How popular is the baby name Belinda in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Belinda and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Belinda.

The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.


Popularity of the Baby Name Belinda

Number of Babies Named Belinda

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Belinda

The Earliest Celebrity Baby Name Debuts

When a major celebrity chooses an uncommon baby name, there’s a good chance that name will become trendy.

Seems like this might be a modern phenomenon, right? Maybe tied to the rise of the Internet?

Nope. In fact, I bet you’ll be surprised at just how far back it goes.

Let’s take a look at celebrity baby names through the decades, focusing on those that inspired debuts on the SSA’s baby name list. (To debut, a rare names needs to be given to at least 5 babies of one gender or the other in a single year.)

1940s

Jerilyn Jessel
Lois Andrews and baby Jerilyn
Which baby name was the very first to debut on the charts thanks to a celebrity baby?

The answer depends on how strict you want to be about spelling.

If you exact-spelling debuts are what you want, the first I know of doesn’t appear until the late ’40s.

If variant-spelling debuts are okay, though, there’s a celebrity baby name from the early ’40s that inspired at whopping six of them:

Jerilyn

In October of 1941, actor/comedian George Jessel (43 years old) and showgirl Lois Andrews (17) welcomed a baby girl named Jerilyn.

The name Jerilyn itself had already been on the list for a few years, but usage rose significantly in both 1941 and 1942:

  • 1943: 182 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 558th]
  • 1942: 325 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 397th]
  • 1941: 135 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 608th]
  • 1940: 10 baby girls named Jerilyn

The popularity of similar names like Jerrilyn and Jerelyn also increased, and six other variants appeared on the national list for the very first time in either 1941 or 1942 (asterisks denote debuts):

Name 1940 1941 1942 1943
Jerilynn x 56* 162 58
Jerrilynn x 9* 38 19
Gerilyn x x 15* 5
Jerilynne x x 7* x
Jarilyn x x 6* x
Geralynn x x 5* x

In fact, Jerilynn and Gerilyn were the top baby name debuts of 1941 and 1942, respectively.

I was skeptical about this one for a while, as I’d never heard of George Jessel before. Was he really high-profile enough for his baby to have that sort influence? Turns out he was indeed a popular entertainer from the ’20s until at least the ’50s. He’s the one responsible for the “Garland” part of Judy Garland’s stage name, and some sources even claim he invented the Bloody Mary.

Even more variants of Jerilyn (e.g., Gerilynn) debuted during the ’40s and early ’50s, when young Jerilyn was being mentioned in newspaper articles and appearing on TV and in films with her father. Here’s a fundraising film from 1953, for instance, featuring both George and Jerilyn.

Jerilyn Jessel’s influence on the U.S baby names was impressive, but, technically speaking, she didn’t put “Jerilyn” on the map.

Yasmin

The first exact-spelling celebrity baby name debut was Yasmin, which appeared on the list in 1949.

In December of 1949, actor Rita Hayworth and her husband Prince Aly Khan welcomed a baby girl named Yasmin. The same year, the baby name Yasmin appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.

(The name Yasmin was late addition to the post. Thank you, Becca!)

1950s

Elizabeth Taylor and daughter Liza on the cover of LIFE in 1957
Liz & Liza in 1957 © LIFE
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1950s were inspired by celebrity babies:

Romina

In October of 1951, actors Tyrone Power and Linda Christian welcomed a baby girl named Romina. The same year, the baby name Romina appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.

Taryn

In September of 1953, Power and Christian welcomed their second baby girl, Taryn, whose name was likely inspired by “Tyrone.” The same year, the baby name Taryn debuted on the list.

Seneca

In November of 1956, boxer Floyd Patterson and his wife Sandra welcomed a baby girl named Seneca. The same year, the traditionally male name Seneca debuted on the list as a female name. Patterson said the name was inspired by a street sign.

Monsita

In October of 1958, actor/singer Rosemary Clooney and actor José Ferrer welcomed a baby girl named Monsita — their fifth child. The same year, Monsita debuted. It fell off the list the very next year, though, making it a one-hit wonder.

