Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

Name, Name, Who's Got the Name?
Various Name Websites

Reviewed by
Gerri Baker
2003, Gerri Baker  

hen I create characters, I often visualize them going through the motions of the life I intend for them to live in my story. Until I find names for them, their faces don't fill in; they have fuzzy, indistinct blobs for eyes, nose and mouth. Also, they don't walk through the world in my head; they float just off the ground, like ghosts. But when I give my characters names, they solidify. Suddenly, they have faces and hair and clothing. I can hear what their voices sound like, and their personalities light up around them. The names make them real for me.

But finding the perfect name takes time. While my first line of attack is my Writer's Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook, I'm not always at home with my book at hand. Other times, the book simply doesn't have a name that clicks for me. Fortunately, the Internet provides multiple resources for name fanatics such as myself.

Babyzone Names (www.babyzone.com/babynames/) doesn't just provide a database of names and meanings. The database can be accessed through a traditional search or by nationality. The site also provides lists of popular baby names between 1998-2000.  Other nice things about this site are the articles on naming and the Shakespearean name list. One disadvantage: pop-up hell.

Baby Center (www.babycenter.com/babyname) has a list of 5000+ names, sorted by either alphabetical or national origin. The information about each name is easy to read, but only offers a surface meaning. Also, the site is very commercialized.

The Baby Name Network (www.babynamenetwork.com/index.cfm) provides a few exotic, but limited, nationality-naming resources such as Zimbabwe, Swahili, and Basque. It also has easy access to the most popular baby name list for 2001.

Eponym (www.eponym.org/) is a link site for other naming websites. It's a useful website for those people hunting for non-Western names as well as people interested in thinking about what kinds of names work well for children as well as characters. This site has lots of places to go; it's guaranteed to keep any surfer busy for a long time.

20,000 Names (www.20000_names.com/) provides just that: 20,000+ names to look at, covering both boys' and girls' names as well as those for pets. The search engine can do either alphabetical or nationality based searches, and the names include multiple spellings that fall under one category. Their definitions include elaborations where necessary. The only major problem with this site is the default print is awfully small, which makes the site hard to read.

Behind the Name (www.behindthename.com/) provides a wonderful resource for those writers who choose the names of characters by the meanings. By dividing their lists into nationalities, Behind the Name provides a handy way for authors to develop a consistent naming pattern. The definitions are a bit sketchy at times, but links to name origins are provided. The other nice thing about this site is their its mythology name list, which covers not only the mythological name, but the origin of that myth.

But the heavyweight name website is the Kalabarian (www.kabalarians.com/html/surf_by.htm). This website claims over 866,000 names in a wide array of types. They have the mundane nationalities such as Korean, Indian, Romanian, English, or Greek, to name only a very few. But the site also includes such categories as Hippy, Ferengi, and Flowers. And those aren't even the strange categories. WWF, anyone? (No, I'm not kidding.) While this site is excellent for inspiration, its name definitions are not traditional or classic meanings. Instead, the list is intended to be a sales promotion for their particular brand of divination, so the meanings attached to the names are based on the Kalabarian's numerology.

Naming characters is a tricky business, almost as important as naming a baby. Take the time to choose the right name for the character, and enjoy surfing through these websites. Inspiration awaits. Good luck!

Sherrilyn Kenyon. The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook. (Writer's Digest Books, 1994, ISBN 0-89879-632-6)  $18.99 U.S.