20 Beautiful Baby Names Inspired by Famous Poets

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Poets are the people we dream of being. They are historians and interpreters, observers and activists, teachers and storytellers. They can shape politics, inspire masses, and spark movements. Without poets, our sense of the world would be very short-sighted. It's no wonder that parents like to honor wordsmiths like these who enrich and explain our world.


These names come from some of the most classically famed poets in history. Some automatically bring a specific writer to mind, while others are traditional names worn by a distinctive poet or several. We love these names because they feel almost as artful as the writers themselves. (After all, what is a name but a little poem summed up in a word, with unspoken etymologies, histories, and cultural impressions?) Here are some names perfect for parents and children who love words as much as we do, and for the poet in all of us.

  1. Auden: This name manages to be airy and grounded at the same time, landing in unisex territory but given to more boys than girls. Its namesake, W.H. Auden, is a celebrated English-American poet, essayist, and playwright.

  2. Blake: Blake may be short, but it packs a lot into one syllable. This Old English surname has been a top 100 hit since 1989. Actress Lively has also helped this name land in the 500s for girls. So while it feels trendy, poet William Blake lends a classic, romantic sense to the name as well.

  3. Dante: Dante is first and foremost a poet's name, thanks to the The Father of the Italian language, medieval poet Dante Alighieri. His writings, particularly the Divine Comedy, has been called the greatest literary work in the Italian language. The name itself has been on an upswing, hitting a peak in 1997 with the release of the disaster movie Dante's Peak and then leveling out in the high 200s. We think it's stylish and catchy, intellectual and approachable.

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  4. Dylan: Everyone loves this Welsh hit with artistic overtones. We can thank poet Dylan Thomas for its longtime spot in the top 30 (for the past 11 years). He was the inspiration behind Bob Dylan's stage name, who in turn helped launch the name to popularity. It's hard not to adore this name, and with such success we're pretty certain it will not go gentle into that good night.

  5. Elizabeth: It doesn't get more classic than Elizabeth, a biblical and royal choice with an astounding history and use across the world. So while it may not strike everyone as a poet name, this one does have two significant namesakes. Bishop, who won a Nobel Prize in Poetry and became US Poet Laureate; and Barrett Browning, a celebrated English poet whose works were very popular during Victorian times. Even Queen Elizabeth I, a lover of the arts, wrote several well-known verses herself.

  6. Eliot: The traditional spelling of this name (Elliott) is starting to gain some momentum in the last handful of years. But to chose this spelling is a clear reference to T.S. Eliot, who was one of the 20th century's top poets. He is especially remembered for The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land, which may give your child's name a little bit of irony if born in April.

  7. Emily: Emily is timeless and lovely, but its literary namesakes manage to stand out in a sea of others: Emily Bront�, and, of course, poet Emily Dickinson. Dickinson's reputation as the most famous and prolific American poet gives her name a serious sense of quiet expressiveness.

  8. Emerson: Essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson led the Transcendentalist movement of the 19th century. And while he was a famed poet, he is especially known for his inspirational quotes. These days you may see his encouraging statements like this around Pinterest: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” The name Emerson has proven to be quite inspiring as well, as an English surname with an appealing beginning, this trendy unisex name is in the low 200s for girls or 300s for boys.

  9. Ezra: A biblical name beloved in the 1800s, Ezra is getting its second wind in this country. Its most famed namesake, poet Pound (1885-1972) is known for his impact on modern poetry. It's a snappy, bold choice with a sense of vintage solidity.

  10. Gwendolyn: A tried-and-true classic, Gwendolyn is showing more appeal despite its trend-bucking sound. It may not be light and lyrical, but it's a Welsh darling with regal qualities. Perhaps that's why William Blake used this name in his mythic poems. But the most heralded Gwendolyn of poetry is writer Brooks, who won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and was a US Poet Laureate.

  11. Larkin: On its surface, the sound of this name is playful and song-like, with an ending that fits right in with today's naming trends. British poet Philip Larkin wasn't exactly the picture of cheer, as his poems' themes often centered around death and fatalism. His works are widely respected and celebrated, with high honors in England, giving Larkin a balanced, literary feel.

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  12. Langston: A surname with poetic punch, Langston was the given name of jazz poet Hughes. As a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes' words shaped the culture of the 20s and reflected pride in his African American heritage and community. Choosing this rare name will definitely communicate an appreciation for jazz, poetry, and the arts.

  13. Maya: A global favorite with roots in several different languages (Hindi, Hebrew, and Greek, for starters), the name Maya caught on in the late 90s and is still in the top 100s. The wildly talented author, activist, singer, and poet Angelou was an incredibly influential figure who inspired many to use the name, especially as its sound fit naming trends. Once statistics are released for names of 2014, we'll get a clear picture of how Angelou's death affected expecting parents, though it's almost certain the name Maya did well last year in her honor.

  14. Millay: Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) happens to have a beautiful surname in addition to a long list of honors as a top American poet and activist. Her surname would be an exceptionally rare choice, but it's got an irresistible sound and it's on par with the friendly, old-fashioned name Millie.

  15. Nash: Lighthearted poet Ogden Nash was loved among critics and readers for his wit and sense of humor. While the most common associations with this English surname come from TV's Nash Bridges and mathematician John Nash, we love the laughter and clever charm that the poet brings to this on-trend name.

  16. Rainer: Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist Rilke chose a germanic form of the English name Rayner in place of his original given name, René. The spelling he chose at the time imparted a stronger German vibe, but today it comes across as lighter in comparison, almost on par with a nature name. It's rare, but accessible and trendy-sounding, like River or Tanner.

  17. Sylvia: Perhaps the most famous Sylvia was Pulitzer-Prize winning poet and author Plath, who helped pioneer the confessional movement in American poetry. The name Sylvia was at its most popular in the 30s, and today it feels like an underused classic with lots of style.

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  18. Wallace: Award-winning poet Wallace Stevens is considered one of America's best. A brilliant writer and careful crafter of poetry, Stevens lends this name an added touch of intellectualism. It's a rare choice today, likely because of the unavoidable nickname Wally. But Wallace is a dignified, vintage name with Scottish history that is due for a little more appreciation.

  19. Walt: Move over, Disney. Celebrated poet Walt Whitman highly influenced American literature with his surprising lack of rhyme and meter, paving a way for many of the poets we've featured here. His name strikes us as simple and sweet, with a firm foundation and an antique feel.

  20. William: William is as classic as they come, and used so often that it's a bit of a chameleon, changing personalities and impressions with each new namesake. But Shakespeare stands out among the rest, keeping William loosely in the category of a literary name. Alongside Shakespeare are poets like Blake, Butler Yeats, Carlos Williams, Collins, Cowper, and Wordsworth, to name a few.

This article originally appeared on Baby Name Wizard.

Which is your favorite poet-inspired baby name?

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