Honorable mentions from the ’50s include:

  • Liza, which became more popular after Liz Taylor named her daughter Liza in 1957.
  • Tyrone, which became more popular after Tyrone Power named his third child Tyrone in 1959. The increased usage could also have been influenced by the death of the actor himself the same year, though.

1960s

Casey & Timolin Cole in 1963
Casey & Timolin Cole in 1963 © Ebony
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1960s were inspired by celebrity babies:

Timolin

In September of 1961, singer of Nat King Cole and his wife Maria welcomed identical twin baby girls named Timolin and Casey. The same year, the baby name Timolin debuted on the list.

Xan

In September of 1965, actor/director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands welcomed a baby girl named Alexandra “Xan” Cassavetes. The same year, the baby name Xan debuted on the list.

Maryum

In June of 1968, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed a baby girl named Maryum. The same year, the baby name Maryum debuted on the list.

Chastity

In March of 1969, singers Cher and Sonny Bono, welcomed a baby girl named Chastity. The same year, the baby name Chastity debuted on the list. In May of 2010, Chastity legally changed genders and adopted the name Chaz.

1970s

Rasheda & Jamillah Ali in 1971
The Alis and babies Rasheda & Jamillah in 1971 © Ebony
At least eight of the baby names that debuted during the 1970s were inspired by celebrity babies:

Rasheda

In August of 1970, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed twin baby girls named Rasheda and Jamillah. The same year, the baby name Rasheda debuted on the list.

(An Ebony article from 1971 misspelled her name “Reeshemah.” The same year, there was a spike in the usage of Reeshemah and a dip in the usage of Rasheda.)

Ayanna

In 1971, comedian/activist Dick Gregory and his wife Lillian welcomed a baby girl named Ayanna. The same year, the baby name Ayanna debuted on the list.

Yohance

In July of 1973, Dick Gregory and Lillian welcomed a baby boy named Yohance. The same year, the baby name Yohance debuted on the list.

(I wrote more about baby names in the Gregory family a few years ago.)

Kidada

In March of 1974, musician/producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton welcomed a baby girl named Kidada. The same year, the baby name Kidada debuted on the list.

Taryll

In August of 1975, singer Tito Jackson (of The Jackson 5) and his wife Dee Dee welcomed a baby boy named Taryll. The same year, the baby name Taryll debuted on the list.

Turkessa

In April of 1975, singer Mary Wilson (of The Supremes) and her husband Pedro welcomed a baby girl named Turkessa. The same year, the baby name Turkessa debuted on the list. Turkessa was just 3 babies away from being the top baby name debut of the year. Here’s how Mary came up with the name:

Pedro brought me a beautiful plant. I asked him was it was called. “Turquesa,” he replied, “Spanish for turquoise.” So we named our daughter Turkessa.

Chudney

In November of 1975, singer Diana Ross (also of The Supremes) and her husband Robert welcomed a baby girl named Chudney. The next year, the baby name Chudney debuted on the list. Here’s how Diana came up with the name:

Friends kept suggesting popular names like Courtney, but so many girl babies were getting that. I suddenly thought of something I liked very much — chutney. Only I didn’t know how to spell it — I put a ‘d’ where the ‘t’ should have been on the birth certificate. And that’s how my little girl became Chudney!

Katiria

In 1978, Puerto Rican dancer/singer Iris Chacón and her husband Junno welcomed a baby girl named Katiria. The same year, the baby name Katiria debuted on the list. Most of these babies were born in New York.

1980s

Condola Rashad in 1987
The Rashads and baby Condola
© Ebony
At least three of the baby names that debuted during the 1980s were inspired by celebrity babies, and at least one was inspired by a celebrity grandbaby:

Rishawn

In September of 1984, singer Gladys Knight didn’t have a baby, but her son James (b. 1962) and his wife Michelene did. They welcomed a boy named Rishawn. The next year, the baby name Rishawn debuted on the list.

