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I hear a lot of writers saying that they have trouble naming characters, but there are loads of places to go for inspiration;
- Online name generators; such as Seventh Sanctum, Serendipity, etc
- The census; there are census name generators online like this one
- The phone book
- The credits on tv programmes/movies
- The thank you list in books/CDs
- People you went to school with
Just remember to mix these names up (trust me, naming your villain after your ex is not a great idea!) Also, Google the names to make sure you’re not naming your characters after someone well known.
When you find a name you like, say it out loud. Make sure the first and last name sound alright together. Introduce your character out loud, introduce them to your other characters. Let your ears hear the sound of the name.
Also, check out my post 5 Things to Avoid when Naming Characters
100+ Unique Character Names
Under the cut are 100+ of my favorite unique/underused male & female character names - more to be added as I come across them :) Enjoy!
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Character name puns
eytancragg asked: can we get a post on how the names of people are kind of like in-jokes?
This is only a list of the
ones I can remember at the moment important ones, not comprehensive.
Momo - means ‘peach’ in Japanese. Named thus by Aang since he ate one.
Aunt Wu - ‘Wu’ means witch in Chinese
Kuei - Kuei means puppet in Chinese, and the Last Emperor is also known as the ‘Puppet Emperor’
Bumi - Bumi means earth in Indonesian
Ran and Shaw - the dragons are named ’ 燃烧 to combust, Ran - 燃 to burn
Shaw -烧 to roast ’ in Chinese.
Jeong Jeong - jiong jiong - jiong means fire in Chinese
Zhao - Zhao is a common family name in Chinese, it can also mean ‘to set afire’.
(a lot of the FN names can be translated as fire/fire related)
Piandao - 騙到 to trick, dao can also mean knife/sword 刀
edited: Also a kind of sword and the typical Asian kitchen knife.
Tenzin Gyatso - is the name of the current Dalai Lama
Möngke - is the name of a Mongol Khan
Longfeng - long feng means Dragon and Phoenix, Emperor and Empress, royal principle in Chinese
Dai Li - is the name of the KMT head of secret police, it can also mean ‘great strength’
Yue - ‘yue’ means moon in Chinese
Suki - can mean ‘like or love’ in Japanese, but also, if transliterated Tsuki (sounds similar), it means ‘moon’.
Sokka just can’t help dating the moon.
Laogai - was the name of real life prison camps in China
Divergent Characters Name Meangings
- Beatrice: "Voyager through life", "blessed"
- Caleb: "Devoted", "Faith", "Wholehearted"
- Natalie (Tris' Mother) : "Birthday" (refers to birth of Christ) "Chistmas"
- Andrew (Tris' Father): "Man, Warrior"
- Evelyn: comes from the irish name "Evlin" meaning "Beautiful, or Radiant"
- Tobias: "God is Good"
- Marcus: "Dedicated to Mars" (Mars being the roman god of war)
- Will (William): "Will, desire, protection", "Determined" or "Resolute"
- Christina: "Follower of Christ"
- Marlene: In german, blend of the names "Maria" "Star of the Sea" and "Magdalene" "from Magdala". (In honor of the saint)
- Lynn: "Ruddy- complected"also a surname meaning "lake," "waterfall" or "pool". Sometimes a diminutive in Spanish for "pretty".
- Peter: "Rock"
- Molly: "Star of the Sea" a name that branched off of Mary.
- Drew: "Wise"
- Edward: "Wealthy guard"
- Myra: "Myrrh"
- Jeanine: "God is Gracious"
- Eric: "Forever, or Alone" "Ruler"
- Tori: "Bird" also derived from "Victoria" which means "Victory".
- Zeke (Will's older brother): Comes from "Ezekiel" which means "Strength of God" also "Zachariah" which means "the Lord recalled"
- Fernando: "Adventurer"
- Cara: "Beloved friend"
- Johanna: "God is Gracious"
- Amanda: (before edith prior changed her name): "First to be loved, loveable"
- Edith: "Strife or Wealth"
- (I was unable to find a meaning for Al, since his name is a nickname)
Male Names and Meanings
This is a collection of the most popular male names from 2001-2012 and their meanings. (no guarantee on how accurate the meanings are since many conflicted!)
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Female Names and Meanings
This is a collection of the most popular female names from 2001-2012 and their meanings. (no guarantee on how accurate the meanings are since many conflicted!)
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What’s in a Name?
Being a fantasy reader and writer, names are extremely important to me. When browsing the bookshelf, people read the summary of a book and already make judgments on based on a 150 word blurb. And what’s the first thing they learn about your book? The character’s name. Readers make judgments based on names, particularly in fantasy novels.
