Except every name was invented at some point. Sure, sometimes it was Shakespeare doing the inventing, which seems … better than me dreaming up names here by my lonesome.
Plus, some invented names do stick. Over the years, they begin to feel familiar, even traditional.
This list mixes them all up together – the new coinages and those with a certain amount of literary sheen. Some have already filtered into general use, while others remain obscure.
To make this list, a name has to be invented in the last two centuries or so. Respelling a more common name alone won’t do it, though many of these represent subtle changes to mainstream choices. Straight-up smoosh names of popular elements don’t make the list, though names that combine surprising elements in unexpected ways do.
One more note: it’s perfectly possible that some of these names existed centuries earlier, and were simply forgotten between then and now. So reinventions are permitted here, too, as long as there’s a case to consider these invented girl names of recent coinage.
INVENTED GIRL NAMES
Introduced in 1997, video game Final Fantasy VII gave us Aerith Gainsborough. According to game developers, her name is an almost-anagram of Earth.
With multiple spellings and possible sources, it’s tough to pin down Alifair. It dates to at least the nineteenth century, when Alifair McCoy became one of the victims in the legendary Hatfield-McCoy feud.
1980s animated series Voltron gave us Princess Allura, her name likely based on our word allure.
Uma Thurman chose this as part of daughter Luna’s full name.
Add an A to Marise, a Marie variant, and you’ll have this pretty, unexpected possibility.
With roots in the early 1800s, Amenaide is probably a little too old school for this post. But the lovely Amanda-Adelaide mash-up fits right in.
Speaking of mash-ups, take evergreen Anna and add Genevieve’s ‘vieve’ for an unstoppable combination.
An Anne name made familiar by 1987 book turned 1989 film Steel Magnolias.
Borrowed from The Borrowers.
A character from Magic: The Gathering.
A fascinating name, Avonelle appears to come from Sir Walter Scott’s use of the name Avenel in an 1820 novel.
Betony is a plant. And Bettany can be a surname. Or possibly a Betty-Annie combination, or a twist on Bethany.
Briar-plus-y makes this nature name just a little more distinctive.
A Game of Thrones name, part Brianna, part Vivienne.
Maybe it’s C-plus-Alyssa? Or it could be a smoothed-out take on Calista.
It appears in the history books, the name of a legendary king of Wales. But it also looks like Cam-meets-Amber.
Straight out of Disney+ hit The Mandalorian. She’s often called Cara, though, so it’s easy to miss her elaborate full name.
Early video game series King’s Quest introduced a wealth of invented girl names. There’s Allaria and Valanice and Cassima, too. Queen Cassima’s rescue features in King’s Quest VI.
Catra starts out as a villain in the 1980s animated series She-Ra, but later becomes an ally. And while she’s literally part cat, the name Catra succeeds because it’s so close to traditional choices like Katrina.
CIELA and CIELLA
Ciel is the French word for the sky, as well as heaven. Cielo is the Spanish equivalent. Both come from the Latin caelum. Ciela and Ciella take those words and make them slightly more name-like.
Yes, Coraline had history pre-Neil Gaiman. But it was all-but-forgotten until the author transposed the letters in Caroline, re-inventing this appealing name.
William Faulkner first used the name in his 1962 novel The Reivers.
CRESS and CRESCENT
Crescent refers to a shape – think of croissants and the moon. So it’s more word name than invention. But it’s a little of the latter, especially thanks to The Lunar Chronicles, a sci-fi take on fairytales. Marissa Meyer gives us Rapunzel, as a hacker imprisoned on a space station. Her name is Cress, short for Crescent Moon.
A type of fabric, a shade of pink, and a rose, too, Damask is very seldom heard as a given name. But Philippa Carr used it for The Miracle at St. Bruno’s, inspired by the flower. It’s one of many novels in her long-running Daughters of England series.
Edgar Rice Burroughs gave this name to a Martian princess in his novels of Barsoom.
Surname Destry comes from an Anglo-Norman word for a warhorse. 1930 novel Destry Rides Again referred to Tom Destry. But it feels like a cousin to feminine favorite Destiny.
