Character names are by no means exempt from (more than) occasional literary allusion.
Dan Brown plays with this one:
The Da Vinci Code gives us the English Grail expert Sir Leigh Teabing. He's pretty stereotypical for an Angle- down to a slight obsession with Earl Grey tea. In addition, first name is the last name of one of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Richard Leigh and his last name is anagram of that of the other, Michael Baigent.
Angels & Demons, the Dean of the College of Cardinals is Cardinal Mortati, whose surname appears to be something to do with death? creepily appropriate, given what happens in the book.
A common trope in philosophical dialogues. Virtually everyone in Plato has one.
And Orell sounds like the Russian word for 'eagle' ([or'yol]) adapted to English pronunciation.
Peter Robinson's novel Aftermath features Terry and Lucy Payne, a husband and wife who kidnap and murder teenage girls, then bury the bodies in their basement. The phrase "House of Payne" is used in several tabloid articles about the case.
Geoff Ryman's novel Air has lots of examples of this trope as it takes place in a fictional country whose culture features some old superstitions about the importance of the meaning behind someone's name. A gangster who made his money from drugs has a name that translates into English as "Wisdom Bronze", and he is both intelligent and materialistic. An idealistic young government worker determined to help the impoverished people of his country has a name that translates as "Genuinely Sincere". The protagonist's name translates roughly into "Have not have" which is the subtitle of the book. The first chapter of the book features some social commentary from the main character about the West's treatment of the third world and the gap between "haves and have-nots".
Sometimes obvious in Animorphs, sometimes not. According to Word of God, Lord of the Rings references are everywhere; Yeerk is a reference to "Yrch", the Elvish word for Orc, and Elfangor's and Aximili's names are references to elvish cities.
Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables was the Blithe Spirit of Avonlea, adding mishaps, imagination, and craziness to a tiny town on PEI. Fittingly, she goes on to marry her childhood friend, Gilbert Blythe (who was blithe as a child, but not when he grew up).
The "novel" Atlanta Nights was written by Travis Tea. Now sound that out loud.
Ayn Rand often gave weak names to unsympathetic characters. The pinnacle was probably Wesley Mouch, a lobbyist in Atlas Shrugged, whose name contains hints of weasel, slouch, louse, and mooch without actually coming out and giving him any of those names. Another minor villain in the same novel is a corporate takeover artist named Hunsacker.
A finch is a songbird with a bouncing flight pattern. The village of Finch is a generally happy place full of gossipy residents, with gossip topics generally of the harmless variety.
The Willises specialise in wills and estate planning.
Lori's former boss, Dr. Stan Finderman, is asked to find some old ephemera (specifically, pamphlets) printed by a specific and obscure Victorian author.
Peggy Kitchen marries Jasper Taxman and takes his surname. Jasper is a retired accountant, and Peggy 's demands (as the unofficial boss of Finch) can certainly be taxing.
One of the hikers in Aunt Dimity: Snowbound is named Wendy Walker.
In Aunt Dimity Slays the Dragon, Jinks the jester says his name comes from "highjinks" rather than bad luck (a"jinx"). It turns out to be a bit of both, since he's responsible for the "accidents" at King Wilfrid's Faire.
In Aunt Dimity Down Under, the attorney who explains Lori's task for the Pym sisters (reuniting them with their long-estranged brother's family) is named Fortescue Makepeace.
In Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince, Mikhail's Russian immigrant parents named their home Mirfield ("Mir" means "peace" in Russian). They left Russia within a decade of the 1917 Revolution. Also, the Thames' Shangri-La was originally named Whiting Hall, and they made their money selling fish ("whiting" is a common name given to several species of fish). The aptly-named Lady Barbara Booker pointedly says, "What's the point of living if I can't have fires and books?"
Black Crown: The Royal Family's name is 'Milvian' in reference to the bridge at which Emperor Constantine won a famous battle which allowed him to take over the Western Roman Empire. The first short story, simply entitled 'Black Crown', is framed around a battle on a bridge. Also, both 'Valerius' and 'Flavius' were part of Constantine's full name.
Caiaphas: Are you the Son of God? Jesus: That is what you call me.
In the Circle of Magic, both Rosethorn and Briar Moss are plant mages who are rude and acerbic to people but have a hidden, gentler side when it comes to plants and their close friends. In this case, though, they both chose their names, Rosethorn when she dedicated her life to the temple and Briar when he was first offered a new life.