So here’s some friendly reminders for when you need a name.
Make sure it’s pronounceable. Please, please, please, please, please, check this at least ten times. There are some names that are straightforward like Bilbo Baggins. But then there are some crazy names like M’aiq. Just how do you pronounce that? I can come up with four pronunciations off the top of my head. If you’re unsure if your name is easily pronounceable, write it down on a piece of paper and ask people to say it for you. If more people get it wrong than right, it might be wise to consider a change of spelling, or changing the name completely.
Names with apostrophes and dashes are annoying. Done correctly, having names like the aforementioned M’aiq or Gulum-Ei can work well if they come from a culture that commonly uses names like that. But if tossed around randomly, they are annoying and look stupid.
Be consistent with the names. This ties into a point made above. If you have two different species that were formed on opposite sides of the world and all the names sound interchangeable between them, it looks like bad writing and worldbuilding. If you have some sort of theme in your names, make sure it’s easily noticeable.
Avoid the obvious names. Most of you have been in this spot. You’re reading Harry Potter for the first time, and Harry is off on his way to Hogwarts and he’s just met Ron and they’re hitting it off, and then this kid named Draco Malfoy comes up and starts to talk to him. You know instantly that Draco is going to be a little shit just because of his name. Similarly, you know Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort are evil and you know Luna Lovegood is good without needing any other evidence than their names.
Follow the Pokémon rule. Shannah McGill coined probably one of my favorite rules for naming ever. The Pokémon Rule. In the games, you have only ten characters to give your Pokémon a name. This keeps the names from getting too long, and in fantasy, having long names can be a huge problem.
Don’t get weird with the spellings. I’m not a big fan of using real names in fantasy novels, but I don’t mind them too much. What I do mind is when someone wants to name their character Jennifer but they spell it Ginnafur to make it fit the fantasy setting. If you’re going to use a real name, use it. Don’t slaughter the spelling.
If it’s suitable for a porn star, it’s probably not for your character. Common names used by porn stars are any gem stones, Disney princesses, Candy, Angel, Roxy (with as many Xs as you think is appropriate), or basically anything listed in this infographic.
Be consistent with the names. Yes, this is down here, too. I touched in this briefly in my How to Avoid Mary Sues post. If all your supporting characters have names like John and Bill or Rachel and Liz, don’t give your protagonist a name like Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way. It sticks out and rather than sound cool, all it will do is make readers laugh at you.
Check your character’s initials. Bella Swan, while bearing a name fitting of a porn star, also has to go around with the initials BS. No one wants that.
Make sure all of your characters have different sounding names. I wanted to kill George RR Martin when he decided to have two characters running around named Jon and two named Robert. But just as confusing is when you have two characters named Jane and Joan. It makes it hard for readers to remember which is which. Try to spread your characters out evenly along the alphabet. If possible, only have one character for each name. But if you start having repeats, try to make them sound very different, like Caroline and Chell.
If you’re writing historical fiction, make sure your name isn’t out of place. For a story about a young woman in New York during the 1920s, Millie is a perfectly acceptable name. Addison is not. There are plenty of resources on Google that have information from censuses to help you pick out an appropriate name for the era you’re writing.
Lastly and most importantly:
GOOGLE THE NAME. I don’t care if it’s fantasy or real, always Google your names. You might think Ian McKellen is a fantastic name for your character now, but you won’t once you realize it’s already the name of an extremely famous actor.
how to name characters:
- crew members in movie credits
- take a name you like and change a few of the vowels and/or consonants
- take a word you like from another language and change it subtly to make a name
- for period pieces, look up the name of someone famous during the time you’re writing in, and then Wikipedia them. If you can, find their family tree and browse the kinds of names people had during that time.
- Say a name out loud to test how it would really sound.
- Picture a character at all ages with that name, and see if it fits.
how NOT to name a character:
- Use an apostrophe somewhere to make a name look more exotic. You’ll just look cliched
- Don’t put tons of absurd consonants and vowels together unless you’re writing a story set in Holland or Ireland and those are actual names. (example: L’kuuhnoop’ah’taxxytxyzla’q names that follow basic formats like this look dumb. It maybe looked cool the first two times some fantasy author did it but now it just looks awful)
- Don’t name your character something that you think sounds “mysterious” ugh just don’t. Usually it ends up looking ridiculous just like that keysmash up there
- Don’t give your character the same first name and if you can help it the same last name as another well known book. Just don’t.
- If i had a penny for every time the name Connor, Jack, Tristan, Kate, Damien, Arthur, Anna, Jane, Sam, John, Sarah, etc., or variations thereof, i would be filthy rich. Don’t do it. In most scenarios a unique name will be best. Unique but not unique as L’kuuhnoop’ah’taxxytxyzla’q. Everyone has read at least ten books with a main/important character named John in it.
