The book was called Echoes because its contents "echoed" those of the models which the texts simulated or (in some instances) parodied.

Thirty-two of the thirty-nine poems by the 18-year-old Kipling and his 16-year-old sister Alice (known as "Trix"), and the names of the poets "echoed" are known from several copies in which Kipling (or the two of them) wrote their names beneath the poem's titles or on the Contents page of the 1884 text (as shown in these images of the same copy from two different American auction sale catalogues of 1925 and 1929, respectively).

As indicated by the annotations (with 'RK' indicating an "original", non-parody poem), the Kipling siblings were echoing a mix of English, Scottish, American and German poets.

These included Tennyson, Longfellow, Burns, Swinburne, Christina Rossetti, Arnold, Keats, Cowper, Browing, Wordsworth, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Heine, William Morris, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, among others.

The contents were largely composed in the summer of 1884, and concluded when the family spent a holiday month together in the hill station of Dalhousie. Their model (and the seeming source for the book's title) was the American parodist Bayard Taylor's The Echo Club, and Other Literary Diversions (Boston, 1876). Rudyard later claimed he knew whole pages of this by heart from a "little limp paper-back pirated copy" which spurred him "to the joyful labor of writing parodies on every poet between Wordsworth and Whitman". (letter to E. C. Stedman, 21 July 1894). The book's lithographic cover design was created by Kipling's father John Lockwood Kipling.