Academic mages choose their names, too. So you get names like Niklaren Goldeye, who has magical sight, Yarrun Firetamer, who fights forest fires, and Quenaill Shieldsman, who specializes in protective magic.
Tris Chandler is from a merchant family, so her name probably comes from her family's profession.
It's always fun to see how long it takes readers to realize that "Tavi" is short for Gaius Octavian, and he is the rightful heir to the throne. Oh and it's the birth name of Emperor Augustus in our world.
The Canim leader Varg gives Tavi a meaningful nickname when they go to Canea, Tavar. Varg says it is close to Tavi's own name and later reveals it is also the name of a Canean predator that is known for being fierce and intelligent enough that only a fool willingly seeks to fight it.
Varg is also a meaningful name, it's Scandinavian for "Wolf".
Invidia, whose name is Latin for "envy" and lives up to it.
Finally, the Distant Finale of First Lord's Fury reveals the name of Tavi's son: Gaius Desiderius Tavarus. Desiderius means "the desired one" and was chosen by Tavi and Kitai so their child would never feel unwanted despite being born out of wedlock.
Comrade Death features Feuerbauch, a No Celebrities Were Harmed Hitler, whose name translates to "Fire Belly". At the end of the story, poisoned and insane, he drinks a bottle of Disintegrol, a chemical which is weaponized Made of Explodium and turns anything it touches into a volatile explosive. Shortly after, his insides explode.
Both of the main characters in Count and Countess are subject to this. Although they are based off of real people (Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory), it comes up as a plot point at least twice.
In Crime and Punishment: Raskolnikov alludes to the Russian word, raskol, which means "schism", and raskol'nik, which means "schismatic" or "divided," symbolic of his own schism from "ordinary" people and his own mental state. Also, the character Kapernaumov has a name that is derived from the contemporary St. Petersburg slang for a brothel.
In Damnation Alley (the novel by Roger Zelazny, later made into a bad movie), the (for want of a better word) hero is named Hell Tanner. In Old West slang, to "tan" something means to beat it, and Hell Tanner beats Damnation Alley by traveling through it. In effect, he "tanned" Hell. As for his first name... Hell was the last-born of fifteen children, and when the nurse asked Papa Tanner what name he wanted his son to have, Papa Tanner said "Hell!" and walked out, never to be seen again.
The Auditor who first assumes human shape calls herself Myria LeJean — "myriad" and "legion", referring to the Auditors' lack of individuality. After she pulls a Heel-Face Turn, Susan convinces her to adopt the name "Unity" instead.
William de Worde, who becomes the editor of Ankh-Morpork's first newspaper. Also, his first name means "protector", so his name is "Protector of the word", which shows in his always telling the truth as much as he can.
This is a shout-out to the historical Wynkin de Worde, William Caxton's partner and successor at the first printing press in England.
Goodmountain's colleagues Boddony, Caslong and Gowdie (named after the typefonts Bodoni, Caslon and Goudy which were in turn named after their makers).
Lampshaded in The Wee Free Men when Miss Tick points out that this is "a good name for a witch" because it sounds like "mystic". Less obvious is her first name, Perspicacia, which comes from "perspicacious", meaning "observant".
The illustrated edition reveals that when the Toad was still a lawyer he was named Mr James Natter. A double example: lawyers talk a lot, and "Jack Natter" is a play on "natterjack", a species of toad.
And Lt Blouse, since the first impression of him is that he's rather wet and uncertain: "a big girl's blouse".
Reacher Gilt in Going Postal is viciously grasping (hence the Reacher) and skilled at making things look more valuable than they are (hence the Gilt). It's strongly hinted that he chose the name deliberately, because he's the sort of person who finds it funny to tell people they're being conned in a way they won't notice. Possibly also a Take That aimed at John Galt, or a reference to being a pirate.
Eumenides Treason, a witch who's made herself into a symbol of harsh judgement in Wintersmith, shares her first name with the Furies.
In The Fifth Elephant, we find that wolves in the wild don't have names so much as descriptions, which leads to some awkwardness when Gaspode introduces Carrot to a lowly omega wolf known as Arsehole: "So, in fact, it's the name of this wolf you want to know?"
Parodied in Lords and Ladies, where the last names of the members of the Lancre Morris Men are professions, but never their professions; Carter is a baker, Carpenter is a tailor, and so on. Except for Tinker the tinker.
