Special Report

20 Most Popular Literary-Inspired Baby Names in America

People have long named their children after well-known fictional characters, whether from works by renowned writers such as William Shakespeare or Charles Dickens or from recent cult TV shows. Drawing on information compiled by the U.K.-based floral greeting card company Flowercard, 24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of the most popular such names in America between 2000 and 2019.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the list is headed by a name from the “Harry Potter” series, Luna. A whole generation of children has grown up with J.K. Rowling’s fantastically successful fantasy novels and their film adaptations, which feature the character Luna Lovegood. What might be a surprise, however, is that another name from the series, Lucius, is also on our list, and Lucius Malfoy isn’t exactly one of the good guys. (If you think that’s an unusual name, take a look at the most uncommon baby names of the last 100 years.)

There are also two names from George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” — Arya and Khaleesi — although the fantasy series is better known to the world through its television adaptation as “Game of Thrones.” It’s also interesting that Khaleesi isn’t even a name in the books or the show — it’s a royal title, meaning queen. (Some of the literary works behind popular names reached a much wider audience when they were adapted for film or television than when they were merely books or plays.) 

A few names do double duty and are given to girls and boys. For example, there are girls called Rhett, who is one of the main male characters in “Gone with the Wind.” Interestingly, Darcy is much more popular as a girl’s name, although the Darcy character in “Pride and Prejudice” is a man. What’s more, Darcy is his surname — his first name is Fitzwilliam. (These are the most popular names in America since 1880.)

Click here to see the 20 most popular literary-inspired baby names in America.

The UK-based floral greeting card company Flowercard compiled lists of the most popular baby names in both the U.S. and the U.K. between 2000 and 2019. They surveyed numerous popular literary works for character names, and took additional ones from such sources as Britannica, The Guardian, Behind the Name, and Book Riot. They omitted names that are common in their own right (for instance Harry from the “Harry Potter” series), then consulted records from official sources to determine the number of children given those names at birth. In the U.S., the data came from Data.gov.

 Some of the names on our list may owe their popularity to more than one work of literature, or the connection may be coincidental. For example, Winnie-the-Pooh is one of the most famous bears in history, but Winnie is also the central character in Samuel Beckett’s play “Happy Days.” Winnie was also a nickname for Winston Churchill and the name of Nelson Mandela’s wife. 

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Luna
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 38,777 girls
> Character name: Luna Lovegood from the “Harry Potter” series

The character Luna Lovegood first appeared in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and was described as having a dazed look on her face. The term Luna is often used in scientific writing and in science fiction to distinguish the Earth’s moon from other moons.

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Source: Nate D. Sanders auctions / Jacket design by Michael Mitchell / Wikimedia Commons

Holden
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 20,334 boys
> Character name: Holden Caulfield from “The Catcher in the Rye”

Holden Caulfield is the narrator and protagonist of J.D. Salinger’s classic “The Catcher in the Rye.” While Holden is a fine name, the character isn’t especially appealing: He is cynical and jaded and has become a symbol of teenage rebellion and angst.

Source: The Athenaeum / Philip Hermogenes Calderon / Wikimedia Commons

Juliet
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 18,455 girls
> Character name: Juliet from “Romeo and Juliet”

“Romeo and Juliet” is one of William Shakespeare’s most popular plays and the doomed lovers are among his best-known characters. They reached a whole new audience when Baz Lurhmann’s film adaptation “Romeo + Juliet” was released in 1996, with Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio in the leading roles.

Source: Courtesy of Amazon

Arya
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 16,734 girls
> Character name: Arya Stark from the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series

Arya Stark is a character in George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy series — better known to the world through its television adaptation as “Game of Thrones.” She trains as a warrior to avenge the massacre of her family.

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Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Rhett
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 16,044 boys
> Character name: Rhett Butler from “Gone with the Wind”

Rhett Butler is one of the main characters in Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel “Gone with the Wind,” which was adapted into one of the most successful movies ever in 1939, with Clarke Gable playing the role. Both the novel and the film have been criticized in recent years for what are said to be racist depictions of characters and treatment of of slavery.

Source: Francesco Hayez / Wikimedia Commons

Romeo
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 13,662 boys
> Character name: Romeo from “Romeo and Juliet”

It’s not surprising to find Romeo on a list that also includes his Juliet. Even people who haven’t read or seen a Shakespeare play are probably familiar with the famous line “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

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Source: Courtesy of Amazon

Dorian
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 11,020 boys
> Character name: Dorian Gray from “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a Gothic novel by Oscar Wilde. The book is highly regarded and Dorian is a beautiful young man, but it’s a bit odd that the name is so popular because he sells his soul so that his portrait will age and fade while he remains youthful. (Spoiler alert: The deal doesn’t work out well for him.)

