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More Fun with Names

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Coming up with character names is something that’s always fun, and since yesterday we started talking about unusual names, I thought I’d list some of the more unusual examples of real names I’ve run across (on genealogy websites and places like that).

On both sides of my family, most of the names are pretty traditional: Julia, Katherine, David, Michael, Ryan, Sarah, Rachel, Elizabeth, William, Jonathan, Lynn, and a plethora of Biblical names . . . but there are some unique ones, some of which I’ve slipped into my writing as secondary characters along the way:

Rinn—the name of one of my aunts. My great-grandmother’s name was Florinne, but her nickname was Rinn, so my grandmother named my aunt Rinn. Rinn is the older sister of the heroine (Bekka) of my first complete novel, What Matters Most. Florinne is one of the older ladies who works in the bakery in my small-town fiction series.

Edith Ethel—my paternal grandmother. Haven’t used this one yet.

Drury—way back in the family tree. I gave the name to the brother of Rinn and Bekka from What Matters Most

Major General—an ancestor whose father fought in the Civil War. The father’s life was saved in the war by a “major general” whose real name he never learned, so in honor of this man who saved his life, he named his son Major General. The hero of Menu for Romance is named Major, which I took from this, but am explaining in a different way in the book.

Dacia—my sister’s first name (pronounced DAY-sha), which actually comes from our last name. Dacus (pronounced DAY-cuss) is the Latin word for a man who comes from Dacia—an area of the Greek Empire, then the Roman Empire, which is now part of modern-day Romania. So, technically, I’m Romanian, by way of Roman and Greek. I don’t know that I’ll use this name, but it’s on my list.

Charmian—mentioned in one of my comments yesterday, which I’ve altered the spelling to Charmianne and used as one of the main characters in my small-town fiction. Though my aunt’s nickname was Charmi (SHAR-mee), my character’s nickname is Mia.

Here are some unusual names I came up with in just a few minutes’ searching. Don’t think I’ll be using any of them soon . . .

16th–17th Century Puritan Names (mostly female):
If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned (Surname was Barebones. He was a doctor and known as “Dr. Damned Barebones”!)

Welsh Names
Gwillim (m)
Ieuan (m)
Rhydderch (m)
Watkyn (m)
Gwenlliana (f)
Gwenhwyvar (f)
Angharad (f)
Llyke (f)
Syslye (f)
Dyddgu (f)

Gaelic Names
Amhalghaidh (m)
Cosgrach (m)
Dobharcu (m)
Dòmhnallaidh (m) (could you imagine trying to remember how to type that every time?)
Flaithbheartach (m) (FLY vyurch tuch according to the website)
Maoldòmhnaich (m) (mool DOW nich)
Borgach (f)
Caointiorn (f)
Eamhhair (f)
Sidheag (f)
Teàrlag (f) (CHAR lak)
(Click here for more Male names & pronunciations, and here for female)

Have an Eastern European character? Don’t want to use Olga, Ekaterina, Oksana, Alexei, Sergei, or Nikolai? How about:
Artem (m, Russian)
Cincinel (m, Romanian)
Dragos (m, Romanian)
Dvidiu (m, Romanian)
Efim (m, Russian)
Gavrylo (m, Ukrainian)
Gheorghe (m, Romanian)
Juhym (m, Ukrainian)
Kirill (m, Russian—and the name of the assassin played by Karl Urban in the 2nd Bourne movie!)
Maksym (m, Ukrainian)
Oviduiu (m, Romanian)
Styopa (m, Russian)
Valik (m, Russian)
Viacheslav (m, Russian)
Viorel (m, Romanian)

Anzhela (f, Ukrainian)
Aurica (f, Romanian)
Elenuta (f, Romanian)
Fransuaza (f, Russian)
Galina (f, Russian—familiar to you if you watch figure skating)
Iolanda (f, Romanian)
Khrystyna (f, Ukrainian—see! I knew I shouldn’t have been dinged by that professor for using this spelling!)
Luminita (f, Romanian)
Rodicka (f, Romanian)
Snezhana (f, Russian)
Valeriya (f, Russian)
Yuliya (f, Ukrainian—means “frizzy or fluffy”)
Zaharia (f, Romanian)
Zhanna (f, Russian)
Zinaida (f, Russian)

Okay, now it’s your turn. Pick a century, a culture, an ethnicity, or even your own family tree and give us a list of some of the weird, unique real names you run across.

