20 Baby Names Inspired by Poets

Feb 3rd 2015

 baby name roundups by theme

Poets are the people we dream of being. They are historians and interpreters, observers and activists, teachers and storytellers. They can shape politics, inspire masses, and spark movements. Without poets, our sense of the world would be very short-sighted. It's no wonder that parents like to honor wordsmiths like these who enrich and explain our world.

These names come from some of the most classically famed poets in history. Some automatically bring a specific writer to mind, while others are traditional names worn by a distinctive poet or several of them. We love these names because they feel almost as artful as the writers themselves. (After all, what is a name but a little poem summed up in a word, with unspoken etymologies, histories, and cultural impressions?) Here are some names perfect for parents and children who love words as much as we do, and for the poet in all of us.

  1. Auden: This name manages to be airy and grounded at the same time, landing in unisex territory but given to more boys than girls. Its namesake, W.H. Auden, is a celebrated English-American poet, essayist, and playwright.

  2. Blake: Blake may be short, but it packs a lot into one syllable. This Old English surname has been a top 100 hit since 1989. Actress Lively has also helped this name land in the 500s for girls. So while it feels trendy, poet William Blake lends a classic, romantic sense to the name as well.

  3. Dante: Dante is first and foremost a poet's name, thanks to the The Father of the Italian language, medieval poet Dante Alighieri. His writings, particularly the Divine Comedy, has been called the greatest literary work in the Italian language. The name itself has been on an upswing, hitting a peak in 1997 with the release of the disaster movie Dante's Peak and then leveling out in the high 200s. We think it's stylish and catchy, intellectual and approachable.

  4. Dylan: Everyone loves this Welsh hit with artistic overtones. We can thank poet Dylan Thomas for its longtime spot in the top 30 (for the past 11 years). He was the inspiration behind Bob Dylan's stage name, who in turn helped launch the name to popularity. It's hard not to adore this name, and with such success we're pretty certain it will not go gentle into that good night.

  5. Elizabeth: It doesn't get more classic than Elizabeth, a biblical and royal choice with an astounding history and use across the world. So while it may not strike everyone as a poet name, this one does have two significant namesakes. Bishop, who won a Nobel Prize in Poetry and became US Poet Laureate; and Barrett Browning, a celebrated English poet whose works were very popular during Victorian times. Even Queen Elizabeth I, a lover of the arts, wrote several well-known verses herself.

  6. Eliot: The traditional spelling of this name (Elliott) is starting to gain some momentum in the last handful of years. But to chose this spelling is a clear reference to T.S. Eliot, who was one of the 20th century's top poets. He is especially remembered for The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land, which may give your child's name a little bit of irony if born in April.

  7. Emily: Emily is timeless and lovely, but its literary namesakes manage to stand out in a sea of others: Emily Brontě, and, of course, poet Emily Dickinson. Dickinson's reputation as the most famous and prolific American poet gives her name a serious sense of quiet expressiveness.

  8. Emerson: Essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson led the Transcendentalist movement of the 19th century. And while he was a famed poet, he is especially known for his inspirational quotes. These days you may see his encouraging statements like this around Pinterest: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” The name Emerson has proven to be quite inspiring as well, as an English surname with an appealing beginning, this trendy unisex name is in the low 200s for girls or 300s for boys.

  9. Ezra: A biblical name beloved in the 1800s, Ezra is getting its second wind in this country. Its most famed namesake, poet Pound (1885-1972) is known for his impact on modern poetry. It's a snappy, bold choice with a sense of vintage solidity.

  10. Gwendolyn: A tried-and-true classic, Gwendolyn is showing more appeal despite its trend-bucking sound. It may not be light and lyrical, but it's a Welsh darling with regal qualities. Perhaps that's why William Blake used this name in his mythic poems. But the most heralded Gwendolyn of poetry is writer Brooks, who won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and was a US Poet Laureate.

  11. Larkin: On its surface, the sound of this name is playful and songlike, with an ending that fits right in with today's naming trends. British poet Philip Larkin wasn't exactly the picture of cheer, as his poems' themes often centered around death and fatalism. His works are widely respected and celebrated, with high honors in England, giving Larkin a balanced, literary feel.

  12. Langston: A surname with poetic punch, Langston was the given name of jazz poet Hughes. As a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes' words shaped the culture of the 20s and reflected pride in his African American heritage and community. Choosing this rare name will definitely communicate an appreciation for jazz, poetry, and the arts.

  13. Maya: A global favorite with roots in several different languages (Hindi, Hebrew, and Greek, for starters), the name Maya caught on in the late 90s and is still in the top 100s. The wildly talented author, activist, singer, and poet Angelou was an incredibly influential figure who inspired many to use the name, especially as its sound fit naming trends. Once statistics are released for names of 2014, we'll get a clear picture of how Angelou's death affected expecting parents, though it's almost certain the name Maya did well last year in her honor.

  14. Millay: Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) happens to have a beautiful surname in addition to a long list of honors as a top American poet and activist. Her surname would be an exceptionally rare choice, but it's got an irresistible sound and it's on par with the friendly, old-fashioned name Millie.

