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39 Shakespearean Names For Your Little Bard

What’s in a name? Everything, honestly.

When trying to find the perfect name for your baby, people look for inspiration in any number of places. Cultural traditions. Family history. Some people — good, intelligent, and yes, very nerdy people — look toward literary baby names. And when it comes to literature, you don’t get more revered than William Shakespeare. So we’ve gathered some of our favorite Shakespearean baby names, and there are a lot to choose from. Because, while a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, this is your baby we’re talking about! And this name is probably going to stick with them forever: Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. OK, that was the last Shakespeare joke, I promise.

We’ve tried to steer clear of names you think of automatically when you hear “Shakespeare.” Don’t get us wrong: Romeo, Juliet, Henry, Katarina, and Titus are all lovely, powerful, storied names. But we’re going to go ahead and guess that if you’ve already decided to consider names from the Bard’s plays, those were already top of mind. So while we’re selected some well-known classics, we also tried to dig deep into the rolls of dramatis personae (and Will S’s own life) to find more esoteric (still fabulous) names.

1

William

A classic for a reason.Shutterstock

Honestly, can you do better than the name of The Man himself? A classic for a reason, William comes from Old German and literally means “will” and “helmet,” but more poetically translates to something like “strong protector” or “willful warrior.”

2

Beatrice

This name comes from Much Ado About Nothing, and was given to one of Shakespeare’s wittiest heroines, best known for her sharp war of words with the boastful Benedick. (Of course they get married in the end, though: It’s a ye olde rom-com!) The name itself means “she who brings joy” or “blessings.” It’s also a variant on Beatrix, which means “voyager.”

3

Robin

This delightful unisex name which means “famed” or “bright” (also, you know, a bird) comes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s the official name – Robin Goodfellow – of the character most commonly referred to as “Puck,” the impish nature spirit who causes mischief among lovers wandering through the woods.

4

Hero

We think this is a great unisex name though, in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing it’s given to the ingenue – the daughter of the governor of Messina. After she’s wrongfully accused of adultery she fakes her own death to make her fiancé realize he was being a jerk (because this girl lives for the drama, apparently). But all’s well that ends well, and Hero has a happy ending.

5

Claudio

This name was apparently one of Shakespeare’s favorites because he used it for main characters in both Much Ado About Nothing as well as Measure for Measure. While Measure’s Claudio doesn’t have a happy ending (he’s put to death for “fornication”), Much Ado’s Claudio is a soldier of distinction who (despite some human flaws) wins the day and gets the girl.

6

Cressida

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This name of Greek origin means “gold” and comes from the play Troilus and Cressida. The title itself is a bit of an odd choice since the titular lovers aren’t really the main focus of the play, a retelling of the latter days of the Trojan War, which will be familiar to anyone who’s read The Iliad. But when it comes to Shakespearean baby names, Cressida is a pretty great one.

7

Ophelia

One of Shakespeare’s great tragic heroines, Ophelia is a character caught between loyalties to the various men in her life — her lover, her father, her brother, the King. When her lover, Hamlet, kills her father, Polonius, that’s the last straw for the poor woman. She has a psychotic break and dies by drowning. So yeah. It’s a bummer of a story, but the name is amazing, and it means “aid” or “benefit.”

8

Elsinore

So. Technically this is not a person’s name. Elsinore is the name of the castle in Hamlet. It’s based on Kronborg castle in Helsingør, Denmark. We just love it as a fun Shakespearean name twist for people who like names like “Elsa” or “Elinor.” The name itself is thought to have derived from the Scandinavian word meaning “narrow strait,” as the town and castle are located at the northernmost tip of the island of Zealand, directly across from Sweden.

9

Viola

The protagonist of Twelfth Night, Viola is shipwrecked and ultimately disguises herself as a man to serve a local count... only to fall in love with him even as he pursues another woman. But don’t worry: this is a comedy and everything works out for the various lovesick nobles.

Viola is also the name of Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in Shakespeare in Love, the noblewoman who falls for the writer despite marriage and duty pulling her away. The name means “violet.”

10

Corin

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In As You Like It, Corin is a kindly old shepherd. He help the young folks, especially Silvius, make sense of their romantic life and offers what little he has to the utmost of hospitality. This name comes from Latin and means “spear.”

