Modern Monikers

names to think about

Literary Heroes

I love literary names, mostly because I love literature. I think the heroes of the story are usually so well named. Here are my picks of literary protagonist names for boys.

Odysseus – The protagonist in Homer’s epic The Odyssey, Odysseus was an epic hero, who faced many obstacles on his long trek home. The meaning, “angry man” is not very pleasant, but I love the overly Greek-nees to it. The Latin version, Ulysses, is known by many as the first name of President Grant (even though it was actually his middle name). I also adore the nickname Odie and I think it’s time for it to shake off its Garfield connection.

Dante – At #268, Dante has an upward trajectory since the 1960’s. Known to many high schoolers as the name of the Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, the author and narrator of the epic Divine Comedy. This Latin moniker, meaning “enduring”, is one of my favorites. It has a recognizeable but different feeling. It’s handsome, distinguished, and likeable. I think the nickname Dan is entirely suitable.

Arthur – I am a huge fan of the Arthurian legend. Knights, ladies, magical swords stuck in rocks. It doesn’t get much better. Celtic for “bear”, Arthur sits at #338. It’s been on a steady decline for around 70 years, but is starting to be seen by parents looking for a classic yet underused names. It has further literary credence from characters in To Kill a MockingbirdHarry Potter, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur was also the name of famed American playwright Arthur Miller. When you add the athletic reference to Arthur Ashe and the scientific reference to Arthur Conan Doyle, you get and incredibly well-rounded name. Nicknames Art and Artie make it even more usable.

Hamlet - Alright, I’m not really suggesting this one. There are plenty other more usable names from Shakespeare. But taking away the inevitable “to be or not to be” jokes, Hamlet becomes a very handsome name. Sure, it starts with “ham”. But hear me out. Just say it out loud. Notice how the letters melt together and roll off the tongue. It has such a pleasing sound. Will was probably using Hamlet as a slight memoriam to his son, Hamnet, who died years before penning this most famous tragedy. You never know, Ophelia is getting more popular. Could Hamlet be far behind? (No.)

Crusoe – I think this surname is very handsome. The nicknames Crue and Cruse are adorable and the fashionable -o sound and the end makes this a big contender. For the titular shipwrecked hero in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, I think it has the makings to become popular, but it probably won’t.

James - Bond. James Bond. He’s the kick-ass agent 007 from Sir Ian Fleming’s novels. His martini-drinking, tuxedo-wearing, gadget-wielding, sexiness has made countless women want to be with him and even more men want to be like him. At #17, James is popular. While the reference to Agent Bond could be what some parents went for, it’s unlikely. There are a plethora of namesakes, from several presidents and roayls, to a slew of actors, singers, and other entertainers. Although my favorite James was the creator of the Muppets, Jim Henson. Hebrew for “supplanter” James appears in the Bible, Harry Potter, Star TrekJames and the Giant Peach, just to name a few. It has a few nicknames, too. Some go for Jim, Jem, or Jimmy, but the stylish Jamie is my pick.

Atticus – Though a Roman literary name, Atticus is probably most famous for the upstanding patriarch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Lawyer Atticus Finch tries to do right by his conscience and his children by representing an African-American man in the Deep South. Greek for “from Athens” Atticus sits at #462. It’s jumped several places in the last few years and is a favorite among celebrities, chosen by Casey Affleck, Daniel Baldwin, and Mary Louise Parker for their children.

Literary Heroines

Literary names have so much meaning. Not just the names, but the characters. Sometimes a bad character can make a good name unusable. But a great character can make a plain name unforgettable. Here are some of my favorite literary protagonist names for girls. (None of these are from children’s books, that’s going to be a different list.)

Penelope – Odysseus’ ever-faithful wife in Homer’s The Odyssey, Penelope is a Greek name meaning, “weaver”. This is one of my favorite names and I love the reference. Penelope is a strong name made more friendly with the adorable nicknames, Penny, Poppy, and Nell. At #200, it is certain to gain in popularity after Tina Fey named her daughter, Penelope Athena.

Viola – In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Viola survives a shipwreck and disguises herself as a man in order to find work and her lost twin brother, Sebastian. Latin for “violet”, Viola as has certain musical flair, even though it has a different pronunciation than the stringed instrument.

Jane – An English name meaning, “God’s grace”, Jane is the name of Charlotte Bronte’s eponymous heroine character in Jane Eyre. She is determined and opinionated. Just the sort of heroine to look up to. As a variation of John, it can be the namesake of many names, like Jean, Joan, Janelle, Jeanette, etc. Also, the “plain Jane” connotations are not true for this sweet and spunky name. Also, at #384, Jane is neither common, nor popular, yet familiar.

