Imaginary place names could make for daring baby names.
Not every every imaginary place name, of course – I wouldn’t use Bedrock or Gotham or Agrestic.
But with real world place names like London and Brooklyn, Camden and Savannah all so popular, maybe it’s not outlandish to imagine that some imaginary place names could join them.
Depending on the name, it might be instantly recognizable. Or it might only draw attention from other fans.
Read on for a few of my favorites, and please add yours in the comments!
Imaginary Place Names: A through F
Alsander – Here’s a rarity that I don’t know much about. James Elroy Flecker was better known as a poet, but he did write a few novels, including 1914’s King of Alsander. I found it written up on Forgotten Books, and it appears to be a kingdom in Southern Europe. That’s not much to recommend it, but the sound intrigues me, a sort of Alice-Alexander hybrid.
Arden – Shakespeare’s As You Like takes place in the Forest of Arden. Strictly speaking, the forest is a real place, in Warwickshire. But the version of the woods used by the playwright is pure fantasy, more literary device than location on a map. Arden is also the maiden name of William’s mother, Mary Arden Shakespeare.
Arendelle – Arendelle might be the most famous of the fictional place names of the twenty-first century. It’s the kingdom Elsa inherits in Frozen, inspired by Norway. Arendelle succeeds for several reasons. The -elle ending brings to mind Annabelle and Isabelle, and Aren feels an awful lot like 1980s favorite Erin. Plus, we’re big on Ar- names for girls like Ariana and Aria right now. It could make for an unexpected middle, and there’s no reason it wouldn’t be a wearable first name, too.
Avalon – The mythical location in the legends of King Arthur has inspired real places. There are Avalons in New Jersey and California. But the island was first discussed in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 1136 Historia Regum Brittaniae. Geoffrey claimed Excalibur was forged there. It’s the place King Arthur retires to after fighting in the Battle of Camlann. It’s said to mean “apple island,” from the Welsh aball or Breton a val. Avalon fits in nicely with our affection for names like Ava and Adalynn.
Avonlea – Speaking of names inspired by our affection for Ava, how about Avonlea? Lucy Maud Montgomery created Avonlea for Anne of Green Gables, though she based it on real places, and set it on the very real Prince Edward Island. 82 girls were named Avonlea in 2014 – a new high, suggesting that this might be the most popular of the imaginary place names.
Cicely – Cecily is a real name, and Sicily is a real place. But Cicely, Alaska was invented for Northern Exposure. Of course, there’s also Cicely Tyson, the Oscar-nominated actress. When her career took off in the 1970s, Cicely briefly charted in the US Top 1000, in 1973 and 1974. As for Northern Exposure, the 1990s series racked up Golden Globes and Emmys, but is probably far enough in the past that few would associate Cicely with the series today. It’s also a plant name, and considered a variant of Cecily.
Corellia – I went looking for imaginary place names inspired by Star Wars. Surely there are some! But I had my doubts about Alderaan or Coruscant or Tatooine. The one name that leapt out at me was Corellia, the home planet of Han Solo. It’s mentioned in the original 1977 film, and perhaps we’ll get a glimpse of it when the anticipated 2018 movie about Han comes out. For now, it’s pretty obscure, but it does succeed for the many of the same reasons that Corinthia makes this list. Speaking of …
Corinthia – Years ago, I read a novel where one of the main characters wanted to name her daughter Corinthia, only it turned out she had a boy instead. William Faulkner used the name for a character, and, of course, Corinth is a place name from Ancient Greece. But it makes this list because Harold MacGrath’s 1901 The Puppet Crown was a huge bestseller and eventually became a silent film in 1915. Corinthia was the fictional kingdom, home to Princess Alexia, played by Ina Claire in the movie. While I couldn’t find much about novel, I’m intrigued by Corinithia. It fits with Cora names, with long names for girls, and of course, with imaginary place names, too.
