Fantastic Names from Wes Anderson Films, Part II


Sorry for the lag in updates, readers.  It’s been a busy week: I got a new job!  But I hope to continue to post at least twice a week from here on out.  Here’s Part II for my post on names from Wes Anderson films.  In Part I, I covered Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

I’ll begin this post with names from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anserson’s fourth feature length film (I neglected to cover his first, Bottle Rocket, in my fist post because I have yet to see it!  I am next in line at the library to check it out, so maybe I’ll provide an addendum with interesting names I find from that film.) The Life Aquatic is a hilarious comedy-drama which parodies/pays homage to Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the French underwater explorer/documentarian.  It’s a fanciful, gorgeous film with Anderson’s characteristic wit and fabulously named characters.

Steve Zissou – The title character, a famed oceanographer and documentarian, is dryly played by Bill Murray.  Steve is a common, every-guy name all on its own, but with Zissou it’s certainly made unique and memorable.   Anderson apparently named Zissou after a model of the same name featured in his favorite photographs of Jacques Henri Latrigue.

Ned / Kingsley – Owen Wilson plays Ned Plimpton, the sweet long-lost son of Steve Zissou.  His politeness and southern accent make him exceedingly charming, the perfect “Ned”.  Ned is a great nickname for Edward, one that is heard less often than the ubiquitous Ed/Eddy.  A hilarious running gag throughout the film (and one which should be of interest to name-lovers) is that after Steve meets his grown son, he tells him that if he’d had his way he’d have named him Kinglsey Zissou rather than Ned Plimpton.  Of course, Ned is so clearly a shy Ned and not a rock n’ roll Kinglsey.  But I have to say, I love both names, though they are clearly very different styles.

Jane – Cate Blanchett plays the lovely Jane Winslett-Richardson, a journalist writing a story on Team Zissou and admired by both Steve and Ned.  Beautiful and smart describe both the character and her name.  The Winslett in her surname was inspired by Kate Winslet, and it’s a name that I’ve seen popping up as having first name potential.  As far as actress surname names go (Aniston, Jolie, Harlow) I do think Winslet/Winseltt is one of the stronger, more unique and classy choices.

Eleanor – Eleanor Zissou may well be my all-time favorite Wes Anderson character.  The intelligent, demure wife of Steve Zissou is played by Anjelica Huston.  The so-called “brains of Team Zissou”, Eleanor is statuesque, with brilliant blue streaks in her otherwise dark, long hair.  She often wears turquoise and other aquatic colors.  Eleanor is a gorgeous and stately name, one that is serious sounding but has lively nicknames.  Eleanor Roosevelt is a great association, and so is Eleanor Zissou. Nicknames: Ellie, Nell, Nelly, Nora.

Eleanor Zissou

Alistair – Jeff Goldblum plays Alistair Hennessey, Zissou’s deliciously sinister nemesis.  Alistair is certainly a sophisticated British name, and one that I think will be catching on more in the U.S.  It is variant of Alexander. Alternate spellings: Alasdair, Alastair.

Oseary – Oseary Drakoulias is Steve Zissou’s producer.  Inspiration for the name may have been drawn from the name of Madonna’s real-life manager, Guy Oseary.  It sounds like an Irish surname, but I had trouble finding any other information on the name.  An interesting choice, and a very cool sounding name.

Renzo – The original score composer of Team Zissou is given the jazzy name Renzo Pietro.  A nickname for Lorenzo, I think Renzo has potential as a stand-alone name for its cheery sounding -o ending, plus the popular Z.  Lorenzo is the Italian variant of Lawrence.

Esteban – Steve Zissou’s deceased mentor was named Esteban du Plantier – how clever of Anderson to give them both essentially the same name (Esteban is the Spanish variation of Stephen/Steve).  Esteban is decidedly fresher sounding to English speaking ears (compared to overused Steve), and it is rising in the charts here in the U.S

Anderson’s next film was The Darjeeling Limited (2007).  I’m actually not going to go into detail with the names from this film, because I wasn’t particularly inspired by the film or the names.  The film centers around three brothers: Francis, Peter, and Jack (a very believable, Catholic-sounding sib-set, but nothing revolutionary as far as names go) and their trip to India as an effort to bond and become enlightened.  It’s a good film, but not my favorite of Anderson’s, and no terribly inspired naming is involved.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Finally, I’d like to discuss the names in Anderson’s latest film, Fantastic Mr. Fox.  It’s a stop-motion animated movie based on the novel by Roald Dahl, so Anderson did not name the characters, but there are really great names here nonetheless.  By the way, it’s a hilarious and gorgeous film – not just for kids!

Roald – I love the name Roald, made famous by Roald Dahl, the author of Fantastic Mr. Fox and other children’s classics (he’s also a great namer of characters – maybe a Roald Dahl dedicated post is in order!).  Roald is a Scandinavian name, meaning “famous rule” in Norwegian.  It is pronounced RO-ahl (the D is silent).

