Think crisply-starched, pressed, and pleated school uniforms, tweed and argyle, and the smell of old books. Think marble columns, polished mahogany, and crimson velvet drapes. Think students carrying textbooks in leather satchels and discussing brooding, intellectual poetry and classic Greek literature. If these images conjure up an elite private school rich with history and tradition, infused with a dose of mystery and lore — think Hogwarts or Wednesday Addams’ Nevermore Academy — you’ve nailed the “dark academia” aesthetic.
As with any popular aesthetic vibe (coastal grandmother, anyone?), the dark academia trend can encompass nearly everything — from decor to clothing style to, yes, even baby names. And with maximalist baby names quickly rising in popularity this year, dark academia baby names have that trend nailed down too; many of them are long and sophisticated-sounding, maximalist names in their own right. So while they may well be names you might have heard hundreds of years ago, they’ve been invigorated with a new energy that fits right in with today’s baby naming landscape.
These dark academia baby names are beautiful-but-broody, elegant and edgy, and have just the right amount of “bite” for the future coolest kid in school.
Derived from the Latin ama (to love) and Deus (god), this name famously belonged to Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Managing to be both short and sophisticated, Esmé is derived from Old French and means “esteemed” or “loved.”
With Germanic roots (it actually stems from the name Adalheidis), the name Alice means “noble.” And thanks to its prominence in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, its vibe is proper, with just a little bit of mischief and magic tied in.
This beauty is a more modern invention, a literary name first seen in Mary Young Ridenbaugh’s 19th-century novel Enola; or, her Fatal Mistake (published in 1886).
Derived from the Latin lux, meaning “light,” the name Lucian has been borne by multiple philosophers, two early Roman kings, and three popes. It can also be spelled with an e instead of an a: Lucien.
Distinguished-sounding Alistair is the English version of the Scottish name Alasdair, which itself is the Gaelic form of Alexander — meaning “defender of men.” Who knew Alistair and Alex came from the same root?
Like an intimidating headmaster (or the king of dark academia himself, Severus Snape), the name Severin means “stern.” But unlike Severus, its -in ending makes it feel fresher and more modern.
You can’t get any more wholesome than the meaning behind the name Agatha: “good.” It has a vintage vibe, and of course calls to mind famous British mystery writer Agatha Christie.
Even though this name is the short form of Sebastian, it still sounds distinguished in its own right! From the Greek word σεβαστός (sebastos), meaning “venerable,” Bastian is also recognizable as the name of lead character Bastian Bux from The Neverending Story, lending it an unmistakable air of fantasy as well.
The origins of Cordelia are unclear — some say it stems from the Middle Welsh name Creidylat, while others say it means “daughter of the sea” or even “heart of a lion” (from the French coeur de Lion). Whatever its meaning, the name has a rich history in literature; it’s the name of a character in Shakespeare’s King Lear, and the heroine in Anne of Green Gables famously said, “I would love to be called Cordelia. It’s such a perfectly elegant name.”
A strong mythological name, Perseus comes from the Greek πέρθω (pertho), meaning “to destroy.” In Greek mythology, Perseus was the heroic founder of the ancient city of Mycenae — and the defeater of the snake-haired Medusa.
The beautiful Ginevra is the Italian version of the name Guinevere, which itself is derived from the Welsh name Gwenhwyfar, meaning “white phantom.” But Harry Potter fans may also recognize Ginevra as the full name of one Ginny Weasley!
A name of Hebrew origin, Gideon means “to hew” (or to fell, break, or destroy). It was popular among the Puritans as a biblical name, and is a good choice in modern times to stand out among the other more often-used biblical names like John, Jacob, and Benjamin.
The bookish name Mallory is derived from a Norman surname that means “unfortunate” — but if you can look past the less-than-desirable meaning, it’s a pretty name, with characters named Mallory in the ’80s sitcom Family Ties, beloved book series The Baby-Sitters’ Club, and thriller American Horror Story, to name a few.
There’s no guessing necessary when it comes to the meaning of this strong and classic name, since Victor is literally a noun meaning “one who defeats the enemy.” But its association with The Hunchback of Notre Dame author Victor Hugo gives it a clear literary vibe too.
The name Prudence (and its super-adorable nickname, Prue) comes from the Latin prudens, meaning “prudent, wise, skilled.” Since virtue names are also trendy right now, this could be a cute and lesser-used alternative to traditional virtue names like Faith and Hope.
The origin of Stellan is unclear, but it has been popularized thanks to actor Stellan Skarsgård. It may come from the Old Norse word stilling, meaning “calm.”
Stemming from the Greek Θεοδόσιος, meaning “giving to God,” Theodosia is both intellectual and elegant — and if you’re looking for a shorter option, Thea is an adorable nickname.
The name Balthazar is the perfect dark academia combo: one part wizard, one part wise man, and one part old money (thanks to the association with actor and Getty family heir, Balthazar Getty). It stems from the Hebrew name Belshazzar, meaning “Bel protect the king.” In the Bible, specifically the Old Testament Book of Daniel, this name was borne by the last king of Babylon who saw the mystical handwriting on the wall.
Demetria is the feminine form of the Greek name Δημήτριος (Demetrios), derived from the goddess Demeter, which means “earth mother” (Demeter was the goddess of agriculture). It’s an ancient name with a classic sound.
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