8 names that were invented by authors
Let’s have a look at authors whose creations were influential outside of their literary traditions – specifically, at the names they have coined or popularized.
You knew that Shakespeare has had, you know, a fairly large impact on the English language, but you might be surprised to learn that he’s made a surprising contribution to the pool of popular baby names as well.
Sir Walter Scott invented the name Cedric for a character in his 1820 novel Ivanhoe. He apparently based the name on Cerdic, an Anglo-Saxon king from the 6th century. The name was later popularized by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who used it for the name of a character in her 1886 novel Little Lord Fauntleroy.
One of several prominent female names invented by authors, the name Fiona was invented by the Scottish poet James McLeod, who used it in his Ossian cycle of poems. It is thought to be an Anglicization of the Gaelic word fionn, meaning ‘white’ or ‘fair-haired’.
You can thank Shakespeare for this popularity of this female name. In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare named Shylock’s daughter Jessica, possibly modeled after the biblical Iscah. Surprisingly, the names Jesse is not etymologically related to Jessica. (It comes from the biblical figure Jesse, father of David, King of the Israelites.)
Originally, this male name was popularized by Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim. In Kipling’s novel, the protagonist’s name was actually a shortening of his surname Kimball. The name Kimberley had a different start – it originated as a place name in Norfolk, England – although the shortening of Kimberley (or Kimberly) to Kim is quite common.
Sir Philip Sidney invented the name Pamela for a character in his late-16th century work The Countress of Pembroke’s Arcadia, which was published posthumously. Some speculate that the name may be a blend of the Greek words pan ‘all’ and meli ‘honey’.
While not so surprising as a name – Stella means ‘star’ in Latin – this name merits inclusion if only for the fact that it is Sir Philip Sidney’s second entry in this names roundup. Sidney used it for a character’s name in his sonnet collection Astrophel and Stella. By far the most famous use of the name, however, is by Tennessee Williams in his 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire.
Although it existed as a name beforehand, sometimes as a diminutive for Gwendolyn, Wendy only became widely popular following J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play Peter Pan, with its central character Wendy Darling.
Another poetic invention, Vanessa may be the cleverest of all invented names, as it’s actually a blended name, meant to disguise its reference. When Jonathan Swift penned the autobiographical poem “Cadenus and Vanessa” about his relationship with Esther Vanhomrigh, he created the name by taking the ‘Van’ of her last name and combining it with ‘Essa’, a pet form of Esther.