Shakari

In November of 1986, football player Willie Gault and his wife Dainnese welcomed a baby girl named Shakari. The next year, the baby name Shakari debuted on the list.

Condola

I wrote about Condola a few months ago, but here’s a recap: In December of 1986, actress Phylicia Rashad and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad welcomed a baby girl named Condola. The next year, the baby name Condola debuted on the list.

Satchel

In December of 1987, filmmaker/actor Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow welcomed a baby boy named Satchel. The next year, the baby name Satchel debuted on the list. He now goes by Ronan, and rumor has it that he is *possibly* the biological son of Frank Sinatra.

1990s

Demi, pre-Scout, on cover of Vanity Fair, August 1991
Demi Moore and baby Scout (kinda)
© Vanity Fair
At least three of the baby names the debuted during the 1990s were inspired by celebrity babies:

Scout

In July of 1991, actors Demi Moore and Bruce Willis welcomed a baby girl named Scout. (And in August, that famous image of 7-months-pregnant Demi ran on the cover of Vanity Fair.) The next year, the baby name Scout debuted on the list, for both genders.

Aquinnah

In February of 1995, actor Michael J. Fox and his wife Tracy welcomed twin baby girls named Aquinnah and Schuyler. The same year, the baby name Aquinnah debuted on the list. (I wrote more about the name Aquinnah a few years ago.)

Sailor

In July of 1998, model Christie Brinkley and her husband Peter welcomed a baby girl named Sailor. The same year, the baby name Sailor debuted on the list as a girl name. It had debuted as a boy name the year before.

Honorable mentions from the ’90s include:

  • Seven, which became more popular after Erykah Badu named her son Seven in 1997.
  • Zion, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her son Zion in 1997.
  • Selah, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her daughter Selah in 1998.

2000s

Angelina and Maddox Jolie in 2002
Angelina Jolie and baby Maddox
© People
At least five of the baby names that debuted during the 2000s (the decade) were inspired by celebrity babies:

Eja

In August of 2001, singer Shania Twain and her husband Robert welcomed a baby boy named Eja. The same year, the baby name Eja debuted on the list (as a girl name).

Xen

In August of 2001, actors Tisha Campbell-Martin and Duane Martin welcomed a baby boy named Xen. The same year, the baby name Xen debuted on the list.

Diezel

In March of 2003, singer Toni Braxton and musician Keri Lewis welcomed a baby boy named Diezel. The same year, the baby name Diezel debuted on the list.

Moxie

In June of 2005, magician Penn Jillette and his wife Emily welcomed a baby girl named Moxie (middle name CrimeFighter). The next year, the baby name Moxie debuted on the list.

Dannielynn

In September of 2006, model Anna Nicole Smith and her partner Larry Birkhead welcomed a baby girl named Dannielynn. The next year, the baby name Dannielynn debuted on the list.

Honorable mentions from the ’00s include:

  • Massai, which became more popular after Nia Long named her son Massai in 2000.
  • Rocco, which became more popular after Madonna and Guy Ritchie named their son Rocco in 2000.
  • Denim, which became more popular after Toni Braxton named her son Denim in 2001.
  • Maddox, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted son Maddox in 2002.
  • Carys, which became more popular after Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas named their daughter Carys in 2003.
  • Stellan, which became more popular after Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany named their son Stellan in 2003.
  • Apple, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple in 2004.
  • Coco, which became more popular after Courtney Cox and David Arquette named their daughter Coco in 2004.
  • Zahara, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted daughter Zahara in 2005.
  • Moses, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their son Moses in 2006.
  • Kingston, which became more popular after Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale named their son Kingston in 2006.
  • Suri, which became more popular after Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes named their daughter Suri in 2006.
  • Shiloh, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their daughter Shiloh in 2006.
  • Pax, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their adopted son Pax in 2007.
  • Harlow, which became more popular after Nicole Richie and Joel Madden named their daughter Harlow in 2008.
  • Knox & Vivienne, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their twins Knox and Vivienne in 2008.
  • Honor, which became more popular after Jessica Alba named her daughter Honor in 2008.
  • Nahla, which became more popular after Halle Berry named her daughter Nahla in 2008.
  • Bronx, which became more popular after Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz named their son Bronx in 2008.

