Creating names for fantasy characters isn’t as straightforward as you think. Many a time I’ve been stopped dead in my tracks by questions like:
‘Is this fantasy enough?’
‘Do I need to give them a fantasy last name or a title or nickname?’
Or a favourite of many…
‘Should I add an apostrophe to make it more fantasyish? Heck, why not two?’
The process of creating names for fantasy characters is important, and below we’ll discuss why.
We’ll go over some points to bear in mind when thinking of names for fantasy characters, as well as a few methods to help you come up with your own, like using a fantasy name generator.
We’ll also look at naming a fantasy world, fantasy names for cities, fantasy names for places, villain names, fantasy names for boys and fantasy names for girls too, fantasy last names, and even names for a dragon!
We’ll also answer the following points:
- What are good fantasy names?
- How to generate fantasy names
- How to make fantasy names
Let’s dive in.
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- Guiding Principles When Creating Names For Fantasy Characters
- Coming Up With Names For Fantasy Characters
- Fantasy Name Generator
- Villain Name Generator
- Characterising Through Names
- Fantasy Last Names
- Fantasy Names For Cities and Naming A Fantasy World
- Fantasy Names List
- Get More Help With Names For Your Fantasy Characters
- More Resources On Names For Fantasy Characters
- Names For Fantasy Characters FAQ
A name that’s too hard to read is going to annoy your readers. That’s the crux of it. So with that in mind, let’s look at perhaps the most important consideration…
Clarity reigns supreme
Names can be a touch on the wild side when it comes to fantasy. I often wonder where the love for the random apostrophe come from.
“Calt’huun looked at Lym’r, then at Ecka’rd, before spinning around and facing Pn’agy’my.”
That’s a fictitious example, but you see what I’m getting at. A difficult name can attract negative attention, jar the flow and cause immense frustration for readers.
What I always do is look at the greats. How have they named their fantasy characters? Raymond E. Feist named his protagonist in The Riftwar Saga Pug. Only 3 letters. Very easy to understand
Likewise, Brandon Sanderson in the Mistborn series called his lead character Vin. George R.R. Martin did similar with names like Jon and Bran.
Going for simple names like this leaves no room for doubt. They’re straightforward and you don’t waste time stewing over pronunciations.
I followed this principle for my own novel, Pariah’s Lament My two protagonists are called Edvar and Isyara, or Isy for short.
It’s also in your interest to come up with easy-to-understand names. After all, you’re the one who has to type it out a bunch of times throughout the story, and if there’s one or more apostrophe in there somewhere, you may forget where they go!
The danger of similar names
A similar point to clarity above, having two or more characters with similar names runs the risk of causing reader frustration and fatigue. They may find themselves flicking back through pages to see if they haven’t gotten things mixed up. This may lead to confusion, and let’s be honest, who wants to feel confused? Nobody.
Let’s look at an example. In the Game of Thrones books (A Song of Ice and Fire for all you aficionados), Theon Greyjoy has a sister named Asha. This, however, is remarkably similar to another character, and one who features quite a bit called Osha, who’s the wildling woman charged with looking after Rickon and Bran Stark.
HBO decided that this was too much of a clash, so in the series, Asha was changed to Yara to rule out the risk of confusion. This is a great example of how similar names can cause disruption.
“Names are hard,” George R. R. Martin
Perhaps the hardest part of creating a fantasy character is thinking of a suitable name.
I’m a big fan of George R.R. Martin’s approach. He likes to look at our real-world names and twists them to give them more of a unique edge. For instance, we have Edward which becomes Eddard, and John which is changed to Jon.
George R.R. Martin also suggests turning to baby books. No doubt he undertakes a similar sort of process, picking names both common and unusual and changing them about if he feels the need.
This approach of taking a common name and playing about with it I’ve found particularly helpful—it strikes a balance between clarity and originality. Playing around with vowels is a good process to go through. For instance, take the name Hal and swap the vowel around—A, E, I, O, U—you can make a different name out of everyone.
Another method you can adopt is trying a fantasy name generator—you’ll be surprised at how many of them there are. GRRM doesn’t like them, but they can sometimes throw up a decent result.
They’ll give you names of female fantasy characters, male fantasy characters, elves, orcs, dragons… literally anything. Here’s a list of some of the best fantasy name generators:
I had a go of the top site – fantasynamegenerators.com – and this is what I got for fantasy elf names:
- Alok Pafina
- Lhoris Caina
- Alosrin Yinwarin
Some are good fantasy names, maybe not the best fantasy names, but decent all the same. The one’s I like here are Alok, Jhaan, Lhoris. A lot of them, however, illustrates perfectly what to avoid. They’re difficult to pronounce. They have too many words, syllables and letters, and can be seen as trying too hard.
When you spot a name you like the look of, be sure to say it aloud. Can it be said in different ways? It’s incredible the number of variations my readers come up with for my fantasy characters and fantasy places.
As well as fantasy name generators for coming up with fantasy names for girls and fantasy names for boys, there also exists a villain name generator. In fact, there are a few of them.
Here are some of the best name generators for coming up with villain names:
A bland character blends in with the greyness, living briefly in the minds of readers. On the other hand, a name with more eccentricity has the ability to set a character apart and inflame imaginations.