  15. Nash: Lighthearted poet Ogden Nash was loved among critics and readers for his wit and sense of humor. While the most common associations with this English surname come from TV's Nash Bridges and mathematician John Nash, we love the laughter and clever charm that the poet brings to this on-trend name.

  16. Rainer: Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist Rilke chose a germanic form of the English name Rayner in place of his original given name, René. The spelling he chose at the time imparted a stronger German vibe, but today it comes across as lighter in comparison, almost on par with a nature name. It's rare, but accessible and trendy-sounding, like River or Tanner.

  17. Sylvia: Perhaps the most famous Sylvia was Pulitzer-Prize winning poet and author Plath, who helped pioneer the confessional movement in American poetry. The name Sylvia was at its most popular in the 30s, and today it feels like an underused classic with lots of style.

  18. Wallace: Award-winning poet Wallace Stevens is considered one of America's best. A brilliant writer and careful crafter of poetry, Stevens lends this name an added touch of intellectualism. It's a rare choice today, likely because of the unavoidable nickname Wally. But Wallace is a dignified, vintage name with Scottish history that is due for a little more appreciation.

  19. Walt: Move over, Disney. Celebrated poet Walt Whitman highly influenced American literature with his surprising lack of rhyme and meter, paving a way for many of the poets we've featured here. His name strikes us as simple and sweet, with a firm foundation and an antique feel.

  20. William: William is as classic as they come, and used so often that it's a bit of a chameleon, changing personalities and impressions with each new namesake. But Shakespeare stands out among the rest, keeping William loosely in the category of a literary name. Alongside Shakespeare are poets like Blake, Butler Yeats, Carlos Williams, Collins, Cowper, and Wordsworth, to name a few.

There are, of course, many more names of poets that we love. Share your favorites with us! And for more inspiring name posts, try 20 Baby Names for Creative Girls and Boys.

The Timeless Baby Names You've Overlooked

Jan 28th 2015


If you could shop for baby names in the grocery store, today's parents would all flock to the produce aisle. Everyone's looking for the freshest, most colorful options. Yet baby name shopping is a future-looking business. The name you choose has to stand the test of time, sounding as good thirty years from now as it does today.

That means "shelf life" may be as important as freshness. What would be the naming equivalent of a jar of honey -- long-lasting and eternally appealing? The answer is names that have already stood the test of time for generations. Names like James and Elizabeth don't go in and out of fashion like hem lengths. They're timeless, and happily, they're not alone. You can find timeless names at all levels of popularity, even some with the potential to surprise.

All of the names below have been given to at least 5 American babies per year every year since 1900, without any sharp popularity peaks that would date them. [For you hard core name geeks, my criterion was SQRT(maximum normalized frequency)/SQRT(minimum normalized frequency) ≤ 3.] These names are all over the style map but they're all timeless, and not a James or Elizabeth in the bunch.

Timeless Boys You Might Have Overlooked:

Alden
Alfonzo
Angus
Anton
Benedict
Byron
Calvin
Clark
Clayton
Coleman
Conrad
Dallas
Denver
Edgar
Elliott
Evans
Felix
Grant
Harris
Jay
Jefferson
Judson
Jules
Julius
Leander
Lionel
Mahlon
Malcolm
Marshall
Murphy
Neil
Nelson
Noel
Oscar
Preston
Raphael
Reuben
Rocco
Simon
Solomon
Sterling
Thaddeus
Theodore
Theron
Ulysses
Van
Vance
Vaughn
Victor
Vincent
Wesley
Winston


Timeless Girls You Might Have Overlooked:

Adela
Amalia
Antonia
Camilla
Camille
Carmen
Caroline
Cecilia
Celeste
Clare
Claudia
Coral
Corinne
Elisa
Eloisa
Eve
Georgina
Greta
Gretchen
Helena
Hope
Iris
Johanna
Josefina
Libby
Lucia
Luisa
Lydia
Magdalena
Marianna
Martina
Miriam
Naomi
Nina
Petra
Portia
Priscilla
Rhea
Susanna
Veronica

32 Beautiful Baby Names With an 'X' Factor

Jan 25th 2015

Stirring Up Baby Names

Originally appeared on The Stir.

Not too long ago, the letter X was avoided like the plague when it came to naming babies. But no more: X is now the the letter many parents strive to include. And while Angelina Jolie is partly responsible,  -- with kids Maddox, Pax, and Knox -- the X trend has been slowing gathering steam since long before Brangelina's babies were born.

"Since the 1870s, the percentage of babies getting x-names has risen tenfold," says Laura Wattenberg, founder of the baby naming site Baby Name Wizard. "The overarching reason is that X is the letter of the alphabet with the most attitude."

Toss in the X-games, X-Files, and X-Men, and that only reinforces the idea that X is edgy and special, that something "x-tra" parents crave in a name. Here's how you can hop on this trend yourself. 

