When it comes to names that might be considered quintessentially "fairytale," what monikers come to mind? There’s Briar-Rose, aka the original Sleeping Beauty. There’s Disney’s Princess Aurora, yet another incarnation of the same. There’s Hansel and Gretel, the waifish siblings who finally get to eat their candy house and have it, too, after they shove their witch-captor and would-be murderess into the oven. There’s Snow White and Rose Red, the blonde and dark sisters of the light and dark forests in which they dwell.
There are also hundreds of intrepid young heroes, all of whom (at least in Grimm) seem to be named Hans. But fairytales have hundreds of origins and encompass hundreds of cultures, and if you’re looking for a perfect enchanted name for your little one, there’s manifold gorgeous and historical options out there. The below suggestions only represent a fraction of the rare, beautiful, and exotic choices that await the parent who truly does believe in the magic (or at least the symbolism) of once-upon-a-time.
Known for being one of the longest works of poetic brilliance in history, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene is veritably aglow with epic names, but Caelia is surely one of the loveliest ones. As the matriarch of the House of Holiness, Dame Caelia (whose name means "heavenly") is the enigmatic mother to three daughters: Hope (Speranza), Charity (Charissa), and Faith (Fidelia).
The pronunciation of Caelia appears to vary, according to both region and preference; some pronounce the name as Kay-leia or Say-leia, while others have been known to say it as Chay-leia. Some people even pronounce it as the far more common (but still lovely) Celia.
Whichever interpretation you prefer, though, the name is tied to literary legend, and it certainly counts as a fairytale moniker in the most high-brow and esoteric of ways. Just envision your little Caelia as being surrounded by a faerie ring right out of old (or olde, if you will) England.
Traditionally pronounced "Sheef-ra," this beautiful name, Irish in origin, means "sprite, or changeling" — which is not to say that bestowing it upon your little one is going to result in your babe being swamped out for an elfin or gnome child.
As Timeless Myths explains it, the fairies would sometimes exchange a human infant they’d taken a fancy to with a fairy baby of some kind. It was also said that if parents placed an infant they suspected of being a changeling on a fire while chanting a certain incantation, the impostor-babe — if, indeed, a changeling it was — would leap from the flames and scramble up the chimney with lightning speed. (Kind of like a reverse Santa, no?).
However, some stolen babies were eventually brought home; and even if they weren’t, they could be expected to dwell in a place of "good living, music, and mirth," according to the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats.
Pronounced "Va-si-lisa," this phonetically-spelled moniker comes to us from the great Russian fairytale Vasilisa the Beautiful. In the story, Vasilisa is a lovely young girl; before her beloved mother dies, she gives her daughter a magic doll, who helps Vasilisa accomplish an array of seemingly impossible tasks, like sorting an unending supply of millet, grain by grain, in a matter of hours. Vasilisa is also able to avoid being roasted alive by Baba Yaga, the fearsome and legendary witch who dwells in a home festooned with human skulls.
This harrowing tale ultimately has a joyful ending: Vasilisa marries a prince and lives happily ever after. Though it’s never been popular per se, the name did enjoy a surprising surge from about 2012-2016. Perhaps that’s because more and more parents are developing a preference for the stuff fairytales (even harrowing ones) are made of. And besides, if your little princess can outwit a Baba Yaga, she’ll surely be able to take on the world.
With its translation of "all-fur," or "all kinds of fur," this strange, compelling, exotic moniker is as fairytale as it gets. The story of a runaway princess who disguises herself as a furry creature so that she can hide/work as a maid in a kitchen, Allerleirauh has a happy ending. Her disguise is eventually uncovered, and she marries a prince. But not before many unlikely and poetic incidents unfold — including one involving three walnuts containing dresses as bright and beautiful as the sun, moon, and stars, respectively.
Pronounced "Aller-lay-rau," this moniker is almost certain never to cross your path, or your child’s path; so you can rest assured that if you choose it, it will stay as unique as unique can be. And with a name that means "all-fur," Allerleirauh (which can perhaps be spelled Allerleira, if you want to make it a bit prettier on paper?), your little one is sure to be snug as a bug/princess in a rug.
Princess Nausicaa, daughter of Queen Arte and King Alcinous of Phaecia, comes to us from Homer’s The Odyssey. Pronounced "Naw-sik-ah," the name literally means "burner of ships," though the Nausicaa in the story doesn’t turn out to be a pyromaniac after all. Instead, she rescues a shipwrecked Odysseus, and the rest, as they say, is mythological history.