11

Silvia

The lively, spirited daughter of the Duke of Milan, Silvia has the world (and many a gallant swain) at her feet. She is also the subject of Valentine’s best monologue:

What light is light, if Silvia be not seen? What joy is joy, if Silvia be not by? Unless it be to think that she is by and feed upon the shadow of perfection. Except I be by Silvia in the night, there is no music in the nightingale. Unless I look on Silvia in the day, there is no day for me to look upon. She is my essence, and I leave to be, if I be not by her fair influence, foster'd, illumined, cherish'd, kept alive.

Silvia is an Italian name of Latin origin meaning “spirit of the wood.”

12

Balthazar

Shakespeare really liked this name. He used it (with various spellings) in Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, and Comedy of Errors. It is a name of Hebrew origin meaning “God protect the king.”

13

Bianca

This Italian name meaning “white” is used in both Othello (a courtesan in love with Cassio) and Taming of the Shrew (Katharina’s universally beloved sister who cannot marry until her elder sister finds a husband).

14

Ariel

This unisex name comes to us from Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest. Ariel is an island spirit and servant to the wizard Prospero, who rescued them after they were imprisoned by the witch Sycorax, mother of Caliban. In Hebrew, this name means “lion of God.”

15

Tamora

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In Titus Andronicus, this character is the cunning and ruthless Queen of the Goths who becomes Empress of Rome. After Titus ritually sacrifices her eldest son, she’s hellbent on making Titus suffer. Tamora vacillates between sympathetic and villainous in this ultra-violent play, but the name itself is pretty great. A derivation of the Hebrew name “Tamar” it means “palm tree,” specifically a date palm.

16

Lysander

This is the name of one of the lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream who steals off to the forest with Hermia before delightful, fairy-induced misunderstandings occur. The name comes from Greek and means “liberator.”

17

Celia

Celia is one of the main characters in As You Like It, the “pretty little coz” of Rosalind. The name comes from Latin and means “heavenly.”

18

Oberon

Oberon is the scheming king of he fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (that play is seriously just brimming with great Shakespearean baby names). It is of Germanic origin and means “noble and bearlike.”

19

Portia

Portia has it all going on. She’s the beautiful, witty, and fabulously wealthy lead in The Merchant of Venice. Some scholars believe she was even based on Queen Elizabeth herself. The name meaning may leave something to be desired, though. Portia comes from Latin and means “pig,” but pigs are intelligent and adorable creatures so we think it’s a go!

20

Antonio

Will kept returning to this name and with good reason!Shutterstock

Antonio is another of Shakespeare’s more popular names – characters of that name can be found in Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Twelfth Night. It is an Italian (and Spanish, though for the purposes of Shakespeare, it’s Italian) name meaning “flourishing,” “priceless,” and “worthy of praise.”

21

Nerissa

Nerissa is Portia’s lady-in-waiting and all around “merry wench” in The Merchant of Venice. It is a Greek name meaning “sea nymph.”

22

Reynaldo

Reynaldo isn’t the most famous character in Shakespeare. He’s also not a great guy – he’s some rando whom Polonuis pays to spy on his son Laertes, who is living abroad in France, just to see what the young man was up to. (If you thought your mom calling you every day in college was overbearing, just be lucky your parent wasn’t Polonius.) The name is of Latin origin and means “ruler’s advisor.”

23

Jamy

A minor character in Henry V, the gallant Scotsman, Captain Jamy, is described as “a marvelous, valorous gentleman,” experienced and with a keen knowledge of war tactics. We like it as a somewhat esoteric, unisex name. It is a derivative of the name “James” and means “supplanter.”

24

Orsino

At the beginning of Twelfth Night, Duke Orsino is the saddest wretch in the kingdom, pining for the beautiful Lady Olivia. In time, however, he finds true love in the mysterious Viola, who has been posing as a serving boy in his court. Orsino is Italian and means “little bear.”

25

Rosalind

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This heroine of As You Like it is the daughter of an exiled Duke, who falls in love with Orlando and decides to (what else) disguise herself as a boy to be near him. Rosalind was considered an ideal name for a woman in Shakespeare’s day, and means “lovely rose.”

