Sunday, May 31, 2020

Naming Fantasy Characters, Places, and Things

The upside of me not being in San Diego on June 1 is that my event at Mysterious Galaxy will be available to all of you via Zoom! Would love if you all joined in!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Names: What's your favorite source/method for naming your characters, places, etc?

I have several go-to naming sources that I have bookmarked for fast and easy access. My first stop is always, the etymology and history of first names. The advanced search allows you find names by gender (or lack thereof), meaning, usage (including mythological, biblical, archaic, etc.), and keyword. I love to start with a name meaning and triangulate from there. It's also meticulously cross-linked, so you can find associated names and roots.

There is also a Surname version of the site,, which works the same way and is a great resource for building family trees and genealogies. Both of these work great to name places as well.

Once I settle on a general language group that I'm drawing from for a particular world, or place within a world, I find and bookmark an online dictionary for that language. I love to find the ones that index the old versions of the language too. ::The Vikings of Bjornstad :: Old Norse Dictionary is a great example. I can search for English concepts, find an old Norse version of the word, and then add a bit of drift to the spelling to make it my own.

Finally, I often resort to good old basic etymology to build new words. I look up the etymology of a word that embodies the concept of the person, place, or thing I want - then I break it down into component roots. Sometimes I search for related roots in other languages. Then I piece the concepts together again, maybe add some spelling drift and there it is! New word.

Now you guys know all of my secrets and can no doubt reverse engineer names from my books!

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