Wearable Baby Names from Shakespeare
Have you seen the preview for the new take on Romeo and Juliet? My daughter has been intrigued to see some Shakespeare (he’s gotten a lot of rave reviews from my husband and me!), and while I was thinking that Midsummer Night’s Dream might be more palatable to a tween, this might be just the ticket. Which of course, got me thinking about some of the awesome names that Shakespeare peppered throughout his plays—especially for his female characters. We’ve done bigger roundups of Shakespearean names in the past (check out the boys’ names and the girls’ monikers), but some of the names on those lists aren’t exactly going to be playground friendly. (We’re looking at you, Hamlet!) So what names would still sound fresh and fun—and showcase your love of the bard? Here’s my list.
Balthasar appears in several plays, including Romeo & Juliet—usually as a servant or minor character. It’s a name that means “God protects the king,” and could be an intriguing, off the beaten path choice.
Beatrice is an up-and-coming name now, and is one of the sharpest Shakespeare’s heroines (from Much Ado About Nothing). Plus, it’s a name that means happiness, so what can be bad about that?
Bianca is the beautiful younger sister of the sharp-tongued Katherine in Taming of the Shrew. Her name is based on the Italian word for white, and is in the top 400 in popularity.
Cordelia is a name I still associate with the mean girl turned Scooby Gang member in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Shakespearean types remember her as the faithful daughter of King Lear. It’s a name that means heart, and hasn’t been in the top 1000 in the U.S. since the 1950s.
Duncan means dark warrior, but in MacBeth, he’s the unfortunate victim of MacBeth’s plot to gain the throne. It’s been on a sharp decline ever since it hit its peak in 1997, but it might make a nice alternative to Dylan or Declan.
Emilia is Iago’s wife in Othello, who unknowingly plays a part in his sinister plot—and pays for it with her life. The name means rival, and is yet another variant on the uber popular Amelia/Emily crew.
Francis seems destined to be dusted off, thanks to the new pope, the new show Reign—and its Shakespearean pedigree. Francis appears in two plays: He’s one of the foolish band of players who perform Pyramus and Thisbe and the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the friar in charge of Hero and Claudio’s wedding in Much Ado About Nothing. Francis means “free man.”
Helena is one of the pair of lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream—and also the heroine of All’s Well That Ends Well. It’s a lovely name that means bright and shining, and is currently inching toward the top 500 baby names.
Henry probably doesn’t need any more help reaching toward the top names—it’s currently in the top 50 and climbing. The inspiration for Shakespeare’s most famous set of historical plays, the Henry IV pair and Henry V, the name means, appropriately enough, ruler.
Hermione may be well known thanks to Harry Potter, but Shakespeare used it first, as a main character in A Winter’s Tale. The name means messenger.
Hero may seem like a boys name, but Shakespeare used it for a girl in Much Ado About Nothing. It’s a lovely name that means “demi-god,” for either sex.
Imogen, which means beloved child, is a red-hot name in England, but still not as well known here. Shakespeare has her as a heroine in Cymbeline.
Juliet really needs no introduction—and her lovely name, which means “youthful,” is currently #253.
Shakespeare spells Katherine/Katharine two different ways in his plays—he uses Katherine spelling, however, for his most famous heroine bearing the name—the feisty lady in The Taming of the Shrew. This timeless name means pure.
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