Baby names with a bit of a literary pedigree are all the rage these days – so if the idea of picking your baby’s name out of a classic piece of literature appeals to you, there’s no better place to start looking than in the 37 plays Shakespeare wrote.
One of the literary greats, his choice of names for his characters are varied and interesting, and he even made a couple up himself. So take a wander through the list of our top picks – we’re pretty confident you’ll find something here that you’ll fall in love with … any takers for Romeo or Juliet?!
Shakespearean names for girls
- Adriana (The Comedy of Errors)
This unique name is soft and lovely, meaning ‘dark’ or ‘person of Adria’.
- Audrey (As You Like It)
A name that still inspires generations today meaning ‘noble strength’.
- Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing)
Before Beatrice was the name of a princess, she was the witty, high-spirited heroine in Shakespeare’s classic comedy and means ‘bringer of joy’.
- Bianca (Othello and The Taming of the Shrew)
Of Italian origin meaning ‘white’, Bianca was a favourite of old Will’s and is still popular today.
- Celia (As You Like It)
Modern yet classic, Celia means ‘heaven’ and should certainly be making a comeback on the baby name charts – it is often used as nickname for Cecilia too.
- Cleopatra (Antony and Cleopatra)
Cleopatra, meaning ‘glory of the father’, might be considered too much of name for modern-day parents, but the shorter Cleo is such a beautiful name that it seems a tragedy not to include it on the list.
- Cordelia (King Lear)
How could you not love Cordelia in King Lear? She is kind, gentle, sympathetic and comes with plenty of adorable nicknames – Cora, Delia, Lia and Cori to name a few.
- Cressida (Cressida and Troilus)
Okay, so Cressida doesn’t have the best reputation in literature (she broke her man, Troilus’ heart), but the name is gorgeous nonetheless. Shakespeare coined the name himself, taking it from the Ancient Greek name Chryseis, meaning ‘daughter of Chryses’.
- Emilia (Othello)
Emily and Amelia have both been on the most popular baby names lists in recent years, but Emilia, meaning ‘to strive or excel’ reigns supreme in literature.
- Desdemona (Othello)
Anyone who has read Othello will know this name well. And, if not, it might be time to read the play and see what all the fuss is about. And perhaps ignore the fact that the name means ‘misery’.
- Hermione (The Winter’s Tale)
Before Harry Potter there was The Winter’s Tale. And Hermione is also a name featured in classic Greek mythology meaning ‘pillar queen’ – she was the daughter of King Meneleas and Helen of Troy.
- Juliet (Romeo and Juliet)
A rose by any other name would never sound as sweet as Juliet. We all know the story and the name is just as divine.
- Lavinia (Titus Andronicus)
“She is Lavinia, therefore must be lov’d.” And we are loving this adorable vintage baby name meaning ‘woman of Rome’.
- Luciana (The Comedy of Errors)
Meek yet powerful, Luciana, meaning ‘light’, is a beautiful and classic alternative to the more widely-used Lucy.
- Portia (The Merchant of Venice and Julius Caesar)
Portia remains a strong name in literature today. She is featured in The Hunger Games but her true origin is from Shakespeare.
- Rosalind (As You Like It)
Meaning ‘pretty rose’, Rosalind is perhaps one of our favourite heroines in Shakespearean comedies and her name still comes with charming connotations.
- Viola (Twelfth Night)
She may have been a gender-bending heroine in Twelfth Night, but as a name, Viola is as feminine as they come.
Shakespearean names for boys
- Caius (King Lear)
All hail Caius! Meaning ‘person of Earth’ or ‘rejoice’, this is such a cute name and is actually quite popular these days, possibly due to the vampire Caius in the Twilight series.
- Cassius (Julius Caesar)
Nothing brutal about this name, even if Cassius was an awful antagonist in the play and means ‘vain or hollow’.
- Edmund (King Lear)
Edmund, meaning ‘fortunate protector’, comes with some serious literary awesomeness from Shakespeare as well as Jane Austen, who writes, “There is nobleness in the name of Edmund.”
- Jaques (As You Like It)
Jack always tops the most popular baby names lists. But what about the Hebrew alternative Jaques, meaning ‘supplanter’?
- Lucius (Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Timon of Athens and Cymbeline)
Lucius is another classic Shakespearean name that has been adapted to the Harry Potter series. Before Lucius Malfoy, Lucius, meaning ‘light’ or ‘luminous’, made an appearance in several Shakespearean plays.
- Lysander (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Okay, it’s clear that J.K. Rowling was a Shakespeare fan. And Lysander, meaning ‘liberator’ or ‘one who is freed’, is certainly a dreamy addition to the list.
- Malcolm (Macbeth)
Before he was stuck in the middle, Malcolm, of Scottish Gaelic origin meaning ‘devotee of Saint Columba’, was the heir to the Scottish throne in the ultimate tragedy, Macbeth.
- Orlando (As You Like It)
It’s a name that blooms with potential and means ‘famous throughout the land’.
- Oberon (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
A character to be taken seriously at all times, Oberon, meaning ‘noble bear’, was the king of the fairies in Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
- Sebastian (Twelfth Night and The Tempest)
The Tempest is my favourite of the Bard’s comedies and the ocean-inspired play clearly has some modern-day connections. The Little Mermaid anyone? Ariel also appears as a character in The Tempest.
- Titus (Titus Andronicus)
Meaning ‘title of honour’, Titus is strong, powerful and adorable. For the female version, try Titania, inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Shakespearean non-gendered names
- Corin (As You Like It)
Used for a male character in As You Like It, Corin, meaning ‘spear’ is by far my favourite on the list for either a boy or girl. Love it.
- Lennox (Macbeth)
We love this bewitching baby name, even if it’s from one of the most horrendous tragedies of all time. It’s of Scottish Gaelic origin and means ‘elm grove’.
- Regan (King Lear)
Meaning ‘royal’, Regan was one of King Lear’s daughters but is equally as popular today as a boy’s name.
- Valentine (Twelfth Night and The Two Gentlemen of Verona)
He was a gentlemen in Shakespeare’s plays, but Valentine, meaning ‘vigorous’ or ‘strong’ can pass as both an adorable girl’s or boy’s name these days.
And there are plenty more captivating Shakespearean names to consider: Caliban, Horatio, Hero, Fabian, Ferdinand, Romeo, Tarquin, Lorenzo, Tybalt, Tamora, Paulina, Patience, Nerissa, Miranda, Rosaline, Lucetta, Ursula … the list goes on and on.
Okay, that’s it. I’m having another baby. Or revisiting the pages of Shakespeare. The latter is probably more doable.