Boy names

Alexander: The ancient Roman conquerer Alexander the Great gives this name a noble ring; in the U.S., it's been one of the top 25 baby names since 1991. It's also spawned a ton of nicknames, like Alex, Zander, Xan, even Sasha (what parents Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber call their own Alexander).

Max: This name is often short for longer verions -- Maximus, Maximilian -- but is also a popular name in its own right, chosen by celebs from Cynthia Nixon to Christina Aguilera. Meanwhile skater Scott Hamilton doubled up on the X-factor by naming his son Maxx.

Xavier: Long popular as a middle name (often following Francis), Xavier is increasingly getting first name status (just ask Donnie Wahlberg and Tilda Swinton). The X-men comics also introduced a hip new spelling: Xzavier.

Jaxon: This name is part of a new trend where parents sub in "x" where it's normally not -- Jaxon instead of Jackson. In certain areas of the southwest, Jaxon has even surpassed the popularity of Jackson and becomea a top five baby name! Plus it comes with a cool nickname: Jax.

Axel: This name has that heavy metal rocker sheen, thanks to Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose. Will Ferrell picked this name for his third son; Tiger Woods chose it as a middle name for his son Charlie. And get this: in spite of its rock 'n roll roots, it means father of peace.

Dexter: This is the name of a serial killer in a popular Showtime series, but that dark reference only seems to add to this name's edgy appeal. Diana Krall and Elvis Costello named one of their twin boys Dexter, which can be shortened to Dex.

Rex: Natascha McElhone, Niki Taylor and Coldplay's Will Champion and have Rexes in their families, and for good reason: this name means "king" and carries a cool yet regal air.

Phoenix: Named after a mythic bird that symbolizes immortality, this name has the celebrity sheen via Joaquin and the later River.

Xerxes: If you want double the X-power, consider this name, which means "hero of heroes" and once graced not just one, but two Persian kings.

Maddox: After Jolie chose this masculine name for her adopted son in 2003, Maddox has skyrocketed in popularity. It's also fueled the craze for all names with 'x,' in both Jolie's family and in general.

Pax: Jolie's Vietnamese-born son was given this name, which is Latin for peaceful.

Knox: Jolie and Pitt (whose great-great-grandfather was named Hal Knox Hillhouse) gave their son this name, wich is Scottish for "round hill," althoug you're probably more familiar with the more modern reference of Fort Knox.

Bronx: This rough-n-tough borough of New York made baby name fame when Rockers Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz named their son this.

Lexington: This is a "place name" (a town in Massachusetts and Kentucky), but also has a cute nickname, Lex. 

Baxter: It means "baker" but sounds so much cooler.

Felix: Latin for "happy and fortunate," this name was picked by Gillian Anderson and Elizabeth Banks for their baby boys.

Girl names

Alexandria: This turned the ho-hum Alexandra into a more distinctive "place" name, after the ancient city in Egypt. David Bowie and Iman named their daughter this name, which was shortened to the sweet nickname "Lexi."

Alexis: This name shot to popularity with Dynasty's Alexis Carrington in the 1980s, and has had staying power ever since as a sleek, sexy name. One popular variation is Alexa.

Maxwell: Long considered a boy name, Maxwell has become equally popular among girls after Jessica Simpson and Lindsay Sloane chose this name for their daughters.

Maxine: A more feminine "Max" name with political clout, thanks to California Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Moxie: Penn Jillette named his daughter Moxie Crimefighter... which is a bit much, but Moxie has, well, a lot of moxie in its own right. 

Beatrix: It's "Beatrice" with an edge, with respectable roots thanks to children's book author Beatrix Potter. It also doesn't hurt that Quentin Tarantino's trendy Kill Bill movies starred Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) kicking butt.

Bellatrix: J.K. Rowling gave this name to an evil witch played by Helena Bonham Carter in her Harry Potter books; plus it means "female warrior" and is one of the stars in the constellation Orion. Plus you can shorten to Bella.

Pixie: So cute -- and it's also Swedish for sprite or fairy.

Roxy: Also spelled Roxie, this name has showgal glam (think Roxie Hart from Chicago) but has also appeared in kid shows like Hannah Montana and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Xena: It's TV's famous warrior princess! It's also Greek for welcoming.

Dixie: This sassy name is also a "place name" for the states south of the Mason Dixon line, but it's more than that going for it: Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill and wife Lily Aldridge named their daughter Dixie Pearl in 2012.

Oxsana: A snazzier spelling of Oksana, the name came into our consciousness due to Ukrainian figure skater Oksana Baiul. It's also Russian for "praise to God."

Calixta: A more exotic form of Calista -- and also a character in the short story "The Storm" by Kate Chopin, so it has some literary appeal.

Lux: It means "light" in Latin... and also just begs for this baby to be pampered with cashmere booties and jewel-encrusted pacifiers.

Roxana: She was the wife of Alexander the Great, and the name is Persian for "little star."

Nyx: In Greek mythology, Nyx is the goddess of night... and a very daring name for a girl.

What do you think of baby names with an 'X'?