*

The 2010s are only half over and already we’ve seen more celebrity baby-inspired debuts than in any other decade — Naleigh, Aleph (for boys), Locklyn, Aaradhya, Sebella, Sparrow (for boys), Viaan, Naiovy, Eisele, and no doubt others I’ve missed. Follow along as we uncover more year by year in the Pop Culture Baby Names 2010s category.

Sources:

  • Manners, Dorothy. “Off the Grapevine.” Toledo Blade 14 Feb. 1977: P-3.
  • Wilson, Mary and Patricia Romanowski. Supreme Faith. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.

Another Backwards Baby Name – Adnil

From a 110-year-old issue of Notes and Queries:

The most curious Christian name I ever came across was Adnil, given to a girl born in Aberdeen. Her mother’s name was Linda. At the time of her birth the child’s parents were not on very good terms, and the father, in a moment of freakishness, inverted the mother’s name with the above result. The child died in early childhood.
J.

I’m going to try to use “moment of freakishness” in a sentence today. We’ll see how it goes.

Adnil is clunky, but it’s far better than Nevaehtnes.

Adnil has never been on an SSA list, but I’ve found a few doing records searches. Adnil Lorraine Bailey, for instance, was born in California circa 1907 to Charles and Linda Bailey. And Mary Adnil Killebrew was born in North Carolina in 1906 to W. H. and Linda B. Killebrew.

I even spotted an Adnileb — Belinda backwards — born in California in 1991.

What do you think of Adnil?

Source: “Curious Christian Names.” Notes and Queries 27 Feb. 1904: 171.

Danger Is My Baby’s Middle Name

Danger - Baby's Middle Name

A pair of real-life “Danger is my middle name” babies have been featured in the news lately:

  • Rafferty Basil Danger Wills, born in January to Felicity and Sam Wills of England.
  • Stephen Danger James, born in January to Telita and Dean James of Australia.

But these aren’t the first dangerously named babies to make headlines. Here are some earlier examples:

  • Nash Edward Danger Gray, born in 2011 to Jon and Ruth Gray of Nevada.
  • Bodhi Danger Huxhagen, born in 2011 to Rowan and Belinda Huxhagen of Australia.
  • Billie Danger Lampard (girl) and Ridley Danger Lampard (boy), twins, born in 2010 to Amy and Glenn Lampard of Australia.
  • Radley Danger Chapple, born circa 2008 to Peppa and John Chapple of California.
  • Maxwell Danger Rogers, born in 2006 to Chloe Maxwell and Mat Rogers of Australia.
  • Broderick Danger Scott, born in 2006 to Sarah Wilner and Kevin Scott of California.
  • Jakob Danger Armstrong, born in 1998 to Adrienne and Billie Joe Armstrong of California.

And I’ve come across a few other examples that never made the news.

So, just how common is the middle name Danger?

The SSA doesn’t publish middle name data, so there’s no official set of numbers we can look at. Fellow baby name blogger Laura Wattenberg claimed last year that Danger was a “really popular middle name for boys right now.” I disagree — Danger is still uncommon/bizarre enough to be newsworthy, after all — but it does look like Danger has been picking up steam lately.

Would you ever consider (I mean seriously consider) giving your baby the middle name Danger?

Sources: Billie and Ridley Lampard given ‘Danger’ as middle name, Danger is his middle name, Danger is my middle name…no really, it is, Developer suing ‘Baywatch’ star, Real parents can give their children weird baby names just like the celebs, The boy with danger as a name, The new year brings first local baby, What’s in a (middle) name? Simple or creative, the choice challenges parents

P.S. There’s a guy in Florida named Danger Dangervil.

Baby Names Inspired by Misheard Song Lyrics?

lost in emotion, lisa lisa music vido, que sera que seraDo you ever mishear song lyrics?

I do. All the time. (Though I’m not nearly as bad as my husband.)