Mr A. E. Pessimal in Thud!! Someone who is pessimistic only sees the negatives of his life; the opposite of an optimist. Mr Pessimal is a government inspector; his job is to look for problems with the Watch so they can be fixed; i.e. for things that are the opposite of optimal.
71-Hour Ahmed in Jingo. He was given the name "71-Hour" because his tribe were duty bound to offer hospitality for three days, i.e. 72 hours. He ended up having as a guest someone he knew to be a criminal who had poisoned a well, and rather than wait the full three days and give him a chance to run away, he killed the man with one hour left to go. (The name is mainly meaningful in-universe, but it's possible to connect some of the dots before he tells the full story if you're good at math when the first members of the tribe Vimes encounters talk about three days of hospitality, or if you know that the same custom does exist, or at least is rumored to exist, among some real-life desert nomads.)
Trev Likely in Unseen Academicals. A "likely lad" is a skilled sportsman or a known troublemaker; he's both. (The fact he's a Phrase Catcher for "You're Dave Likely's son!" adds the "lad" bit.)
The philosopher Ibid from Pyramids, who "[thinks he's] the biggest bloody authority on everything." In the same book we also have Dios, who is maker of god-kings.
Inverted with the Carter family, who are introduced in Lords and Ladies. Mr. and Mrs. Carter used the common convention of naming their daughters after virtues, and somehow got the idea this meant their sons should be named after vices. As it turned out, each of them behaved in a manner exactly opposite of what their name would suggest; for example, Charity Carter was very stingy, and Chastity Carter was a woman of ill repute, while Bestiality Carter was always kind to animals.
All the golems who have names (except Anghammarad) are named words in Yiddish, a reference to their legend of origin. (They also write in Hebraic-looking script.)
In Elantris, most characters names contain an Aon (rune), each of which has a specific meaning, which results in a lot of meaningful names. Raoden even plays with this, calling himself Lord Spirit (Rao is "spirit," and somehow Sarene fails to catch on). Sarene's name (The Aon Ene means wit or intelligence). Also subverted with Iadon ("Iad" means trust or reliable and he is neither trusting or trustworthy).
Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game has Ender himself, lampshaded at Battle School. The sequels have Olhado, whose name is Portuguese for "the guy with the eyes" (according to the novel, anyway).
In the first case, this is not his real name (it's Andrew), but his slightly-older sister couldn't pronounce it right, so the nickname stuck. Olhado's real name is Lauro Suleimão Ribeira von Hesse.
In Flowers for Algernon, the mentally retarded main character Charlie has parents who desperately want him to be normal. So what do they name his little sister? Norma.
Occurs in Gone. The series has a thing for Biblical names: Caine trying to kill his brother, Mother Mary and Brother John taking care of the children, etc.
Also, Lana "Lazar"; rising from fatal injuries, like the tale of Lazarus.
"Nerezza" means 'darkness' in Italian, fitting because she's the Gaiaphage in disguise.
The Harry Potter books use this constantly. An exhaustive list of such examples can be found here. Some are:
The first name of Professor Snape, "Severus", means "strict, severe, harsh, serious" to the point of "cruel". Also the name of a Roman emperor.
"Beauxbatons", the French wizard school, means "handsome sticks" or "staffs", which is close enough to "handsome wands".
"Durmstrang" smells an awful lot like "sturm und drang", a German expression meaning "storm and strife" or "storm and longing".
Professor Remus Lupin is a werewolf — "Remus" being a mythical child raised by wolves (brother to Romulus, founder of Rome), and "Lupin" as described above. In addition, out of the two Roman brothers, guess which one died. He appears aware of this as he uses "Romulus" as a pseudonym for a radio broadcast. This was lampshaded by Movies in 15 Minutes.
Snape: I want two rolls of parchment on werewolves by tomorrow, including what WEREWOLVES look like, how to detect WEREWOLVES in the faculty of a British boarding school for wizards, and the definition of the Latin word "lupus". CLASS DISMISSED!
Another werewolf is called Fenrir Greyback. Fenrir is a wolf in Norse Mythology who is destined to kill Odin.
Sirius Black could turn into a black dog (Sirius being known as the Dog Star).
Nigellus Black was Hogwarts' least popular headmaster. It has been claimed that Nigellus is Latin for "black" (probably mixing it up with Latin "niger"). In fact, Nigellus derives from the Gaelic word for "champion". Also, the whole Black family (except Sirius) are notoriously into Dark magic.