Elinor - Jane Austen’s incredible Sense and Sensibility is my favorite. It’s just amazing. And Elinor is my favorite character. Sure, most people go for Pride and Prejudice or Marianne, but I have more in common with the proper and level-headed Elinor. Although more commonly spelled “Eleanor”, Elinor has a spunky, Welsh-type feeling to it. Meaning “shining, bright” it has some equally sunny nicknames in Ellie and Nora.

Josephine - Jo March. I wanted to be Jo March. She didn’t take “no” for an answer. She stood up for what she believed in and remained true to her heart. She wanted more for her life than what was expected of her. Josephine is the feminine variation of “Joseph”, meaning “Jehovah increases”. At #186, it certainly has increased in popularity over the past twenty years, but may start to level off soon. I adore the nicknames potential. From feisty Fifi to jovial Josie to precious Posey, Josephine gets a gold star in my book.

Scarlett - Scarlett O’Hara from Margaret Mitchell’s epic Gone with the Wind is the quintessential southern belle. A wealthy woman who is used to getting her way, Ms. O’Hara goes through intense hardship and comes out a survivor. Scarlett is an English name meaning “red”. Some parents spell it without the additional “t”, but I prefer to think that “scarlet” is the color and “Scarlett” is the name. While the intense Scar may not be the nickname you prefer, Scarlett lends itself to a plethora of familiar choices: Carlo, Cari, Lettie, Etta, Arlie, etc.

Floral Names for Girls

I can’t get over floral names. They are so sweet and feminine (and they age so well!). Of course, several sisters all with flower names seems a bit garden-y (a la Keeping Up Appearances). Here are my faves to add to your bouquet.

Fleur – The French word for “flower”, Fleur is sweet and simple. Of course, it has the potential to sound somewhat pretentious. To me, it makes a cheerful and unexpected middle choice.

Primrose – Some people just hate this name. But I can’t see why! Of English origin, Primrose means “first rose”. It would be wonderful for a first child and the earthy nickname Rosie brings down the prim and proper feeling.

Violet – I may be a bit biased, since it’s a family name, but Violet is gorgeous. (It’s also my favorite flower and color.) Some people may be a bit turned off by the Willy Wonka character, Violet Beauregard (“Violet! You’re turning violet, Violet!”), but at #123 and still climbing, that may no longer be a concern. There are also references to Lemony Snicket, Downton Abbey, Pixar, and The Boxcar Children, as well as the name of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s daughter.

Amaryllis – A Greek flower name, Amaryllis always reminds me of the bossy little girl in The Music Man. But the simple nickname Amy makes it more down-to-earth. I also think this makes a great alternative to Lily and Mary.

Flora – Another name meaning “flower”, but with a decidedly different feel than Fleur. The Roman goddess of spring, Flora has a old-lady quality. She’s sweet yet spunky and would pair nicely with siblings like Grace, Millie, and Hazel. She hasn’t broken the top 1000 since the 1970’s, and she’s ripe for a comeback.

Marigold – First off, the nicknames Mari and Goldie make this a winner for me. Marigold has a certain sunny feeling. I’m really surprised this isn’t more popular. With all the Lily, Rose, and even Violet’s out there, Marigold makes a fresh, unexpected pick.

Iris – A Greek name meaning “rainbow”, Iris has a sweet, but serious tone. I think it makes a great double-barrelled name, as in Iris-Claire, Iris-Jane, and Mary-Iris. It’s also a fantastic middle choice. At #316 and slowly climbing, Iris could become popular. It has namesakes in writer Iris Murdoch as well as Jude Law’s celebrity baby.

Bryony – Could it be the new Brittany? No. But it does have the same kind of feel. Of Latin origin, Bryony means “to sprout”. It has many spelling variations including Briony, used in the novel, Atonement. I love the spunky nickname Bry and could be used to honor a Brian.

 

What do you think of these? Do you have some other off-beat favorites from the horticulture world?

Howdy! Names for Your Little Cowpoke

I love western names. They just seem so rugged and masculie, yet sophisticated. Here are my picks for your new cowboy:

Wyatt – This kind of goes without saying. You don’t get much more western than Wyatt Earp. An English name meaning “brave in war” is quintessentially cowboy. I think the name is nearly perfect, but at #57, so do a lot of other people.

