If you're a college-certified book lover with a baby on the way, the baby names for English majors below are just what you need to brand your love of literature on Baby Whatsherface. Whether you're all about passing on quirkiness to the next generation or you love all that is low-key and elegant, one of the 20 monikers on this list is sure to fit your family perfectly.
The numbers don't lie: new parents want unique names for their children. Nameberry.com co-founder Pamela Redmond Satran attributes the increasing diversification of the baby-name pool to the focus on personal branding in today's economy. "Names have more widely become seen as a personal brand, a statement of individual style and personality, and so people are looking for a name that’s different from what other people have," she said, distinguishing the trend from "the 1950s, [when] everybody was looking to blend in."
According to a 2015 TIME article on Millennial baby-naming trends, "you’d need to add all the Noahs, Jacobs, Liams and Masons together to get the percentage of Michaels there were in 1980." The TIME piece also attributes modern-day naming trends to personal branding, and casts off other valid and real reasons for Millennials' name picks:
[P]arents want to give their kids a different name not so they can call it out on the playground and not have five kids look at them, and not so that Olivia (second most popular girl’s name) will be the only Liv in her class, and not so that if she loses her towel at camp everybody will know whose it is, but because they want their kid to have a unique brand.
So sorry, TIME, but I have to think you're wrong. Yes, Millennials do place a heavy value on personal branding. That's the nature of the working-world beast these days. You have to stand out, to make a name for yourself with your own name. For those of us who grew up with the dreaded First Name, Last Initial — Tyler D. and Tyler T., Lindsay S. and Lindsey G., Morgan J. and Morgan P. — giving a child their own identity is even more important, because we know the particular agony of having the same name as everyone else, and it has nothing to do with camp towels.
Literary baby names like Atticus and Sawyer have retained a fringe popularity for years, but it's time for some new blood. The baby names below are perfect for English majors who want a fresh moniker with meaning. Check out my picks, and share your own suggestions with me on Twitter!
Meaning: "Lion of God." Hebrew.
Before Disney opted to give it to Hans Christian Andersen's woeful mermaid, Ariel enjoyed a rich literary history. Given to three fey characters in Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope, Ariel retained its image as a poetic figure into the 20th century, when it featured prominently in the works of Sylvia Plath and T.S. Eliot.
Meaning: "Brave friend." German.
Source: James Baldwin
All '90s kids know that "Baldwin" is slang for "hot dude," and we'll never forget that this is what Jack Donaghy used to look like. But English majors' love for the Baldwin name is more than superficial, thanks to James Baldwin: the expat author of Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time, Go Tell It on the Mountain, and Giovanni's Room, among other works.
Meaning: "Barn for cows." English.
Source: Lord Byron
So "barn for cows" doesn't exactly scream "mad, bad, and dangerous to know," but no one cares about a silly meaning when you're talking about Lord Byron. The Romantic Period's bad boy was known for his illicit romantic pursuits, and lends his brooding name to a well-known literary trope: the Byronic Hero.
Flower names never go completely out of style, and Daisy has a not-too-dainty air of femininity about it. It's the name of the woman at the apex of The Great Gatsby's love triangle, Henry James' tragic protagonist, and Fannie Flagg's plucky heroine.
Meaning: A variant of Alvin. English.
Source: E.B. White
Here's one you don't see every day. Not even Charlotte's Web author Elwyn Brooks White used his full name, opting instead to go by his initials. To sweeten the deal for English majors, Elwyn has a Tolkienesque vibe, and is just obscure enough that you won't get strange looks for pinning it on your daughter or son.
Meaning: "Falconer." English.
Source: William Faulkner
William Faulkner is a mainstay of Southern literature, and brought home the National Book Award (twice), the Pulitzer Prize (twice), and the Nobel Prize. If you're looking for a distinguished-sounding name for your new little man, try this one on for size.
Meaning: "Farmer." Greek.
Source: Emma by Jane Austen, Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, George by Alex Gino, Serena by Ron Rash, The Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene, George Bernard Shaw, George Eliot, George Orwell, George Sand, George Santayana, Lord Byron
The given name of Lord Byron, George is a classic that never seems to die. If gender-neutral naming's your thing, don't throw George out of the running for your daughter. Authors George Eliot and George Sand are much more well known by their masculine pseudonyms than by their given names, and Nancy Drew's tomboy bestie was proud to be a George.
George declined from popularity after 1950, but you can probably expect a resurgence in coming years, thanks to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's decision to name their firstborn son George Alexander Louis.
Meaning: "Heather field." English.
