What’s in a name?

baby-shoes-pixabay

Every day, all across the globe, parents-to-be ponder, mull, and agonize over choosing the perfect name for their baby. Some choices are easy–taking a name to honor a family member or a dear friend. Some opt for unique names to help their child stand out. Some give names based on their hopes and desires for the child’s future. And some parents name their baby after characters from their favorite movie, book, or TV show.

I, myself, might have been named Galadriel if my dad had his way. No doubt it is an outstandingly beautiful name, but perhaps it is a bit difficult to pull off for someone less than “the mightiest and fairest of all the Elves that remained in Middle-earth.” Instead, I was named after my mom’s favorite soap opera character…although the official story is that I was named after my great-grandmother so, shhhh, don’t tell! ^_-

As it turns out, authors experience many of the same difficult choices as parents when it comes to naming our characters. Except instead of naming the average 2.5 children, authors have to name every one of their characters. And the cities they live in, the rivers, mountains and forests around them, and every imaginable thing in between. It’s a daunting task. There are hundreds of thousands of options, but which one is the right one for our dear characters?! It has to be perfect. It has to suit them. It has to be easy to read. It has to be meaningful.

It’s the last of those needs that inspired today’s post. Before becoming an author, I never paid a great deal of attention to the subtle meanings or symbolism behind a character’s name (I do now though!). I decided during the planning stages of the series that I wanted to add another level of depth to the story for those intrepid readers who read not only the written words, but also see those between the lines.

relief-pixabaySome of the name meanings are pretty straight forward. For instance, the names of all of the Senka and Ohanzee–with a few significant exceptions–have meanings associated with being a warrior.

Einar-“warrior”
Ildiko-“fierce warrior”
Hania-“spirit warrior”
Jarold-“strong with a spear”
Caelan-“powerful warrior”
Alala-“war-like”

I had a bit of fun when choosing the names for the twins, Cole and Eloc. I wanted names that made sense as a pair, but I never could find a pair that suited the theme I had in mind for the Ohanzee. Then I found Cole, which has the meaning “warrior,” and I realized that Cole spelled backward–Eloc–sounded like a suitable name for a character in a fantasy story. (I might have had a lot of caffeine that day, don’t judge. 😛 ) I’ve only come across one person so far who has realized the connection between those two names on their own! XD

pope-john-paul-ii-2I chose other character’s names based on their personality or to give additional insight into their background. Raysel’s mother has a well-known affection for flowers, and she expressed it by choosing names for her children that are related to flowers: Raysel-“rose,” Aravind-“lotus,” Cattleya-“orchid.”

Other examples are:
Shae-“admirable”
Desta-“destiny” (Hence the chapter title “An Encounter with Destiny”)
Parlen-“farmer”
Echidna-mythological monster, half-woman and half-snake, gave birth to the Sphinx, Cerberus, Hydra, and Ladon, among others.
Ladon-mythological monster,  a serpent-like dragon

Some names connect the character directly to the prophecy:
Alden-“old friend”
Rica-“peaceful ruler”
Ohanzee-“shadow”
Casimer-“bringer of peace” or “destroyer of peace”

yinyang-pixabayThe names of cities and villages in Renatus also have significance. Niamh, the capital city of Chiyo, means “brightness,” while Nyx, the capital city of Marise, means “of the night.” The countries’ names also have meaning: Chiyo-“thousand years” or “eternal” and Marise-“infinite” or “endless.” The names tie back to the time when Renatus was divided into two equal countries and are intended to convey the idea of opposites that balance one another.

The name of Darnal, the Ohanzee’s hidden city, quite literally means “hiding place” or “hidden area.”

I’ll admit, I chose Nerissa’s name not because of it’s meaning, but because I’ve had an affection for it ever since I first read The Merchant of Venice. However, the meaning behind her alter-ego, Caeneus, is definitely significant. Caeneus was a hero in Greek mythology who was born a woman and became an invulnerable warrior after being turned by Poseidon into a man.

Those of you who have already read the series may have noticed I’ve omitted several (main) character’s names. It wasn’t an oversight. Some tidbits are too juicy to give away in a blog post, and I’m not about to give away any spoilers here. But if you’re curious enough, I’m sure a quick visit to Google will yield the answers you’re looking for 😉

7 Comments

  1. I also love giving meaningful names. It can be so difficult to get them exactly right!
    When I started writing one of my stories in high school, I named a character Tesla because I thought it was a pretty name. The character has elemental powers…she can summon water. I later found out who Nikola Tesla was and now laugh that I didn’t give her electricity! I can’t bring myself to change her name haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tesla really is a cool name. It just has a nice sound to it, so I can’t blame you for not wanting to change it for her! On a semi-relate note, have you read 14 by Peter Clines? If you’re looking for another good read, you might want to check it out. It’s a sci-fi/urban fantasy/mystery with a Tesla twist!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Heck even coming up with aliases for real people to keep my blog anonymous was hard! Kudos to the careful thought you’ve obviously given to produce your best possible novels. I noticed that Anne McCaffrey liked to drop a letter or the first letter of a traditional name, or mash up two common names to make a unique one, things like that, so I tend to do the same. I had to use a system for naming so I could remember who I was writing about.

    Liked by 1 person

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