

Figaro was created by French playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais for the protagonist of his plays The Barber of Seville (1775), The Marriage of Figaro (1784), and The Guilty Mother (1792). The name may be derived from the French phrase fils Caron, son of Caron (the playwright’s nickname).

Florimond is the name of the prince in some versions of Sleeping Beauty. It possibly derives from Latin florens (flourishing, prosperous) and Ancient Germanic mund (protection).

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).

All about the name Francis

Saint Francis of Assisi (ca. 1182–3 October 1226), by Jusepe de Ribera, 1643

Francis is the English and French form of the Latin Franciscus (Frenchman), which ultimately derives from the Germanic tribe the Franks. They were named for a kind of spear they used. The name became popular in Christian Europe because of the abovepictured St. Francis of Assisi (né Giovanni). His Francophile father nicknamed him Francesco.

St. Francis renounced his dad’s wealth and devoted his life to serving the poor and downtrodden. He also founded the Franciscan order. Because of his popularity and how beloved he was, the name became widespread in continental Western Europe in the Middle Ages. It was only in the 16th century that it became common in Britain, however.

The name was #50 when the U.S. began tracking name popularity in 1880, and stayed in the Top 100 till 1955. Its top rank was #29 in 1915. Though Frances is well-established for females, Francis was fairly common for girls during this same time.

In 2018, the name was #480 in the U.S., and in 2017, it was #232 in England and Wales.

Frank Sinatra (1915–1998), often called the quintessential Sagittarian man

The variant Frank has always been more popular. It was #6 in the U.S. in 1880, and stayed in the Top 10 till 1922, the Top 20 till 1940, the Top 50 till 1970, and the Top 100 till 1988. In 2018, it was #392. This was also a mainstay in the girls’ Top 1000 (albeit mostly in the lower reaches) through the 1930s.

Frank was #32 in Sweden in 2018, and #181 in England and Wales in 2017.

Other forms include:

1. Franz is German.

2. Frans is Dutch, Finnish, and Scandinavian.

3. Francesco is Italian.

4. Francisco is Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician.

5. François is French.

6. Frens is Limburgish.

7. Francescu is Corsican.

8. Frantziscu is Sardinian.

9. František is Czech and Slovak.

10. Frantzisko is Basque.

1815 self-portrait of Spanish painter Francisco de Goya (1746–1828)

11. Patxi is another Basque form.

12. Franjo is Slovenian, Serbian, and Croatian. I’m told it’s rather rare in Serbia nowadays, and that Franja is more common, albeit just as rare.

13. Frančišek is Slovenian.

14. Franc (FRAHNTS) is also Slovenian.

15. Franciszek is Polish.

16. Frañsez is Breton.

17. Francesc is Catalan.

18. Ferenc (Feh-REHNTS) is Hungarian. Nicknames include Feri and Ferkó.

19. Frang is Scottish.

20. Ffrancis is Welsh.

Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771), who designed many Imperial Russian buildings; probably painted by Lucas Conrad Pfandzelt

21. Pranciškus is Lithuanian.

22. Proinsias is Irish.

23. Ċikku is Maltese.

24. Fragkiskos is Greek.

25. Francëszk is Kashubian.

26. Francho is Aragonese.

27. Francisc is Romanian.

28. Frantsishak is Belarusian.

29. Franġisk is Maltese.

30. Franziskus is German.

Hungarian novelist and playwright Ferenc Molnár, 1878–1952

31. Frantsisk is Russian and Bulgarian.

32. Fraunçouès is Norman.

33. Porinju is Malayalam, an Indian language.

34. Prainsseas is Scottish.

35. Pranchi is another Malayalam form, used in central Kerala.

36. Françesku is Albanian.

37. Francisko is Esperanto.

38. Palakiko is Hawaiian.

39. Francisks is Latvian.

40. Francés is Occitan.

French writer Françoise de Graffigny, 1695–1758

Frances didn’t emerge as a female-only name till the 17th century. Prior, Francis and Frances were used indistinguishably. The name was #42 in the U.S. in 1880, and slowly rose to its highest rank of #8 in 1918. It very slowly descended the chart, exiting the Top 100 in 1956. In 2018, it was #445.