- Don’t try to make a character name sound sexy because they will just end up sounding like they’re in a bad fanfic or a low-budget porno. Unless that’s what your character is.
- be creative but be realistic.
brought to you by somebody who’s read way too many bad fantasy and sci fi novels
Character Name Bank
** Beginning of my name bank A-Z will add more later**
Sailor Moon Character Name Origins Part II: The Other Solar System Soldiers
Once again! These are my own personal understandings and do not reflect what Naoko (or Junya I suppose) was actually thinking when you made these characters! If you think I’ve missed one important fact, message me I’d love to know more about these names! If I do another it will be Mamoru, Kakyuu and the Starlights.
Chibiusa, the nickname of Usagi’s daughter, is as we all know simply a mix of “chibi”（ちび） which is a word to describe something that is small and cute, and the “usa” （うさ）is from “usagi”（兔 うさぎ） her real name which means Rabbit. So Chibiusa is simply “Little Usagi” or “Little Rabbit”.
Michiru Kaiou （海王みちる）
The three Soldiers of the Outer Solar System all take their names from their respective planets. Together the three Soldiers cover the three non-terrestrial domains (that is, the Sky, the Sea and the Underworld). Michiru’s surname “Kaiou” （海王）is from the Japanese word for the Planet Neptune “Kaiousei”（海王星literally Sea King Star). Kaiousei, as a modern planet, is a translation, taken from the Roman God of the Sea, of course this is where Sailor Neptune’s powers come from. The final kanji from Neptune “sei” (星 star) is dropped to make Michiru’s family name. Michiru, is written in hiragana so its meaning is technically ambiguous. When Michiru is used as not a name it is a verb that we don’t quite have an exact equivalent word for in English, this is why you will receive a number of different entries in a dictionary. The verb is the idea of some sort of process that is reaching its peak, particularly a cyclic one. Though this seems a bit of an odd choice, but one idea that is very connotative to “michiru” (満ちる) is “rising tides”, this is likely how Michiru received her name. A full literal name for Michiru may be “Sea King Rising” and should be extended to the idea of a rising tide.
Haruka’s name is similarly structured to Michiru’s. “Tenou” （天王）comes from Tenousei （天王星）, the Japanese word for Uranus which is literally Sky King Star, which of course stems from a Greek God of the Sky. The “sei” (星star) is dropped from Haruka’s family name though. Sailor Uranus’s attacks seem to extend this sky idea to outer-space too. This is also the reason for the many references to the wind concerning Haruka. Like many names, Haruka can be written in a variety of ways, as it is a hiragana name is a little ambiguous, however when it is a mere word、Haruka（遥か）can mean “distant” or “far-away”, this could possibly be a reference to the Sky from Earth. A full literal name for Haruka might be “Sky King Distant”.
Setsuna Meiou (冥王せつな)
Setsuna keeps in line with her companions with her name being from the word for Pluto, Meiousei (冥王星), though the understanding of its literal meaning is slightly more complicated than Uranus or Neptune. Reading literally can give either “Dark King Star” or “Underworld Star”, but this makes little difference. Of course, the idea of Darkness is very tightly connected to the idea of the Underworld, so much so in Japanese that occasionally the context of the afterlife is assumed just by the kanji “dark”（冥）, so it should be understood that the word is coming from the Roman God of the Underworld, Pluto. Of course like the other two, The “sei” (星)is dropped out from Meiousei. Setsuna can mean a “moment” （刹那）, as in a moment in time, there a strong link between the word and the concepts of time, it can also be derived from the adjective “setsunai”（切ない） which can mean painful, heartrending or miserable, these words possibly relate to the sad nature of Setsuna’s story where she is doomed to Stay Alone forever guarding the Gates of Time. A full literal name for this character may be “Dark King Moment”.
