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Fantastic Naming Convention
In real life, many cultures have unique ways of naming their children, based on family, clan, so on and so forth. It should come as no surprise, then, that writers often come up with unique naming conventions for their fictional cultures.

The simplest way of introducing a bit of foreign spice is to simply swap the placement of the given name and the family name (which can cause confusion), but it can get far more complex than that. Codifying I Am X, Son of Y is not uncommon, nor is simply giving extremely long and poetic names.

For names that all have a specific pattern, see Theme Naming. Though do note that if this Theme Naming is intentional in-universe, it could still count for this trope (such as a culture where everyone is named after flowers).

See also Fantastic Honorifics and Fantastic Rank System. Law of Alien Names and Letter Motif are also related.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Superman: Kryptonians are typically given one syllable names and have one syllable family names, such as the lead character Kal-El.

    Fan Works 
  • The Pe'khdar, a race created for the Star Trek Online fic Bait and Switch, give their names as "[Prefix]'[Suffix], Clan [X]". The prefix acts like a given name, while the suffix is passed from their same-sex parent. So, for example, the USS Bajor's security chief is Dul'krah, Clan Korekh, with the name meaning something akin to "Dul of the line of Krah". In his Day in the Limelight, The Headhunt, Dul'krah reveals that his full formal name uses the I Am X, Son of Y convention (referring to his mother rather than his father), followed by the clan he was born into (Korekh), then a Blood-Clan (Rustra), then his Ship-Clan (Bajor).
  • Legacy of ch'Rihan retroactively applies the Romulan naming convention given in the Rihannsu series (see Literature) to official characters that don't follow it, with the official name becoming either given name or House-name on a case-by-case basis. For example, Nero is given the full name Nero ir-Benheris tr'Sihalian.

