How To Name Your Characters

It can be tough finding the right name for all of your characters, especially if you write in genres where Mary and John don’t fit well. Fantasy and science fiction come to mind, but it’s also applicable if, for instance, you’re writing historical fiction about Chinese immigrants building the railroad. Baby name websites and books are great, and I use them a lot, but they only go so far.

So what’s an author to do?

Google Translate. Really, most translation websites will do the trick, but I’ve found Google has more languages to choose from than the other sites I’ve looked at. If French/Spanish/Italian/Latin is all you need, that’s great, but most sites don’t do less common languages.

Since Eric and I are exploring our Celtic heritages, I decided to base Balphrahn on Celtic culture. That gives me Irish, Scottish, and Welsh, with options for German and French, since parts of those countries were also Celtic. I went with French for the dragon names. I used their colors, or if that was too obvious, a personality trait, and translated them. In some cases, I tweaked the spelling.

When I expanded the world, I ran into an issue with a water dragon. I didn’t think a French name would fit him, so I went back to the Celtic languages. This particular dragon is curious and a bit of a philosopher. He can throw down when needed, but that’s not his main goal. So I plugged “curious” into Google Translate and came up with Chwilfrydig*. It just fit him. For what it’s worth, I’ve been using Welsh more and more lately. Scottish and Irish usually have a word or two to offer; I’ve seen dozens of words in Welsh that mean the same thing.

What tricks to you use? Have you used this method?


*If you don’t read Welsh, it’s pronounced Sh-will-fri-dig. Google Translate told me that, too.


One comment on “How To Name Your Characters

  1. Jean says:

    I haven’t used that method yet, but it sounds like a good one. Thank you for providing the pronunciation for Chwilfrydig. Once I see that, it seems obvious. It wasn’t before.

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