Character Surname Possibilities

It is difficult for me to give advice on surnames, because other than choosing based on origin, they seem to truly be chosen only due to the preference of the writer. While surnames may be invented or go extinct, they do not come in and out of style like given names and so are therefore easier to mix and match as needed.

The best advice on choosing surnames for characters is:

  1. Make sure it is from the correct culture if your character’s background is mentioned in the story.
  2. Pick a surname that is easy to pronounce (for readability) and spell (for your own sake).
  3. Short surnames of one or two syllables will also help readability.
  4. No nouns. No jokes. And lay off the surnames with too obvious meanings.
  5. Read potential surnames out loud to make sure they don’t sound like something else. (I know a woman whose last name is Hoare, pronounced Whore.)

Here are some of the surnames of our students. I selected names that are not too common (or else you would have come up with them yourself), nor too strange. I’ve tried to give choices for each letter of the alphabet, focusing on names that are more likely to be used in the US.


Surname Possibilities

Aksel: German, meaning Father of Peace

Bamsey: English

Chamblain: French

Clack: English, refers to a chatterer

Druck: Jewish from the German, meaning Print (refers to a printer)


Fiano: Italian place name

Fors: Swedish, meaning Waterfall

Gauger: German, meaning To Wander Around or Stumble

Hambury: English place name




Lindahl: Swedish, meaning Lime Tree Valley

Marra: Italian, meaning Heap of Stones

Monzo: Spanish place name

Noonan: Irish, meaning Beloved or Dear

Ostergaard: Danish and Swedish, meaning Eastern Farmstead

Prout: English, variant of Proud

Quilty: Irish

Rosser: English

Sokol: Slavic, meaning Falcon

Thierry: French, meaning Ruler of the People




Yellen: Americanization of a Norwegian name, meaning Terrace or Ledge


Interesting Rare Name Choices

Today I want to feature some of the rare names of our college students. (Some of these may not be rare in the country or culture that the student comes from, but they are rare in the US.)

I wouldn’t suggest you use names this rare in every story you write, unless you write Sci-fi or Fantasy. In fact a few of these seem particularly suited to those genres. Specifically, I believe Lilu probably inspired the name of the character Leeloo in The Fifth Elelment.

(Note: I unfortunately cannot post my favorite of the rare names, since when I searched for the name on the Internet this student was mentioned in every listing. It’s a shame I can’t share it, because it is such a great name and a truly unique moniker.)


Interesting Rare Choices

Amika (f): Latin name meaning Loved Friend

Andro (m)

Basit (m): Arabic name meaning One Who Enlarges

Ceren (f): Turkish name meaning Young Gazelle

Cerise (f): French name meaning Cherry

Derya (u): Turkish name meaning Ocean

Divya (f): Indian name meaning Devine

Eliad (m): Hebrew name meaning My God is Forever

Germaine (u): Most likely meaning From Germany

Giorgi (m): Version of George meaning Farmer

Hiley (f): English place name

Isle (f)

Jamilla (f): Arabic name meaning Beautiful or Graceful

Jesella (f)

Jia (f): Chinese name meaning Outstanding Person

Jiada (f): Alternate spelling of Giada which is an Italian name meaning Jade

Joakim (m)

Junious (m)

Kerrin (f): Danish version of Katherine

Kriti (f): Hindu name meaning Work of Art

Lilu (f)

Lucio (m): Spanish name meaning Light

Montez (m): Spanish name meaning Dweller in the Mountains

Nikolina (f)

Olesia (f): Polish diminutive of Aleksandra

Patricio (m): Latin name meaning Nobleman

Philina (f)

Prim (f)

Rommia (f)

Vivek (m): Indian name meaning Distinction

Volkan (m): Turkish name meaning Volcano

Zeenia (f): Varriant of Xenia which is a Greek name meaning Guest or Stranger


Less Common Name Choices that Sound Fresh

The college student population that I work with includes many foreign nationals, which is one reason why many of the students sport interesting names that aren’t very popular in the US.

Today I thought I would offer you a list of some of the more interesting and yet wearable names of these students. I’ve heard all of these names before, and similar names are popular in the US, so these less common choices are a great option for your characters. A character with one of these names will sound special but not weird, different but not outrageous.


Less Common Name Choices that Sound Fresh

Allegra (f)

Alyx (f)

Anjelika (f)

Anushka (f)

Athena (f)

Callen (m)

Clara (f)

Dirk (m)

Elsa (f)

Etienne (m)

Ila (f): Indian name meaning Earth or Speech; or French name meaning From the Island

Jameson (m)

Kai (m)

Leila (f)

Lizeta (f)

Mara (f)

Marcela (f)

Moriah (f)

Noemi (f)

Nolan (m)

Odin (m)

Rena (f)

Rodrigo (m)

Samara (f)

Sarina (f): Alternate spelling of Serena