Literary Baby Names

Let's Look in Books

There are different ways to pick a newborn’s name. You could go the “flavor of the month” route—no doubt many girls were named Katniss or Hermione when The Hunger Games and Harry Potter arrived in theaters. Or maybe it’s a family moniker. Of course, if you get quizzical looks when you introduce yourself at a party and feel compelled to add “it’s a family name,” you’ll have to think about whether you want to pass that on.

There’s another resource: the wide world of literature. In some cases, such names are rich in history, assured of a place in our pantheon of literary heroes. Let’s look at 15 distinctive names fit for any generation. In some cases, we’re citing last names—flip it around, whatever works!


Author Amy Tan’s deep-Chinese-cultural-dive novel about four immigrant Chinese women and their four American-born daughters is titled The Joy Luck Club. Mah-jongg is their game, and Waverly is the name of Lindo and Tin Jong’s daughter. Other interesting names include Suyuan, Lena, and Popo.


This name is from the lead character Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s epic tale of adolescent angst, the 1951 novel The Catcher In The Rye. Actor Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in the 2002 Jennifer Aniston indie movie The Good Girl was named Holden for this very reason.


In John Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes Of Wrath, Winfield is the youngest child in the Joad family, struggling through The Great Depression. Winfield (along with his sister, Ruthie) adapts to the migrant lifestyle as his family moves westward to California, and does his fair share of hard work.


American humorist Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Langhorne Clemens) created the famous literary character Tom Sawyer back in 1876. Of course, Tom is still a great name, too. Tom’s BFF was Huckleberry Finn, and while someone named Finn would definitely fit alongside someone named Sawyer, Huckleberry would be a much…bolder…choice.


One Hundred Years of Solitude is a Nobel Prize-winning novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In the tale, Colonel Aureliano is the father to 17 sons, and he names each one of them Aureliano. He surely had pride in his name, but it must have been tough to get one particular son’s attention. Lucky that the book includes a visual family tree for reference.


Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride And Prejudice is the source for this name, where Mr. Darcy, a wealthy Englishman, makes an impression. Be on notice that this character is an aristocrat and a bit full of himself, so a certain amount of entitlement and ‘tude baggage could come along with the name. Just so you know.


In Charles Dickens 1861 novel Great Expectations, Estella is a heartbreaker. The star of the novel is a boy named Pip, so if you’re looking for something very short, there’s another great naming opportunity. There’s also a character in the novel with the last name Pumblechook. We don’t currently recommend using that one as a first name.


You’ll find the character Winnie Foster in Natalie Babbitt’s 1973 book about immortality, Tuck Everlasting. Of course, there’s another famous Winnie you may have heard of, that silly ol’ bear of very little brain that lives with his friends Piglet, Tigger and Roo in the Hundred Acre Wood, from A.A. Milne.


Which Charlotte do you imagine? Charlotte Doyle? Charlotte Brontë (who of course, isn’t fictional)? We can’t help thinking of E.B. White’s title character in Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte is a spider, of course, and she’s besties with Wilbur the pig. Speaking of Wilbur, that name peaked in popularity in 1910—but you never know. These name things can be cyclical.


Author Louisa May Alcott penned the epic Little Women. Her novel was published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, starring four sisters having more conventional names, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The book continues to speak to us, as movie versions and TV miniseries make waves here in the 21st century.


We already mentioned Charlotte, but why not think of her family? Author Emily Jane Brontë wrote the classic title Wuthering Heights, and Anne is known for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Here’s another umlaut opportunity! And if that uncommon punctuation throws you off just a bit, fear not: it’s pronounced BRON-tay.


To Kill A Mockingbird’s Pulitzer Prize-winning author was born Nelle Harper Lee, and she dropped her first name for the novel. Her book featured three distinctive character names. One was Jean Louise Finch, nicknamed Scout. Then there was Scout’s brother Jeremy, nicknamed Jem. Scout’s father, played memorably in the movie version by Gregory Peck, was named Atticus.

Daisy and Amory

Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald had a way with names. His classic The Great Gatsby is often reverently referred to as “The Great American Novel.” In it is a character named Daisy Fay Buchanan, and she’s the apple of Jay Gatsby’s eye. And because there’s just no end to great ideas, we’ll also mention Amory from his novel This Side Of Paradise.

Feeling inspired? Share your literary baby name ideas with us on Twitter or Facebook!

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