Following the '80s and '90s popularity of Ashley/Ashlee/Ashleigh, the "lee" ending gets tacked onto lots of names these days. If Bailey and Emily aren't your style, consider Hadley. The surname of A Separate Peace antagonist Brinker Hadley, and the given name of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson, this moniker deserves your attention.
Meaning: "Bright, shining light." Greek.
Source: "The Face That Launch'd A Thousand Ships" by Christopher Marlowe, "Helen of Egypt" by H.D., "To Helen" by Edgar Allan Poe, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Helen Keller, Helen Fielding, Helen of Troy
For centuries, Helen of Troy has captivated poets as varied as Marlowe, Poe, and H.D. Although Helen might have passed into the realm of so-called "old people names," it was once the name of "the face that launch'd a thousand ships," and there's no good reason why you can't bring it back into the spotlight.
Meaning: "Green river, sea friend." Scottish.
Source: John Irving, Washington Irving, Irving Stone, Irving Wallace
Another name you might have thought died out, Irving hasn't been in the Top 200 in the U.S. since 1929. It's been on the decline since, and, despite a surge in popularity in the late 1980s, it passed out of the Top 1,000 in the mid-2000s. That means Irving is poised to make a comeback with the rest of the retro baby names, however, so get ready to be on the cusp of a new trend with this one.
Meaning: "God's gracious gift." English.
Jane is another timeless name on the rise. Since 1880, the name of both a Brontë heroine and a beloved Regency Era author hasn't slipped out of the Top 500, and its popularity has been steadily increasing since it hit an all-time low in 2005, when it came in at No. 476. In 2015, Jane held a strong position at No. 288.
Meaning: "Tall man's town." English.
Source: Langston Hughes
Though it has clearly been around for years, Langston didn't chart until 2013, when it appeared at No. 957 on the list of Top 1,000 baby names in the U.S. In just two short years, Langston climbed to No. 691. Keep a close watch on this one, English majors.
Meaning: "Elm grove." Scottish.
Here's another literary baby name on the brink of becoming a star. Lennox debuted on the Top 1,000 list for both boys (No. 488) and girls (No. 740) in 2015. Although it's pretty much always been a surname, you're probably going to start seeing a lot more Smiths and Joneses called Lennox in the coming years.
Meaning: "Water." Greek, Central American Indian, Latin, Spanish, Hebrew.
Source: Maya Angelou
Maya has had a good run. A Top 1,000 staple since 1970, the childhood nickname — and later professional moniker — of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings author Maya Angelou has remained in the Top 100 since 2002.
Meaning: A diminutive of Eleanor. English.
Source: Nella Larsen
2015's No. 1 baby name for girls, might soon give way to Ella (No. 18), but Nella could be close behind. Although it isn't currently ranked, and never has been, Nella seems like the natural progression from her ultra-popular sisters. If longer names are your style, lengthen this one to Nella Larsen's full given name: Nellallitea.
Meaning: A Latin gem name.
The 24th most popular baby name in 1920, Pearl took a serious dive throughout the 20th century, winding up at No. 1,000 in 1979, and disappearing for a 24-year-long stretch between 1986 and 2010. In 2014 and '15, Pearl stayed strong at No. 628. There's no telling what's in store for Pearl, but it's a classic that hasn't been done to death.
Meaning: "Peacock." English.
Source: Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe's last name might never have appeared in the Top 1,000, but there's good reason to believe it may make its debut in the coming years. Star Wars Episode VII featured the dreamy Oscar Isaac as snazzy pilot Poe Dameron, which might push the "Annabel Lee" author's name into the stratosphere.
Meaning: "Fifth." Latin.
In Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, tragic intellectual Quentin was the soft heart of the Compson family. But don't fret, your child won't have some kind of infamous legacy to live up to if you should choose this one. It's also the name of children's book illustrator Quentin Blake, who is best known for his work on Roald Dahl's novels.
Meaning: Latin variation of Odysseus.
Few novels have their own holidays, but that's just what James Joyce's most famous book has. Every year on June 16, fans gather to relive the events of Ulysses and hold Joyce-themed events. Nameberry credits Joyce's novel with keeping Ulysses on the charts throughout the 20th century, but it hasn't appeared in the Top 1,000 since 2005.
Meaning: "Dawn." Serbo-Croatian.
Source: Zora Neale Hurston
Zora hasn't charted in the U.S. since 1939, but that doesn't mean you should overlook it when naming your baby. If you or your partner enjoy video games, you should also note Zora's use in the Legend of Zelda series from Nintendo.