What’s in a Name?

I love creating names! It’s one of my favorite aspects of world-building. Names are the first things that come to me when I’m toying with a new character or story idea. Finding the right name makes a city, nation or character leap off the page and suddenly you feel like you’ve known them your entire life.

There are many fabulous resources about how to choose names that match a specific culture or linguistic background. Baby name sites are wonderful sources of inspiration and several actually have specific advice pages for authors.

In the end, though, I believe the power of a name comes down to instinct and a gut reaction. If it rings true, you’ll just feel it, just know. In some cultures, knowing a thing’s name gives you the power to know its entire being. We’ve all marveled at certain names that fit so perfectly, we can almost imagine what they entail without actually reading more than their name.

Here are a few of the names that really sing for me! What about you?

Manetheren (Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time)
Terabithia (Bridge to Terabithia)
Elantris (Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris)
Pretty much anything from LOTR

Temeraire (Naomi Novik’s Her Majesty’s Dragon)
Indevan Algara-vayir *Inda (Sherwood Smith’s Inda)
Jericho Barrons (Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series)
Killashandra (Anne McCaffrey’s Killeshandra)
Ashton Hilary Akbar Pelham-Martyn *Ash (M.M. Kaye’s The Far Pavillions)
Aeryn Sun (Farscape)
Sanglant (Kate Elliot's Crown of Stars series)
Pretty much anything from LOTR (Are you seeing a pattern?!)

Objects, phrases, misc.
Shei’tan/Shei’tani *beloved/husband/wife (C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series)
Klah (Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern)
Faradhi *Sunrunner (Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince)
Frell (Farscape)
Almost any spell from Harry Potter


  1. "Pretty much anything from LOTR"

    Tell me about it. That's why two of my kids are named Luthien Tinuviel and Maedhros. (True story. Though those are more from the Silmarillion than LOTR.) And yay! For a Farscape mention. I love Aeryn. And frell has become our swear word of choice in my house. (I feel less guilty saying it around the kids.)

    Have I mentioned that I LOVE names? Some of my favorites...

    Zaphod Beeblebrox from Hitchhiker's Guide
    Paul Muad'dib Atreides from Dune
    Corwin of Amber from Zelazny's Amber books
    Severus Snape

    I'm a big fan of mythological and ancient historical names as well. Especially from Egypt.

  2. Love those names, Sarah! I agree with you about the mythological and historical names - they tend to evoke such great inspiration.

  3. I agree, you call it a gut reaction, but I think it's our minds holding a wealth of ideas that we're never gonna have direct access to, but shall nevertheless aid us like an ominous man behind the curtain who seems very suspicious at first... but is actually there to help you, for whatever reason he's personally motivated by.

    I'm glad to have you on my team.

  4. I've found that creators of the final fantasy series have a wonderful power of creating interesting names.
    I've always tried to emulate them as a small teen.

    That place always stood out to me.

  5. Trickster - I love your explanation of our minds holding a wealth of ideas. That's exactly it!

  6. I agree, Aeryn Sun is an amazing name. Talyn was another great name that came out of the series.

  7. I love the names Terry Brooks gives to the places in his worlds and the characters.

    My favorite would be the mountain range the Wolfsktaag, I know it's hard to pronounce but it sounds cold, dangerous and feral like it is.

    I agree, the best names usually just pop into my head. Sometimes I have to seek them out, usually from thesaurus or by just playing with letters.
    Non-fiction books can be a good source as well. One of my favorite protagonists got his name fron the latin name of a plant.

  8. I waste so much time agonizing over the perfect name. Sometimes a name can change the way I write a character or a place, so I have to get it right from the beginning!

  9. Blogger Girlz - Yes! Talyn is a great name. Farscape has lots of good ones.

    Emilia - Love that example. The name really does evoke the place!

    GK - Same here. It'll bug me if I feel it's not quite right.

  10. Great post! My crit group and I crack up over one of my character's names. Rodolf Svart looked so evil and tough to me in print, but once you say it aloud enough times it does indeed evolve into unintentional comedy! So now I am in the market for less giggly options. :)

  11. Kate - That's hilarious! I've been there too. One of my novels features a seafaring nation, and my original name for their home island was Yrinelle (ee-rin-elle). I thought it sounded SO cool...until someone in my crit group called it urinal. :)