Regulus Black's name seems a bit at odds with what we hear from Sirius. Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo, the Lion. The term 'lion-hearted' refers to someone with courage, while Sirius derisively informs Harry that his brother was a coward. He was wrong, of course. Regulus was brave enough to betray Voldemort and steal one of his Horcruxes! Perhaps he was a Gryffindor at heart?
The aromatic Mundungus Fletcher's first name is an obsolete word for tobacco with an unpleasant odor.
It becomes more apparent when people use his nickname, "Dung."
"James" means "he supplanted", and James Potter supplants Snape's place as Lily's best friend before becoming her love interest. Probably coincidence, since James is also one of the commonest names in England.
Voldemort. His name is derived from a French term meaning "flight from death" (though in this case, the french word "Vol" is referring to the literal meaning of "flight"), signifying his goal of immortality via the Horcruxes. Voldemort could also stand for "stealing death", "vol" in french meaning either "flight" or "theft".
Even his real name Tom Marvolo Riddle has some significance, Marvolo connoting marvelous, and Riddle hinting at the mysterious.
"Tom" is significant too. It's a common name for him to get rid of when he becomes the Dark Lord. As he says, "there are a lot of Toms".
Tom also means twin, which if Voldemort was aware of this, would have made him feel even less unique.
Dolores Umbridge; "dolor" means "pain" and "umbrage" means "resentment".
It's a given that any wizard character in the series will have some kind of meaningful name (unless their father was a Muggle). Another example would be Kingsley Shacklebolt, who is an adept and trustworthy wizard who often protects people from harm. And becomes Minister of Magic in the end, the closest thing the Wizarding World has to a king.
Xenophilius Lovegood, father of Luna and editor of The Quibbler. Xeno/philius —-> one who likes strange things.
"Harry" is J.K. Rowling's favorite boy name and means "power". Harry was prophesied to have "power the Dark Lord knows not".
Luna Lovegood has pale hair and eyes, so she resembles the moon. She is also a Cloudcuckoolander. Say, did you happen to know that "luna" is the root word for "lunatic", due to an ancient superstition about the moon causing madness? Oh, and her Patronus is a hare, an animal also associated with the moon.
Pomona Sprout - Pomona is the goddess of abundance and means Fruit in Latin. Sprout is, well, sprout. Teaches herbology, dealing with plants and herbs.
Given that Harry named his son Albus Severus, it's a good thing these names are based on word meanings, rather than history; otherwise little Albus might grow up to become a bitter gay (Not That There's Anything Wrong with That) man that picks on his would-be beau's 11-year old due to a frustrated love.
Professor Minerva McGonagall's name comes from the Roman goddess of wisdom, strength, and skill - which is a fitting moniker for the staunchest bastion of Hogwarts throughout all seven novels. Wise, skilled, and incredibly powerful, McGonagall is consistently shown to be a truly, unambiguously good character, and is one of the few major supporting characters Harry never doubts - and one of the few adults he truly trusts.
On the other hand, her last name is an inversion: Rowling took the name McGonagall from a legendarily talentless Scottish poet because she thought it was funny that a witch as powerful and skilled as McGonagall should be even distantly related to someone so untalented.
The house-elf Kreacher's name smells like Kriecher, which is German for "toady" or "bootlick". More likely it's just a phonetic spelling of "Creature," which nicely sums up how his original owners treat him — as a monstrous thing, not a person.
The name Albus is Latin for white, which fits considerably as white tends to translate to good.
His surname, Dumbledore, is an early English word for "bumblebee," which Rowling reports as a reference to his love of music.
Lucius is Latin for light which sort of fits considering his notorious fair hair. Also the root of Lucifer, the light bringer.
Even the more common names have purposeful meanings behind them. Ronald means "king". Weasley is our king! According to Word of God, Rowling likes weasels and ferrets, and wanted to give them a more positive reputation.
All the in-universe authors of Harry's schoolbooks are named like this (e.g. "Newt Scamander" references the salamander, once believed to be magical; "Cassandra Vlabatsky" references both Cassandra and Madame Blavatsky, both famous seers).
Jeeves and Wooster: No idea if P. G. Wodehouse intended this or not, but all-knowing problem-solver Jeeves' first name, Reginald, means "council power" in Old German. Conversely, dim-bulb Bertie's name (also in Old German) means "bright".