Source: Nate D. Sanders auctions / Jacket design by Shirley Smith / Wikimedia Commons

Atticus
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 10,496 boys
> Character name: Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Atticus Finch is the hero of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He’s a lawyer who defends an African-American man falsely accused of rape. Atticus was played by Gregory Peck in the very successful 1962 film version.

Source: Frank Reynolds / Wikimedia Commons

Uriah
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 6,710 boys
> Character name: Uriah Heep from “David Copperfield”

Uriah Heep is a character in Charles Dickens’ novel “David Copperfield,” but he’s anything but a hero. In fact he’s obsequious and insincere, so possibly not the ideal name for a young man. (Uriah Heep is also the name of a British rock band.)

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Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)

Matilda
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 6,930 girls
> Character name: Matilda Wormwood from “Matilda”

“Matilda” is a hugely successful children’s novel by British writer Roald Dahl. The title character is super-smart and has special abilities. In 1996 Danny DeVito directed a successful film version of the story starring Mara Wilson.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Forrest
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 5,143 boys
> Character name: Forrest Gump from “Forrest Gump”

“Forrest Gump” is a 1986 novel by Winston Groom that was made into a blockbuster film starring Tom Hanks. It’s the story of a slow-witted but kind-hearted man from Alabama who gets mixed up in all kinds of historic events.

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Source: F. A. Fraser / Wikimedia Commons

Estella
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 4,596 girls
> Character name: Estella Havisham from “Great Expectations”

“Great Expectations” is one of Charles Dickens’ most popular novels. It’s a coming-of-age story about an orphan called Pip who falls for a girl called Estella, who is beautiful but cold.

Source: John Everett Millais / Wikimedia Commons

Ophelia
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 4,435 girls
> Character name: Ophelia from “Hamlet”

Ophelia is a tragic character in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” She falls for Hamlet but he kills her father Polonius and abandons her. She is driven out of her mind and dies by drowning. She has been referenced in many other literary works, and been the subject of numerous paintings and songs.

Source: Courtesy of Alliance

Coraline
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 4,293 girls
> Character name: Coraline from “Coraline”

Coraline is the title character of a 2002 novella of the same name by Neil Gaiman, made into an animated film in 2009. It’s about a young girl who enters a strange parallel universe through a door in her new home.

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Source: Courtesy of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

Lyra
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 3,791 girls
> Character name: Lyra Belacqua from the “His Dark Materials” series

Lyra Belacqua is the heroine of Philip Pullman’s trilogy “His Dark Materials,” about a young girl who inhabits a parallel universe. The television adaptation premiered on BBC in the United Kingdom and HBO in the United States in November 2019, so the name caught on very quickly.

Source: britishlibrary / Flickr

Darcy
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 3,083 girls
> Character name: Fitzwilliam Darcy from “Pride and Prejudice”

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a central character in Jane Austen’s romantic novel “Pride and Prejudice.” He’s rich and handsome and becomes the love interest of the protagonist Elizabeth Bennett. He is often ill at ease and haughty, leading people to assume he’s full of pride. Darcy has become a popular first name for girls, notwithstanding the fact that Austen’s Darcy is very much a male, and Darcy is actually his character’s last name.

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Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office (HBO)

Khaleesi
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 3,050 girls
> Character name: Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea (Daenerys Targaryen) from the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series

Khaleesi owes its popularity to the television series “Game of Thrones,” based on George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy series. It isn’t actually a name though — it’s a royal title meaning queen. The character DaenerysTargaryen becomes a Khaleesi when she marries Khal Drogo, leader of the Dothraki clan.

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Distribution Company

Winnie
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 2,553 girls
> Character name: Winnie-the-Pooh from “Winnie-the-Pooh”

Winnie-the-Pooh, also known as Pooh Bear and Pooh, is a hugely popular teddy bear character created by English author A. A. Milne. He’s also the star of film and television productions from The Walt Disney Company. (In addition to being the name of a number of real-life people, Winnie is also a popular nickname for Winifred, Edwina, and Winona, among other names.)

Source: Courtesy of ACME

Lisbeth
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 2,454 girls
> Character name: Lisbeth Salander from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Lisbeth Salander is the central character in Stieg Larsson’s award-winning Millennium series, which begins with the 2005 novel “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Larsson said he based Lisbeth on what he thought Pippi Longstocking might have been like as an adult.

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Source: Courtesy of Alexandra Films

Lucius
> Number of babies, 2000-2019: 2,195 boys
> Character name: Lucius Malfoy from the “Harry Potter” series

It’s odd that Lucius has become a popular name because he’s not a very nice person in the “Harry Potter” books. In fact, he has been described as a psychopath. He’s ruthless and prejudiced, serves Voldemort, and is father to Harry’s rival Draco.

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