I ask because I believe today’s baby names can be traced back to a specific set of lyrics misheard by dozens of parents a little more than 20 years ago.

Intrigued?

The Names

Casara, Kasarah, Cassara, and Casarah all debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1987. The same year, Kasara returned after being listed only once before (in the mid-1970s). And in 1988, Cassarah made its first and only appearance.

Name 1986 1987 1988 1989
Kasara 22 44 19
Casara 17 34 10
Kasarah 10 25 17
Cassara 9 18 10
Casarah 7 12 10
Cassarah 5

At first I couldn’t figure them out. They didn’t look like alternative spellings of a more popular name. They all popped up at about the same time, pointing to a single pop culture source, but the origin wasn’t obvious (as it had been with names like Daughtry and Cheetara.)

Finally, months after discovering them, I came up with a decent theory.

The Song

Let’s set the scene. Artists on the radio back in 1987 included U2, George Michael, Whitney Houston, Tiffany, Billy Idol, Madonna, The Bangles, Bon Jovi, Kim Wilde, Los Lobos with “La Bamba,” Belinda Carlisle, Exposé, Atlantic Starr…and Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam.

In fact, 1987 was a great year for Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. Their second album, Spanish Fly, went platinum in August. Two songs from the album ended up becoming Billboard #1 singles — “Head to Toe” in June, “Lost In Emotion” in October.

I’m sure you’ve heard “Lost in Emotion” before, but here’s the video just in case. (How awesome are those outfits, btw?)

Pay special attention to the following lines [starting at 1:27]:

Que sera, que sera
Baby, whatever will be
Que sera, que sera
Between you and me

The Connection

That “que sera, que sera” in the chorus is a corruption of the phrase “que sera, sera,” taken from the earlier song “Que Sera, Sera.” The phrase is commonly thought to mean “whatever will be, will be,” though that’s not quite true.

Anyway, to someone casually listening to “Lost in Emotion” on the radio, the words “que sera” blend together and sound just like Kasara, Casara, and the other names above.

The Proof

Well, not “proof” exactly. But an enticing bit of evidence.

I did a search for anyone (a blogger, say) who’d written about mistaking “que sera” for a girl name. Just to see if anyone could back me up.

Check out this comment I found at song site Am I Right:

Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s, “Lost In Emotion”

The Misheard Lyrics:
Kassarah, Kassarah

The Real Lyrics:
Lost in emotion Que sera, que sera.

The Story: My sister named my niece Kassarah after this song. Ooops, oh well a beautifully unique name for a beautiful, unique girl! – Submitted by: Sandee

Jackpot. :)

(Incidentally, the spelling Kassarah has never appeared on any of the SSA’s baby name lists.)

The Conclusion

So that’s what I suspect — in the late ’80s, dozens of expectant parents heard Lisa Lisa’s “Lost in Emotion,” interpreted “que sera” as a female name, and used the misheard lyric as a baby name, spelling it various ways (e.g. Kasara, Casara, Kasarah).

But I’d love to hear other theories if anyone out there has a better explanation.

P.S. Other baby name mysteries I’ve talked about (or solved!): the first airplane baby, the disappearing gas card baby, the babies (not) named after Aqua Net, and the great baby name glitch of 1989.

Baby Names Needed – Girl Names for Fourth Baby

A reader named Klaudia is expecting her fourth child, a baby girl, and she’d like some help brainstorming for a first and a middle name. Here’s what Klaudia says:

We like…unusual names. I mean, not names that sound “made-up” but real names. At least, not trendy, popular names.

Juniper was at the top of their list, but then a friend used it, so now they’re back to the drawing board.

A few more details:

  • The first name should have 3 syllables.
  • The middle name should have 2 syllables and start with an n.
  • The surname will be a one-syllable s-name.
  • The older siblings are named Kendra Darlene, Carmen Nellie and Matteo Kendell.

