The baby name Arden blends the natural world, literary status, and a tailored, surname style.

Thanks to Christina for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


If this name sounds familiar, it might be thanks to William Shakespeare.

The author set his pastoral comedy As You Like It in a forest by the name. 

Fair Rosalind ventures into the woods disguised as a youth. Hijinks ensue, but all ends happily.

The Bard borrowed his fantastic forest from the real world. Two actual places answer to the name.

Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden, was born in the first, a town in Warwickshire. Like many, she took her surname from her hometown. Mary married John Shakespeare, and they made their family’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The English forest was already in decline during the author’s youth. He was also influenced by the Ardennes, a forest stretching from Belgium and Luxembourg to France and Germany. An earlier writer, Thomas Lodge, set a story there. Lodge named his heroine Rosalynde. Shakespeare clearly borrowed liberally.


Both forests take their names from the Celtic word ardu – high land. 

The latter was known as Arduenna Silva by the Romans.

So while the meaning of Arden might be described as famous forest, it’s clear that the origin of the name Arden is that descriptive Celtic term. 

Some sites list a second meaning: eagle valley. This tracks with other known names. Ari, for example, means eagle in Old Norse. And some surnames, like Ogden, derive the -den from an older word for valley, the Old English denu.

Either way, Arden is a place name linked to real and imaginary forests, tied to the natural world.


As a surname, Arden continues to appear in writing, including:

  • The 1592 play Arden of Feversham, about couple named Thomas and Alice Arden. It was based on real life events, and the names were not changed. It was first performed in 1592, many years before As You Like It.
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson penned “Enoch Arden” in 1864. Shipwrecked sailor Enoch struggles to return home, only to find his beloved wife has remarried. (Shades of a classic story line, including Tom Hanks’ tale in Castaway.)


It helps, too, that Arden looks like ardent – an unrelated word meaning enthusiastic or passionate. 

Ardent comes from an Old French word, ardant, that meant burning – or zealous. It’s ultimate from a Latin word used to describe anything burning, be it an actual fire or something more figurative.

If fiery names like Blaze and Ember can appeal for our children, then Arden’s similarity to the word ardent is a plus, too. It’s almost a modern virtue name, a sibling for Haven or True.


stylish rarity

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Shakespeare borrowed the name of his magical forest from the map – and an earlier work. With ties to nature and literature, this surname has potential.


unranked; given to 239 girls and 155 boys in 2022ity goes here


holding steady


Place name from a Celtic root meaning “high land.”

Like many surnames, Arden has always been used in small numbers. It’s more common as a boy’s name initially, just like many family surnames.

It helps that Arden fits with names like Arthur, Arlo, and Archer, too. As of 2022, 155 boys received the name.

But today, it’s more popular as a girl’s name. 239 girls received the name in 2022, putting it just outside of the US Top 1000. 

While it’s always hard to say exactly what makes an apparently unisex name trend in favor of boys or girls, it’s worth noting that the twentieth century gave us reason to hear this name a feminine.

  • Our Miss Brooks started out on radio and crossed to television and eventually the big screen, running for nearly a decade and becoming a major hit. ActressEve Arden played Miss Brooks, a high school English teacher. She passed away in 1990 after a six decades-long career, definitely enough to leave a lasting impression.
  • Florence Graham founded her beauty empire, Elizabeth Arden, in 1910. It remains a major cosmetics and fragrance company today. Graham chose her surname from the Tennyson poem.

It’s been enough to help put Arden into the girls’ Top 1000 in the US as recently as 2019, even though it regularly appeared in the most popular baby boy names from the 1880s through the 1950s.


All of this makes the baby name Arden a stylish rarity, and a good choice for parents seeking name that stands out and fits in.

The name’s image mixes so many things: the great forest of Shakespeare’s imagination, as well as the real forests and places across the English-speaking world; the tailored surname; and the burning, sound-alike ardent. 

When it comes to baby naming now, never count out an A-name, from Ava to Amelia, our favorite first initial for a daughter by a lot. (And second only to the letter J for a son.)

It’s a subsitute for Harper or Aria, Parker or Arlo. 

What do you think of the baby name Arden?

This post was published on August 3, 2011. It was revised and re-posted on June 27, 2016 and again on May 9, 2024.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. We named our baby boy Arden Asher. We love how unique it is. Interestingly enough, one of the nurses at the hospital was named Arden and just had to come meet him as she had never met anyone with her name before. Honestly, if we had a girl instead, I would have seriously considered it too. To me, it really depends on the middle and last name pairing to define its gender affiliation.

  2. We named our baby girl Arden Jones in 2013 (jones is her middle name, named partially after my mother’s maiden name/grandparents surname but also we just thought it was a bit rock and roll to balance out the femininity and vintage quality of Arden).

    Everywhere we go people comment on her name, most find it lovely. Most of all, it fits her very well, she’s a bright and very sweet girl, full of spark and creativity, and it will grow with her at every age. But glad this isn’t such a common name still!

  3. I named my two and half month premature daughter Arden the moment she was born. I loved the valley of the eagles “loose” translation and we knew about the high lands, ardu. What we didn’t know was that she was the first life-flight preemie in Maine in a recently FAA approved baby-life-support-air transport. The hospital she was flown to on her first day of life has a logo of an Eagle flying over the Penobscot river. The doctors and hospital staff got chill bumps when the story of her name was told to them. From her room in the NICU you could see the Eagle’s nest. Just really cool and she’s simply amazing, Arden Olivia, my “G”arden of Integrity.

  4. I am due to have my daughter in March and her name is going to be Arden Claire. I absolutely love the name:)

  5. My daughter is named Arden, and I’ve now met two other young Ardens, both girls. My husband suggested it, and I really liked it.