Fox – An animal with a precedent for use as a person name, Fox would be a bold name choice.  Elegant, swift, and wild, come to mind.  The character Fox Mulder on The X-Files is a famous bearer of the name.

Ash – Mr. Fox’s son is named Ash, another strong, single syllable name gaining more attention recently.  Ash is a great name for its nature reference (ash tree), plus its spunky, but I could also see it on a refined adult.

Agnes – The little fox that Ash has a crush on is Agnes (she eventually falls for Ash’s cousin).  Agnes is one of those names that peaked about 100 years ago and therefore seems due for another rise in popularity.  Although it seems a little old-fashioned, Agnes was recently the name of a little girl character in Despicable Me, plus it has timeless appeal as the name of St. Agnes.  I would love to meet a little Agnes – a name that could carry a girl (Aggie) into adulthood well.

Kristofferson – For the seemingly perfect cousin that comes to live with Ash and his family, we have Kristofferson.  An interesting choice, though an imposing name for a little one!   Clearly a variation of Christopher, Kristofferson is best known as the surname of American country music singer Kris (Kristoffer) Kristofferson.  Could be an interesting way to get to Kris, and a unique variation on uber-popular Christopher.

Names from Wes Anderson Films: Magnus, Uzi, and other doozies


Wes Anderson

For a lover of names, a Wes Anderson movie is always a treasure trove.  The names he gives his characters go along with the overall aesthetic of his films: colorful, deliberate, and quirky.  While the characters in his films are often exaggeratedly flawed, he somehow always seems to render them relatable on many levels; at the very least, he goes a long way in capturing the complexity and often puzzling nature of human relationships.  He writes, directs, and produces his films, and is known to involved in every step of the process of movie-making, taking care of every meticulous detail, not the least of which being naming his characters.

I’ll start this post with the name of the director himself: Wesley (Wes) Wales Anderson.  I’m not sure of the story behind this middle name, but I’d love to know! Was it a family surname or is he named for the country?  An interesting place name choice, to say the least!

Rushmore (1998)

Max  – Max Fischer (played by Jason Schwartzman) is the precocious and eccentric teenage protagonist of Anderson’s  film, Rushmore.  His funny, ambitious antics drive the film, which launched the careers of both Anderson and Schwartzman.  There couldn’t be a better name for Max, who enthusiastically throws himself into everything (and there are many things) he is passionate about.

Herman Blume: What’s the secret, Max? 
Max Fischer: The secret? 
Herman Blume: Yeah, you seem to have it pretty figured out. 
Max Fischer: The secret, I don’t know… I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then… do it for the rest of your life. For me, it’s going to Rushmore. 

Rosemary –  Rosemary Cross is the elementary school teacher who Max develops romantic feelings for (and naturally, hilarity ensues).  Her character, once again, is fitting of her name: classically beautiful, intelligent, and kind.

Magnus – how fitting that Max’s nemesis (a brutish Scottish boy) is named Magnus.  Both Max and Magnus mean “the greatest” – a nice touch.  Of course, Max is a much more accessible name than Magnus, but that didn’t stop Will Ferrell from bestowing the name Magnus on his son!  A commanding choice.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

My (and I’d venture to say most people’s) favorite Wes Anderson film follows the lives of three grown up child-genius  siblings who must come to terms with their eccentric and absent father and with the disappointments they’ve faced in their lives.   They are the Tenenbaum family and their names are fabulous.

Royal  – the absent family patriarch (in a Golden Globe-winning performance by Gene Hackman) returns, and struggles to form relationships with the children and wife he abandoned.  Royal seems to be the perfect ironic name for this bumbling character – certainly an egoist, but one who tries to reform his ways after suffering through the loss of his fame and fortune.

Etheline – the demure family matriarch (played by Anjelica Huston) is well-suited to the meaning of her name, from Ethel which means “noble maiden”.  Ever the calm and patient mother, she also reserves some wit and sass for Royal and others when they need to be put in her place.  The -line ending is a lovely way to bring Ethel into the modern day.

Chas – although Charlie gets most of the attention nowadays, Chas is another great nickname option for Charles.  Chas (played by Ben Stiller) is the eldest Tenenbaum child, who Royal exclusively refers to as “Chassie”, which I have to say I think is pretty adorable.

Margot – the character who inspired thousands of Halloween costumes, Margot is perfectly suited to her name.  Mysterious and vaguely French (the blonde bob, the cigarettes, heavy eye-makeup, large fur coat, and somber facial expressions), Margot (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) is the melancholic, mysterious, and beautiful Tenenbaum daughter.

Richie – as far as nicknames for Richard go, I think Richie (and Rich) are the most modern sounding.  But Richie is also a very boyish name, fitting for an athlete (played by Luke Wilson) who is struggling to come to terms with grown up life.

