It likely does not occur to most authors when they are deciding on names for their characters that one day hoards of fans will be so besotted with said characters that they will literally name their children after them. It might occur to some, though. I know when I was a kid and my writing definitely erred more on the side of fantasy, therefore every character I invented had an equally invented name. I dreamed that one day hoards of my slightly insane fans would literally name their children after them (me), but it’s fifteen years later and I’ve yet to publish a book so I guess that’s neither here nor there.
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that Khaleesi is an entirely made up name. It can be traced back directly to George R.R. Martin who invented the term meaning ‘queen’ for the fantasy world of Game of Thrones. But did you also know that American children are now statistically as likely to bear the name Khaleesi as they are to be called Louisa or Rachael? While not quite as popular, ‘Katniss’ and ‘Finnick’, names invented by Suzanne Collins for The Hunger Games, were given to fifteen and seventeen babies respectively in 2013, and in 2016, popular YA author Sarah J. Maas told Mashable “People have named their babies after my characters! Aelin, Celaena, Nehemia, Elentiya.”
But there are many other hugely popular names floating around out there whose origins also lie, albeit much less obvious, in the brains of writers. Let’s take a look at some of the most surprising:
1. Olivia is from Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
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Though the common meaning given for Olivia “olive tree”, it first appeared in Twelfth Night. In the play, Olivia is a haughty noblewoman who falls in love with Viola, a woman disguised as her own twin brother Sebastian.
2. Wendy (as a standalone name) is from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
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Before the publication of Barrie’s classic, Wendy was an uncommon abbreviation of Gwendolyn. However, due to the book’s popularity, Wendy as a standalone name became a favorite and this is entirely down to Barrie. His use of the name has a pretty devastating story behind it. The character of Wendy was named as a tribute to Margaret, the six-year-old daughter of a friend of Barrie’s, who died when she was six, and was fond of referring to him as ‘friendy-wendy.’ I can’t. Don’t talk to me for the rest of the day.
3. Miranda is from The Tempest by William Shakespeare
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The Latin mirandus means ‘wonderful,’ and it is from there that Shakespeare derived the name of the heroine of The Tempest. Shakespeare’s Miranda is pretty good, but my favorite Miranda has to be the most empowering character on Sex and the City and the only one talking sense most of the time. Thank you, Shakespeare, for giving us this name.
4. Dorian is from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
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According to Wikipedia “In Greek the meaning of the name Dorian is: Of Doris, a district of Greece; or of Doros, a legendary Greek hero. Doros was the son of Hellen of Sparta (who was the daughter of Zeus and Leda). Doros was the founder of the Dorian tribe, and the most likely origin of Doros’ name was the Greek word “doron”, meaning “gift”. The Dorians were an obscure, ancient Hellenic tribe that were supposed to have existed in the north-eastern regions of Greece, ancient Macedonia and Epirus.” However Wilde was the first to use Dorian as a name and it’s a pretty good one, even if it does originate from the ever so slightly less cool name Doris.
5. Cedric is from Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
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Well. The Diggorys must have been fans of muggle literature in order to have named their ill-fated son Cedric. The name originated in Sir Walter Scott’s 1820 novel Ivanhoe. The name is, apparently, based on that of Cerdic, a 6th century Anglo-Saxon king. The Secret Garden author Frances Hodgson Burnett later named a character in her 1886 novel Little Lord Fauntleroy Cedric, leading to its popularity. Whether or not J.K. Rowling has doomed or given new life to the name through bestowing it upon the unfortunate Diggory boy remains to be seen.
6. Pamela is from The Countress of Pembroke’s Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney
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Published posthumously, Sir Philip Sidney’s work The Countess of Pembroke featured a character named Pamela, a name that it has been speculated could be an amalgamation of the Greek words pan ‘all’ and meli ‘honey’. When I was six, I desperately wanted to be called Pamela because I liked palm trees.
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