Where to take names for characters?

This is not about names, themselves. This is only about source for them.

For examples:

  • Cassandra, queen in post-apocalyptic age of my fantasy world, has name of ABBA's song of the same name (and also bee mother from Maya the Bee).
  • Name of chief of the Creators of the world, The One, is based on movie of the same name.
  • Aleta has name of one teacher

Have you any other idea where to take names for characters?

  • 4
    It should be noted that Cassandra is a name from mythology about a woman who was cursed by the gods with the ability to forsee the future but to always be disbelieved when she predicted it. By naming a character Cassandra you might be giving your readers the impression that she is some kind of oracle or otherwise aware of the future. If that's not your intent you might want to consider alternatives.
    – GordonM
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 7:39
  • 1
    This is a bit of a hard question to answer. It is fairly opinionated in that, everyone has different methods to obtaining names. We can't really objectively provide a solution to the question but I will also add in my subjective answer as it differs from what is already placed XD.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 20:21

7 Answers 7


For the symbolism and cultural significance of names, I usually look into surnames.behindthename.com or behindthename.com (for last and first names, respectively).

I usually flesh out a character and their role within the context of the story before I decide the character's name. To this effect I give them a number (say #001) and whenever I decide on the name finally I ctrl+f find and replace every instance of #001 in the draft with the character's name. If I'm using real world names I usually try to make some kind of symbolic or cultural linkage between the name and the character. However if I'm doing fantasy/sci-fi I like making up my own names or using one of a large host of online "name generators."


I don't usually put names to that much meaning, but will occasionally look at entemology and play around with themes on them. I also look for naming trends among cultures that character is likely to be a part of, if I think it will matter. Most of my characters are of United States origin, so generally, I take American's propensity for cross cultural naminging into account. As much as I like to place meaning in names, if everyone does have a meaningful name, it stretches my suspicion of disbelief that so many names work so well together. And the one time I actually pulled it off, it was unintentional. One of my characters was given several quiet theme associations to Superman and was delibertly named "Calvin Lark" which was frequently shortened by friends and family to "Cal" and at one point initilized to C. Lark. By just a quirk of the names picked for family, his male relatives all ened with the letters "el" (Samuel, Michael) and I forgot how his mother was connected, but it was there (I think she had an alliterative first name, which is a recurring event in Superman's supporting cast). All of the other names I just picked as typical, and wasn't looking for it to work.

More likely than not, my biggest thing with name meaning is I have an obession with "Z" names and words, but I'm aware enough to break it.


I use a baby name choosers, and I also take surnames from various sources, including famous people or other fictional characters (though I tend to favour less well-known people if I do that).

For example, I named one character Claire Bisley. Her first name came from a baby name chooser and after I researched the meaning of the name (It means "bright" or "clear" which I felt was a good fit for her generally optimistic personality). Her last name is indirectly taken from Simon Bisley, a fairly well-known comic book artist who worked on Judge Dredd, amongst other things (The name came via Tim Bisley from the sitcom Spaced, who was also a comic book artist and was named after Simon).

If your setting has rules regarding how names are given then you should stick to those. For example in a contemporary UK (where I'm currently writing a story) a surname can be indicative of your "breeding" (whether you can trace your roots back to the aristocracy or not). People with surnames based on occupations (Smith, Wilcock (which means chicken keeper, apparently!), etc) tend to have lower class roots where as people who have surnames based on place names (Gainsborough, Clinton and so on) can usually trace their ancestry back to land-owners and feudal lords.


I learned from my daughter that J.K. Rowling strolled around on graveyards and collected names from old tombstones. Since I know that, I look at tombstones differently, and find it amazing.


For me when it comes to naming, and maybe I am really weird like this but I actually use imagery. What I mean is that I imagine the place, the type of land, the person and think of the personality I want it to have. If I want the mountains to be big and looming and have a really strong name to it, I will sit there and play with sounds in my head while I imagine the mountains as I would visually want them to look. Some times, I can come up with a sound combination fairly quickly, other times it takes me days or weeks of repeating this process. If I am stuck, I will look up some root words/prefixes/suffixes from various languages so that I can get a wider bank of sounds I wish to achieve.

I do the same thing for names of characters too. I sit there and think about the character, what they look like and who they are and what they represent. While holding those thoughts in my mind, I will again throw around sounds and combinations of elements until I come up with a name I like. Some times I know what prefix I want in which usually I will keep repeating different suffixes until I get a name that I like and sounds good.

On a rare occasion I will use a name generator and play around with the names that show up in lists. If I find one that I think sounds cool, I will usually take that name and rewrite it to have still sounding the same, but spelled in a way that I find more pleasing.

In the end, naming anything gives it meaning or not. People can infer a lot about characters or places based on the name given. Not everything or every person gets named in stories. So if it is given a name, it usually means it is important to the story, whether it be the background lore, used as a reference point, or a character that you need to keep track of.


Perhaps this answer is too simple, but I've always used a random name generator. I wrote down some names that sounded good, and did more in depth research to find out their etymology. Then I picked the names that fit my story.


If you want readers to have an easter egg to find, pick your names based on the meanings. You can find meanings that fit their personalities, or that are ironic, weird, etc.

Also, it's a good idea to not make characters names sound too similar to prevent confusion from readers.

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