    Literature 
  • Played with in the Captain Underpants novel Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants. The antagonist comes from a country named New Swissland, where everyone has a silly name. His is Professor Pippy Pee Poopypants. He later changes it Tippy T. Tinkletrousers.
  • In Adam Roberts' novel On, the protagonist is named "Tighe", but it's not until a few more characters of the protagonist's culture have been introduced that we learn that they use the suffix -he for all male names and the suffix -she for all female names.
  • In C. J. Cherryh's Morgaine Cycle, Nhi Vanye i Chya's native culture uses [Given Name] [Father's Clan Name] i [Mother's Clan Name].
  • Discworld
    • The Ramtop Mountains has a naming convention in which a child is named by whatever the priest doing the ceremony says, regardless of whether it was intentional or not. This has resulted in names like James What The Hell's That Cow Doing In Here Poorchick (known as Moocow Poorchick to his friends). Even royalty is not immune, with at least one of Lancre's ruler being named King My-God-He's-Heavy the First and most recently, in Carpe Jugulum, Princess Esmerelda Margaret Note Spelling of Lancre.
    • Reaper Man had One Man Bucket, whose tribe names children after the first thing the mother sees upon looking outside their tent after the birth. One Man Bucket's full name is "One Man Throwing A Bucket Of Water Over Two Dogs." His twin brother, born just a few minutes earlier, wishes he could've been called "Two Dogs Fighting."
    • In the Agatean Empire, almost everyone's name is number-adjective-noun, such as Nine Turning Mirrors and Six Beneficent Winds. Two Little Wang is particularly disgruntled about this. Some characters lack the adjective and run it into one word (Twoflower, Ninereeds). Word of God from Terry Pratchett is "I think I pinched the Mayan construction."
  • The Reynard Cycle:
    • Surprisingly for a series chock full of dueling clans, none of the Southern characters have family names. When a second name is applied (Celia Corvino, for instance), the intention is to differentiate the person from another family member with the same name, and is taken as shorthand for X, son or daughter of Y. So Celia Corvino would be known to be Celia, daughter of Corvino.
      • Calvarians do have secondary names, but they only serve to tell you the order of their birth (Drauglir Seventhson) or whether they were an unwanted child (Isengrim No-Father). As Calvarians are only permitted to have half as many children as they have personally killed in battle, having the last name Fifteenthson is a pretty clear indication of someone's pedigree.
      • The royal family of Solothurn do have a family name, Vargr, but it's really more of a title than a name, as it is an indication that the person is descended from Wargs.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Valyrian names often start with "rhae-" almost always to contain "ae", and end in "-rys" or "-nys" (Rhaegar, Elaena, Naerys, Aenys). The "ae" is also seen occasionally seen in the Free Cities and parts of Westeros.(Taena, Margaery)
    • Male Dothraki names end in "-o" (Drogo, Haggo, Qotho). Daenerys decides to combine Valyrian and Dothraki naming conventions for her son, naming him Rhaego.
    • In Slaver's Bay, the letters "q" and "z" is extremely common and there is a "mo" or "zo" between the first and surnames. (Kraznys mo Nakloz, Skahaz mo Kandaq, Yezzan zo Qaggaz).
    • In Braavos, the suffixes "-o", "-io", and "-is" are common for both first and surnames. Some Valyrian naming conventions are seen as well, since Braavos is the "runaway bastard child" of Valyria (Tycho Nestoris, Noho Dimittis, Syrio Forel).
  • M.C.A. Hogarth, self-proclaimed "anthropologist to aliens" uses a variety of naming conventions for her different species.
    • Jokka use [Given name] [contracting house]-[birth gender], i.e. Keshul Akkadin-emodo.
    • Flight of the Godkin Griffin: The Godkindred kingdom, with their religious prerogative towards interspecies breeding, have last names indicating their number of bloodlines (Silfia Fiveblood for example), while those with at least ten use "Godkin" (Angharad Godkin).
    • Paradox: Many of the Pelted have developed their own naming customs, Tam-illee choose "foundnames" based on their calling in life (Carevei EarthHunger was a geologist but changed it to HawkFreed later after a spiritual experience). Harat-Shar have refer to their families as "trains". While Ciracaana, Glaseah, Phoenixes, and Naysha seem to dispense with more than one name entirely. And the true aliens have their own customs, Eldritch have complex series of personal, House, and family names, and Chatcaava put no stock in names and prefer to be known by their titles.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In Barrayar, aristocrats have a Vorsylable in front of their last name so that Vorkosigan means "Sir" Kosigan, etc. The Cetagandan warrior caste does the same only using the sylable, "Ghem".