Writer Djuna Barnes once said that her invented name meant “light of the silvery moon.” Poetic.
Domino refers to the game, but it’s also a surname, as in Fats Domino. Van Morrison’s 1970 song “Domino” was a tribute to Fats, but helped make it a girls’ given name. So did Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, which treated Domino as a nickname for Dominetta and Dominique.
A pegasus-riding queen from video game series Fire Emblem.
In 1988 fantasy flick Willow, Elora is the newborn girl prophesy says will take down an evil queen. A Willow sequel is in the works at Disney+, so this might be one of the invented girl names to watch.
Is it a re-spelling of Emery? An Emma-Marie mash-up? Somehow, it feels like both – and maybe a little bit more, too. Emmarie dipped into the US Top 1000 just once, in 2018.
You don’t have to be a fan of Japanese anime to recognize Sailor Moon. Esmeraude is a character from the series. Her name is based on the French word for emerald, émeraude.
Turkish singer Esmeray raised this name’s profile in the 1970s. Of Afro-Turkish descent, the Istanbul native’s name means dark moon. (Her personal story is fascinating.) It appears she may have been the first to wear the name, too.
Take Eva, add the -lia ending of Amelia and company, and this name feels like an obvious – if invented – choice.
2013’s Oz the Great and Powerful gave a name to the Wicked Witch of the East – Evanora. While it sounds like it might’ve been straight out of the original L. Frank Baum books, or even used before the movie, it appears to be a fresh entry on the invented girl names list.
One of many appealing names suggested in Nameberry’s Invent a Baby Name Challenge.
First used in the 2008 movie 10,000 BC, Evolet is roughly “the love” spelled backwards.
Or maybe it should be Evany or Evannie? A mix of Ev- names and the familiar -ny ending, Evony feels like a feminine form of Evan, a twist to Ebony, an elaboration of Eva.
Bambi’s love interest in the 1923 Felix Salten book turned 1942 Disney animated classic.
A gazelle is an antelope. But after 2016’s Zootopia gave us a superstar singer named Gazelle – voiced by Shakira, it felt a little more name-like than ever before. There’s also an assassin by the name in 2014 movie Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Singer Halsey took her stage name from two things: a New York City street and an anagram of her given name, Ashley.
Also spelled Honahlee and Onnolee, this is the fictional land mentioned in “Puff the Magic Dragon.” It may have roots in Native American legend, and perhaps it’s more place name than first – but it feels like it could be a given name.
A character name from sci fi series Firefly, Inara might be the name of an ancient goddess, seldom heard in the US. Or perhaps it was invented for the show, just like Derrial, Kaywinnet, and others.
Once a nickname for Jeremy and James, Jem was all but forgotten in the 1980s. That’s when we met Jem and the Holograms, a cartoon rock band that was “truly outrageous.”
While it might have roots in other languages, Americans first embraced Jennica as a portmanteau of Jennifer and Jessica.
It implies bad luck, but Jinx – or Jynx – sounds upbeat and energetic. It’s also the name of Halle Berry’s Bond Girl character in Die Another Day. (In that case, it was short for Giacinta.)
Borrowed from Zooey Deschanel’s character in Christmas movie classic, Elf.
Invented for the Kingdom Hearts video game series, Kairi comes from a Japanese word meaning sea.
Borrowed from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara comes from an Arabic word referring to water.
A mix of Katrina and Clarice, or any of the other -ice ending names. Also spelled with a C.
Invented for the mechanic aboard Serenity.
A character from Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kisara might’ve been influenced by a seventeenth-century play titled The Island Princess – though that character’s name was Quisara in English, and possibly came from an earlier French novella, which used the name Quixaire.
It’s possible to find both place name and surname roots for Laken, but it belongs best to the invented girl names category.
A Laura name from a 1960s French comic book series about time travel. In a recent movie adaptation, Cara Delevigne played the role.
In the movie adaptation of CS Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the writers decided that Ramandu’s daughter needed a name. They coined Lilliandil, inspired by a sea of lilies in the book.
