What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


I do not think I’m alone in this, but choosing a name for a character is almost as trying as naming your child. There’s a weight and pressure that accompanies the character that needs to tell of their personality and their story.

Choosing a particular name for your character can give added meaning to the overall story. It can even be a certain trait that you want the character to live up to their name.

What to consider when choosing a character name:

  • A particular trait (physical or personality) the character lives up to
  • Historical reference (mirroring passed historical figures or a name from an era that your story is taking place in)
  • Symbolism
  • Name meaning
  • Location – where is the character from? Is the name to represent their birth country?
  • Heritage – race, religion, culture, etc.

For example:

Belle – Belle means beauty. In Beauty and the Beast – both cartoon and recent movies, they point out that Belle’s name means beauty and that she is beautiful herself, hence the name. It draws a contrast to the theme/plot of the story that you need to look inside a person to see who they truly are.

Also in the same movie(s) – the character Lefou – I mentally replace his name with “The Fool”. It’s fitting. He’s the stooge to the great warrior Gaston.

Harry Potter – Harry means: to torment by or as if constant attack (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). The whole series, Harry is constantly under attack from Voldemort.

Also in the Harry Potter series – Draco Malfoy – “Mal” is Latin for evil, ill will. Other words that co-relate: malevolent, maleficent, malice, malignant and so forth. Draco is not necessarily evil in the books, but he’s not innocent either. He’s a bully and a character that is a victim of circumstance in how he was raised by a cruel father, much like Harry’s cousin Dudley.

Another name that has meaning: Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. He his introduced to the Bennet family and Elizabeth as a good character of interest. However, as the story plays out, he lives up to his name: he is wicked.

Twilight series: Edward Cullen: Edward’s character was supposed to originate from the early twentieth century. Edward was a common name for that period. That is an example of historically dating the name.

These are just a few examples of how author’s placed more thought behind their names than just choosing a favorite name. I will admit that sometimes as a character becomes more developed that it is okay to change the name. I have many times.

A side note: If you are looking for something completely unique or even fantasy – look up names that mean what you want the character to stand for. Then change a letter in the name. Say you want to use Belle – but it’s over done and obvious – so add a letter or change a letter: Bella, Elle, Bellia, Belliah, Aella, Cella, etc. You know what you want and what the name is to symbolize. So, get creative.

L. R. Mauck


Author: lrmauck

Over the last decade, I have received several positive feedbacks on my stories and one college professor encouraging me to pursue a career as a writer. I have attended a few elective writing classes at IUS to help hone in on my skills. I have recently attended Kentucky Writing Workshop in Louisville, KY where I learned more hands-on experience and encouragement from other writers. I currently resides in southern Indiana with my four fur babies. Follow me on twitter at: @lrmauck

3 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?”

  1. Naming characters is one of the hardest things for me in writing. I’m constantly changing names of characters with each draft. But I think the reason for that is because I just plugged in names to see what would make the most sense; to see what names felt right for the story. I think I will take a different approach to naming my characters after reading this post.

    Liked by 1 person

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