  • In Warrior Cats:
    • The Clan cats have a naming system that involves putting two nouns, verbs, or adjectives together. The first part of the names may include stuff from nature such as plants, animals, colors, etc., while the last part of their name includes the part of a cat's body, an action, plants, animals, and much more. (Fireheart, Ivypool, Whitestorm, etc.) The suffix of the name changes throughout their life: with "kit" when they are kittens, "paw" when they begin training, pretty much anything once they're an actual warrior, and "star" if they become a Clan leader. (For example, one character went from Bluekit to Bluepaw to Bluefur to Bluestar).
    • Tribe cats are named after the first thing their mother sees when they are born, and this results in several-word-long, descriptive names, such as Bird Who Rides The Wind and Brook Where Small Fish Swim. (They just go by the first word of their name for everyday use.)
    • Both naming schemes began with an early group of cats, who had names like "Moth Flight" and "Gray Wing" and so forth, which are very similar to Clan names. The Tribe's pattern branched off of this when an ancient cat, Stone Song (who was temporarily leader of the ancient group), was named by his mother for the wind that blew over the rocks when he was born.
  • In The Wolf Chronicles, both wolves and humans have name patterns. Normal wolves' names have a double letter in them - Kaala, Rissa, Trevegg, etc. Greatwolves' names end in -dru or -dra, as an homage to their ancestor, Indru. Humans have compound names such as TaLi and MikLan; the last half signifies their gender and which tribe they are from (for example, TaLi's tribe is the Lin tribe, so all males have the ending "Lin" and all females have the ending "Li").
  • In Anne McCaffrey's Dragon Riders Of Pern series, multiple conventions exist.
    • A common naming convention among Weyrborn is to have the first half of one parent's name combined with the second half of the other's (modifying the end to the appropriate gender, adding '-n' or '-a'). In this way, you have Falloner and Lorana giving Falarnon, and Falloner and Manora giving Famanoran.
    • When a male rider Impresses, they shorten their name and contract the first syllable. This originally developed to aid communication during combat, and later became a honorific.
      • Falloner becomes F'lon, Falarnon becomes F'lar, and Famanoran becomes F'nor.
      • One of the things that distinguishes Jaxom of Rutha Hold as not a Dragonrider is that he does not recieve the honorific. Although before that descision was made, several characters discuss what his name might be fore-shortened to.
    • For the dragons themselves, each one has a single personal name, which always ends in "th".
    • In Todd Mc Caffrey's books from the 3rd Pass, it is revealed that watchwher have their own naming convention. Their names end in '-sk', with the first part taken from the name of the person or bloodline they are linked to. The closer the bond, the more of their name taken.
      • The watchwher for Fort hold is Forsk.
      • Nuella's first, green, watchwher renames herself to Nuelsk when she transfers her bond from Kindan. After she dies, Nuella then bonds a gold, Nuellask.
  • In Isaac Asimov's Nightfall, the inhabitants of the planet Lagash have a name followed by a number, e.g. Sheerin 501, Beenay 25, etc.
  • In the two Neolithic tales in Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories there are just three names given, but they all conform to the same pattern: A word consisting of three syllables, beginning with "T-" and ending with "-mai" and a polysyllabic second word, all descriptive of the bearer's character:
    "His name was Tegumai Bopsulai, and that means, 'Man-who-does-not-put-his-foot-forward-in-a-hurry'; but we, O Best Beloved, will call him Tegumai, for short. And his wife's name was Teshumai Tewindrow, and that means, 'Lady-who-asks-a-very-many-questions'; but we, O Best Beloved, will call her Teshumai, for short. And his little girl-daughter's name was Taffimai Metallumai, and that means 'Small-person-whithout-any-manners-who-ought-to-be-spanked'; but I'm going to call her Taffy."
  • Star Trek Expanded Universe:
    • Rihannsu:
      • A Romulan's formal name is composed of a given name, a locative indicating their place of origin, and a clan name which is passed matrilineally. So, for example, Areinnye ir-Menhei t'Sei means "Areinnye, from the Menhei region, of the clan s'Sei." The prefix on the surname is t' for women, tr' for men, and s' when speaking of the clan itself. In common usage Romulans default to a simple first name, last name arrangement, Areinnye Sei for our example. (This explains the simpler names used in the shows.) Married men take their wife's surname. More information here. Romulans also have a secret fourth name that they only tell to people they trust implicitly, a practice that evolved from Vulcan Internet usernames.
      • The same series also establishes that the Vulcan male naming convention in the franchise's present day of five-letter names beginning with 's' and ending with 'k' is meant to honor Surak, the Vulcan philosopher who led the species to embrace logic.
    • Star Trek Novel Verse continuity:
      • Andorians have a given name and a surname, with their surname containing a prefix indicating which of the four sexes they belong to. Shran's full "Imperial Name" in the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch books is Hravishran th'Zoarhi (he's a thaan), with his better-known full name Thy'lek Shran (originally referring to his Mirror Universe counterpart in the TV series) apparently being the Aenar translation of his non-Imperial, local culture name. The gender suffixes are th', sh', zh' or ch' (e.g. Thirishar ch'Thane, Sessethantis zh'Cheen or Kellarasana zh'Faila, whose shorter "familiar" names are Shar, Thantis and Kell). An additional prefix for an outsider adopted into an Andorian clan was recently introduced.
      • Tellarites have three names, usually of one or two syllables, the middle being a connective that appears to be chosen from a small pool. Examples include Bera chim Gleer, Bersh glov Mog, and Mor glasch Tev. Typically, they're referred to by the final name, which is shared among close family members.
      • Hermats have a name followed by a number, e.g. Burgoyne 172 or Rulan 12.
      • Among the Nasats, names are letter-number-shell colour, e.g. P8 Blue, Z4 Blue, C29 Green or V1 Red.
      • Triexians have two names connected by "na", e.g. Krelis na Then and Arex na Eth, or sometimes "ko", as in Nexa ko Tor.
      • Tholians have a single name, which usually ends in "ene". Examples include Loskene, Tezrene, Yilskene and Kasrene.
      • Damiani names have two syllables separated by an apostrophe, followed by a letter, an apostrophe and ullh, ullho or ullhy depending on sex (they have three). Examples include Ra'ch B'ullhy (female), Je'tran T'ullh (male) and Ne'al G'ullho (the third sex).
      • D' and N' are common Romulan prefixes, the former suggestive of importance or "greatness", while T' is a Vulcan feminine prefix. Other than that Romulans vary Depending on the Writer. Some of the books borrow the naming structure from the Rihannsu books (for example the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch expands the name of Admiral Valdore from the canon show to Valdore i'Kaleh tr'Ihaimehn), while others favor the Only One Name pattern more common in the shows.
      • Thallonians tend to use the honorific "Si" between their given and family (Zoran Si Verdin, Jang Si Naran, etc). Royal Thallonian Si Cwan appears to use the honorific itself as his first name.
      • Betazoid males have names of one or two syllables (Tam, Cort, Gart, Ven), the females of two, three or four (Anissina, Mollarana, Damira), while their family names often end in n (Enaran, Kaldarren, Povron) or x (Xerix, Mryax, Xerx).
      • Efrosians tend to use a "Ra-" prefix on the surname (Ra-Yalix, Ra-Havreii, Ra-Ghoratreii), but not always. Ni- and Hu' prefixes have been see as well.
      • Tzenkethi names have four components: the individual name, their job, their echelon within that job, and their proficiency grade. Example: Alizome Tor Fel-A, with "tor" indicating a position as special agent to the Tzenkethi Autarch, "fel" being her membership in the "problem-solver" echelon, and "A" indicating the highest proficiency in that role.
      • Alonis have long names like Quirmirkis, Nerramibus or Liezakranor. When off-world, they add a shorter additional name to the beginning to designate their function (“Tel” is diplomat, “Los” is soldier), and split the name in two (e.g. Los Tirasol Mentir is probably Tirasolmentir back home, Ambassador Tel Ammanis Lent is probably Ammanislent).
      • Choblik have a two-syllable first name and a last name consisting of three hyphenated syllables. The only two individuals known are Torvig Bu-Kar-Nguv from Star Trek: Titan and Felbog Bu-Tsop-Vee from Department of Temporal Investigations.