Eli Cash – the clingy Tenenbaum family friend (“I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum”) played by Owen Wilson, becomes a wildly eccentric successful author of Western style novels, with a phony accent and Stetson cowboy hat to boot.  Again, the name fits fabulously.  Eli certainly has a cowboy vibe, and paired with a name like Cash there’s no mistaking the laid back, Western feel of this name.

Raleigh – artfully played by Bill Murray, Raleigh St. Clair is Margot’s neurologist husband.  Deadpan and thoroughly academic, Raleigh is an interesting name choice for this character; a decidedly classy name and a viable unisex place name choice.

Henry Sherman – could there be a sweeter, more approachable name than Henry Sherman?  Each of these names on their own evokes kindness, and together they are downright cuddly.  Danny Glover plays the accountant, who courts Etheline in the gentlest way possible.  Henry is German for “estate ruler”; Sherman is an English occupation name from “sheerer of woolen cloth”.  Anderson has actually stated that this character was named after his landlord!

Walter – Henry’s son is Walter Sherman.  Aren’t Henry and Walter perfectly suited names?  They’ make an adorable sib-set too.  Walter comes from the German for “powerful warrior”.

Dusty – Royal’s friend and elevator operator is named Dusty – a name that has lost  momentum, but not its laid back charm. I love Dusty as a nickname (for boy or girl!) and it’s got that nature-esque, Western vibe that seems so popular right now.

Pagoda – Royal’s deadpan Indian friend/assistant is Pagoda.  The name clearly meant to reference the East where the character comes from, though it is certainly not a traditional name in India.  No doubt a quirky choice and one that does certainly evoke spirituality, as pagodas are structures built in memory of Buddha.

Ari – one of Chas’s two sons, Ari is a name which might grown in popularity in this age of nicknames-as-first-names.  It’s from Hebrew, short for Ariel, “lion of God.”  This Ari was named after the nickname of singer Nico’s son Ari (two of her songs are featured in the film.)

Uzi – I love it.  Uzi is from Uziah, a Hebrew Old Testament name meaning “Jehovah is my strength”.   Yes, I know there’s the violent, gun association there, and in this film the militaristic reference seems like  a nod to Uzi’s father Chas’ overprotective nature.  But I can’t help loving Uzi!  Especially as a sib-set with Ari – adorable.

Buckley – Chas, Ari, and Uzi’s beloved pet beagle is named Buckley.  This is an English surname meaning “meadow of the deer”, which might catch on as a first name due to the popularity of surname-as-first-names as well as the jaunty nickname Buck.  Anderson actually named this Buckley after singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley.

Mordecai – I can’t believe I nearly overlooked Mordecai in writing this list – the name of Richie’s loyal pet falcon.  In fact, Mordecai is the last word spoken in the film!  It is Hebrew, from Persian for “warrior”.  A very strong, ancient sounding name with interesting nickname possibilities too.  Nicknames: Mordy, Cai

Stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll cover some more fantastic names from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited!

On the Road – Names from Kerouac


They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” – On the Road

Jack Kerouac introduced the phrase “Beat Generation” in 1948 as a way to describe the counter-culture movement he was a part of in New York.  In Bohemian Manifesto, Laren Stover describes Beats as:

Reckless, raggedy, rambling, drifting, down-and-out, Utopia-seeking. It might look like Beats suffer for their ideals, but they’ve let go of material desire…Beats are free spirits. They believe in freedom of expression. They travel light but there’s always a book or a notebook in their pocket…Beats jam, improvise, extemporize, blow ethereal notes into the universe, write poetry, ramble and wreck cars. They live on the edge of ideas. They take the part and then make up their own lines.

Some people really “get” Kerouac from the moment they’re introduced to him.  I wasn’t one of those people.  Granted, when I first read On the Road I was 13 and much too young to understand most of what was going on, between all the grammatical liberties, “beatific” phrases, drugs, sex, and jazz.  I was also too young to get “beat” at all.  Who were all these sad, beautiful, young people and what did they have to complain about?!  Annnnd then high school happened.  Hello, rebellion!  And I scoured my now tattered copy of the book for clues as to how to make it through this crazy world, how to find beauty in America, how to let your exploration be your guide.  It’s poetry, there’s no denying it.  When I took my first cross-country road trip, Kerouac’s words echoed in my head.  When I listen to live jazz, I often think back to Kerouac’s wild descriptions of the music.  It also opened new doors in my own writing – if this guy can get away with as much rambling as he does, why can’t I allow myself some jazzy tangents once in awhile?  If you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?  It’s a snapshot of a seminal moment in American culture.  As the Village Voice declared in 1957, “a rallying cry for the elusive spirit of rebellion of these times”.

Now let’s talk about the names!  If you’re looking for names that evoke an American landscape, the jazzy beat generation, and heartfelt hipsters, then look no further than Kerouac’s On the Road.  The man knew how to name a character.  This book is filled with stellar, unique names.  But first, you could draw inspiration from the author’s own name and those of his real-life Beat compatriots:

Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road

Jack – Thanks to Kerouac (and countless other pop culture personas) it’s always gonna be hip.  One of the rare popular, simple names that also carries a certain literary flair.