Nausicaa is therefore an ideal maritime, or seagoing, name — perfect for a daughter one plans to raise by the ocean, or among boats, or even among beach bonfires. Popularity-wise, the name — unlike the waves it evokes — has never really undergone any substantial rising or falling, according to Baby Center stats.
If you’re into the anime/manga thing (especially vintage anime), Nausicaa is also the name of the heroine of the film series Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which features a strong feminist heroine. Your little Nausicaa might just be able to swim before she can talk.
A unisex moniker in the same category as Story and other book-related choices, Fable is a wonderful name, and one that likely hails from fairytale scholar Giambattista Basile’s The Tale of Tales, which was recently adapted into an acclaimed arthouse film. In Basile’s rendering, Fable is the baby sister of the boy Eros; both children are cared for and nurtured by the nurse Ginnistan, who symbolizes the imagination.
The name also, of course, evokes Aesop’s Fables, and the magic of storytelling in general. Fable seems to have enjoyed some popularity in the U.S. starting in about 2010; it also appears to have peaked (after a fashion) in around 2016. While Nameberry calls it simply "a word name" that encapsulates veritable volumes of lore and history. It’s also just straight-up cute for a baby, and high-brow and fascinating for an adult, which makes it a name a child can grow into beautifully.
Most often associated with the award-winning actress Amira Casar, this lovely moniker is an Arabic name that literally means "princess." It’s also, officially, the most popular "princess" name on this list: it clocks in at number 317 on Nameberry, and has experienced a steady surge in name-rank since roughly the late 1990s.
Baby Name Wizard describes the name as a feminized form of the male Amir, which (as one might expect) means Prince. Though most people (at least in the States) seem to pronounce the name A-mirror-ra, some say it as Uh-mee-ra, while still others pronounce it as A-my-ra.
Amira is also the name of real-life Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel of Saudi Arabia, a noted humanitarian and crusader for women’s rights. Then there’s acclaimed Israeli poet Amira Hess, among others. Which just goes to show that princesses, beauty, and brains do indeed go together. And will surely combine just as magically for your little bundle of royalty.
In Grimm’s The Goose Girl, Conrad is the gallant goose-tender who has to chase down his hat in a high wind every time the princess (forced to disguise herself as a servant) who works alongside him chants:
Blow, wind, blow,
Take Conrad’s hat,
And make him chase it,
Until I have braided my hair,
And tied it up again.
In his absence, the princess lets down her hair and again becomes royalty. But he eventually realizes who she is, and with his help, her true identity is revealed. Young Conrad is therefore something of a hero, in his way.
The moniker Conrad itself means "bold, wise counselor;" according to Baby Center data, it’s actually become quite fashionable, coming in as the 782nd most popular name in the country in 2018. In Conrad famedom, there’s the poet Conrad Aiken and Conrad of Lord Byron’s epic poem The Corsair, which lends this dignified name an aura of even more timeless class.
Does Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream technically count as a fairytale? It definitely ought to, as it certainly has all the elements of one: a fairy queen (Titania), a mischievous fairy boy (Puck), enchanted forests, and star-crossed lovers. One of them, Lysander, famously falls in love with the wrong fair maiden after being "poisoned" by one of Puck’s "love-spells," and many whimsical moonlight mishaps ensue.
The moniker Lysander itself means "defender;" Baby Center stats indicate that it’s a very rare name indeed, though it does appear to have experienced an ever-so-slight bump around 2008, increasing slowly with a notable peak in 2016. In pop culture, Harry Potter fans will recognize Lysander as one of the twin sons of Luna Lovegood and Rolf Scamander.
Moreover, if you happen to be expecting fraternal twins, Lysander has a beautiful female counterpart in the form of its feminine version, Lysandra. Her name, too, means defender (or liberator) so one would think that strength would definitely be a significant family trait.
Grimm’s macabre but whimsical Sweetheart Roland is full of high (and surreal) adventure: the faithful Roland flees from an evil witch with his lady love, and as they go along, they escape detection by ingeniously turning themselves into all sorts of entities, from lakes to flowers to ducks. Eventually, however, all things end happily.
In real life, the name Roland means "famed throughout the land," and the moniker is the 643rd most popular male choice in the country so far in 2018, which is no small potatoes. Roland is still a wonderful, romantic, and, indeed, chivalrous boy name that has been around for a long time, and will probably endure forever.
Roland was also the highly celebrated "romantic"/dashing nephew of Charlemagne, as well as the ghostly avenging hero of Warren Zevon’s legendary ditty "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner." So there you have it: what’s not to like about a name that’s fit for a prince, an avenging ghost, and a dashing young hero?