Naming Your Character
Post written by mrsgeorgeweasley
When creating a character to slide into Potterverse choosing the right name is essential. You can tell from the way her naming patterns fit together that JK puts a lot of thought into her characters’ monikers and it’s only fitting that we should do the same. The thing that people often tend to forget is that while the books are enjoyed by a whole host of nationalities they have a British setting. This means that unless you have a good reason for it (e.g heritage - case in point being the Patil twins), it would be better if you tried to stick to British sounding names.
While Ashton, Jesse, Tyler, Madison, Brianna, and Taylor are all very nice names in their own right, they’re not exactly traditional names for our little island. Obviously if you are writing a fic about the trio’s children or grandchildren then there is creative room to introduce more modern names. However, if you’re adding in a new character that is at school with the trio or the new DADA professor then you really need something more traditional.
That being said, I’ve concocted this brief overview of the way that Jo has named her characters, along with suggestions of other names that fit in with the various genres. I hope that at least some of you will find this useful and if you have a name that you’d like included then feel free or if you’d like me to add in some research on a character/ family that I haven’t mentioned then, by all means, ask here or PM me. (I have lots of free time!)
I decided to settle on six areas of exploration:
1. Flowers, 2. Monarchs, 3. Language, 4. Literature, 5. Mythology, 6. Astronomy.
The names of flowers pop up as characters quite often, the two most notable ones being Lily Potter and Petunia Dursley. However, others are mentioned frequently throughout the series, including Poppy, Mrytle, Narcissa, Violet and Rose. There are still a good few flower names that could be used and I’ve compiled a small list:
Another good source for popular traditional names would be British monarchs (and we’ve had a fair few). Generally the use of a name by royalty secures its popularity and then, of course, they work their way in to other sources. Regal names that have landed in Potterverse include:
- Harry - this is a pet form of Henry
- Arthur (see Mythology)
- William - Bill? (see Literature)
- Charles - Charlie? (see Literature)
- George (again see Literature)
As you can see several of them are easily shortened to make something younger (and cooler) sounding, which helps to give you the traditional touch while still being modern. Other names that fit with this category are:
- Edward (shortened to Ed or Eddie)
- Elizabeth (shortened to Beth, Betty, Elle, Ellie, Eliza, Liz or Liza)
- Mary (a pet form of this can be Molly)
- Richard (shortened to Dick, Rich, Ricky)
- Victoria (shortened to Vic, Vicky, Toria)
There are two ways in which JK uses language in the creation of character names; Wordplay and Translation.
Her use of word play is quite easily spotted in the following:
- Molly: mollycoddle (a key aspect of Mrs. Weasley’s character).
- Severus: sever, severe.
- Lucius: an allusion to Lucifer?
- Rubeus: you can hear the word ‘ruby’ in this and ruby is obviously a shade of red. A red face is associated with heavy drinking.
So take an important character trait and see if you can make it in to a name by playing around with it a little (Please be careful that you don’t go to far here!).
The second element is translation. Often the names that JK uses have special meanings in Latin, Greek or Hebrew (after all she did study Classics at university). It’s interesting to run character qualities through a name search engine to see what it throws back at you, there can be some excellent suggestions. Again I’ve got a few of JK’s good examples:
- Albus: Latin “white”
- Alice: From the Germanic Adalheidis meaning “noble, kind”
- Argus: Greek “glistening, shining”
- Andromeda: Greek “to think of a man” (ironic when you consider how unpopular her choice of husband must have been with her family of purebloods - See Astronomy)
- Bellatrix: Latin “female warrior”
- Draco: Latin “dragon, serpent”
- Phineas: Hebrew “serpent’s mouth”
Here are a few of my own ideas:
- Adelaide (“kind”)
- Alexander/ra (“defend”)
- Baldric (“brave”)
- Belinda (“beautiful”)
- Mildred (“gentle”)
JK has already admitted that she found Hermione’s name in William Shakespeare’s ‘A Winter’s Tale,’ and as an author she is almost certainly well read (the best ones usually are). Other popular names from the HP series appear in other Shakespearian works, including a Lucius in ‘Julius Caesar.’ In fact authors’ names themselves provide a goldmine of traditional names; especially if you’re reading more classical literature. Between the famous and the profound you have Williams (Shakepeare and Blake), Charles (Dickens), and Georges (Elliot and Orwell). Other authors whose names are worth considering are:
- Anthony (Trollope)
- Charlotte (Bronte)
- Daniel (Defoe)
- Edgar (Allen Poe)
- Emily (Bronte)
- Enid (Blyton - JKR is admittedly a fan of her work)
- Jane (Austen - another one that JKR is fond of)
- Joseph (Conrad)
- Mark (Twain)
- Thomas (Hardy)
I’ve only considered two types of mythology but there are others, these two are the ones that I think are the most relevant to the Potterverse; Arthurian and Greek.