  1. Wednesday, February 13, 2008 12:40 pm

    I’ve got a couple for you from my family tree.

    Tazwell Adolphus


  2. Wednesday, February 13, 2008 12:58 pm

    My Great grandfather was Kinsey. I’ve always liked that name.


  3. Wednesday, February 13, 2008 1:16 pm

    I have a Drury in my direct family tree! Drury Allen, born sometime in the late 18th C. in North Carolina. My maternal family tree is a wealth of outrageous names:

    Queen Elizabeth
    King David
    Claredis (b. 1939)
    Lurany (b. 1887)
    Raps (b. 1847)
    Indianna (b. 1829)
    Grandison (b. 1816)
    Parsons (b. 1815)
    Alpheous (b. 1846)
    Lethia (b. 1779)
    Appling (b. 1797)
    and my grandfather, Ruffin.

    I could go on, but I’ll spare you. 🙂 Some of those were married in, some blood relations. It’s great to have this wealth of names to draw on.


  4. Wednesday, February 13, 2008 1:41 pm

    Oh, Lori, what a wealth of fabulously quirky names to draw from!


  5. Wednesday, February 13, 2008 10:30 pm

    For a contemporary twist, I know a baby from our church with the name Nevaeh, spelled backward from the word ‘heaven’.


  6. Thursday, February 14, 2008 8:00 am

    My family tree has an Edward Valentine (my grandfather) and a William Christmas (great-great grandfather, I think)


  7. Thursday, February 14, 2008 9:13 am

    I’m Dutch. So here are the heroes in my life:



  8. Thursday, February 14, 2008 12:26 pm

    Prudence – 17th/18th century. And the name of a character in my first book of the series. I love the name Temperance–but that’d be so cruel of me to name one of my characters that 😀

    Prudence is at least able to shorten her name to Prue 🙂


  9. Thursday, February 14, 2008 9:25 pm

    I have a great-great grandmother named Bertha. Lovely name.

    What’s even better is that recently I found out her full name — Allie Bertha Callie Dennis.

    And she chose to go by Bertha.


  10. Monday, February 18, 2008 8:45 pm

    Kaye, I loved this post and promptly found out later that Becky Germany dislikes my name after talking about your post. (Well, I’m not too fond of it, either, but I married Chris and since it’s my given name I had to give up Cris for Crystal. Ugh.)

    My dad’s name was Wilburn. (from Tennessee) My Swedish/Norwegian relatives on Mom’s side have pretty normal names except great grandmother was Ane Kolbastugua(b. 1854 in Norway,) but Dad’s side? Not so normal to me (on my Granddaddy Warren’s side, his siblings’ names and he was normal–Roy):
    born in early 1900
    Eargin Jewmoney
    Austin Valentine
    Region Villis
    Kenneth Ki
    Myrtle Laura Hazel
    Mavis Marguerita
    Juanita LaVerne

    On Grandmother Warren’s(Top) side all of her siblings had nicknames:
    Pauline (Top)
    Ernest (Doc) (sick story how he got that nickname)
    Early Clifford (Cliff)
    Olive Larken (Lark–male)
    Mary Lois (Head)
    Gladys (Short)
    Opal (Jinks)
    James Edward (Ton)

    I love reading about names, and have several web sites and a couple books with name meanings. I’m English, Irish, Cherokee on Dad’s side and second generation American from Sweden/Norway on Mom’s. (Both are dead.)

    I loved reading about your Romanian/Greek/Roman roots. No wonder you are so beautiful in features!


  11. Tuesday, February 19, 2008 12:21 am

    Oh, Crystal, I’m sorry to hear that your own name is not liked. 😦 I think you should consider “Larke Miller” or something like that. It’s a tribute to a family member (even if it is a man) and is quite memorable!

    I found a few more unusual names in my family tree that I thought I’d share:

    Adiline who named her daughter Adaline
    Ora Dell
    Nevert Erskine
    Stanley Linnis Aubrey

    Aubrey is a name found on both sides of my family! And on my mom’s side, not only are there several Reids (Crawford Reid, my grandfather, Crawford Reid Jr., my uncle, and Reid Bernard, my cousin), but a couple of Reedys too. And my mother’s name is Reid spelled backwards: Dier (pronounced like deer).

    I was named after my maternal grandmother (Katherine, her middle name) and my paternal great-grandmother (Nell, for Nellie). If those had been switched, I would have been Ethel Florinne!


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