16 Baby Names Inspired By Epic Romances
What do we love more than babies? Babies with names inspired by love, of course!
From characters in (and writers of) epic love stories, to real-life romances, to names that simply mean “love,” here are some of our favorites in tribute to this all-consuming emotion.
Isolde. This name may either be derived from Germanic elements meaning “ice” and “battle,” or from the Celtic name Esyllt, meaning “the beautiful one.”
According to medieval legend, 6th-century Irish princess Isolde was betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall, who sent his nephew Tristan to fetch her for their wedding. But upon meeting, Tristan and Isolde fell madly in love — thanks to their accidental ingestion of a love potion meant for Isolde and Mark on their wedding night — setting off a shitstorm in the process. There’s a lot more to this tragic tale, but let’s just say it ends with a beautiful symbol of their love: two trees which grew out of Tristan and Isolde’s graves, branches intertwined so they can never again be separated.
Josephine. The feminine form of Joseph, which is of Hebrew origin and means “he will add.”
Josephine wasn’t even her preferred and given name — it was actually Rose — but her lover, Napoleon Bonaparte, decided he liked the name Josephine better (red flag, girl). The two married, Napoleon passionately in love with his wife; but when he went to war, Josephine began a series of torrid affairs. When Napoleon found out, he started having affairs of his own, and the taste of her own medicine caused Josephine to fall madly in love with her husband again. The two divorced after Napoleon was crowned emperor of France and wanted an heir that Josephine couldn’t provide, but they remained in love. After Josephine died (of a broken heart, according to her doctor), Napoleon reportedly picked violets from her garden that he wore in a locket around his neck for the rest of his life.
Penelope. Of Greek origin, and most likely a combination of the elements “pēnē” which means “a piece of woven cloth” and “lepō,” meaning “peel.”
In Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, Penelope was the wife of Odysseus, King of Ithaca. He went to war, and got caught up in a bunch of random unfortunate events that caused him to be away from home for twenty whole years. During this time, presuming her husband to be dead, Penelope had 108 interested suitors — but said “Boy, ‘bye” to all of them, remaining steadfastly faithful throughout Odysseus’ absence.
Mildred. Derived from an Anglo-Saxon name meaning “gentle strength.” And though it is an old-fashioned name, it does carry the appeal of the nickname Millie.
With perhaps the most fitting surname ever, Mildred Loving — along with her husband, Richard — defied the laws of racially-segregated Virginia by (gasp!) being an interracial married couple. They were actually arrested on July 11, 1958, in the middle of the night while they slept, and sentenced to a year in jail. The sentence was overturned, but only on the condition that they move away from Virginia and not return together for at least 25 years, meaning that they couldn’t visit their families together. With the help of the ACLU, the Lovings filed a lawsuit which resulted in Supreme Court judges unanimously ruling in their favor — and a landmark victory for the rights of interracial couples to love whomever they damn well pleased.
Esme. From an Old French word meaning “loved,” this name can be spelled Esmée as well. Its most popular pronunciaton is “Ez-may.”
Guinevere. Derived from the Welsh name Gwenhwyfar, from “gwen” (meaning “fair”) and “hwyfar” (meaning “smooth”), so basically, “fair lady.” (Fun fact: The ever-popular name Jennifer is the Cornish form of Guinevere.)
In Arthurian legend, Queen Guinevere was married to King Arthur, commander of the Knights of the Round Table. And one of his best knights was Lancelot — that is, until Lancelot fell for the beautiful Guinevere, and she for him. Their inability to ignore their feelings led to the eventual downfall of the Round Table, and their tragic story is immortalized in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere.”
