Character of the Week: Netherlands Names

This Character of the Week proved to be a new sort of challenge for me as a namer. It was the first time when I realized I was naming a character from the Netherlands for a writer in the Netherlands—and a period character at that! With this challenge I knew I was unlikely to come up with names that the writer was unfamiliar with. The best I could hope to find were names she hadn’t remembered or yet considered.

Male, early 20s, novel is set in 1691 in the Netherlands
His parents (farmers) died when he was about 16 and Josius Olmius gave him a place to live and work, in his house as his servant.
Characteristics: Not quite sure of himself. Simple but wants to learn, works really hard. He will find out he’s gay. Josius is going to be his lover and is going to teach him to read en write.
Historical Romance

Searching for late renaissance names in the Netherlands is a bit difficult, in that the Netherlands did not exist. So I went to one of my favorite websites for early research, Wikipedia, and searched for the Netherlands to learn its place in history in 1691. I found that at that time what we now know as the Netherlands was broken into three parts. Since the writer did not tell me where exactly the novel is set, I chose to focus on names from the Dutch Republic to avoid any potential influence from other cultures as may have occurred in the Spanish Netherlands. I followed links to each of the leaders, beginning with Willem of Orange. I looked at all names mentioned on each page, especially their children’s names. I kept a list of names that sounded like those of a man in his early 20s from low beginnings, and I specifically wrote down the Dutch spellings (a William is English, a Willem is Dutch).

I would not choose Jan or Willem because they would definitely be overused for that period in literature.

  • Baltazar: Would share a name with Romeo’s manservant; a sexy name
  • Pieter: A saint name, good for a servant
  • Ernst: Sounds like a hard worker
  • Filips: I just liked the look of this name
  • Lodewijk: Like Beethoven, reminds me of romantic classicism and determination

Looking at the names I chose, they are all not the most unique of names; they are, however, distinctive, and I believe they are appropriate for the character. And I think the writer agreed, because she wrote to me: I like Lodewijk en Pieter, but I don’t know which one suits best yet. It’s going to be either one of them.

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