Wesley - Meaning “western meadow”, Wesley screams cowboy. This pleasing name is made even more friendly with the nickname Wes. Famous bearers include director Wes Craven, musician Wes Montgomery, and actor Wesley Snipes, as well as the surname of John and Charles who were the founders of the Christian denomination, Methodism.

Nathaniel – A Hebrew name, meaning “gift of God”, Nathaniel is fairly high up the charts at #82. But don’t let the slight popularity disuade you from this rustic, handsome choice. It has literary ties to Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well as characters in works by Shakespeare and Dickens. Nathaniel (as well as Nat, Nate, and Nathan) has an old-west sherriff feel; he’s definitely one of the good guys.

Boone – As in, Daniel Boone. It is an English/French name meaning, “a blessing”. I just love that meaning. But, as much as I like the easy-going Boone, I think it goes better as a middle name.

Floyd – One of my favorite Welsh names (meaning “gray-haired”), Floyd is uncommon and recognizable. I has a quirky, moth-eaten quality that I just love. Floyd is very versatile, from the Muppets, to Mayberry, to classic rock, Floyd can fit in anywhere.

Hollis – I just adore Hollis. It’s of English origin meaning, “near the holly bushes”. Like many western names, Hollis is soft and strong at the same time. I can picture a cute little boy and a big, burly man with the name.

Everett – The English version of the German, Eberhard, Everett means “brave as a wild boar”. It’s so cowboy. At #287, it is not really heard of, but not unheard of. Sophisticated and earthy, Everett is given even more credence in the virtue-y nickname, Ever.

 

What other western-type names do you love?

Magical names from Harry Potter

I love Harry Potter. I can only imagine how much fun/horrible it was to name all of those characters; most of whom had names that matched their character in some way. Here are some of my favorite names from the world of our favorite boy wizard.

Alastor – So, this is one of my favorite names in general (though I prefer the Alistair or Alasdair spelling).The Gaelic for of Alexander, meaning “defending warrior”, Alastor is the name of ex-auror and DATDA teacher, “Mad-Eye” Moody. I just love the sound. It seems so masculine and antiquated.

Bellatrix - Alright, so yeah, she was a pretty evil lady, but I just love the name. Part Isabella, part Beatrix, all awesome. The meaning, “female warrior” is certainly appropo for the Death Eater, and the galatical reference as one of the stars in the Orion constellation, makes this a name worth looking at (even if you would never actually use it).

Hermione - I have always had a soft spot for Hermione. My father has had several nicknames for me, especially ones that have no relation to my actual name. His favorite and mine is “Gertrude Hermione”. I have a sinking sispicion that the Hermione part of my nickname is after Hermione Gingold, the actress who played Eulalie McKechnie Shinn, the mayor’s wife in “The Music Man”. Having been a fan of hers for a long time before we met Hermione Granger, I was aware of how to pronounce it (her-MY-o-nee). A Greek name meaning “messenger”, with ties not only to HP, but Helen of Troy and William Shakespeare, Hermione is a great choice.

Lavender -This is my new favorite color/flower name. I just adore the “Lav” and “Endie” nicknames. Not only the name of a HP character, Lavender is also a character in Roald Dahl’s children’s book, Matilda. The essential oil from the lavender plant has been used for its healing and cleansing properties, as well as its fragrance. Lavender is an off-beat, yet recognizable choice.

Minerva – An ancient Latin name meaning “intellect”, Minerva is a bold choice. However, the nickname may make it more approachable. While Minerva is staunch and serious, Minnie is fiesty and playful. Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom, magic, poetry, and commerce. She is usually grouped with other virgin goddesses, Diana and Vesta (which I think makes a fabulous sibling set).

Percy – I love Percy. Not so much the character (he was a jerk), but the name. A French place-name, Percy is a rare name that feel both aristocratic and playful. Parents and children should recognize it from Thomas the Tank Engine, but it also has a literary flair in the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. I can’t think of any pthing negative to say about the soft yet strong Percy.

Remus – An ancient Latin name with an unknown meaning, Remus is a bit of a hipster choice. But I just can’t help myself. Remus and his twin brother Romulus were the mythological founders of Rome. However, people may remember the stereotypical (and controversial) “Uncle Remus”, made famous in Disney’s Song of the South. Despite its historical namesakes, Remus still gets a thumbs-up from me as bold pick, made more usable with the nickname, Remy.

What are some of your favorite names from the series? I know I could write several more posts based on Harry Potter names.

Irish Faves for Boys

I have a soft spot for Irish boy names. They just seem so masculine, distinguished, and slightly unique to me. Here are some of my favorites from the Emerald Isle.