Kerouac – It’s a great surname, isn’t it? Born Jean Louis Kirouac, Kerouac is anglicized from the French.  It’s just pretty – lyrical, with that easy “Ker” sound and all those vowels.  It would certainly be an off-beat choice for a little one, and one that some might find pretentious or presumptuous, but hey, who am I to stymie you. Nickname: Kerry.

Cassady – The book is based off of the real-life adventures of Jack and his friend Neal Cassady, another major figure in the Beat Generation.  This name has some  cowboy flair, evoking the Western setting of the book.  Now mostly used for girls, but I think it would suit a certain boy well – especially the nickname Cass.  Irish for “curly-headed”.  Nickname: Cass.

The character names from On the Road include:

Salvatore  -The full name of On the Road‘s protagonist and narrator is Salvatore Paradise.  Sal Paradise.  Such an epic name.  The relatively common, simple Sal paired with Paradise really does it for me.  Of course, the whole irony is that Sal Paradise is a kinda down-on-his-luck, melancholic  guy throughout most of the book, but he does have an eye for beauty and music.  Salvatore on the right guy is a hit in my book.  Italian for “savior”. Nickname Sal.

“Sal Paradise,” I said, and heard my name resound in the sad and empty street.

Dean – Dean Moriarty is another impossibly cool name that rolls off the tongue.  Dean is the young, reckless, care-free friend of Sal; he’s the one who inspires Sal to travel.  The character has his highs and lows; certainly no hero, he proves throughout the book to be pretty mentally “off”.  But the name is great!  It definitely has a retro feel today, and with the right last name (a la Moriarty) it is strikingly cool.

My first impression of Dean was of a young Gene Autry – trim, thin-hipped, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent – a sideburned hero of the snowy West.

Marylou – There’s a definite vintage flair to this combination of Mary and Louise.  Marylou is Dean’s first wife, and probably the smartest and most astute female character – certainly the most fleshed out.  She calls out Dean on his craziness and is as adventurous as him too.  To modernize it, try Marilou or Marylu.  Nicknames: Lou, Lulu.

Carlo – An Italian variant of Charles that actually packs a punch, thanks to that popular -o ending.  The character’s full name, Carlo Marx,  seems to be a nod to both socialism and comedy (Karl and Grouch Marx), and is based on Allen Ginsberg, another of the most famous Beat poets (James Franco recently portrayed Ginsberg in Howel).

Galatea – None of the female characters in the book get much depth (my major qualm with Kerouac), but Galatea sticks out as someone who occasionally talks back to the sometimes foolish and chauvinistic guys.  And what a name!  Galatea is Greek for “white as milk” and pronounced “gala-ah-TEA-ah”, it was the name of the sculpture created by the mythical Greek Pygmalian, who he fell in love with and who eventually came to life (the basis for the plot of My Fair Lady).  An ancient, vaguely cosmic name.  Nicknames: Gal, Gala, Tea.

Remi – An adorable, modern sounding name.  French for “oarsman”.  The character is male, Remi Boncoeur, but the name could definitely swing both ways.  It’s energetic and lighthearted, possibly a nickname for Remington, Remus, or Remedy, but works on its own.

Babe – Yes, there is a girl in the book named Babe Rawlins.  While it’s a cute nickname, I’d stay away from this as a full first name or a real child.  But of course, it’s a great character name – so sassy.

Ray – Babe’s brother is Ray Rawlins.  There’s also another Ray in the book, the son of Old Bull Lee (the gangs’ druggie guru).  There is a great line about little Ray:

Ray ran around stark naked in the yard, a little blonde child of the rainbow.

Roland Major – This character is one of the members of the gang of friends who voices his disapproval of their raucous behavior.  And doesn’t his name portray that part of his personality so well?  Roland is German for “famous throughout the land”, and it’s a timeless beauty.  Major, Latin for “greater”, would be a cool middle or nickname as well.

Montana – Maybe in a few years, the association with Hannah Montana will be totally forgotten?  Let’s hope.  But please don’t let that connection dissuade you from using this sweeping, yet relaxed, Western name.  With a Spanish meaning like “mountainous”, I’d say this name’s a keeper.  Nicknames: Monty, Ana.

Lucille – A woman who Sal falls in love with in the book.  French variation of Lucilla, meaning “light”. Nickname: Lucy.

Rita – A minor character, Rita has a retro glamorous feel thanks to Rita Hayworth, but I think it would be equally glam and also sassy if used today.  Diminutive of Margaret, meaning “pearl”.

Denver – Denver the city is featured heavily in the novel and is also the name of minor character Denver D. Doll.  Another unisex Western choice (this particular character was a dude) with a relaxed, wind-swept feel.

Ponzo – Another minor character with a zippy name.  I couldn’t find much information on Ponzo, but I assume it is a jazzed up version of Poncho, a Spanish diminutive of Francisco.  I love a good -o ending and I love Z’s, so this name is heaven for me!  The character is Mexican; I could see this name crossing cultural lines.

