My Top Five Favorite Character Naming Resources

Top 5

Today I am going to share with you my go-to resources for finding character names. For why the perfect name is so important, see my earlier post here.

  1. Scrivener Random Name Generator: Scrivener is an incredible tool. Period. I could go on about it for hours—I really could. Anyway, one of its great features is a name generator. It will randomly generate character names for you, and you can sort (if you choose) by first or last name, gender, beginning or ending letter, and ethnicity. Seriously, they have everything from Ancient Assyrian to Norse to Tongan. You can also search by meaning, or type in a name to look up its origin and meaning. In addition, it has a shortlist feature, so you can select the names you like and compile a list that you can then send to various documents within Scrivener. But the coolest thing? You can upload your own names into the database to customize it. I could see this working really well for the fantasy folks.
  2. The Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon: This book was published by the Writer’s Digest, and my dad picked it up for me at a book sale almost ten years ago. Since then it has been my go-to book for names. There is a section at the front talking about the use of names and how to pick the best names for your genre, but the bulk of the text is names, sorted by origin. Female and male names are in sub-sections within each origin category, and ordered alphabetically. It has most of the standard origins (English, Latin, German, Norse) as well as some rare ones (Native American, Arthurian Legend, Basque).
  3. Baby Name Books: Baby name books were my very first naming resources. I use them nowadays when I want good standard names for modern books or the like. Some titles that I have used quite a bit include The Reader’s Digest Baby Name Book, Baby Names Around the World, and Beyond Jennifer and Jason.
  4. The History of Christian Names by Charlotte Yonge: This is a great in-depth resource for first names. Yonge does not just list the names, but gives an entire commentary/history lesson on every name’s development and origin. For lovers of history or mythology this is a goldmine.
  5. Family and Friends: It may seem odd, but this is actually a really good one. Oftentimes other people’s suggestions will be different from your first thoughts, and they can help you break out of those naming ruts.

How do you find names for your characters? Have you used any of the tools or books above?

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10 thoughts on “My Top Five Favorite Character Naming Resources

  1. Ahhh, I love coming up with names! I didn’t know that about Scrivener, so thanks for that tip! Scrivener is so wonderful. My favorite resource is probably baby names books, especially because I like my character names to have meanings. I’ve also found that family and friends can be good name-critiquers, as well as name-providers. Sometimes I’ll find a name that has a certain connotation for me, but when I tell it to a family member, they’ll have a completely different perspective on it. That helps me realize that my readers may not take it the same way I do. Wonderful tips!

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    1. I love baby name books! They were probably my first resource ever, and they are still my go-to for most names. I love good meanings. 🙂 My family is great at name-critiquing. As you said, they will sometimes have different connotations, and then you get a better feel for how your readers might see it. So glad you enjoyed the post!

      -Emily

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  2. Suzannah

    I mostly just use http://www.behindthename.com, which is SO useful–a huge database of names from many, many different languages. It even allows visitors to rate names according to the impression the name gives, or leave comments on what they think of the name, which means that you can check what readers will think of the name, first. I actually don’t use it very often (my unoriginality ethic means normally the names come with the story idea!) but when I need to, there’s nothing like being able to browse through pages and pages of Arabic, Hindu or Bulgarian masculine names and their meanings.

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  3. I like using babynames.com . It has and advanced search option that allows you to search names based on meaning, first or last letters, number of syllables, country of origin, or gender. Plus, if you use it often enough, website ads will be chock-full of diapers, bottles, and cute baby faces. 😀

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  4. The Philologist

    I love Yonge’s History of Christian Names. I could sit and read it for hours.
    Another helpful source is film credits. It’s incredible how many interesting and diverse names you’ll find (especially surnames) just watching the credits roll….

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  5. E.M.H.

    I love names. I like finding name meanings and origins, and looking through name books (usually The Character Naming Sourcebook) for the fun of it. 🙂 ~ A.J.H.

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