Looking for a creative name to set your child apart? These names pulled from literary classics will hit the mark.

By Liz Loerke
Updated July 22, 2016
svanberg grath/Getty Images
svanberg grath/Getty Images


Alma’s popularity may have only ranked 686th in 2015, but the name has been used many times in literature. In Nicole Krauss’ novel within a novel, The History of Love, Alma is a 14-year-old Brooklynite named after the main character of the titular book. Elizabeth Gilbert tapped the name, which is derived from the Latin word for “nourishing” as well as the Spanish word for “soul,” for the main character of her 2013 novel, The Signature of All Things, Alma Whittaker. Another literary Alma? The cunning President Alma Coin in Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay, the final book in The Hunger Games Trilogy.


Made famous by Willa Cather’s classic story of Western pioneers, My Ántonia, Antonia is a feminine version of Anthony meaning “priceless one.” Find inspiration in Cather’s kind, intelligent, free-spirited character, who paves her own way in the face of adversity after she moves from Bohemia to Nebraska.


Long popular in Great Britain, Arabella has been gaining popularity in the U.S. since 2005 and now ranks as the 194th most popular name for girls. Thought to mean “yielding to prayer” and “beautiful,” Arabella has appeared in Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, George Eliot’s Felix Holt, and, more recently, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. In case you forget, Arabella Figg was the squib who kept a watchful eye on Harry while he lived with the Dursleys. Beautiful, indeed.


Thanks to TV series Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin’s book series A Song of Fire and Ice, the name Arya skyrocketed to popularity between the show’s 2011 debut and 2012. While the name has Persian origins and means “faithful friend,” it is now associated with the fearless and heroic Arya Stark.


This name may simply mean “from Attica,” the historical region of Greece, but the moniker has taken on deeper significance in the wake of Harper Lee’s seminal American novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The honorable lawyer Atticus Finch has imbued the name with an upstanding, noble connotation. In fact, in 2013 the American Film Institute named Atticus Finch, depicted by Gregory Peck in the 1963 film adaptation, the greatest movie hero of all time.


Honor the poet W.H. Auden with this distinguished English name meaning “old friend.” The name has been used for both little girls and boys.


This strong, ancient name originated as a title given by the Roman Senate to the first Roman emperor, Octavian, in 27 B.C. Meaning “great, magnificent,” Augustus has graced the pages of Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers (Augustus Snodgrass is the poet of the Pickwick Club) and, more recently, in John Green’s teen tearjerker, The Fault in Our Stars. Who could resist the charming, optimistic Augustus Waters?


Celebrities like Melissa Etheridge, Conan O’Brien, and Stella McCartney have made this strong name, likely pulled from the famed Irish playwright Samuell Beckett, a popular choice. Interestingly, in 2005, the authors of Freakonomics predicted that Beckett would be one of the most popular names of 2015. Unfortunately, they weren’t quite right. Beckett did rank 218 in 2015, but it didn’t crack the top 100.


James Fenimore Cooper created this pretty name for his 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans. Derived from the Greek kore, which means “maiden,” Cora has grown more popular in the aftermath of PBS’ hit miniseries, Downton Abbey.


Derived from the Germanic words for “bold counsel,” Conrad was the name of the main character in Judith Guest’s Ordinary People who struggles to move on after the death of his brother. The name has remained consistently in favor since the 1920s and ranked number 625 last year.


While Eleanor ranked number 60 on the popularity charts last year, its more concise spelling has yet to make the top 100. Jane Austen famously tapped both spellings for two of her books: Eleanor for a minor character in Northanger Abbey and Elinor for the selfless heroine of Sense and Sensibility.


J.K. Rowling’s fiercely smart and loyal heroine has made this formerly stodgy name hip again. And remember, it’s pronounced, “Her-my-oh-nee.”


There’s nothing phony about the name Holden, which means “hollow in the valley” in Old English. Although J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye has served as the quintessential coming-of-age tale for high schoolers for more than 50 years, it took an 80s soap opera to make the name to take hold. In 1987, stable boy Holden Snyder debuted on As the World Turns and, according to Nameberry, just over a hundred boys were given the name that year. Its popularity had only grown: More than one thousand Holdens were born in 2013.


In Jamaican Patois, “irie” means everything is cool, peaceful, alright. Unfortunately, things are not irie with Zadie Smith’s character in White Teeth who struggles to fit in with white, mainstream British society.


Herman Melville opens his magnum opus, Moby Dick, with just three words: “Call me Ishmael.” While Ishmael serves as the book’s eloquent narrator, he stays out of the action. His name, however, has a long history dating back to the book of Genesis in the Bible. In fact, it means “God will hear.”


Once again, the popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones has helped a name find footing here in the U.S. In 2014, Khaleesei, which means “queen” in the fictional Dothraki language, ranked number 756 on the Social Security Administration’s list of the 1,000 most popular baby names.


The Italian form of Roland, Orlando has a strong literary pedigree with appearances in Shakespeare’s As You Like It (Orlando is the epitome of honor and grace) and Virginia Woolf’s gender bending Orlando. The name, which ranked 614 on the top 1,000 baby names last year, means “famed throughout the land.” It is the perfect name for a baby whose reputation will precede him.


Take a page from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter and name your little treasure Pearl. She’ll be in good company. Celebs Maya Rudolph, Busy Philipps, and Caleb Followill have all used the name.


As Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels continue to grow in popularity, we might see a rise in this Italian name. The feminine form of Raphael or Rafael, Raffaella means “God is healer.”


Precocious and imaginative, Ramona Quimby has stolen the hearts of millions as the star of Beverly Cleary’s eight-book Ramona series. The name, which means “wise protector,” strikes a fine balance between being just trendy enough and not too eccentric.


Seeing red? The 22nd most popular name of 2015, Scarlett is a name fit for a fiery little lady, much like Gone With the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara.


To Kill a Mockingbird’s narrator is a fitting namesake for a virtuous gal who stands up for what she believes.


The Roman martyr Saint Sebastian has inspired authors such as Evelyn Waugh, who used the name for the tragic Lord Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisted. The name has grown in popularity, hitting number 35 last year. Among the parents opting for this ancient name was Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda—though he has admitted he was inspired by the crab in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.


The youngest member of the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Winfield is a tough 10-year-old who adapts to his family’s nomadic lifestyle as they make their way west. This old-school name has been neglected, so your baby will stand apart.


While Zooey is used as a boy’s name in J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, Zooey Deschanel has made the name more popular for little girls as a variation on the Greek name Zoe, meaning “life.”