Florin – Fans of The Princess Bride – both the 1973 novel and 1987 movie – know that it opens on Buttercup’s farm in the country of Florin. Florin was inspired by the name of a currency; it was first a gold coin minted in Florence, Italy in the thirteenth century. (The other fictional country in the story is Guilder, as in a Dutch gold coin.) Florin ultimately comes from the Latin florem – flower. The symbol of Florence was a fleur-de-lis. This makes Florin a pan-botanical name, and perhaps a clever middle for fans of Buttercup and Westley.
Imaginary Place Names: G through V
Gallifrey – It sounds like a mix of Gregory of Jeffrey, but Gallifrey is a fictional planet in the Doctor Who universe. In fact, it’s the home of the Doctor. The planet was first mentioned in 1969, and the history has been filled in over the course of the long-running sci fi series – with most of the story coming in more recent years. There’s a surface feature on Pluto named after Gallifrey, but no real places that I could find.
Genovia – In Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries, Mia Thermopolis is an average high school student who finds out she’s the heir to the throne of a tiny European country. The original novel was published in 2000, and the 2001 film adaptation Anne Hathaway a star. It’s a seriously picturesque destination in the movie. As names go, Genovia is part-Geneva, part-Olivia.
Ivalice – I’ve been intrigued by the name Yvelise or Ivelisse – heard in Italian and Spanish, but seldom in English. And then I stumbled on Ivalice, a fictional kingdom created for the Final Fantasy video game series. It’s not the old place name in the long-running series – first created in 1987.
Illyria – There really was an ancient territory called Illyria, covering most of the former Yugoslavia, as well as Albania. The tribes that lived there were called the Illyrians by the ancient Greeks and Romans, but chances are that they never referred to themselves that way. Instead, Illyria was inspired by Illyrius, a character from Greek myth. Even when the place was real, it was something of an invention! However, it was revived many times for various political purposes over the centuries, and Shakespeare used it as a fictional setting for his play, Twelfth Night. Jean-Paul Sartre used it, too. Lloyd Alexander sent his young heroine, Vesper Holly, on The Illyrian Adventure in 1987. It’s perhaps the ultimate imaginary place names name.
Laurentia – Laurentia is obscure as imaginary place names go. In 1955’s King’s Rhapsody, Errol Flynn played the King of Laurentia. It was based on a 1949 musical by Ivor Novello. Both are mostly forgotten now, though Laurentia is almost a real place on the map. The ancient Laurentian mountain range in Quebec goes back perhaps 1000 million years. The ancient geological core of North America is known as the Laurentia Craton thanks to the mountain range. In the 1930s, the Quebec independence movement favored the name Laurentie.
Rohan – There must be dozens of possible place names inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings universe, but Rohan is the one that leaps out at me. It has all of the complex history of any Tolkien creation. It also has roots in the real world. The House of Rohan is a French noble family based in Brittany, influential over many centuries. It’s also a given name with Sanskrit roots meaning ascending. In Tolkein’s Sindarin language, it means “horse country.” That means that Rohan doesn’t immediately signal fandom, since there are so many other associations for the name. And it’s just a little bit different from current rising favorites, like Rowan, Roman, and Ronan, for boys.
Rosewood – It’s the fictional Pennsylvania town that’s home to Pretty Little Liars. It’s based on a real Philadelphia ‘burb called Rosemont. There’s a shopping mall and a high school, and all the necessary features of a suburban town. Of course, rosewood is also a type of wood, valued for its rich color. And now it’s also the name of a Fox series about a Miami pathologist who helps solve crimes. The character’s full name is Beaumont Rosewood, Jr., but he answers to Rosie. It might make an intriguing middle.
Valhalla – This might be way too much to live up. After all, Valhalla isn’t exactly a fictional place – it’s more like Mount Olympus from Greek myth, a location that was once an important part of a belief system. In Norse mythology, Valhalla is Odin’s great hall in Asgard, a sort of paradise for fallen warriors. It also brings to mind Led Zeppelin, the current incarnation of Marvel’s Thor, and dozens of real world places named after the mythological location.
Now it’s your turn! Which imaginary place names did I miss? Are there any that you would consider for a child?