Character of the Week: Elf on the Shelf Names

Fictional characters aren’t the only beings I name. I have also named one human being, many cats, at least one dog, a couple of hamsters, and, most recently, an elf.

This year my family invited an Elf on the Shelf into our home. I had seen pictures of these elves on Pinterest last year and I was enchanted with their mischief making, so this year I thought I would take a chance on inviting a potential imp into our home.

Our elf has not been naughty. In fact, he is mostly a benevolent figure who watches our mischief with a certain taint of humor in the glint of his eyes. I like him, and I hope he likes us as well.

I also hope he likes his name.

I know I should have let my son name the elf, but since his ideas on names are—shall we say—less refined than mine, I thought I would just tell him that the elf told me his name.

This was a mistake.

My son’s eyes opened wide and he bolted from his chair. “He can talk,” my son said, with the awe of true belief.

“Only to tell me his name,” I quickly mumbled.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes.

My son’s idea of a good name for a stuffed fish is Fishie, and for a stuffed snake is Snakey. In fact, we have a few Snakeys around here who sometimes have to go by Snakey One and Snakey Two and the other Snakey.

Last month, though, my son did give out some less obvious names. He rechristened a “boy” toy animal after his friend Sadie, and a “girl” animal after himself. He thought it was hilarious.

You know what I feel about Gender Bending Names.

So I named our elf. First I looked online to find what kinds of names writers have used for elves in their stories, and I looked at words that mean elf. Then I thought about what kind of name I felt an elf ought to have.

An elf should have a name that sounds a touch fantastical, one with a bit of whimsy. And I felt, rather strongly in fact, that our elf’s name should begin with a Z.

So I read through a list of Z names for boys, looking for a name that sounded fun and light, and I came down to two.

The first name I loved was Zeff, or Zeffy as I intended to call him. Zeffy the elf had just the right ring to it. But Zeff means wolf, and that just doesn’t work for my elf.

I don’t generally choose names based on their meanings, but I do let a “bad” or “wrong” meaning turn me away from names. I wouldn’t want to name my romance heroine “ugly”, or my assassin “peaceful”. Names should only be comedic in a comedy, and then only if it serves the plot in some way.

So I turned to my second choice name: Zeth. Zeth is an alternate spelling of the Hebrew name Seth, which means appointed. It was an appropriate meaning for a name chosen by mommy for the elf assigned by Santa to our family.

My son did give him a middle name: Elfie on the Shelfie. So he calls the elf Elfie and I call the elf Zeth, and we’re both happy with our name choices.


Does your family have an Elf on the Shelf? What did you name him or her?

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