I think Juniper paired with an n-name would have sounded nice, so I tried to come up with a lot of name suggestions that also include the letter n:

Acacia
Adelaide
Adina
Allegra
Angela
Annabelle
Belinda
Bethany
Bettina
Bianca
Cynthia
Daniela
Dominique
Felicia
Francesca
Genevieve
Henriette
Honora
Juliet
Justina
Lucinda
Lydia
Marcella
Melinda
Minerva
Miranda
Monica
Priscilla
Ramona
Regina
Sabrina
Simona
Sunniva
Susanna
Sylvia
Valerie
Rosemary
Venetia
Winifred
Yolanda

None of the above are currently in the top 100.

Now middles. It’s tricky to pick a middle if the first isn’t already in place, but here are some possibilities. Names on the left have a stress on the first syllable, names on the right have a stress on the second syllable.

Nina
Nita
Nola
Norah
Norma
Nadine
Nanette
Nicole
Noelle
Noreen

What first names would you suggest for the sibling of Kendra, Carmen and Matteo? What middle names would you pair with those first names?

Names from Novels – Pamela, Roxana, Belinda, Humphry

I noticed the other day that my brother was reading Pamela by Samuel Richardson. Then I spotted Roxana by Daniel Defoe in his stack. Intrigued, I asked him about all these “name” books he was suddenly reading.

Turns out that one of his classes next semester focuses on the 18th-century English novel, and that he’ll also be studying:

  • Belinda by Maria Edgeworth
  • The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett
  • Henrietta by Charlotte Lennox
  • The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless by Eliza Haywood
  • The Life and Death of Jonathan Wild, the Great by Henry Fielding

Quite a name-centric syllabus, isn’t it?

I’m not familiar with these authors, but many of their other titles also feature names. Some examples:

Abraham
Amelia
Arabella
Charles
Clarissa
Euphemia
Griselda
Harriot
Helen
Idalia
Jemmy
Jenny
Joseph
Launcelot
Leonora
Moll
Peregrine
Robinson
Roderick
Sophia
Tom

If I’m able to wrest either Pamela or Roxana from my brother’s vice-like grip long enough to finish one of them, I’ll come back and give you a book report. :)

Unique Baby Names from Literature

The was originally the round-up post of a 31-post series on literature names for National Book Month. I’ve since condensed all of those individual posts into this one post.

I picked many of these names because they were either popularized by literature or first used as given names in literature:

Amanda

Amanda is based on the Latin gerundive amanda, which means “she who must be loved.” It was used as a name in Europe starting in the mid-17th century. In literature, Amanda perhaps first appeared in the comedy Love’s Last Shift (1696) by English playwright and actor Colley Cibber (1671-1757).

Amaryllis

Before Amaryllis was a plant, it was a name: Amaryllis was created by the Latin poet Virgil (70-19 BC) for a shepherdess in his pastoral Eclogues. Amaryllis is based on the Latin word amarysso, which means “to sparkle.”

Take ashes, Amaryllis, fetch them forth,
And o’er your head into the running brook
Fling them, nor look behind: with these will
Upon the heart of Daphnis make essay.
(Eclogue VIII)

Amory

Amory Blaine is the main character in This Side of Paradise (1920), the successful debut novel of American writer Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (1896-1940). Many believe that Fitzgerald modeled the wealthy, handsome protagonist after himself (at least in part).

Atticus

Harper Lee‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) features Atticus Finch, respected lawyer and father of the book’s protagonist, Scout. Lee named Atticus after Roman eques Titus Pomponius Atticus.

Belinda

Belinda was a character in The Provok’d Wife (1697), a comedic play written by English architect and dramatist Sir John Vanbrugh (c.1664-1726). Belinda may have been based on the Italian word bella, which means beautiful. It was later used by Alexander Pope in The Rape of the Lock (1712).

Beren

The romance between Beren and Lúthien was first told in prose in The Silmarillion, by writer and Oxford professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973).

Therefore at the last he yielded his will, and Beren took the hand of Lúthien before the throne of her father.
(The Silmarillion, Chapter 19)

A romantic sidenote: The name Beren is engraved on Tolkien’s gravestone, while Lúthien is on the gravestone belonging to Tolkien’s wife, Edith.