Victoria. A Latin name meaning — you guessed it — “victory,” this name doesn’t immediately sound romantic … unless you consider the well-documented romance of Britain’s Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
From correspondence between the two, and the journals that Queen Victoria so religiously kept, we know that theirs was a deep and passionate love. She wrote in her diary, “Oh! To feel I was, and am, loved by such an angel as Albert.” In a letter Albert sent while he was traveling, he told her, “I need not tell you that since we left, all my thoughts have been with you at Windsor, and that your image fills my whole soul. Even in my dreams I never imagined that I should find so much love on earth.” When he died of typhoid fever in 1861, Victoria mourned him with an intensity that some called obsessive, and wore only black mourning clothes for the remaining 40 years of her life.
Jahan. A Persian name meaning “world.”
Shah Jahan was the fifth Mughal emperor of India, and madly in love with his wife Mumtaz Mahal. As was the custom of the time, he had other wives, but Mumtaz was by far his favorite — and together they had 14 children. She died from complications of giving birth to the last one, and the emperor was so distraught that he reportedly went into seclusion for a full year, after which he ordered the ultimate monument in memory of his wife: India’s most famous landmark, the Taj Mahal.
Lev. This short, sweet name also has a short, sweet meaning: it’s “heart” in Hebrew (לב). (It’s also the Russian form of Leo, which means “lion,” but for this occasion we like heart better.)
Oscar. A Gaelic name meaning “deer friend” — nope, not dear, deer.
Poet and playwright Oscar Wilde met Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas in June 1891, and though Bosie was 16 years his junior, the two fell hard for one another. In one of his many passionate letters to Bosie, Oscar wrote, “It is a marvel that those red rose-leaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing.” But Bosie’s father didn’t approve of the union — being gay was considered criminal at the time — and through his efforts, Oscar was eventually arrested for “gross indecency.” When he got out of jail, the two reunited, but their families interfered once more to keep them apart for good. Assholes.
Romeo. This is the Italian form of the Latin name Romeus, referring to a pilgrimage made to Rome.
We’d be remiss not to mention one of the most famous love stories of all time: that of Shakespearean characters Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, two teens from famously feuding families. Romeo goes to the Capulet’s party with the intention of crashing it — but instead ends up falling for Juliet. What ensues is a forbidden courtship, a secret marriage, and a plan to be together which goes horribly awry and results in both of their tragic deaths. SO ROMANTIC THOUGH.
Dante. The short form of the Latin name Durante, which means “enduring” — pretty fitting, we’d say.
Dante Alighieri, the famous Italian poet and author of “The Divine Comedy” and “Inferno,” fell in love with his muse, Beatrice “Bice” Portinari, at just nine years old when he and his father attended a party at her family’s house; she was eight, and wearing a red dress. He said, “From that time forward love fully ruled my soul.” They were both betrothed to others, but Dante remained infatuated with Beatrice for his entire life — even after she died at age 24 — and she was the inspiration for some of his greatest works.
Rhett. The Anglicized form of a Dutch surname, derived from the word “raet,” meaning “advice.”
You’ve likely heard the famous phrase “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” from Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With the Wind and its movie adaptation. But the character who said it, Rhett Butler, did give a damn — while Scarlett O’Hara, the object of his affection, was smitten with a dude named Ashley Wilkes. Despite her preoccupations, Rhett and Scarlett eventually marry. But it’s only when he leaves her after tragedy strikes that she realizes how much she really does love him — and it’s too little, too late. Their relationship was passionate and tempestuous, but they could never really get on the same page. Still, theirs is a love story for the ages.
Cash. Yes, everybody loves cash, as in money, but this is actually an English occupational surname meaning “box-maker.”
The love story of country singer Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, has been immortalized in song and film. They met through Elvis Presley, formed a friendship, and performed together professionally. In that time, the friendship evolved more deeply, and Johnny proposed to June at a show in front of 7,000 fans. He said of her, “There’s unconditional love there. You hear that phrase a lot but it’s real with me and her. She loves me in spite of everything, in spite of myself.” And when he was once asked to describe paradise, Johnny had just six words: “This morning, with her, having coffee.” Swoon.
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