Baby Names from Children's Literature
Want a name that's enduring, sweet, brave, and comforting? Just thumb through your beloved children's books. The names in these childhood classics take us through the looking glass and beyond, evoking courage and mischief, whimsy and adventure.
Author Lewis Carroll (whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) first came up with the idea for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland while in a rowboat with three young sisters: Lorina, Edith, and Alice. Alice demanded that Dodgson tell them a story—and write it down. Two years later he presented her with a manuscript for Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, about a girl who fell down a rabbit hole, and in 1865 published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There followed in 1871. Note: We’re not suggesting you call your twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum, but we are a fan of the name Alice!
Meanings & Namesakes: Alice means “noble” or “noble-born” and is derived from Adalheidis, an older German name dating from the Middle Ages. Adelaide is also related to Alice and is derived from the old French Adelais.
Currently the second most-popular name for boys in Scotland, Lewis, is the English form of Louis used during the Middle Ages. It ranks #640 in the US. In addition to Lewis Carroll, Lewis is the surname of The Chronicles of Narnia author C. S. Lewis.
In 1940, hours before the Nazis arrived in Paris, H. A. (Hans Augusto) Rey and his wife, Margret, fled on hand-built bicycles. Tucked among their sparse possessions was the first manuscript forCurious George. It was the first of many adventures for the intrepid couple—and the playful monkey they called George. Hans focused primarily on the illustrations, while Margret made the plots shine with mischief and humor.
Meanings & Namesakes: The name George means “farmer.” In medieval lore, St. George was a dragon-slaying knight who became the patron saint of England. Famous Georges include: American presidents George Washington, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, actor George Clooney, boxer and entrepreneur George Foreman, and Beatle George Harrison.
Beezus and Ramona
A former librarian, Beverly Cleary penned more than 30 books for children and young adults. But her most enduring characters were Beezus and
Ramona Quimby. First published in 1955, Beezus and Ramona, introduced the quarrelsome sisters, who didn’t always like each other or get along. Beezus (a nickname for Beatriz) was frequently annoyed by the antics of her younger sis, much to the delight of Cleary’s readers. Just how memorable are these two? More than 50 years after the original book was published, Selena Gomez will star in a feature film, Ramona and Beezus.
Meanings & Namesakes: Beatrice is a variant of the Latin Beatrix that became popular in England and means “bringer of joy or happiness.” Beatrice is the favored variant in France and Italy; Spanish-speakers lean toward Beatriz.
Max and Ruby
Never have two bunnies collided with such hilarious cross purposes as Rosemary Well’s brother and sister in the Max and Ruby book series. A chubby, odd couple pairing of opposites, Ruby is the practical and focused older sib and Max, her sweetly sidetracked little brother. As Ruby calls out instructions, following them to the letter, Max exuberantly does his own thing. Many of Wells’ ideas for Max and Ruby’s escapades came from observing her own two daughters, Victoria and Beezoo.
Meanings & Namesakes: Max is a nickname or pet form of Maximus, Maximilian, Maximo, and Maxim, that works independently as a given name and means “the greatest” in Latin. Another beloved Max from children’s literature is Max, the boy king of the wild things, from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.
A ruby is a translucent precious stone with a deep red color that garners its meaning from the Latin rubeus, meaning “red.” Ruby Keeler was a famous actress, singer, and dancer, best known for her role in the musical, 42nd Street. Ruby Dee is a prominent and distinguished African-American actress.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain (aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens) would have been amused to discover that his classics, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, have inspired a new generation of baby names. Tom Sawyer is rooted in Twain’s own boyhood along the Mississippi River, while Huckleberry Finn was based upon a childhood friend, Tom Blankenship. The father of American literature had a life that was rocked by adventure, bankruptcy, inventiveness, and calamity. He had three daughters with his wife, Olivia: Susy, Clara, and Jean.
Meanings & Namesakes: Huckleberry, or Huck, has become a celebrity favorite. Country star Brad Paisley and actress wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley call their oldest son Huck (the boy’s full name is William Huckleberry), and TV host Bear Grylls also has a son named Huckleberry. Finn has been rising steadily since 2000, when it first broke into the Top 1000 ranks for boys. The surname Sawyer means “woodcutter” and is ranked at #225 for boys. Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw have a teenaged son named Sawyer and Early Show news anchor Erica Hill has a baby boy named Sawyer. Sarah Gilbert has a daughter Sawyer, and Diane Farr named one of her twins Sawyer Lucia. Sawyer is also the name of a popular character on Lost.