Binx

John Binkerson “Binx” Bolling is the film-obsessed main character of The Moviegoer (1961), a National Book Award-winning novel by American author Walker Percy (1916-1990).

Cedric

Cedric was created by Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) for his novel Ivanhoe, which was written in 1819 but set in the 12th century. The name was probably inspired by that of Cerdic, the legendary founder of the Kingdom of Wessex.

Clarinda

Clarinda was coined by English poet Edmund Spenser (c.1552-1599) in The Faerie Queene.

Goe now, Clarinda, well thy wits aduise,
And all thy forces gather vnto thee;
(The Faerie Queene, Book V, Canto V)

Two centuries later, Robert Burns (1759-1796) addressed several poems to ‘Clarinda.’

Fair Empress of the Poet’s soul,
And Queen of Poetesses;
Clarinda, take this little boon,
This humble pair of glasses:
(Verses To Clarinda)

Cosette

French author Victor Hugo (1802-1885) created the orphan Cosette for his novel Les Misérables (1862).

Les Misérables the musical, which debuted in London in October of 1985, has become one of the most successful musicals in history.

UPDATE: The latest Les Miserables movie comes out Dec. 25, 2012.

Dorian

Dorian Gray, whose portrait ages while Dorian himself does not, was invented by Anglo-Irish writer Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) for the gothic horror novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde may have borrowed the name from the ancient Hellenic tribe the Dorians.

Dulcinea

Dulcinea del Toboso is a fictional character who’s referred to (but does not appear) in Don Quixote de la Mancha, written by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616).

Eglantine

Eglantine is another name for sweetbrier, a pink-flowered plant native to Britain and northern Europe. Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) first employed Eglantine as a given name, using it for Madame Eglantine in his Canterbury Tales:

Ther was also a nonne, a prioresse,
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
Hire gretteste ooth was but by Seinte Loy;
And she was cleped Madame Eglentyne.
(Prologue, lines 118-121)

Geraldine

Geraldine was originally an adjective that referred to Ireland’s FitzGerald dynasty. It was first used as a name by English aristocrat Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547).

Honsdon did first present her to mine yien:
Bright is her hewe, and Geraldine she hight.
(Description and praise of his loue Geraldine.)

Geraldine was later popularized by Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s poem Christabel.

Yet he who saw this Geraldine,
Had deemed her sure a thing divine.
(Christabel, Part II, Stanza 11)

Holden

Holden Caulfield is the cynical, sensitive teenage protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye (1951), written by reclusive American author J. D. Salinger. Holden also appears in several of Salinger’s short stories. Holden was the second-best fictional character of the 20th century, according to Book magazine.

Imogen

Imogen is the name of the king’s daughter in Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Cymbeline, King of Britain (c.1609). The prevailing theory is that Imogen was actually meant to be Innogen — a name based on the Gaelic word inghean, meaning “girl, maiden” or “daughter” — but it was misspelled and the mistake was never corrected.

Jancis

The character of Jancis Beguildy was created by English romantic novelist Mary Webb (1881-1927) for her book Precious Bane (1924). Jancis is a modern blend of the names Jan and Francis.

Kilgore

Kilgore Trout regularly appears in books by Kurt Vonnegut. (And in other books, like phone books.) The character of Kilgore may be based on Theodore Sturgeon, or may be a parody of Vonnegut himself.

Lesley

Lesley is a variant of the name Leslie, which is derived from a Scottish place name. Lesley-with-a-y is interesting because it was first used by Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) in his poem/song Saw Ye Bonie Lesley (1792).

Thou art a queen, fair Lesley,
Thy subjects, we before thee;
Thou art divine, fair Lesley,
The hearts o’ men adore thee.
(Saw Ye Bonie Lesley, Stanza 3)

Lestat

Lestat de Lioncourt is a character in The Vampire Chronicles, a series of novels by Anne Rice. Rice “thought Lestat was an old Louisiana name.” She learned later that the name she was thinking of was actually Lestan.