26

Sebastian

There are Sebastians in both The Tempest and Twelfth Night. In the latter, he is Viola’s long lost twin brother. In the former, he’s pretty villainous. The name itself means “venerable” or “revered.”

27

Cleo

Technically you won’t find “Cleo” in any of Shakespeare’s plays, but I believe you’ll find it’s the first four letters in the name of one of his great heroines: Cleopatra. The name Cleopatra means “Glory of the Father.” Cleo on its own, therefore, means “glory.” Spelled “Clio,” this name may also refer to the Greek muse of history.

28

Biron

In Love’s Labour’s Lost, Biron (also spelled Berowne and pronounced Bur-own) is a lord at the court of Navarre, whom King Ferdinand has convinced to forsake everything, including women, for three years to devote himself to scholarly persuits. (He needs some convincing.) Of course, love conquers all in this off-beat comedy. The origin of this name is French and refers to a location in the south-west of France.

29

Thaisa

In Pericles, Thaisa (usually pronounced tie-EE-suh but it can vary) is a renowned beauty courted by princes from all over the world... but falls in love with a knight of modest means (and the play’s titular character). Their love story is round-about and full of Shakespearean levels of drama, but ultimately ends happily ever after.

30

Lear

A tragic end but an epic name.Shutterstock

We know you know this name from Shakespeare, but we haven’t heard it much as a first name and, well, we think it’s time for more people to consider it as an option. In the play, the once great king is old and seeks to divide his realm among his three daughters. Sadly, only one of them is a good daughter and he’s easily manipulated by his wicked daughters. Lear ends tragically, but his name is pretty epic. The name derives from the Briton name for what is now the River Soar.

31

Elizabeth

There is an Elizabeth in Shakespeare’s works – Queen Elizabeth Woodville, later Lady Grey, appears in both Richard III and Henry VI – but we’re really thinking about the Queen Elizabeth, aka Queen Elizabeth I, who would have been the woman the Bard most sought the favor of. Her approval could make or break a playwright, and her influence on the world in the period in which Shakespeare was writing cannot be overstated. The name comes from Hebrew and means “God is my oath.”

32

Camillo

Camillo is just a nice dude. He’s chummy, amiable, and, like, if you ask him to poison someone? No way. He’ll help that person flee to Bohemia! (At least that’s what he does in A Winter’s Tale.) This name comes from Latin and means “free-born child.”

33

Imogen

Imogen is the titular king’s daughter in Cymbeline, a wronged woman who overcomes slander. There is some scholarly debate as to whether the Bard intended her name to be Imogen or Innogen, but either way it means “maiden” in old Celtic.

34

Dane

While not a proper name in Shakespeare, we like this as a tribute to Hamlet, prince of Denmark. It sounds rugged but distinguished and is a great compromise name for when you really want a name from Shakespeare but your partner is skeptical.

35

Miranda

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Miranda is the daughter of Prospero in The Tempest, Shakespeare’s last play. She gets to deliver the immortal line “oh brave new world that has such people in it!” We like this as a name for a long awaited girl in a family of boys because she’s the only (human) female character in the show to appear onstage. The name comes from Latin and means “to be wondered at.”

36

Malcolm

Malcolm is the son of the king Lord and Lady Macbeth murder in order to claim power for themselves. But the name is great, no?! The name means “devotee of Saint Columba,” who is the patron saint of the Irish city of Derry, floods, bookbinders, poets, Ireland, and (of course) Scotland.

37

Juno

One of the spirits in The Tempest, Juno is an ethereal being who blesses the union between Miranda and Ferdinand. The name comes from Latin and means “youth.” She was also the Roman queen of the gods.

38

Lennox

A lord of wavering allegiance in Macbeth, Lennox ultimately turns on the murderous king. The name is of Scottish origin and means “elm grove.”

39

Cordelia

Cordelia may be ideal(ia) for your little one.Shutterstock

Cordelia is the steadfast, honest (to her detriment) daughter of King Lear. Her name comes from Latin and Welsh and means “heart” and “daughter of the sea.”

This is, of course, just a start! There are more than 1,200 characters in the Bard’s 43 plays and most of them are named. Though... we really can’t advise against “Goneril” or “Mustardseed” strongly enough. Because even in Shakespeare, they can’t all be winners.