What’s in a name? More than we realize

nameCarrying over the topic from last week, I’ll be discussing names for the symbols they are for a few more posts in the days ahead. Last week I mentioned names with staying power like Darcy and Heathcliff. Today I’m focusing on unique monikers.

My daughter and I share a love of Harry Potter and the wizarding world J.K.Rowling dreamed into being.  The first two books in the series have a younger feel, but that soon changes and you discover they’re not for children alone. It’s the classic hero’s quest done in brilliant storytelling. We’ve read the books to the point where the paperbacks have loose pages. My husband swears we do a Harry Potter movie marathon if we’re having a bad day.  Yeah, we do. It’s either Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, or Pride and Prejudice. Poor man. lol

I mention J.K.Rowling’s creation because she had some pretty interesting names for her characters and they weren’t just plucked from a hat. Mention a name and potterphiles draw a ready image of a character via the books and companion movies. People who know and understand words and have a moderate knowledge of historical facts and mythology will find it easy to recognize the mechanics behind the names and things that make up that fantasy world.

For example: There’s a school custodian in the story who is always watching the students in anticipation of being the one who’ll catch them in the act of doing something they shouldn’t be doing, something like stealing. His name is Argus Filch. Filch is slang for stealing. Argus, servant to the goddess Hera, was the giant in Greek mythology whose body was covered in watchful eyes. (side note: After Hermes did away with him, Hera put his eyes into the tail of a peacock.) So there you have the watchful Argus Filch, his character built upon a metaphor for watchful and a slang word for stealing. His name hints at his personality and occupation.

A good many of her character names hint at occupations but also personalities. Another character is named Albus Dumbledoor, the headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Rowling once said in an interview that she pictured him always humming to himself. It just so happens that the Old English name for bumble bee is dumbledoor. Cute metaphor, huh?

This long-established fan site has a list of all the names.

J.K.Rowling wasn’t the only author to make up character names with hidden meanings. William Shakespeare intentionally chose names for his characters based upon their purpose in the story. They seem rather subtle now, but steeped in their old language and reference of their day, I’ll bet his name play was the inside joke.

For example: In the play As You Like It, the character Rosalind wears a disguise as Ganymede to trick Orlando into falling in love with her. The name Ganymede is in reference to Ganymede the cup bearer of Zeus who was said to be a beautiful effeminate boy. Of course Rosalind is effeminate for a reason — she’s female. In Romeo and Juliet, the Romeo’s friend and cousin Benvolio is as full of good will as his name implies. Conversely, friend Mercutio is very temperamental, as his name implies. (He’s the one who cursed the houses of Capulet and Montague and set in motion a tragic outcome for the young lovers.). Many of Shakespeare’s plays are laced with double-meanings and hidden references of this sort.

I do this sort of thing all the time in my stories. I find double-meanings and hidden references fun.

Ok, what about those wild character names in literature?
I’ll save that for tomorrow.


Any writer will tell you dreaming up names for characters doesn’t always come easy. Even a phone book will fall flat on occasion. If you just need a name without hidden meaning, random name generators can help.
Here are three to try:



Another 100 Things Blogging Challenge! For 100 days, I’ll post something from my chosen topic: Words on the Verge of Extinction. There are 87 entries to come.

Here’s one for today:

Ingordigious (adjective 1637-1734)

greedy; avaricious

4 Us iconToday is author Cindy Spencer Pape’s interview.

All through January the RB4U authors are doing interviews. The thoughtful questions are a great way to get to know us. Commenting that day gives you a chance to win a collectable t-shirt. Come see!

Right now the COLD SNOW, HOT ROMANCE CONTEST is on! Three winners will each receive a $25 gift card for Amazon/Barnes & Noble, and split the other prizes randomly picked from prize list. Be sure to check all our pages for news about authors and their books, publishers and their books, and industry representatives. http://www.romancebooks4us.com/


b1e43-eqpicSeveral promotional opportunities for romance authors can be found on my Exquisite Quills group blogs. Meet the founding authors and our guests.

Exquisite Quills Yahoo Group

First Kiss Wednesday ~ share your best 300 word kiss.
Set the Scene in Six~ share your backdrop or lead-up on Sundays.
The Genesis of a Book ~ share the spark that ignited your novel
Author Interviews ~
We’re booking late spring now.

EQ-RR.banner Today’s guest author: Marianne Stephens
A new place for your old stars to shine 😀


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Sample my love stories for free!



About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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10 Responses to What’s in a name? More than we realize

  1. rosgemmell says:

    Love the names JK Rowling chose – part of the fun is working out the connections, so thanks for highlighting a few! All this will hopefully make me more aware of character names for my own writing in future.

  2. linuxjim says:

    I really like some of the names in the works of Charles Dickens. Can one think of a more consummate villain than “Uriah Heep”?

    • No kidding. I picture him stick-thin wearing a top hat and black tail coat, having pointy features and long gnarly fingers. He’s sunken eyed and hollow-cheeked too. I get that just by the name alone!

      Be sure to come back, Charles Dickens is on tomorrow.

  3. Sandy says:

    How do you keep coming up with all of these interesting posts? I loved it.

  4. You are an information vortex, and possibly with your love of the cold, a polar vortex as well. I was offline several days and have now caught up. You are the only blog on the net I try to never miss. Keep it coming! I learn new things everyday, and it is all fun!

  5. Very interesting. I love the double meanings.

  6. melissakeirm says:

    I never realized the play on names that JK Rowling chose or even Shakespeare. I thought they were selected for other reasons. Thanks for sharing!

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