Lucasta

Lucasta was first used by English poet Richard Lovelace (1618-1658). It’s a contraction of Lux Casta (Chaste Lucy), Lovalace’s nickname for a woman he’d been courting.

If to be absent were to be
Away from thee;
Or that when I am gone,
You or I were alone;
Then, my Lucasta, might I crave
Pity from blustering wind or swallowing wave.
(To Lucasta, going beyond the Seas)

Miranda

The name Miranda was invented by William Shakespeare (1564-1616) for a character in The Tempest. Miranda is based on the Latin word mirandus, which means “admirable.”

Twelve year since, Miranda, twelve year since,
Thy father was the Duke of Milan and
A prince of power.
(The Tempest, Act 1, Scene II)

Uranus’s small moon Miranda, discovered in 1948, was named after the Shakespearean character.

Mirielle

Mireille is the French title of Provençal poem Mirèio (1859). The poem was written by French writer Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914), who shared the 1904 Nobel Prize for Literature with José Echegaray y Eizaguirre. Mistral probably derived ‘Mirèio’ from the Provençal verb mirar, which means “to admire.”

Orinthia

Orinthia was used by Nobel Prize-winning Irish-British playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) in his play The Apple Cart (1929). In the play, King Magnus refers to his mistress as “Orinthia.” When the mistress discovers that Magnus did not invent the name especially for her, she becomes angry. He responds:

Well, one poet may consecrate a name for another. Orinthia is a name full of magic for me. It could not be that if I had invented it myself. I heard it at a concert of ancient music when I was a child; and I have treasured it ever since.
(The Apple Cart, Interlude)

At that “concert of ancient music,” Magnus must have heard the old English ballad The Pilgrim of Love, which–according to the Catalogue of Ballads at Oxford’s Bodleian Library–begins “Orinthia my béloved, I call in vain…”

Pamela

Pamela was created by English writer Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) for The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia. The name was probably derived from the Greek words pan (all) and meli (honey). A century and a half later, Samuel Richardson‘s first novel–named Pamela in honor of Sidney’s heroine–was published.

Quoyle

Quoyle is the main character in E. Annie Proulx‘s The Shipping News (1993), which won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and happens to be one of my favorite books. The novel was inspired by The Ashley Book of Knots, and, aptly, “quoyle” is an Old English spelling of coil.

Selima

The name Selima was first used in literature by English writer and scholar Thomas Gray (1716-1771). He used it as the name of a cat. Neither the name nor the cat were Gray’s inventions, though. Selima the cat had belonged to fellow Englishman and writer Horace Walpole (1717-1797).

Shirley

The male name Shirley became feminized with the 1849 publication of Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley. Previously, Shirley had been a surname and, before that, a place name.

She had no Christian name but Shirley: her parents, who had wished to have a son…bestowed on her the same masculine family cognomen they would have bestowed on a boy, if with a boy they had been blessed.
(Shirley, Part 2, Chapter XI)

Sula

The rebellious Sula Peace, who becomes a pariah in her socially conservative Ohio town, is the main character of Toni Morrison‘s novel Sula (1973). Sula may be short for Ursula, a Latin name meaning “little bear.”

Vanessa

Vanessa was invented by Irish author Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) as a pseudonym for his friend (and perhaps lover) Esther Vanhomrigh: “van” comes from Vanhomrigh, and “essa” is based on a pet form of Esther.

While thus Cadenus entertains
Vanessa in exalted strains,
The nymph in sober words intreats
A truce with all sublime conceits.
(Cadenus and Vanessa)

Vanessa was later used as the name of a genus of butterfly.

Wendy

Though Scottish writer J. M. Barrie (1860-1937) didn’t invent the name Wendy, he did popularize it with his character Wendy Darling. For Barrie, the name was inspired by a young acquaintance (the daughter of poet William Henley, 1849-1903), who mispronounced the word friend as “fwendy.”

“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Wendy Moira Angela Darling,” she replied with some satisfaction. “What is your name?”
“Peter Pan.”
(Peter Pan, Chapter 3)

There are many other interesting literature names out there. Did I miss any particularly good ones?