Occurs in the tales of the Mabinogion. The kind and loving Nysien's name means "friendly one", while that of his brother Efnysien translates to "hostile/enemy one", appropriate for a man whose bad temper destroys two kingdoms. To highlight their differences, "Efnysien" also means "not Nysien".
Even earlier than that, e. g. in Hesiod's Theogony, you have Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus, whose names translate roughly "foresight" and "hindsight". Guess which one outwits the gods and which one is fooled by them into marrying Pandora?
"Mara" means "bitter" in Biblical Hebrew which fits her initial relationship with Luke. Jade fits the color of her lightsaber. "Thrawn" is a Scottish word meaning a combination of obstinacy, assertiveness, and more than a hint of willful perversity. (Alternatively, "thrawan" is Old English for to twist or turn, as in pottery "throwing.") The characters are more complex than that, but it's a good start in both cases.
Jade is also an archaic slur against a woman, usually carrying connotations of unfaithfulness or falseness, fitting for a former spy and assassin. It also brings to mind jaded, which appears in her tendency towards cynicism, especially compared with Luke's general optimism.
In Legacy of the Force, resident Utopia Justifies the Means Jacen Solo / Darth Caedus spent most of his time aboard his flagship The Anakin Solo, named after his little brother. Meaningful because Jacens turn toward darkness began when Anakin was killed. His Sith name is also notable, as it comes from the Latin verb caedo, meaning either "to kill" or "to fall".note whence we get the words suicide/regicide/patricide etc.
The Baby-Sitters Club: This is most likely completely unintentional but "Mallory" is Norman French for "unlucky".
In Steven Cole's novel Thieves Like Us, an inscrutable benefactor gets a quintet of teenage criminal masterminds to help him find, steal and sell long-lost artifacts. The benefactor's name? Nathaniel Coldhardt.
Marvell's poem "Definition of Love" is about the faults and difficulties the author has with love. Definio is Latin for "I Limit".
The initials of the duplicitous Francis Urquhart in House of Cards are no coincidence
Repeatedly, explicitly and joyfully played with by Iain M. Banks in his Culture novels, in which the ultra-intelligent AI "Minds" of the Culture choose their own names when emplaced in a ship. A warship may have a name like Attitude Adjuster, Lasting Damage or Killing Time, the "slightly weird" General Contact Units rejoice in names like Only Slightly Bent and I Thought He Was with You, whereas more "normal" Culture vessels can have names from the obvious relevant (Quietly Confident, Grey Area), through the arbitrary (Anticipation of s New Lover's Arrival, The,Yawning Angel) to the absolutely surreal(Absolutely No You-Know-What, Pure Big Mad Boat Man). All of these, apparently, are Meaningful Names, and reflect the ship's personality in some way. A complete list can be found here.
In the same series, Michael Carpenter is chosen by Heaven to wield a holy sword. Who'd have guessed?
Also the ectomancer (one who speaks to the dead) named "Mortimer Lindquist."
Harry doesn't just have a meaningful last name — his given names all come from stage magicians. And his mother was Margaret LeFay. Oh, and there's Nicodemus Archleone, or, as Harry puts it:
"Archleone? Seriously? As in, 'seeking whom he may devour'?note "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:" -1 Peter 5:8 in the King James bible How much more obvious can you get?"
Some of these names, such as LeFay and Archleone are assumed. Harry's name is a bit of humor. Michael though, has the meaning for not only being a knight of the cross, but also in him actually being a Carpenter. Assumed names end up often being a Stealth Pun, especially if it is Nordic related because then it's a kenning.
Harry's name becomes a lot more meaningful when one realizes that, like the stage magicians he is named for, he's used intelligence, trickery, and quick-thinking to achieve impossible feats that brute force could never succeed at. He's not just a wizard, he's a magician too.
Shiro's name has two meanings depending on how it was originally written. There's "white," a color that represents purity in the west (he's a Knight of the Cross) and death in the east. It could also be a name commonly given to fourth-born sons. Four Is Death in Japan. It should go without saying what his fate is.
There's also Ivy, short for the Archive, and Mouse, who starts out small...
Ivy's name becomes doubly this, if you consider how she's a living storehouse for all recorded human knowledge, which is constantly spreading and branching out and entwining back upon itself, linking everything to everything else it can get a grip on.
Lewis Carroll's (Through The Looking Glass) Alice has a name that means "Noble". Although this may have been a coincidence, as the name was that of a girl Carroll knew in real life, it becomes appropriate in the ending.