E.B. White’s 1952 childhood classic, Charlotte’s Web, weaves together themes of nature, protection, and friendship. Kind-hearted Fern Arable is the daughter of farmers. To Fern, animals are not merely livestock but worthy of having proper names in their own right. She becomes attached to a runt piglet she calls Wilbur—and tries to save him from slaughter in the fall. Wilbur is befriended by a clever and cultured spider, Charlotte, who hatches a rescue plan for the pig. Charlotte succeeds in her mission, then dies, leaving behind a multitude of children—including Joy, Aranea, and Nellie, whose name means “light” or “horn.”
Meanings & Namesakes: Aptly enough, the word “arable” means “capable of producing crops” and “suitable for farming and the plow.”
The name Charlotte is making a well-deserved comeback. The French feminine form of Charles means “free man” or “manly and strong.” Along with Jane Eyre novelist Charlotte Bronte and singer Charlotte Church, there have been many queens in history named Charlotte, including King George III’s wife. Celebrity parents with daughters named Charlotte include Sigourney Weaver, Dylan McDermott, Harry Connick Jr. and Jill Goodacre, Amy Brenneman, and Sarah Jessica Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. Wilbur, which means “fortified and resolute,” has been far less popular although no less memorable.
Thomas the Tank Engine
Reverend W. Awdry created The Railway Series, a collection of train stories set on the Island of Sodor. To amuse his son, who was recuperating from the measles, Awdry told stories and fashioned trains out of a broomstick and scraps of wood. Awdry set the stories to paper and published the first book, The Three Railway Engines, in 1945. The first three engines to debut were Edward, Henry, and Gordon, followed by Thomas in 1946. (His Thomas the Tank Engine was actually the second book in the series, published in 1946.)
The colorful illustrations depicted the trains with human faces which would crash, topple, grumble, spill their cargo, race, gloat, grin, and play tricks on each other—sending many a child into choo-choo heaven. Thomas turned out to be a “really useful engine” who was soon joined in the roundhouse and on the tracks by James, Percy, Toby, Annie, Clarabel, Donald and Douglas, Duck, and Trevor. The trains achieved even more fame, fans, and recognition with Britt Allcroft’s television series Thomas and Friends.
Meanings & Namesakes: So what’s the W in Reverend W. Awdry stand for? Wilbert—though, there are no trains named Wilbert in the series.
Thomas, whose name means “twin,” remains the most popular of the trains. Famous namesakes include President Thomas Jefferson, inventor Thomas Edison, novelists Tom Clancy and Thomas Hardy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, the doubting apostle, Thomas, from the New Testament.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum first published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900. (Baum was named after his uncle Lyman, but preferred to use his middle name, Frank.) A showman, a theatre owner, a playwright, an actor, and a novelist, Baum was an imaginative showman, or wizard, in his own right.
This book tells the story of Dorothy, who is uprooted from a farm in Kansas, where she lives with her Uncle Henry, Aunt Em, and her dog Toto. A cyclone transports her to the magical Land of Oz, inhabited by munchkins and witches. To find her way home, she is instructed to travel to the Emerald City and consult the Wizard of Oz. On her journey, she helps and is befriended by a Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.
Meanings & Namesakes: The English form of Dorothea, Dorothy means “gift of God.” The character of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz remains the most famous, if fictional, namesake. Notable namesakes include Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Hamill, and Dorothea Dix.
Frank is a nickname for Francis and Franklin that is also used independently. It means “free man” but can also mean “from France.” Famous Franks include Frank Sinatra, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frankie Muniz, and Frank Zappa.
Winnie the Pooh
A.A. Milne created an enchanting series of books about a boy named Christopher Robin and his menagerie of stuffed animals. The Teddy bear was named Winnie after a Canadian black bear named Winnipeg, or Winnie, that had found its way to the London Zoo. (Pooh was the name of a favorite swan, and Christopher Robin was named after Milne’s own son). Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926 and soon followed by other volumes that feature Pooh and a, cast of memorable characters in the Hundred Acre Wood, including Piglet, Eeyore, Owl, Rabbit, Tigger, and Kanga, and Roo.
Meanings & Namesakes: Christopher means “Christ-bearer” in Greek. St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers. Christopher Reeve and Christopher Columbus are well-known namesakes.
Winnie is a diminutive of Winifred and Edwina that means “from the winding gate.” Connotations of friendship abound in Edwina, which means “rich in friendship” or “prosperous friend” and Winifred, “friend of peace.”
Other Beloved Childhood Classics
We are sure you can find many more characters and titles to inspire you, such as Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, or C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia about the adventures of Lucy, Peter, Susan, and Edmund Pevensie and a prince named Caspian.
Your baby's beauty knows no bounds, so why not pick a name that evokes sheer glamour as well? Whether you embrace the name of the goddesses of love, a historical heartbreaker, or a modern head-turner, you can’t go wrong with a beautiful baby name.view gallery
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