Lilou has a potential backstory, as a nickname for Liliane. But the French name became a favorite only after 1997 movie The Fifth Element introduced us to Leeloo.
Another name borrowed from Nameberry’s annual contest.
Arrested Development gave Maeby Fünke her name as more of a punchline than a creative coinage the writers expected others to adopt. But shortly after the series’ 2003 debut, a handful of girls started to share the name.
A Maeve-Avery collision that somehow feels bigger than the two names.
Former French president François Mitterrand and Anne Pingeot welcomed a daughter in 1974. They named her after the oldest public library in France, the Bibliothèque Mazarine.
The comic book turned television series Lucifer introduced us to a fellow demon called Mazikeen. It comes from a Hebrew word meaning damagers, and refers to a group of destructive supernatural creatures in Jewish mythology. It might seem like odd inspiration for a child’s name, the character’s appeal has pushed it into wider use.
Another Game of Thrones name, Melisandre sounds quite a bit like the medieval French Melisande, a cousin to Millicent.
The Walking Dead’s Michonne is a warrior from the first moment we meet her, and evolves into a capable leader, too. It’s likely a rare cousin to Michelle.
Like so many sci fi and fantasy worlds, Avatar involves an entire constructed language. It means “she who seeks the spirits” in Na’avi.
A handful of names start with Nim, but Wendy Orr’s 2001 book Nim’s Island made it the name of a girl growing up on a deserted island with her scientist father. Abigail Breslin played the role in a 2008 film adaptation.
As in Storm, of X-Men fame. While the name has Swahili roots – it means tender – it’s more word than name.
A rare nineteenth century name, Paralee might come from the card game faro.
A type of herb, Purslane appears as a given name in 2004’s A Love Song for Bobby Long. The character, played by Scarlett Johansson, answers to Pursy for short.
Fantasy series turned Netflix show The Witcher introduces us to many intriguing names. Renfri belongs to a princess-turned-bandit.
It might be a twist on Sarah, but Saria also appears in the Legend of Zelda video games.
The name of the doomed courtesan in 2001 movie Moulin Rouge.
The whipsmart Shuri is little sister to T’Challa in Black Panther. The source of her name is unclear, but Wakandan tribes speak Xhosa and Igbo, so maybe it’s borrowed rather than invented.
Sigourney Weaver’s stage name – she was born Susan – came from a fleeting reference in The Great Gatsby.
Inspired by retired WNBA star Swintayla Cash. While Swintayla belongs with invented girl names, too, it’s Swin – swift, athletic, strong – that seems even more intriguing.
The name of a Jedi knight from the extended Star Wars universe.
JRR Tolkien created more names that nearly any other author. But Tauriel is notable because Peter Jackson coined it – in Sindarin – for a character introduced in The Hobbit trilogy.
Odds are that Tenley evolved from similar surnames. But it caught our attention when American figure skater Tenely Albright won Olympic gold in 1956. (She’d come home with silver in 1952). The champion skater inspired parents to choose the name for their daughters and paved the way for picks like Kenley, too.
Another name borrowed from The Witcher.
Ian Fleming is famous for his Bond novels, but he also wrote children’s story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car. When it was adapted as a movie, they added the character Truly Scrumptious, daughter of a candy factory owner. It’s not quite an invention, but it’s close – and the name’s use climbs in the decades following the movie’s 1968 release.
Borrowed from Full Metal Alchemist, Winry Rockbell is a mechanic in the popular anime.
Another Game of Thrones name, likely inspired by Norse names like Ingrid.
Invented girl names are sometimes tough to pin down. We know that Vada was popular earlier in the twentieth century, but the name’s origins are obscure. It gained in use following 1991 movie My Girl.
LM Montgomery gave this name to the main character in her novel The Blue Castle. Chances are she borrowed it from a Canadian poet, Isabella Valancy Crawford.
This vanilla-Penelope hybrid first appears in 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, and returns in the 2018 sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet.
Neil Gaiman coined this name for a character in Stardust, a fallen star come to life.