Inez – One of Dean’s three wives throughout the book, Inez certainly has the most alluring name.  This strong, beautiful name suits the character well.  A Portuguese variation of Agnes meaning “chaste, pure, sacred”.

“[Inez] was a big, sexy brunette – as García said, ‘Something straight out of Degas,’ and generally like a beautiful Parisian coquette.”

Wardell Gray – A little-heard surname, Wardell is Old English for “watch hill”.  With the attractive nicknames Ward and Dell, and the popularity of surnames-as-first names, it’s a very pleasant name.  Its pairing in this novel with Gray elevates the sophistication even more.  Nickname: Dell.

Hart Crane – This highly influential real-life modernist poet gets a mention in the book.  Hart is a solid but romantic boy name, meaning “stag”.  I think Crane is long overdue for some more use, as unisex nature names are a hot commodity.  It’s hard to beat this imagery.

Dodie – Little Ray’s sister; an adorable nickname for Dorothy.

Charity – Sweet and old-timey describes this name and the character who bears it in the book.

The chaperon aunt was called Charity; she was seventy-five years old and spry as a chicken….She was old but she was interested in everything we did and said

With the film adaptation of On the Road set to come out in 2012 and starring some of Hollywood’s most buzzed-about young actors, the book and its well-named characters are certain to get more attention.  Here’s hoping the film does the book justice and inspires some creative naming!

Sam Riley as Sal Paradise, Kristen Stewart as Marylou, and Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty in the upcoming film adaptation of On the Road.

Names of the Trees


I am a big fan of tree names.  Trees are precious, vital, unique, complex, and strong.  Almost everyone feels a personal connection to a certain type of tree.  For example, did you have a favorite tree as a child?  Is a certain type of tree very popular in your hometown, ancestral homeland, favorite vacation spot, or other special place?  Is there a tree that reminds you of a loved one you’d like to honor?  These kinds of personal associations make for great namesakes.  Of course, tree names have their own histories too, which is what I will provide in this post.  For my birthday, my sister gave me a book called Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History by Diana Wells.  It is a gorgeous, beautifully illustrated little book that divulges the origin of many tree names, their spiritual significance, medicinal properties, art and literary connections, etc.  I can’t help but wonder if each tree name would make for a meaningful person name too.  All of the names in this post are tree names found in Lives of the Trees.  I consider most tree names to be unisex, but I tend to be fairly “liberal” on that issue – and I trust you to use your own judgment.  So here they are in all their glory: tree names!

Gustav Klimt's Tree of Life

Acacia – The largest trees of the biblical desert and Mount Sinai, it’s said that their wood was used to make the Ark of the Covenant.  The sweet acacia grows in America and has intensely fragrant flowers used to make perfumes: “cassie” is a basic ingredient of French perfumes even today. Called mimosas or wattles in Australia, the beautiful gold wattle is the country’s official floral emblem.  Nicknames: Casey, Cassie.

Alder – Able to live where other trees cannot, alders are hearty trees with pale bark and red sap.  Known for their healing properties, Alder is Old High German for “reddish-yellow” Variants: Vern (English), LaVerne, Lavern, Vernon, Vernal.

Almond – Harvested by humans since the Bronze Age, almond trees originating in Persia.  The tree was sacred in ancient Greece, going by the name amygdale from Sumerian ama ga, “Great Mother”.  A symbol of hope and rebirth, the biblical name for this tree was shaked, meaning “awake tree”, because the tree “wakes up” so early in the season, promising spring.  Variants: Amande (French), Mandel (German), Almendra (Spanish)Nicknames: Al, Mandy.

Apple – From the Gaelic word ubhal, Apples were used for eating, cider, and medicine throughout antiquity, although scholars now agree that the apple was not found in the Garden of Eden.   Johnny Appleseed popularized apples in America by spreading the tree’s seeds across the country, and today the Big Apple, “apple of my eye” and “American as apple pie” are just a few expressions that deepen the meaning of this name.  Variants: Avalon, Pomona (Latin), Pomeline.

Ash – Very tall and with, deep roots, the ash was considered the Norse Tree of Life (Yggdrasil). Its top touched heaven and its roots penetrated the underworld – and a squirrel ran up and down it to report on how things were going in the two worlds.  The Norse god Odin created the first man from ash (the woman from elm).  Variants: Asher, Aston, Ornella (Italian). 

Aspen – Some of the toughest trees on earth, yet bearing delicate heart-shaped leaves, Aspen is a very appealing name.  Christian legend states that aspen growing on the road to cavalry refused to bow down when the crucifixion passed, and were punished by being made to tremble.  These trees may have noisy, fluttering leaves, but they are incredibly resilient and able to survive fire and ice storms.  The name Aspen calls to mind this beautiful, gentle strength.