Cian (KEE-an)- Cian reminds me of the really popular -an names a la Aidan, Keegan, Brendan (which are all Irish), but it still remains a fresh choice. Its meaning, “ancient” gives a nod to yesteryear while remaining modern.

Cormac – This strong name, with its rustic meaning (“tree trunk”), is aces in my book. I’m not sure that it can get much better than Cormac. Famous bearer, author Cormac McCarthy, gives this name a literary edge. Trade in the tired Corey nickname for spunky, friendly Mac, and you’ve got a winner.

Desmond – Ah, Desmond. Once thought of as only the name of Bishop Tutu, it has been brought back into the limelight, thanks to Henry Ian Cusick’s character on the ABC mega-hit, Lost. The meaning, “man from south Munster”, isn’t much to write home about, but the nicknames Des and Desi may be enough to nudge you in his camp.

Flynn - Given new credence from Disney’s Tangled, Flynn has a fresh spirit that is a great replacement for Finn. Although the meaning, “son of the red-haired one” is slightly awkward, it remains a solid choice for those wanting a simple, earthy name.

Rafferty – Rafferty has an old-school quality that is becoming very hip. Meaning “prosperity”, Rafferty was chosen by Jude Law for his son. I love the nicknames Rafe and Raff to make the stoic Rafferty a bit more approachable.

Rory - While having a similar beginning and ending as Rafferty, Rory has a decidedly different feel. Rory is much more light-hearted that has slowly shifted to the girls’ side. However, at #750 in 2010, the masculine Rory is more popular than the feminine one. Meaning “red king” Rory is all-boy to me. It also doesn’t hurt to be the namesake of a male Doctor Who companion.

Seamus – While Sean is the Irish form of John, Seamus is the Irish form of James. With its meaning, “supplanter”, light nickname, Sea (Shay), and Harry Potter connection, I am surprised it isn’t higher on the list; at #878, it’s even lower than Rory. But I have a feeling it could climb higher if more people realize all it has going for it.

What are some of your favorite Irish names for boys?

Irish Faves for Girls

Even though St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, I just can’t stop thinking about some of my favorite Irish names. Of course, these names may not be so easy to pronounce by just looking at them, but don’t let that ruin their charm.

Aoife (EE-fa)- This gorgeous Gaelic name, meaning “beautiful”, is one of my favorites. I think it makes a great, if uncommon, replacement for the super-trendy Bella.

Bridget – Also spelled “Brigid”, “Brighid”, “Brigitte”, etc., this lovely Irish name, meaning “strength, power” is just perfect. I has some great nicknames, from Bree to Biddy to Bridie, as well as a pop culture heroine in “Bridget Jones”. At #448 in SSA’s top 1,000 baby names, it isn’t too popular, yet remains recognizable.

Fionnuala (fin-OO-la)- Alright, this is a long shot, but I can’t help myself. This one has a ridiculous amount of spelling variations, from the simplified “Finola” to the long-winded “Fionnualagh” and everything in between. The meaning, “white shoulders” is somewhat odd, but the spunky nicknames, Finn and Nuala, are just too cute to pass up. She’s my guilty pleasure.

Maeve (mayv)- I love Maeve. Mae, Maevie, Maisie. I think Maeve could be the new Grace. Her meaning, “she who intoxicates” is certainly appropriate. I am just entranced by Maeve. And at #536, she’s not common, but not unheard of.

Moira (moy-rah)- Oh, I have a huge crush on Moira. It reminds me of Peter Pan when Wendy says her full name, “Wendy Moira Angela Darling”. I always feel like saying it with a British accent. Moira’s Irish meaning, “bitter” (it’s a variant of the uber-classic, Mary), is less appealing than its Greek one: “fate”. In Greek mythology, the Moirae (plural of Moira), also known as the Fates, are the keepers of the thread of life. They map out a person’s destiny and everyone, even the gods, bow to their will. Awesome.

Niamh (neev)- I know, the pronunciation makes no sense. But I love it. I could be the meaning (“bright”), it could be the simple one-syllable, it could even be the confusing pronunciation. Whatever it is, I think it’s gorgeous. But it may be better suited for the middle.

Sinead (shin-AID)- Despite the controvesrial namesake in Sinead O’Conner, I think Sinead is really pretty. Just say it out loud. Sinead. Ahhhh. So lovely. As a variant of John, Sinead means “God is gracious” and can be used to honor any bearer of a John variant (Jane, Ivan, Sean, Janet, Evan, etc.).

I just love these names, but I have a soft spot for monikers from the Emerald Isle. What are some of your favorite Irish names?

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