Arthurian legend surrounds the sixth century King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Obviously this fable immediately lends its name to Mr. Weasley but it also provides us with two of his children’s names as well.
Percy is considered to be short for Percival (one of Dumbledore’s middle names), and in Arthurian legend Percival was a chivalrous knight who reportedly saw the infamous Holy Grail.
Ginny’s full name, Ginevra, is the Italian form of Guinevere who appears in these tales as Arthur’s wife and Sir Lancelot’s lover.
Other names from this genre are:
- Guievere (this has been known to be shortened to Gwen).
Although it was already mentioned in literature it is worth noting that Hermione can also fall under this category. The name derives from the Greek Hermes (the Weasley family’s owl), who was the God of speed and luck.
Narcissa Malfoy’s first name also has its roots in Greek mythology. The story is of Narcissus, a beautiful youth who reputedly spent so long gazing at his own reflection that he died and was turned in to the Narcissus flower.
Even Flich and Trewlawny (well, her great, great grandmother or whatever it is) get a look in here. According to another myth Argus was a man with a hundred eyes while Cassandra was a Trojan princess who was given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, when she rejected his advances he cursed her so that no-one would ever believe her prophecies.
There are some other Greek names that could be fitted in to the verse, including:
- Acantha (“thorn, prickle”)
- Althea (“healing”)
- Artemis (“butcher”)
- Jason (“to heal”)
- Melissa (“bee”)
- Phyllis (“foliage”)
I thought it might be quite nifty to point out that while I was researching this thread I came across some other sources for the name Brian (another of Dumbledore’s names). One that was particularly interesting was the Celtic legend of Borus . Borus was an Irish king who successfully thwarted the eleventh century Viking’s attempts to conquer Eire (Ireland). He was successful at the Battle of Clontraff despite the fact that he himself was lost. Is this perhaps an allusion to what happens in the Potter series?
Finally, the last one. Astronomy is key to JK, especially when it comes to naming members of the Black Family. Andromeda is the name of the constellation closest to us while her sister Bellatrix, is a star in Orion, and her nephew Draco, is another gathering of stars in the Northern sky.
Sirius is the ‘Dog Star’ in the Canis Major (Great Dog) constellation whereas Regulus is the ‘Little King’ in Leo.
The great thing about astral names is that there are thousands of named stars. This leaves you with an astronomical (sorry about the terrible pun) number of possibilities. I’ve only listed a couple but a good constellation site could provide you with many more.
- Altair (Arabic “the flyer”- Aquila const.)
- Arcturus (Greek “bear guard” - Bootis const.) This is currently being debated as Regulus's middle name to make R.A.B.
- Gallina (Latin “hen” - Cygni const.)
- Gemma (Latin “bud” - Coronae Borealis const.)
- Shaula (Arabic “the sting” - Scorpio const.)
Sources: - HP Lexicon
- Behind The Name
- Tropicana (flower info)
- The Dome of The Sky (constellations)
Hopefully this will provide you with some ideas for names for your characters or at least give you some good places to start looking for one that will suit you better.