    Live Action TV 
  • Star Trek has naming conventions for entire planets, except usually the human ones.
    • The Bajorans use their family name before their personal name.
    • The Klingons have one personal name, their father's name, and then their house name. The house name is usually omitted in introductions, but the crest is worn on their metal sashes.
    • Vulcans have several conventions followed:
      • They seem to only have one name, no family name.
      • Female names usually begin with T and have an apostrophe, followed by a P. Notable exceptions include: Saavik from movies II, III, and IV.
      • Male names usually begin with S and do not have an apostrophe. Notable exceptions include: Tuvok from Voyager.
    • Romulans similarly tend to have only one name with no surname. The main exception is Admiral Alidar Jarok from TNG: "The Defector".
    • Ferengi also tend to have only one name, generally one syllable, with no surname.
    • Trill normally give their names as given name, family name like most human cultures, but joined Trill replace their surname with the name of The Symbiote.
    • If Star Trek: Voyager's Seven of Nine is any judge, Borg drones get a numerical designation consisting of their order in a given lot of drones ("Seven of Nine"), followed by a phrase that probably refers to their organizational assignment in the Collective ("Tertiary Adjunct"), and lastly which unimatrix they are part of ("Unimatrix 01").

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Tau Empire as a whole have a very peculiar naming convention for their citizens, using [Caste]'[Rank] [Sept they were born in] [Defining traits]. For example, Shas'la T'au Kais means "Brave Fire Caste Initiate from T'au". With the common shortening being [Rank]'[Defining traits] (making the previous name's shortened form la'Kais).
  • Traveller goes into this with several cultures, as described in the appropriate sourcebook.
  • In the Forgotten Realms setting, the dwarves and many humans of Chondathan ethnicity (i.e. white people from west-central Faerun) use Luke Nounverber very frequently.
  • In Paranoia, Friend Computer has established a special naming convention for all clones of Alpha Complex that combines their personal name, the initial of their [[Fantastic Caste System Security Clearance level], their home sector's three-letter name, and their clone batch number. For example, the fourth of a Red clearance clone batch named Jenny from the DND sector would read "Jenny-R-DND-4", while the first of her batch would have been "Jenny-R-DND-1". In earlier editions, non-player characters often have their names rendered to form jokes or gags.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect
    • Quarians have names organized as given name, apostrophe, clan name, vas/nar (for adult and underage, respectively), ship of residence/birth (ditto). Thus, Tali receives several Meaningful Renames over the course of the series: she begins the series as Tali'Zorah nar Rayya ("Tali of clan Zorah, born on the ship Rayya"), then completes her Pilgrimage and becomes Tali'Zorah vas Neema ("Tali of clan Zorah, crew member of the Neema"), then Tali'Zorah vas Normandy (when she needs to leave the fleet for political reasons), although it's just as common to refer to her as Tali'Zorah. The much-maligned Mass Effect novel Deception infamously only gave quarians a first name and ship name, and furthermore wrote as if their ship names were their last names.
    • Turians and asari use the "given name then family name" order. Krogan originally have only a given name but once they complete their Rite of Passage, they bear the clan name in front of their given name.
    • Salarians list the individual's homeworld, nation, city, district, clan name and given name, but cut it down to just the last two (swapped to being in western order) in nearly all circumstances: only two salarians get their full names spoken on screen and neither are major characters.
  • The Kilrathi of Wing Commander use [Given Name] nar [Clan Name]. The nar is always lower case, and usually italicised. The Clan Name is usually the name of the place or planet where the Kilrathi was born. The novels add hrai to the name of one Kilrathi, meaning 'of the family of'. The character in question starts as Kirha hrai Ralgha nar Hhallas (Kirha, of the family of Ralgha, who is from Hhallas), and after being ordered to serve the human pilot Ian 'Hunter' St John, renames himself Kirha hrai Hunter nar Aussie (Kirtha, of the family of Hunter, who is from Australia). This part doesn't come up anywhere else though.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The Imperials have a first name and a last name which both sound Latin, given their Romanesque culture. The latest installment, Skyrim, changes some Latin last names to Italian ones, reflecting the evolution of language.
    • The Nords have a Norse or Germanic sounding first name and a clan name, or sometimes a first name and a nickname (you can tell the difference by the presence or absence of the "the" article; if there is one, it's a nickname, for example "Sild the Warlock". If there's no "the", it's a clan name, for example "Lars Battle-Born".
    • The Bretons have a French-sounding name and last name (in the main Breton culture) or a single Celtic name (for the Reachmen).
    • The Redguards vary from stuff that sounds like a Ghetto Name (e.g. Trayvond from Oblivion) to, particularly in Skyrim, vaguely Arabic- or Persian-sounding. In all cases, they have Only One Name.
    • Altmer (High Elves) and the (Wood Elves):
      • Both races have single "elvish" names, sounding vaguely like Tolkien's Quenya and Sindarin respectively. For example "Manwe" or "Glarthir".
      • Bosmer names use the suffix "-roth" quite frequently.
      • According to supplementary materials Altmer names are actually numbers in their native language.
    • The Dunmer (Dark Elves) have a first name and a last name with a characteristic "Dunmerish" sound (for example, Falanu Hlaalu, Nels Llendo, Hlireni Indavel). The Dunmer nobility also uses the name of their Houses as prefix to their names (for example, Redoran Hlaren Ramoran). The Telvanni Masters use one name only (Mistress Dratha, Master Neloth).
    • The Khajiit have single names with prefixes and a Punctuation Shaker, for example Ra'Virr, Dro'Zel. Sometimes no prefixes.
  • Goron leaders in The Legend of Zelda usually have names that begin with 'Dar'. Darunia, Darmani, Darbus, etc.
  • In World of Warcraft Dragons have naming conventions separated by colors.
    • Blue dragons have names ending in "gos" (Kalecgos and Malygos) for males. Female names end in "gosa" (such as Sindragosa or Madrigosa). There are a few outliers as Word of God says this naming convention wasn't decided on until the Burning Crusade expansion.
    • Black Dragons' true names end in "ion" for males (Deathwing's true name was Neltharion, for example). Female dragons end in "a" (Sinestra or Onyxia). In the Warcraft universe, black dragons are historically the most evil race and had the most direct contact with mortals, therefore most black dragons are known by nicknames given by mortals, usually based on color (Firemaw, Flamewing, Blacklash).
    • Bronze dragons' names end in "dormu" if male (Nozdormu, Zaladormu). Female bronze dragons have names ending in "i" (Indormi, Nozari)
    • Green dragons only seem do have naming conventions for females, whose names end in "a" (Ysera, Nishera). Most of the male green dragons identified have no discernible naming convention.
    • Red dragons have names ending in "strasz" for the males (Korialstrasz, Nostrastrasz). Female red dragon names end in "za" (Alexstrasza, Rheastrasza).

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the different nations typically have names that follow phoneme patterns. The Water Tribe uses hard K sounds and lots of O's and A's (Katara, Korra, Noatok, Hakoda). The Fire Nation uses Z's, O's and I's (Ozai, Zhao, Sozin, etc). The Air Nomads use mostly real life Tibetan and Chinese names or names that sound similar. The Earth Kingdom has no strict pattern.

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