Other forms include:

1. Francesca is Italian and Catalan.

2. Francisca is Spanish and Portuguese.

3. Franciska is Hungarian. Nicknames include Franci and Fanni. The alternate form Frančiška is Slovenian, with the nickname Francka.

4. Frangag is Scottish.

5. Frañseza is Breton.

6. Frantziska is Basque.

7. Františka is Czech.

8. Françoise is French.

9. Franciszka is Polish.

10. Frantzisca is Sardinian.

U.S. photographer and journalist Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1866–1952

11. Francine is English and French.

12. Fragkiska is a rare Greek form.

13. Franka is Croatian.

14. Franziska is German, and the name of the most infamous royal pretender of all time, Franziska Schanzkowska. I’m stunned there are still Anastasians convinced she was who she claimed to be! Countless DNA tests from multiple labs and countries, and a wealth of other damning evidence, have exposed the truth once and for all!

15. Franjica is Croatian.

16. Fransiska is Scandinavian and Icelandic.

17. Pranciška is Lithuanian.

18. Frančeska is Latvian.

19. Francëszka is Kashubian.

Dante and Virgil with Paolo and Francesca, painted by Ary Scheffer, ca. 1835, depicting tragic lovers Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta

20. Francheska is Russian and Bulgarian.

21. Franckage is Manx.

22. Frantzeska is Greek.

23. Jofranka is Romani.

24. Pantxika is Basque and Occitan.

The Fs of Slavic names

Male:

Feofilakt is the Russian form of the Greek name Theophylatkos (watched by God). Beautiful meaning, but such a mouthful, and not the easiest name for a kid to learn to spell. The nickname is Filat.

Ferapont is the Russian form of the Greek name Therapon, which means “worshipper” or “servant.”

Ferekrat is the Serbian and Ukrainian form of the Greek name Pherekrates (to bring power). This was the name of an Ancient Greek comic poet.

Filaret is the Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian form of the Greek name Philaretos (virtuous friend; friend of virtue). This has become a new favourite Russian male name recently. I have two characters by this name, one minor and one an important secondary character. The meaning is very symbolic to both of them.

Filimon is the Russian form of the Greek name Philemon (affectionate).

Frontin (Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Bosnian, archaic French), Frontyn (Polish) are forms of the Latin name Frontius (one with a small forehead).

Female:

Faina is Russian and Latvian, and may come from the Greek name Phaenna (shining). In some versions of Greek myths, she was one of the three Graces.

Faustyna is the Polish form of the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese name Faustina, which ultimately derives from Latin name Faustus (lucky, auspicious). I’ve always loved this name! The male form is Faustyn.

Fedra is the Bosnian, Croatian, Galician, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian form of the Greek name Phaedra (bright).

Flura is a Russian, Belarusian, Tajik, and Kazakh name I can’t find an etymology for.

Frina is the Russian form of the Greek name Phryne (a nickname meaning “toad,” literally “the brown animal”).

Frosina is the Macedonian form of the Greek name Euphrosyne (merriment, mirth). This is my favourite form of the name by a long shot!

The many forms of Philip (and other horsey names)

Philip the Apostle, by Peter Paul Rubens

In spite of being considered somewhat outdated or geriatric these days, I’ve always quite liked the name Philip. It’s a solid classic that could use a comeback. Perhaps my positive opinion was influenced by having two friends named Philip in junior high, both of them great guys.

Philip means “friend/lover of horses,” from Greek philos (lover, friend) and hippos (horse). One of the Twelve Apostles, Philip was originally much more popular among Eastern Christians. In the Middle Ages, it became more common in the West.

Philip sank in popularity in the Anglophone world in the 17th century, thanks to King Felipe II of Spain launching the Armada against England. It became popular again in the 19th century.

Infante Felipe of Spain, Duke of Parma (1720–1765), by Louis-Michel van Loo

The one-L spelling was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1880–1971, and again from 1973–88. It then began a slow decline, though in recent years, it’s gradually begun moving up. Its highest rank to date was #52 in 1941.

In 2017, it was #424 in the U.S.; #414 in England and Wales; #81 in Norway; #74 in Sweden; #39 in Denmark; and #206 in The Netherlands.

