In a recent interview, Eva Mendes revealed that she and Ryan Gosling actually named their daughter Esmeralda after the character in the Victor Hugo novel, not her animated Disney counterpart from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This type of literary inspiration is all the rage for new parents who want to imbue their daughter’s name with some storybook significance.
Don’t believe us? Just look at the prediction that Katniss will be the 14th most popular name for baby girls in 2014. But you don’t have to travel to the districts of Panem to find a good name for your daughter, just check out the library of literary heroines below. With a selection like this, the odds certainly are ever in your favor.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
For most of the story, Estella is seen as an unattainable ideal from the perspective of lovelorn Pip. It isn’t until readers see her steely facade crack that the misfortune behind the beautiful face is revealed. Naming your daughter Estella would be a perfect homage to the power of unconditional love that Dickens’ novel is truly about.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
In an ideal world, Alcott fans would have their own mini Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. But if fate (or the desire not to have four daughters running around the house) should intervene, the relentless spirit and independence of Jo should make her namesake your go-to choice for a little woman of your own.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The face that broke a thousand hearts, Lady Ashley Brett is the classic Hemingway heroine. Despite the impossibility of her circumstances, she never stops fighting to live as brightly and passionately as possible. Brett’s been a longtime favorite for her strength and charisma, which won’t be bad shoes for your little girl to fill.
The Big Friendly Giant by Roald Dahl
Sometimes the biggest adventure is making a friend. Dahl’s story may have been named after her colossal counterpart, but Sophie’s bravery and compassion make her the unlikely heroine of the tale. Have fun with the reference while Sophie’s still a tot, because to her, you and Dad really will seem like giant magical beings.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Decades before Sheryl Sandberg encouraged women to “Lean In,” Ayn Rand gave us the paragon of ambition and fearlessness that is Dagny Taggart. As the protagonist of Rand’s most notable work, Taggart holds her own in a man’s world and refuses to compromise while doing it. If you want to raise a daughter with a backbone made from Rearden steel (Rand lovers will get that joke), this name is a good place to start.
Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
Who wouldn’t want a daughter with Ramona’s spunky spirit? Cleary described it best when she said, “She was not a slowpoke grownup. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next.” Every day with your Ramona will be such an adventure, you may end up writing a series about it yourself.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
L’Engle’s protagonist Meg starts her story as the ultimate outsider, unaware of the incredible love that surrounds her. Your baby might not inherit Meg’s superhuman math skills, but she’ll always feel the love, starting with the day you decide to name her after such a clever and compassionate heroine.
King Lear by William Shakespeare
King Lear is known as Shakespeare’s bleakest tragedy, but amidst the cruelty, mayhem, and deceit, a light shines through in the form of Cordelia. The ever-courageous princess tells it like it is and isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right, even though the consequences are dire (this is Shakespeare, after all). Of all the playwright’s female characters, Cordelia is the ultimate role model and namesake for a daring, devoted daughter.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Little known fact: Picoult’s Anna is actually short for Andromeda. Once your daughter is old enough to read My Sister’s Keeper, she’ll be proud to have been named for the girl who lived her life fully and on her own terms, even when caught between the wishes of her terminally-ill sister, and the family who wants her to sacrifice everything in order to save her.
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
Della’s name is as beautiful as the hair she selflessly sacrifices to obtain the perfect Christmas gift for her love. With luck, and a name like this, your daughter will also grow into a caring, kindhearted woman. But having that Herbal Essences commercial hair wouldn’t suck either.
Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
In the sea of Lizzies and Emmas, Elinor is often overlooked as a baby name for Jane Austen enthusiasts. The elder Miss Dashwood was actually one of the strongest heroines of these romantic novels, gracefully putting her own happiness aside for the sake of those she loved. Elinor got her happily ever after in the end though, and your daughter will too, knowing that she’s representing this classy leading lady.
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
While this may not seem like the most charming homage at first (for those who haven’t read Fitch’s seminal work, the story centers on the downward spiral of a daughter’s life after her mother murders someone), Astrid is truly one of the strongest female characters ever written. Any little girl would be honored that her parents bestowed her with such a namesake.
Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman
Lyra needed no man and no mythical creature to save her, making her the most heroic of the characters on this list. Though her name is delicate and musical, she is quick-witted and fierce. Your little Lyra will be able to fight battles as easily as she dances in first position, leaving the rest of the world in awe of her determination and finesse. Damsel in distress? Not your daughter.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Imagine this –
Buttercup: “Mooooom, can I have some milk?”
You: “As you wish.”
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