17 Baby Names You Didn't Know Were "Totally Made Up"
Want to drive the baby-naming public up the wall? Tell them you're naming your daughter Renesmee. Author Stephenie Meyer invented the name for the half-vampire child in her wildly popular Twilight series. In the story it's simply an homage to the child's two grandmothers, Renee and Esmé. To the traditional-minded, though, Renesmee has become a symbol of everything wrong with modern baby naming: It's not a "real name." The author just made it up, then parents followed in imitation of pop culture.
All undeniably true, yet that history itself is surprisingly traditional.
Writers have always made up names, and thank goodness. Our naming culture is much the richer for their inventions. Shakespeare in particular introduced many names we now consider classics, and centuries of writers have followed in his footsteps. Renesmee may or may not end up joining the name canon, but remember that the names below were all just as "made up" once upon a time.
[Note for sticklers: Each of the writers below is credited with using the name inventively -- as a coinage rather than a recycling of a familiar name -- and with introducing the name to the broader culture. Scattered previous examples of usage may exist, since name creativity isn't limited to writers.]
Wendy. Wendy looks like a nickname, and may have occasionally been used as one. But we know it today entirely via Peter Pan. Author J.M. Barrie named his Wendy after a childhood nickname "fwendy-wendy" ("friend").
Cedric. Sir Walter Scott created this name in 1820 for the father of Ivanhoe. He was probably thinking of the actual Saxon name Cerdic. Close enough.
Miranda. Shakespeare took his name-building seriously. The name of The Tempest's heroine tells you she's an object of admiration: Miranda is Latin for admirable, or "to be marvelled at."
Vanessa. If you want an 18th-century Renesmee, here's the name for you. Jonathan Swift wrote the poem "Cadenus and Vanessa" for a woman named Esther Vanhomrigh, and constructed the heroine's name out of bits of Vanhomrigh's first and last.
Coraline. Coraline is the title character of Neil Gaiman's creepy 2002 children's novel, which became a creepily beloved animated film. The name's origin was a simple mistake: Gaiman mistyped Caroline and like the result. Hundreds of girls now receive the name every year.
Evangeline. The poem Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's greatest popular success. If the heroine's name sounds like a saintly French classic, tip your cap to Longfellow.
Amanda. 17th-century writers took a page from Shakespeare's folios, building this name from the Latin for "lovable" on the model of the Bard's creation Miranda. Playwright Colley Cibber is usually given the credit.
Gloria. Gloria is the Latin for "glory," but it owes its life as a women's name to two popular writers of the late 19th century: George Bernard Shaw and E.D.E.N. Southworth. (That's short for Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte, thank you very much.)
Dorian. Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray was a reprobate with a hidden, damning portrait. He's one of literature's most fashionably named heels.
Clarinda. In Edmund Spenser's epic poem The Faerie Queene, Clarinda (also called Clarin) was the duplicitous maidservant to Radigund, Queen of the Amazons. But style talks: it was Clarinda, not Radigund, that caught on as a name.
Cora. James Fenimore Cooper introduced this name in The Last of the Mohicans. It's been speculated that he was inspired by the Ancient Greek Kore ("maiden"), which was a name for Persephone and thus boded ill for poor Cora.
Pamela. Elizabethan poet Sir Philip Sidney introduced this name, though he stressed the middle syllable. The name caught on more (and acquired a new stress pattern) after the 1740 publication of Samuel Richardson's novel Pamela. Even then, it was hardly conventional. Henry Fielding poked fun at Pamela in a novel of his own, writing "a very strange name, Pamela, or Pamela; some pronounced it one way, and some the other."
Fiona. This Scottish and English favorite was invented by 18th-century Scottish poet James Macpherson. The Irish name Fíona may look the same written down, but strangely enough it's completely unrelated.
Jessica. Jessica was the daughter of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice – apparently it was Shakespeare's idea of a typical Jewish name. Speculation is that he based it on Jesca, a spelling of the obscure biblical name Iscah/Yisca that's found in some Bibles of his time.
Lucinda. This romantic extension of Lucia first showed up in Spanish in the form of Don Quixote's Luscinda, then leapt to French as Lucinde thanks to a Molière play. But it was in the English spelling Lucinda that the name became immortal.
Ronia. Swedish Legend Astrid Lindgren, creator of Pippi Longstocking, had another great hit in the 1981 book Ronja Rövardotter ("Ronia the Robber's Daughter"). Ronja has become a modern classic in Northern Europe.
Imogen. Like Coraline, this name was born of a spelling error. The character Imogen in Shakespeare's Cymbeline is based on a legendary Queen Innogen. Shakespeare, or quite likely his printer, read the n's as an m, and a new classic name was born.