Bamboo – Although technically grasses, bamboos can grow to over 100 feet tall.  Evergreen and noted for its flexibility, bamboo have been long been the subjects of poems and paintings; they are a Chinese symbol of longevity and an Indian symbol of friendship.  Bamboos are heralded as a suitably sustainable material, as a replacement for trees that take more resources to grow and process.  Certainly a quirky choice, but also one with great history.  Nicknames: Bam, Boo.

Baobab – An African tree, highly valued baobabs are sometimes called the Tree of Life because of their ability to store water in their trunks.  Some African legends say baobab trees fall from heaven.  When they die, the trees collapse into powder and are quickly dispersed by desert winds.  A tree worthy of reverence, with a strong tie to Africa.  Nicknames: Bo, Bob, Babs.

Beech – These are the trees that couples traditionally carved their initials into, due to their smooth gray bark, which is elastic and allows for the inscriptions to grow as the tree grows.  Crescunt illae; crecent amores, “as these letters grow, so does our love.”  The name actually comes from the German and Anglo-Saxon words for book, as their bark was written on tied together to make books long ago.

Birch – Known for their silver bark that flakes off in papery curls, this tree was also used for paper.  North American Indians build canoes and baby cradles from birch were because they were believed to possess powers of protection.  Flexible, birch are able to bend with the wind to avoid breaking. Variant: Birk (Irish), Berkeley, Barclay (Scottish), Björk (Icelandic), Ritva (Finnish).

Cedar – Another tree with biblical ties, the “cedar of the Lord” was treasured for its aromatic wood, and Solomon used it to build the Temple of Jerusalem.  The Hebrew name for cedar, erez, means “strong firmly rooted tree” – a lovely sentiment to bestow on the newest member of your family tree. Variant: Erez (Hebrew).

Cherry – Known as a symbol of beauty, Washington D.C. has been famous for its beautiful flowering cherry trees since they were given as a gift from the mayor of Tokyo in 1910.  Cherry blossoms have been particulary valued in Japan: planted in gardens and commemorated in art for ages.  Cherry trees bloom for just a short time each spring – a symbol of the beauty yet brevity of life on earth.  Poet Alfred Edward Housman wrote in “Loveliest of Trees”: Now, of my threescore years and ten/ Twenty will not come again/ And since to look at things in bloom/ Fifty springs are little room/ About the woodlands I will go/ To see the cherry hung with snow. Variant: Cerise (French), Sakura (Japanese). Nickname: Cher.

Cinnamon – Highly valued as a spice since ancient times, nowadays cinnamon is associated with comforting foods: sticky buns, warm apple pie in autumn, cinnamon toast dripping with butter, and creamy soothing rice pudding. A spicy, yet sweet and inviting name.

Clove – Another spice name that evokes autumn and apple pie.

Cotton – The cottonwood tree does not produce true cotton, but its fluffy white seeds do resemble the fiber.  Young cottonwoods were used for the traditional Sioux Sun dance ceremony.  In Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Huck and Jim build a shelter on their raft out of cottonwoods, under which Huck eventually learns to respect and love Jim.

Cypress – Evergreen and pointing toward heaven, Cypress trees suggest the possibility of eternal life.  In ancient Islamic gardens these trees symbolized the connection of life and death.  Cypresses last a long time: ancient Egyptians made coffins from them and Saint Peter’s basilica in Rome had thousand-year old cypress wood doors.   One of Vincent Van Gogh’s last paintings was of cypresses. Nickname: Cy.

Ebony – The extremely black wood has always been a luxury and valued for its beauty.  In Love’s Labour’s Lost, Lord Berowne wrote: “Is ebony like her? O wood divine! / A wife of such wood were felcity.”  Today of course, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney’s “Ebony and Ivory” duet as well as  Ebony magazine associate the name with a celebration of the beauty of blackness – a lovely name.

Elm – Greeks and Romans used to use elms as props for grapevines, and this union became a symbol for matrimonial unity.  These stately, majestic trees are endangered due to disease, but they have long been revered.  Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote of the valley where Love is to be found: “Myriads of rivulets hurrying through the lawn, / The moan of doves in immemorial elms, /And murmuring of innumerable bees.” Norse legend states that god Odin created the first woman from elm.  Variations: Elowen (Cornish), Embla (Norse).  

Fig – Staples of the ancient world, it was a type of fig tree which Buddha chose to sit under to achieve enlightenment.  Thus, the F. religiousa or Bo tree became the symbol for letting go of all human desire and passions.

Franklin – Named after Benjamin Franklin, the Franklin tree was first “discovered” along the Alatamaha River in Georgia.  It is a flowering tree with large, beautiful, and fragrant blossoms. Nicknames: Frank, Frankie. 

Ginkgo – Ancient trees that predate the evolution of conifers and insects, their leaves are known to aid memory and the Chinese have used them medicinally for centuries.   Ginkgo are also astonishingly resilient; a temple has been built around a ginkgo tree which miraculously survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima.  The peculiar lobed shape of the tree inspired a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in which he explored the meaning of the twin-lobed leaf as that of a divided being, two beings fused together, which he then saw himself as. Nicknames: Gin, Ginny. 