The two-L variant has always been less popular than the one-L, though it was Top 200 in the U.S. from 1880–1936, and Top 100 from 1937–91. Its highest rank to date was #64 in 1950. In 2017, it was #424 (same as the one-L spelling).

King Philippe IV the Fair of France (1268–1314), by Jean du Tillet

Other forms include:

1. Felipe is Spanish and Portuguese.

2. Felip is Catalan.

3. Philippe is French.

4. Philipp is German.

5. Filip is Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian, Polish, Czech, Dutch, Scandinavian, Bulgarian, Slovak, Macedonian, Hungarian, Finnish, and Croatian.

6. Filipp is Russian.

7. Pylyp is Ukrainian.

8. Pilypas is Lithuanian.

9. Filips is Latvian.

10. Filippo is Italian.

King Felipe II (1527–1598), by Tinian

11. Vilppu is Finnish.

12. Pilib is Irish.

13. Filib is Scottish.

14. Fülöp is Hungarian.

15. Filippos is Greek.

16. Piripi is Maori.

17. Filpa is Sami.

18. Phélip is Gascon.

19. Phillippus is Afrikaans.

20. Pilibbos is Armenian.

21. Pilipe is Georgian.

22. Ph’lip is Jèrriais.

Queen Filipa of Portugal (1360–1415), by António de Holanda

Feminine forms:

1. Philippa is English and German.

2. Philipa is English.

3. Phillipa is English.

4. Filipa is Portuguese.

5. Filippa is Italian, Greek, and Swedish.

6. Philippine is French.

7. Felipa is Spanish.

8. Filipina is Polish.

9. Filippina is Italian.

French poet, historian, and soldier Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné, 1552–1630

Other horse-related names:

Unisex:

1. Agrippa is a Latin name which may mean “wild horse,” from Greek roots agrios (wild) and hippos. Other forms include Agrippina (a Latin diminutive) and Agrafena (Russian, feminine only).

Female:

1. Alkippe comes from Greek alke (strength) and hippos.

2. Eowyn means “horse joy” in Old English, from eoh (horse) and wyn (friend). As most people know, this was invented for LOTR.

3. Epona means “horse” in Gaulish, from epos. She was the Celtic goddess of horses.

4. Jorunn means “horse love” in Norwegian, from Ancient Scandinavian jór (horse) and unna (love).

5. Rosalind means “tender/soft/flexible horse” in English, from Germanic hros (horse) and lind.

Rosamund Clifford, mistress of King Henry II of England (before 1150–ca. 1176), by John William Waterhouse

6. Rosamund means “horse protection” in English, from Germanic hros and mund.

7. Hippolyte means “freer of horses” in Greek, from hippos and luo (to loosen). Other forms include Hippolyta (Latin) and Ippolita (Russian).

8. Farnaspa means “horse glory” in Ancient Persian.

9. Lysippe means “she who lets loose the horses” in Greek.

10. Zeuxippe means “bridled horse” in Greek.

Hippocrates, ca. 460–370 BCE

Male: 

1. Archippos means “master of horses” in Greek, from archos and hippos.

2. Ashwin means “possessed of horses” in Hindi and several other Indian languages.

3. Eachann means “brown horse” in Gaelic, from each (horse) and donn (brown).

4. Hippocrates means “horse power” in Greek, from hippos and kratos (power).

5. Hippolytos is the male form of Hippolyta. Other forms include Ippolit (Russian), Ippolito (Italian), Hippolyte (French), Hipólito (Spanish and Portuguese), and Hipolit (Polish).

6. Tasunka means “his horse” in Sioux.

7. Xanthippos means “yellow horse” in Greek, from xanthos (yellow) and hippos.

8. Ajwad means “horses” in Arabic.

9. Alabandos means “horse victory” in Greek.

10. Aristippos means “the best horse” in Greek.

Hipólito José da Costa Pereira Furtado de Mendonça (1774–1823), Father of the Brazilian Press

11. Chrysippos means “horse of gold” in Greek.

12. Dexippos means “horse reception” or “to receive horses” in Greek.

13. Lysippos is the male form of Lysippe.