He always signed his name “Henery” – strenuously insisting upon that spelling, and if any passing schoolmaster ventured to remark that the second ‘e’ was superfluous and old-fashioned, he received the reply that ‘H-e-n-e-r-y’ was the name he was christened and the name he would stick to – in the tone of to whom orthographical differences were matters which had a great deal to do with personal character.

(Thomas Hardy, Far from the madding crowd, 1874)

Virtue Names

Hope or Charity. One of those sorts of name, if you know what I mean. Used to be used a lot in Victorian times but you don’t hear them so much nowadays.”

(Agatha Christie – Nemesis, 1971)


“It is a real name . . . It’s a lady in my book that I read every night. Someone swam the sea all the time to visit her.”

“I know,” said Mr. Lynn. “I was just surprised that you did.”

“And it’s a sort of joke . . . . I know a lot about heroes because of my book.”

(Diana Wynne Jones – Fire and Hemlock, 1985)


“I’ll be damned if I’ll be called Humphrey! If there’s one name I dislike that’s it.”

(Georgette Heyer – The Talisman Ring, 1936)


I didn’t say, “What, Hezekiah?” for I didn’t like his name. The first time I ever heard it I near killed myself a-laughin… “Well, I would give up if I had such a name!”

(Frances Miriam Whitcher, The Widow Bedott Papers, 1856)


A happy sounding name for a girl or boy is one the ‘doubles’ and so can be confusing. On seeing a reference to a Hilary in the news or as the signature to the Editor, one wonders about the sex of the person in question. But, either way, it is natural to visualise a sanguine and serene character.

(Ivor Brown, A Charm of Names, 1972)


“It’s the silliest name I’ve ever heard, but it’s hers and I must call her by it . . . . And the worst is, she’s gone and perpetuated her own affected name by having her daughter called after her. Cynthia!”

(Elizabeth Gaskell, Wives and Daughters, 1866)


How can you have a hero called Harold?

(John Farman, The Very Bloody History of Britain, 1990)


“I saw it in a newspaper and thought it was dignified.”

(Elizabeth Goudge, The Scent of Water, 1963)


“Nasty common name if you ask me.”

(J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Bloomsbury, 1997)