Hawthorn – Also called the May tree, they blossomed on May 1, leading to the celebration of May Day.  Hawthorns wer associated with Christ’s crown of thorns, and so they were thought to possess spiritual powers: their branches were used to protect ships, and the Mayflower was named after the May/hawthorn tree.  With the added literary reference of  Nathaniel Hawthorne, this name seems poised for use.

Hazel – Long associated with magic, forked hazel twigs were used by diviners in search of precious metals and water sources.  Hazelnuts are a popular food, and used to be used as dolls.  Shakespeare was the first to use hazel as an eye color descriptor, when in The Taming of the Shrew he described Kate as “straight and  slender and brown in hue / as Hazel-nuts.” Nicknames: Zella, Zee, Haze

Holly – These broad-leaved evergreens have always had magical/spiritual connections.  Their leaves shine vividly even in winter woods, so they have been used since Roman times to celebrate the winter solstice.  Its name was probably derived from “holy”; holly was used as a Christian symbol for its thorns and blood red berries. Variants: Celyn (Welsh), Hollis, Leslie. 

Joshua – A yucca plant which grows in the Mohave desert, Mormons named the Joshua tree because the branches looked as if they were beckoning them to their promised land.  The Joshua Tree National Monument is one of the only places to view this unique desert plant.

Juniper – This tree was seemingly universally respected for magical powers.  The King James bible describes Elijah seeking shelter under a juniper tree.  In Germany, the tree was called Wacholder, or “awake tree”, and it was customary to take off one’s hat when passing one.  A favorite landscaping tree and one that was used in the past for totem poles, this name is completely appealing.  Variant: Ginevra (Italian). Nicknames: June, Junie, Juno.

Larch (Tamarack) – The American larch is also called tamarack, a word of Algonquin origin.  American Indians used the roots of tamarack to sew together birch bark canoes (Henry Wadsworth Longellow wrote about this in “The Song of Hiawatha“, wherein Hiawatha asks the tree’s permission to use what he needs).  Larches are one of the only conifers that are also deciduous; their needles turn a beautiful golden brown in autumn before they fall.  Either Larch or Tamarack could serve as a majestic name.  Nicknames for Tamarack: Tam, Tammy, Mac

Linden – In Germany in the spring, it was customary for couples to dance around this tree in a festival called Lindenbluten fest.  Women hung votives on the branches and ate Linden leaves to aid pregnancy.  German Renaissance artists like Tilman Riemenschneider carved beautiful of the Virgin Mary from Linden wood. Linden trees were sacred to the Norse mother goddesses Freya and Frigga and have always been thought to prevent mothers and children.  Variant: Linnea, Tilia (Latin).  Nickname: Linn, Lindy, Denny.

Mahogany – The tree was likely named by African slaves in Jamaica, likely from the Yoruba tree name M’Oganwo. Mahoganies grow in the West Indies, South America, and Florida.  Spanish conquerors sent home mahogany wood from the new world for furniture, paneling, and musical instruments, and the wood has been highly sought after ever since.

Maple – The changing color of maple leaves is emblematic of autumnal beauty.  Then there is the sap of the sugar maple (syrup) which has been collected and celebrated for centuries.  Maples are the symbol of Canada and several U.S. states – everyone knows and loves this tree and it seems a symbol of the generosity of the land. Variant: Javor (Slavic). 

Oak – In “Yardley Oak,” William Cowper extols, “I might with rev’rence kneel and worship thee, / It seems idolatry with some excuse / when our forfather Druids in their oaks  Imagin’d sanctity…” Some believe the name druid comes from Gaelic for oak tree. Indeed, humans have lived and prayed near oak trees for much of history.  Oaks were sacred to many gods: the Norse Thor, Roman Jupiter, Slavic Peun, Celtic Dacda, and Hebrew El.   Variant: Alon/Alona (Hebrew), Elon (Hebrew), Dara (Irish), Ogden (English). 

Olive – There is no tree which is more universally represents peace than the olive.  Greeks and Romans grew olive trees and used their oil, as did the Israelites – in the book of Hosea the beauty of God is “as the olive tree.”  These trees can live for a very long time, and the name and its variants, while particularly popular now, seem timeless as well. Variants: Olivia, Oliver, OlivierNicknames: Ollie, Liv.

Peach – The peach was a symbol of truth in Renaissance paintings: the heart-shaped fruit and the tongue-shaped leaf symbolized that when united, they speak the truth.  The fruit also served as the Chinese symbol of longevity.  A sweet and juicy name with a symbolic legacy.

Persimmon – The botanical name of the persimmon is Diospyrus, meaning “divine grain”.  Nicknames: Percy, Prissy, Simon, Simmy.