Hotaru Tomoe (土萠ほたる)
Hotaru, being Sailor Saturn breaks the trend of the other Outer Solar System Soldiers, Saturn is an ancient planet and therefore does not follow the same naming system as Uranus and so forth but instead the same system as Mercury, Jupiter and the others. That is, the name for Saturn in Japanese comes from the five Chinese Element, Saturn takes the name Dosei (土星literally Earth Star, but earth in the sense of the ground not in the sense of the Planet). Naoko does not seem to put too much connection between the Japanese name for Saturn and the powers of the character, instead she seems to use more ideas from Greek and Roman Mythology. However, Hotaru’s name does still contain, like all other major characters (barring Minako) the kanji associated with her planet, the “to” （土）is the same kanji as the “do” （土）in “dosei”. The “moe” means sprouting or budding. The name “Hotaru” （蛍）can mean “firefly”, this is directly referenced in the anime and the musicals. In the anime, an episode title (Shadow of Silence!? The Sway of a Firefly’s Faint Light) uses the word “hotarubi” (蛍火firefly light) in kanji to refer to Hotaru (Hotaru’s name is in hiragana making it once again, technically ambiguous). In the Sailor Moon Sailor Stars musicals during the song “Sailor Busters”, Usagi recognizes a shining bottom to be Hotaru. A full literal translation of her name maybe “Earth Sprouting Firefly”, in the sense she is a firefly that sprouts from the Earth. It is possible, this is to indicate her assumed short-life span, or to conjure up an image of Hotaru’s weak light flying away from Earth after she passes on.
Sheba Shingetsu Astarte
(柴・新月・アスタルテ Shiba Shingestu Asutarute)
As a foreigner, Sheba’s name is written in the Western format it is written with interpoints to mark her name as three separate words. Her given name “Sheba”（柴 しば） is actually Japanese, and transliterally is actually “shiba”, （しば）the kanji meaning “firewood”. I will note now, that just because a name is written in kanji, does not mean the name must be written transliterally in English, the name could just as easily be Shiba, Sheba, Siba, Siva, Sheva or Shiva, these are all pronounced identically in Japanese. However, I am settling on Sheba reasons to come. The explanation of “firewood” may come through her connection to Vulcan, it is revealed later that this poor character was manipulated by Death Vulcan (since Vulcan was the Roman God of Fire), Sheba may be seen as the “kindling” that led to Death Vulcan to bring so many other characters and events under his control. Sheba is a possibly a reference to the Queen of Sheba（シバの女王）, though the Queen of Sheba exists in many different variations, likely here she is likely to stem from Hebrew or Wiccan accounts, which have the most influence on the “Kessen / Transylvania no Mori” musicals. Sheba is said to be descended from Phoenicians, while the Queen of Sheba’s kingdom’s location is not clearly known, but the general area is similar. Likely the reason Sheba received her name is due to the Queen of Sheba’s strong identification with Lilith, where in the musical Astarte and Lilith of Darkness form a strong partnership as the Mothers. Shingetsu (新月) is made of two Japanese kanji and literally means “new moon”, it can also refer to a crescent moon, likely as Astarte was sometimes a Goddess of the Moon, her symbol was a crescent moon too but in the musical, likely as Astarte with Lilith wanted to replace the current world order which was being preserved by Sailor Moon. Hence, Astarte would literally be the “new Moon”. Astarte simply comes from the Goddess Astarte and her Soldier form, Sailor Astarte. There is a minor planet also called Astarte. I will now try to debunk the other alternatives to Sheba which have been prevalent throughout the Sailor Moon fandom, the most common translation I’ve seen is “Shiva”, saying it’s a reference to a Hindu Destruction God, the greatest problem with this is that Hinduism pops up nowhere else in the entire Dracul Series, while Hebrew and Wicca references are numerous. Additionally, the Japanese concept of Shiva is very different, he has evolved into Daikokuten, a dwarf looking God of Fortune, something completely irrelevant to Sheba’s character. Shiva is also a Hebrew word that refers to a mourning period of seven days, though Judiasm references appear in the series, this particular one seems to be a coincidence, though the character has been in a period of mourning, it is not related to the number 7 which is at the root of this word. Siva is the name that appears in English in the official pamphlet of the show, however, since the pamphlet also uses “Duke” in place of “Baron” where the English word “Baron” is used to describe Gilles de Rais in the show, and the word “werewolf” is accidentally written as “warwolf”, it seems the creator of the characters, is not the person writing the pamphlets and we should not use the information too strongly. Siva however, is another name for Slavic goddess of love and fertility Živa, however Slavic references do not appear so like Shiva, it does not quite fit. A full literal name for the character could be “Firewood New Moon Astarte”.
The Amazoness / Samael /Sailor Quartet
CereCere (セレセレ SereSere)
PallaPalla (パラパラ ParaPara)
JunJun (ジュンジュン JunJun) and
form the Amazoness Quartet, the Sailor Quartet and the Samael Quartet and all have their names stemming from the same root and that is the first four discovered asteroids (at the time, some have now been reclassified). CereCere is from Ceres (セレス Seresu), PallaPalla from Pallas (パラス Parasu), JunJun from Juno (ジュノー Junoo) and VesVes from Vesta (ベスタ Besuta), their Sailor identity forms, the reasoning for the way they are taken is likely because their names with their double sounds sound rather childish and cute which is highly relevant to their personality, being four young girls unwilling to become adults.