The Name Game

7 Jun

This week we found out the gender of our baby. It’s a boy! All kinds of emotions ensued, one of which is confusion. Because while we’d zeroed in on a girl’s name, it wasn’t so much that way with a boy’s name. So I’ve been going through baby names all week because I tend to get obsessive and, also, I really like name hunting.

So I thought I’d share some of my naming resources with you lovely readers! Because I know someone out there has to love names as much as I do (riiiiight?). I’ve long had a “future baby names list”–since about high school or so. And in the last few years I’ve also started a list of possible character names. These lists rarely intersect, as I usually jot down names for characters that I find to be very evocative in one way or another. Of course, now that I’m going to start writing high fantasy, I need to learn how to make up names. Blech! BUT, I’ll probably still go to international name lists for inspriation.

Anyhow! My tried-and-true go-to for years now has been babynames.com. Not only do they have an EXTENSIVE list, but it’s also organized the best of any website I’ve seen. And you can run fun searches, with filters like gender (boy, girl, and unisex), number of syllables, origin, starts/ends with, and meaning. They have a few pre-made lists as well, like Shakespeare names and even Twilight names. They also have Top 100 Names lists for years and years back. When it comes to less-familiar origin-language names (does that make sense? So Korean instead of French), I tend to use it as a jumping off point, before diving into further research (the Koreans have quite a complicated naming system!). But I’ve returned to this site over and over and over again for YEARS. I just love it.

The other two are recent finds, but so awesome that I have to include them. The first is babynamewizard.com. You can plug-in a certain name, and it will give you some kind of interesting tidbit (if it’s not too obscure of a name), and it will also give you all kinds of popularity data: when it peaked (starting in the 1880s), how popular it was, how popular it is now in the US and around the world, a graph showing its trend over the years, and a map of the US showing where it’s most popular (if it’s in the top 100 currently). This can be a great resource if you want to see if a name–say, Jennifer–was popular in the 1980s (dur, of course). This site also has a powerful search feature, with unique searches like Jewish, Muslim, Esoteric/HIGHLY unusual, and Prominent Namesake (to name a few). You can narrow these down by popularity. AND you can search by “MUST/CAN’T end/start with,” max and min length, max and min number of syllables, and even “must contain this letter sequence.” Pretty specific! So if you’re looking for an international name of middling popularity that can’t start with k, this is a great place to go.

The last is the Baby Names area at babycenter.com. This site offers popularity data as well, although it’s not as thorough as Baby Name Wizard. But it has its own unique features. One is Name Webs for each name. You can build one for suggested names, sibling names, and similar-sounding names. Then you can include more or fewer names, and highlight either the unique names or the popular names. These webs are clickable, so if you see a name you like on here, just click on it to pull up the page on that name. (Although, this site seems to think that every boy’s name in the world is similar to Griffin, Bryce, and Parker. Kinda annoying, but I usually highlight the unique names anyway.) The other feature I LOVE about this site is their Name Ideas section, which contains TONS of really fun names lists. Hipster baby names, baby names inspired by popular songs, baby names inspired by Nobel laureates, and elegant baby names, to name a few. Seriously, I love these lists. In fact, I was talking about naming chars with a CP this week, and she said she got a bunch of name possibilities for this one char from the hipster baby names lists. Hah!

So there are some resources to help you on your character naming journeys. And you know, as soon as you re-name one char in a story, that often starts a chain reaction that turns into re-naming ten other chars (at least, it does for me). For instance, FRACTURED RADIANCE’s protag was original named Vi, but I changed it to Melia, though she goes by Lia. So then I had to change her brother’s name from Liam to Asher. But Melia was too similar to her best friend’s name, Moira, so Moira got changed to Astrid. And then Astrid was too similar to Asher, so Asher became Gavin. See what I mean? Luckily, I love names, so it wasn’t too painful.

What are some of your go-to resources for naming your chars?

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8 Responses to “The Name Game”

  1. Linds June 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    I have a thing for names too and when I first started writing in high school I checked out baby names books from the library…which led to questions about if I was pregnant from the librarian checking out the books. Awkward. Needless to say, from then on I stuck to online websites.

    I find behindthename.com is awesome. It has some cool etymology and is great for searching through a bunch of different cultures.

    • Kris Atkins June 7, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      Thanks for the link! Like I said, babynames.com is a bit limited with the non-European names, so this will be great.

  2. Crystal June 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    Congrats! You’re having a boy, that’s so exciting! :)

    I love names, too. I found this site: http://nymbler.com/ where it lets you choose names you like and then it learns your taste in names and suggests similar names that you might like. The internet has officially thought of everything!

    • Kris Atkins June 7, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      I’ve been looking for a site like that forever! Thanks!

      I love the interwebz.

  3. jeffhofmann June 7, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    Here’s a site to use when you want to know which names NOT to use.

    http://wesclark.com/ubn/

  4. Kristin Laughtin June 8, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    How exciting!

    And I love playing on baby name sites when I’m trying to think of character names, so it’s always good to have a few more such resources.

    • Kris Atkins June 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

      Me too! I can spend hours on them. It’s kinda sad, but I’m glad there are others who share my (strange) obsession.

  5. Colin June 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Congratulations, Kris!! We have five girls and one boy, which worked out for us since we had more girl’s names that we liked than boy’s names. As for name sources, we went with the Bible, and more particularly the Old Testament. And even more specifically, those Hebrew names that had meanings we liked.

    All the best to you and the new addition to your family! :D

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