Pine – The first American revolutionary flag depicted a white pine tree, because pines were so sought after in teh New World as European forests had already logged much of their large trees.  Amber jewelry is made from fossilized pine sap. Variants: Oren (Hebrew), Orna (Hebrew)

Quince – For ages, quinces have been included in celebrations of love and marriage – they were thrown into bridal chariots in Athens, and Juliet’s nurse refers to “dates and quinces in the pastry” in Romeo and Juliet.  British marmalade was originally made of quinces (not oranges).

Rowan – The rowan is most well known for its bright red fruits, which have since ancient times been associated with the magic of life.  It’s a small, hardy tree abundant in northern countries.  Th tree was forbidden from being cut down in Ireland and Scotland, although they were plentiful there, except for express purposes.  Sprigs of rowan were used as protection from evil spirits and misfortune.  A beautiful name that is currently gaining popularity.  Variants: Roan, Rowana. Nickname: Ro.

Saguaro – These cacti are mostly found in Arizona, and their blossom is the state’s official wildflower (usually pronounced sah-WAH-ro).  They are hard to miss – some grow up to sixty feet tall, and their famous large flowers only open at night.  Their intriguing name originated in the O’oodham Indian language. Nicknames: Sawa, Ro.

Spruce – A neat, sharp name for a neat little tree – spruces have a symmetrical, triangular appearance.  Would make a great name for a spruced up Bruce!

Tupelo – this tree’s botanical name was named by Carl Linnaeus after Nyssa, a water nymph and foster mother of Dionysius, because the tree grows on swampy ground.  The common name Tupelo is thought to be an Anglicization of the Creek Indian eto, “tree”, and opelwr, “swamp”.  Also happens to be the name of the town in Mississippi where Elvis was born – a rare combination: a nature and rock n’ roll name!

Willow – A 9th century Chinese gardener, Ji-Cheng, wrote, “A curving bay of willows in the moonlight cleanses the soul.” I agree. What can be said of this tree that hasn’t already? A symbol of heartbreaking beauty throughout history, elegant Willow is one of the most popular tree name today.

So what do you think about tree names?  Some certainly seem more “user-friendly” than others.  If you hesitate to use a lesser-known tree name, consider using it as a middle name for an unexpected and meaningful choice.

Happy naming!

xoxo LeeLee

An Introduction


I have been honing my obsession with names since I was a little girl – when I was about 9 years old, I decided to give myself 10 middle names and regularly recited them to people: Penelope Noelle Winnie Stroda Data Eliza Mae Marie Claire Hillary.  Yeah…who knows where I got half those names from! But I still love a few. Point being, I’ve been passionate about names since I was a wee lass.  Eventually I accepted that my three given names were enough for me, but my fascination with names has never stopped.  I love studying names and discovering new ones (that is, finding deliciously rich, meaningful and storied words that would make great names.)

This blog is called Boheminames for a reason: all of the names I truly love have a decidedly bohemian sensibility. What do I mean by “bohemian”?   There is no true definition for bohemianism, which is related to but distinct from the Romani people and the historical region of Europe which was called Bohemia.  The Bohemia I refer to is more of a mindset, a culture, a phenomenon.   A bohemian is unconventional, free, creative, intellectual, all of which I strive to be.  Some people call me a hippie, but that doesn’t quite fit.  I just love names that stem from “unconventional” places – names which are perhaps idealistic, poetic, romantic, folksy, reckless, meditative, spiritual, wanderlustful… These are the  types of names which capture my attention and evoke a unique flavor which is all their own, something which I feel is important for a name.

So I’m venturing into the blogosphere for the first time to attempt to list, categorize, define, and explore these types of names.  I’m not calling this a “baby name” blog, because that phrase has always kind of irked me…after all, babies grow up into living, breathing, independent adults someday – and they take their names with them!  So let that name reflect the rich tapestry of humanity that they’re joining!  Names are a celebration of life.

Another reason for this blog is because I’ve never quite understood my passion for names.  I’ve labored over the naming of stuffed animals, pets, Sims (so so so many sims…), and other dream-people.  I guess that by creating this blog, which theoretically is being put out there to the public/blogosphere/internetzland, I’m hoping that these names may actually latch onto real people, or at least influence people who are naming real people! If not, at least I hope to connect with others who share my absolute love of creative names.

There are already some great sites out there that provide searchable databases where you can easily look up the basic origins and meanings of a name.  I do not even aspire to the level of breadth and depth that these sites are able to provide! What I’d like to do is pull together names from one point of inspiration (a particular book, film, or other category) and provide names I find interesting with a brief description and perhaps my opinion of the name; when I think it’s appropriate, I’ll provide a meaning, origin, or other salient information too.  What I am attempting to provide here is a way to discover names and think about words in a new light.   I trust that if you are considering bestowing one of the names I provide on a little human being, that you will look to other sources for more in depth information on it as well, but I hope this site will serve as a jumping off point for those on a name search, as well as a fun addition to the wealth of great blogs out there for us name-enthusiasts.

Happy naming!

xoxo LeeLee