Name Theory: Sources

Sometimes I mention websites that inspire or assist me in naming characters. Today I’d like to give you a list of some of ones I use most often, and why I use them.


Social Security Administration’s Baby Names: Since I’m an American, naming characters mostly for other American’s, this site is often my first stop. I especially use this for Contemporary and Historical American characters. It lists the 1000 most popular baby names by year from 1879, and 100 most popular baby names by state since 1960. This site gives you an idea of which sounds were popular in a given year, and also for how varied names are in a given year.

Baby Names Wizard: While this site offers a wealth of information, I usually focus on two aspects. The site does offer name meanings for most names, but I usually look at the NameVoyager that tracks the popularity of the name over time and at the sibling names that help me find names of a similar style. This shows me that while Jason has been popularly used in the US since the 1960s, most Jasons were born in the 1970s and 1980s, so most readers would expect a character named Jason to be 30-45 years old; this site also gives me the idea that a writer who likes this name might also like Daniel or Nicholas (sibling names).

Nameberry: This site offers daily blogs, name meanings, and extensive forums. While I go to this site for name meanings, I think the forums would give writers an idea of how important names are to some readers! They even have a Writer’s Corner forum just for us.

20,000 Names: This is a site I had never heard of, nor have seen mentioned elsewhere. I found it by doing random searches for things like “Star Names” or “Fox Names”. They have about a million lists of names with a certain meanings from different cultures. I use this site mainly to name Fantasy and Sci-fi characters.

Yahoo!: There are many name websites, and they all have their benefits; however, they aren’t the only sources for character naming inspiration. I often find myself doing searches for “Victorian Names” or “Fairy Names” or to see if that name I just created already exits somewhere out there (I’ve searched for hundreds of names and have only found a handful that seem truly unique). Simple searches can help you find all sorts of information. Remember: If you can dream it, it’s probably already on the Internet!


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