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“17 Baby Names You Didn’t Know Were Totally Made Up”

From Laura Wattenberg:

Want to drive the baby-naming public up the wall? Tell them you’re naming your daughter Renesmee. Author Stephenie Meyer invented the name for the half-vampire child in her wildly popular Twilight series. In the story it’s simply an homage to the child’s two grandmothers, Renee and Esmé. To the traditional-minded, though, Renesmee has become a symbol of everything wrong with modern baby naming: It’s not a “real name.” The author just made it up, then parents followed in imitation of pop culture.

All undeniably true, yet that history itself is surprisingly traditional. . . .

And here are the 17 classic, yet made-up, names:


The commenters express some disagreement regarding Coraline but it seems that the others on the list really were just made up. And a commenter also adds the names Stella and Norma among the made-up list. And “People who are not Shakespeare give us names like Nevaeh and Quvenzhane.”

P.S. Wattenberg adds:

Note for sticklers: Each of the writers below is credited with using the name inventively—as a coinage rather than a recycling of a familiar name—and with introducing the name to the broader culture. Scattered previous examples of usage may exist, since name creativity isn’t limited to writers.


  1. Groth says:

    Aren’t all names made up?

  2. Amílcar Tavares says:

    Miranda is a family name in Portuguese speaking countries and Glória (glory in English) is a name.

  3. Jonathan (another one) says:

    17 made up names, at least 15 female. (Actually I think Dorian might be unisex.) Biased sample or deep sociological truth?

  4. Marko says:

    I suspect that this often results from a type of performance anxiety , if not outright panic , at the moment the choice must be committed to paper , and posterity. So , a mother who intends to choose the perfectly mainstream name of “Anthony” for her son , writes it as it’s always sounded to her in her head , and we get “Anfernee”. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time ’till we see the “Anthemee” variant.

    You can imagine the worst outcome by visualizing the mother frantically looking around the hospital room for anything that might suggest a name she can write on the form. In the book “Terrorist” , the unhappy result was “Tylenol”.

  5. jrkrideau says:

    “Stella” is make up? My old friend Stella Maris would be quite surprised. Someone seems to have missed Latin class.

    Borrowed to be a girl’s name perhaps but a lot of Romans really thought it was a word.

  6. Anomalous G says:

    Well, there’s made-up and then there’s made-up. I guess what Wattenberg means in that these names were ascribed to a fictional character before they belonged to any known real person, but some of them have clear meanings or roots (Miranda, Amanda, Gloria, Evangeline) or are simple permutations of present or past common names (Coraline, Cedric). I think there’s a distinction between these kinds of innovations and names whose connection to existing names or words is obscure or nonexistent. Pamela, Vanessa, and Wendy might be in this category.

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