Unless you've done some serious ahead-of-time planning, finding the perfect baby name can be super stressful. If you're looking for a timeless, but feminist title for your new addition, you can't go wrong with one of these 15 classic baby girl names from Margaret Atwood books.
With her first graphic novel on store shelves and adaptations of two of her beloved novels in the works, Canadian author Margaret Atwood is experiencing a resurgence in popularity as a new generation discovers her work. Earlier this month, her 1985 novel, The Handmaid's Tale, rocketed to No. 1 on Amazon's Bestseller list, and with both a Hulu miniseries and a graphic novel adaptation on the way — not to mention the ongoing war on women — it's pretty much guaranteed a spot at the forefront of Western literary consciousness for the foreseeable future.
Margaret Atwood's books present readers with difficult heroines in unimaginable circumstances. They aren't perfect. They lie, cheat, steal, kill — sometimes out of necessity, sometimes not. Offred, Moira, Grace, Iris, and others challenge our preconceived notions of acceptable behavior in dire straits, and that's why we keep coming back for more.
Check out the 15 classic baby girl names from Margaret Atwood books below, and share your favorites with me on Twitter!
1Charis from 'The Robber Bride'
Charis is one of three point-of-view characters in Margaret Atwood's 1993 novel, The Robber Bride. She's pretty flaky and generally not too likable, but her name is great.
Charis is the Greek word for "grace," as in the Three Graces. Most English speakers opt for a hard-K sound at the beginning of this name, but the original Greek begins with a uvular fricative — think Chanukkah or loch.
2Cordelia from 'Cat's Eye'
In Cat's Eye, Cordelia is the childhood "pal" who bullies Atwood's protagonist, but winds up as a punching bag for her former target when the girls grow up.
Atwood isn't alone in loving this name. Ever since William Shakespeare bestowed it upon the youngest of King Lear's daughters, Cordelia has become something of a favorite name for authors. It's what Stephen King dubbed a minor antagonist in Wizard and Glass. In Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery's heroine would love to be called Cordelia instead of "plain, old, unromantic Anne Shirley."
According to Nameberry, Cordelia — which means "heart [or] daughter of the sea" — is a name with "style and substance, and is exactly the kind of old-fashioned, grown-up name that many parents are seeking today." It appeared among the Top 1000 U.S. baby names in 2014 and 2015.
3Elaine from 'Cat's Eye'
The protagonist of Cat's Eye, artist Elaine goes from being Cordelia and her clique's bullying victim to reveling in the relative power she holds over the other woman in adulthood.
According to Nameberry, Elaine is an "[o]ld French form of Helen," and means "bright, shining light." In 2015, Elaine was No. 673 on the list of Top 1000 U.S. baby names.
4Estelle from "Rape Fantasies"
Found in Atwood's short-story collection, Dancing Girls, "Rape Fantasies" centers on a small group of co-workers having a conversation about the titular erotic sessions. For one of the women, Estelle, rape fantasies never end in sexual assault, but in her overpowering or outsmarting an attacker.
This French name meaning "star" has been among the Top 1000 U.S. baby names since 2012. In addition to being a minor moniker in Seinfeld and Friends, it was the first name of Golden Girls actress Estelle Getty.
5Grace from 'Alias Grace'
Atwood's 1996 novel, Alias Grace, is a fictionalized account of a sensational 1843 murder case from Upper Canada, in which two servants were charged and convicted of killing their master and a co-worker. The eponymous character is one of the supposed killers, Grace Marks: a 16-year-old domestic.
Grace ranked among the Top 20 U.S. baby names in 2015. Nameberry notes that "it was the eleventh most popular name in this country in 1875," and "is currently even more popular in other countries than it is here."
6Iris from 'The Blind Assassin'
The Blind Assassin centers on the Chase sisters, Iris and Laura, and their complex and abusive relationships with two men. The book is notable for containing a roman à clef, which in turn contains a science fiction story, from which the novel takes its title.
A flower name, Iris is Greek for "rainbow." In 2015, it ranked at No. 217 on the list of most-popular U.S. baby names.
7Janine from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
In Atwood's 1985 novel, The Handmaid's Tale, Janine is the pre-Gilead name of Ofwarren, one of Offred's fellow Handmaids. She is the only Handmaid to give birth in the novel, but her child turns out to be unviable.
According to Nameberry, Janine is a French form of Jane that "[h]as lost all trace of its French accent." Jane means "God's gracious gift," and ranked No. 288 among U.S. baby names in 2015.
8June from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Although it's seldom remembered, June is among the pre-Gilead names that Handmaids-in-training share during quiet nights in the Red Center. As no other Handmaid is ever linked to the name, it's sometimes assumed to belong to Atwood's narrator, Offred.
June is a Latin name, linked to the goddess Juno, who is the Roman version of Hera. It returned to the Top 1000 in 2008 after a long absence, and ranked at No. 280 in 2015.
9Laura from 'The Blind Assassin'
Laura is the sister of protagonist Iris Chase in Atwood's 2000 novel, The Blind Assassin.
This Latin name, meaning "bay laurel," was the 322nd most-popular baby name in 2015. According to Nameberry, "Laura has ranked on the popularity list since official US records have been kept [sic]."
10Madge from "Happy Endings"
Contained in Atwood's short-story collection, Murder in the Dark, "Happy Endings" plays with form by splitting itself into six different, self-referential installments. Madge is the more minor of the story's two female characters.
Meaning "pearl," Madge is a "[d]iminutive of Margery or Margaret." Suzanne Collins chose it for Katniss' friend in her Hunger Games series.
11Moira from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Moira is Offred's badass BFF in The Handmaid's Tale. Originally a Handmaid-in-training, Moira's rebellious nature lands her in Jezebel's, a secret brothel for the Gileadean elite.
Meaning "bitter," this Irish form of Mary "has never appealed much to American ears," according to Nameberry. It was the first of two middle names belonging to Wendy Darling in Peter Pan.
12Penelope from 'The Penelopiad'
In The Odyssey, Penelope is the ever-faithful wife of Odysseus, who waits decades for her husband to return from war. She recalls the events of her life in Atwood's The Penelopiad, which takes place in modern-day Hades.
This Greek name, which means "weaver," first cracked the Top 100 in 2013, and had reached the No. 34 spot by 2015.
13Ramona from 'Oryx and Crake'
In Oryx and Crake, Ramona is the assistant of the protagonist's father, whom she later marries.
Nameberry calls Ramona "a Sweet Spot name," because it is "neither too trendy nor too eccentric." A Spanish name, Ramona is a feminine form of Ramon, and means "wise protector." Book nerds will remember it as the name Beverly Cleary chose for her young heroine, Ramona Quimby.
14Roz from 'The Robber Bride'
Another POV character from The Robber Bride, Roz is a wealthy businesswoman.
Roz is a shortened version of names like Rosalind and Rosamund. Neither of the three is among the Top 1000 U.S. baby names. Frasier fans will recognize this as the name of Frasier Crane's producer, Roz Doyle.
15Serena from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
In The Handmaid's Tale, Serena Joy is the pre-Gilead name of the Commander's Wife, who becomes Offred's uneasy ally in her mission to birth a healthy child.
A Latin name meaning "tranquil [or] serene," Serena is a favorite of parents and writers alike. In 2015, it ranked at No. 411 among the most-popular U.S. baby names. Edmund Spenser, Henry James, and Ron Rash have all chosen the name for characters in their stories.