I envy fiction writers their ability to invent sibsets – over and over and over again. As a child, I read the old copies of the Bobbsey Twins series in my grandmother’s house mostly because I was obsessed with their names: Bert and Nan, Freddie and Flossie. I’ve been naming my own hypothetical twins ever since. (Wouldn’t Leif and Thora be perfection?)
Maybe because I grew up with two sisters, and heard our names said ensemble countless times, I truly love hearing the names of fictional sisters. Do they go together? Are they too close? Did the author invent middle names and nicknames, too?
Please share your favorite fictional sisters in the comments!
Readers everywhere love the March sisters for so many reasons. I love the immortal Meg, Jo, and Beth because of their formal name/nickname combinations. Margaret shortened to Meg. Boyish Jo preferred her nickname to the elegant Josephine. And sweet, shy Elizabeth only answers to Beth.
But how about Amy? Poor Amy. I always thought her lack of a formal name/nickname combination was a slight.
And yet, I love the fictional sisters March.
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
How to choose a favorite set of fictional sisters from Jane Austen? It’s tough, but I’m going with Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret – the Dashwood sisters of Sense and Sensibility fame.
I’ve always appreciated the alternate spelling Elinor, the sensible sister. Eleanor seems smart and capable, but Elinor? That’s Eleanor plus! And Marianne seems like the most romantic of names, the perfect choice for Elinor’s opposite. What’s truly genius is the way that Elinor and Marianne feel so opposite, while still remaining sister names.
As for the much younger Margaret, she stays out of much of the action. But it’s worth noting that Margaret is one of two names that repeats on this list.
THE HUNGER GAMES
Suzanne Collins created a powerful alternate world in her trilogy. Just like Elinor and Marianne, Katniss and Primrose balance sisterly love with very different life experiences.
Both names are consistent with their characters – tough, capable Katniss, and sweet, caring Primrose. As with the Dashwoods, I can imagine the same parents choosing both names.
It’s hard to choose a favorite set of Cinderella stepsisters, though the recent Marissa Meyer retelling, Cinder, might just win: Pearl and Peony.
But the stepsisters’ names have changed dramatically from one century to the next, from one art form to another. Here’s my list of the best of them.
I often dislike siblings sharing the same first initial. It seems limiting to stick to just one letter, when 25 others await.
And yet, I make an exception for Piper, Prue, and Phoebe – the Halliwell sisters. In later seasons of supernatural drama Charmed, Prue – short for Prudence – was replaced by long lost half-sister Paige.
It’s a reminder that names from very different styles can sometimes work together.
THE VIRGIN SUICIDES
Jeffrey Eugenides’ writing career started with 1993’s The Virgin Suicides, about the five ill-fated Lisbon sisters. Lux comes fourth, after sisters Therese, Mary, and Bonnie, and followed by youngest sister Cecilia.
Eugenides weaves a morbid tale of lost girls. Sofia Coppola made her directing debut with the 1999 movie version. Kirsten Dunst played Lux.
It’s a quirky, Catholic, and unconventional set of names – a quintet that I’ve always found haunting – and appealing.
The aristocratic Crawley sisters’ lives unfold over the course of Downton Abbey’s six seasons.
Sometimes described as haughty, eldest sister Mary proves herself a talented businesswoman. Middle sister Edith discovers a passion for writing. Generous, kind youngest sister dies too soon, but passes her name to daughter Sibyl – often called Sibby.
FLAVIA DE LUCE
Oh, how I adore Flavia de Luce! The whipsmart amateur detective from an eccentric family of English aristocrats, Flavia is the youngest of three sisters: Ophelia, Daphne, and Flavia.
Better still, we know the middle names of two of the three girls: Flavia Sabine and Ophelia Gertrude.
Author Allan Bradley masterfully names all of the Flavia’s friends and relations, from parents Haviland and Harriet to minor characters like Porcelain and Antigone.
The orphaned Margo, Edith, and Agnes find an unlikely family with would-be super-villain Felonius Gru in Despicable Me.
The names are perfection. You’d expect them to be Zoe, Avery, and Harper. But they’re not. The adorable trio answers to vintage names, ranging from the fast-rising Margo to the almost back Edith to the not-quite-ready-for-revival Agnes.
The movie is fun, but the fact that the girls’ names are so downright delightful? Total bonus!
THE SANDERSON SISTERS
Fans of Hocus Pocus – and now the sequel – will automatically think of Mary, Sarah, and Winifred. The 1993 original tells of a trio of witches, finally banished for their crimes way back in 1693. But three hundred years later, an unwitting group of teenagers brings the trio back to life. The rest is pop culture history.
While Mary and Sarah seem like obvious choices for women in colonial America during the 1600s, there’s something whimsical about Winifred. (Though it’s historically accurate, too.)
As character choices go, they’re interesting for another reason. In 1993, Sarah was a chart-topping favorite for a daughter, a Top Ten choice. Mary had begun a long, slow tumble. Winifred, though, the name of Bette Midler’s over-the-top eldest sister? That name would’ve been so old school it was outlandish by 1993 standards. Now it’s slowly making a comeback.
Okay, this is cheating. There really were three Schuyler sisters named Angelica, Elizabeth, and Margarita. But the Destiny’s Child-inspired trio we meet in the smash hit musical Hamilton isn’t entirely historically accurate. So it feels like the musical trio fits in with this list of fictional sisters.
How’s this for an eclectic set of siblings: Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty – short for Elizabeth.
They sound gently vintage, but the stories were actually written in the last two decades.
What are your favorite fictional sister names?
First published on September 14, 2016, this post was revised on November 18, 2020. Additional updates took place on October 1, 2022.