One way to characterise with a name is to introduce a title or last name. In David Gemmel’s Legend, one of the main heroes is called Druss the Legend, and that makes him a bit unforgettable. Another example can be seen in Star Wars. Luke, let’s be honest, is a bit of a boring name, but when we add Skywalker that changes things. We immediately think of things like space and adventure—it invokes an image in our minds.
I love the use of a nickname too. In just a few words you can tell the reader a lot about a character without saying much at all. Again, titles can provoke images in our minds. The Mountain in Game of Thrones is a great example.
Characters’ age and background
One important consideration is to think of a character’s age and background. With regards to age, for example, names can go out of fashion. If you search for popular names from 100 years ago and combine them with the modern-day, you’ll notice a massive difference. Does a similar thing happen in your own fantasy world? This may be more applicable to your story if it involves a significant passage of time.
Character background is also important. Do the people of different regions, countries, continents and cultures follow different naming conventions? In our world they do, and the same could be said for your worlds too.
Fantasy last names are underused in the genre. I keep going back to Game of Thrones, but given the sheer number of characters and the manner in which they’re named, it’s a constant source of tremendous examples for fantasy names, particularly fantasy last names.
For example, in Game of Thrones, we have the bastardy names – Snow, Sand, Flowers, Rivers, Stone, to name a few. This all helps to build the fantasy world by suggesting the history and wider issues at play in the world. These names then influence how those characters are treated by others.
Consider adding meanings
By adding meanings to your fantasy last names you can add a whole new layer to your story as well as developing your fantasy worldbuilding.
If you think about our own world, there are many cultures that adopt meanings to names. Some I find most beautiful and intriguing can be found in Norse, Arabic, African and Celtic cultures.
When it comes to creating fantasy names for cities and names for a fantasy world, the guiding principles we covered at the beginning very much apply again.
The last thing you want is for your reader to stumble over the pronunciation of the name of your fantasy city, place or fantasy world. Clarity always reigns supreme.
You could always try a fantasy name generator to give you some inspiration. And I’ve also included a fantasy names list below too.
How to make up a name for a fantasy world
There are no hard and fast rules for making up a name for a fantasy world. Just take a look at some examples:
- Middle Earth
We could go on, and if you head over to Wikipedia you can find a serious compendium of them all.
What do you notice about these names? They all seem quite random, don’t they? But some of them tie in to key features of the world. Earthsea and Discworld, for instance, both relate to the nature of the world.
So if you’re struggling for a name, why not first build your world, take a look at some unique features and see if you can work that into a name.
You could also take a look at some names we’ve given to places in different languages. Latin is a great one, and is where I got Tervia from. You can also look to other languages like Gaelic and Nordic. You may find that taking parts of names and combining them with others is a great way to make up a name for a fantasy world.
If you don’t want to use a fantasy name generator—which to be honest can be tough to use—here’s a set of short fantasy names lists which will give you a good start and hopefully some inspiration for your own characters. I’ve also added a short list of medieval names given the popularity of the Middle Ages in fantasy!
Fantasy Names – Female
Fantasy Names – Male
If you’d like more help with coming up with names for your characters, or if you’d like to connect with fantasy readers and writers to test your names out, why not join my online writing group?
Created as a place to share, discuss and to forge friendships, my writing group could be the writing home for you. It’s full of friendly writers from all over the world who are only too eager to help each other out.
If you have any questions at all, this is the place to ask them. To join the group, just click the button below.
Thank you so much for checking out this guide on coming up with names for fantasy characters. I hope you found it useful! I’ll leave you with some further reading.
- Here’s a good article on fantasy names from The Guardian.
- Here’s an insightful post on the topic by Brandon Sanderson.
Here are some of my other guides you may find of use:
- A Guide to World-Building
- Making Maps Part 1
- Making Maps Part 2
- A Guide to Making Monsters
- A Guide to Castles and Keeps
- Archery and Fantasy: A Guide
- A Guide to Medieval Weaponry
- Family Names of the UK
- A Guide to English Place Names
How do I pick a fantasy name?
The best thing to do when it comes to picking a fantasy name is to go for the one that your readers will find the easiest to read and understand—the clearest name possible. This can be especially important if it’s the name of one of your main characters.
How do you name a character?
Naming a character is an important step. Some key considerations include
1.. Clarity – is the name easy to read and understand
2. Uniqueness – calling a character a common, dull name won’t help them stand out from the crowd.
3. Last names – often underused, last names can add more to a character, such as grand names of houses, like Stark or Lannister.
4. Nicknames and Titles – both nicknames and titles are a great way to reveal a little bit extra about your character. For example, The Hound or The Mountain in Game of Thrones.
How do you create a unique name?
A unique name is one that we don’t often see. One that makes us stop and think about how unusual it is. One that may sound intriguing and provokes a sense of curiosity in us to discover more. To create a unique name, a good method is to take a common name and play around with the vowels – A, E, I, O, U – or combine two names together.
How do you make up a character name?
One of the most effective ways of making up a character name is to play around with the vowels in a name – A, E, I, O, U – as well as combining parts of different names. That way, you’re more likely to come up with something original and unique.
Thank you for reading this guide on creating names for fantasy characters.