This pops up all over the shop in works by John Connolly. Many characters are explicitly stated to have meaningful names, usually rooted in religious texts.
The eponymous cancer-transmitting villain of the short story "The Cancer Cowboy Rides" has no memory of his real name. After reading a textbook on cancer and its many causes, he gives himself a name that doubles as his own private joke: Buddy Carson- short for carcinogenic. He also uses the name Russ Cercan. Arranging the syllables in reverse order gives the word "cancerous".
Matilda - Miss Honey is a very sweet teacher. The Wormwoods (Matilda excepted) are as sleazy as they come. And then there's the Trunchbull...
Practically invented by Charles Dickens. He's responsible for dozens of immortal names that sum up the characters perfectly, like Ebenezer Scrooge, Pip, Jaggers (jaggery = also a type of cheap brown rock sugar from India), Steerforth, Uriah Heep, and headmaster Gradgrind. He probably pushed it too far when he named a harsh schoolteacher Mr. M'Choakumchild.
The Brothers Karamazov: kara- in Turkish means "black" and maz in Russian means "paint" or "smear". The eponymous brothers' father is a lecher and libertine who is openly wicked. All throughout the book, characters speak of the "Karamazovian" nature inside of the brothers despite their efforts to separate themselves from their father.
In Dostoevsky's The Idiot, there are a great many allusive names.
Nastasya Filippovna Barashkova's first name comes from the Greek word meaning "resurrection", and her last name is related to the Russian word for "lamb". Her patronymic is related to "Philip," which means "lover of horses," and this comes into play in the novel when Nastasya and Lebedev discuss the Four Horses of the Apocalypse.
Rogozhin, in some ways the villain of the piece and the "devil" to the Prince's "angel", has a name that comes from the Russian word rog, which means "horn".
The Prince himself has a name that illustrates the complexity of his nature: Lev Nikolaevich Myshkin. Lev means "lion" and myshkin comes from the Russian word meaning "mouse." Also, "Lev Nikolaevich" is also the first name and patronymic of Doestoevsky's contemporary, Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy, of whose literary eminence Dostoevsky was very much aware. Furthermore (as another character points out in the story), Myshkin shares his last name with a figure from Karazim's History of the Russian State: the historical Myshkin was an architect who designed a cathedral which collapsed in 1474 before construction was finished—which echoes Prince Myshkin's status as failed archetype of Christ.
The last name of Antip Burdovsky, the man who tries to con the Prince out of his inheritence, comes from the Russian word meaning "pigs' slops".
The three Epanchin sisters have meaningful names deriving from the Greek — Alexandra comes from the word meaning "defend" (relevant in the bond she has with her lunatic mother), Adelaida comes from the word meaning "obscure" (a fitting name for a woman who marries Prince Shch. [no full name ever mentioned]), and lastly and most revealingly, Aglaya comes from the word meaning "radiant" (and she is the darling of her family and social circle).
In French, the first name of Edmond Dantes from Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo suggests "demon" if you squint a bit, and the last name evokes "Dante" (usually associated with his Inferno and giving the French adjective "dantesque", which applies to cosmically horrible, hell-like situations). Which makes his complete name read like something along the lines of "infernal demon" or "demon from Dante's Inferno". Hey, you don't name your kid like that if you just expect him to be a nice and cute sailor.
It also seems plausible that Monte Cristo, besides being the name of an island, references Jesus's Sermon on the Mount which actually repudiated the type of "eye-for-an-eye" justice which Dantes puruses in this persona.
Alternatively, Monte Cristo is the place of Dantes's spiritual death and rebirth, and much later, it is the place where he is redeemed.
Ben Elton's novel Dead Famous centres around the contestants on a reality TV show called House Arrest (an obvious parody of Big Brother). As a result, many of the characters have names which echo the real life figures they are based on: Dervla Nolan (Anna Nolan, a contestant on the first series of Big Brother), Woggle (Paul Ferguson, known as "Bubble" on the show), Geraldine Hennessy (Lorraine Heggessey, the then controller of BBC 1) and others.
Averted and lampshaded in By The Light Of The Moon. The villain, Lincoln Proctor, not only has a name that screams integrity; he looks like Santa Claus. Parish Lantern (an old term for the moon) is a late night radio talk show host who admits that it's not his original name ("Would it be anyone's?"); he chose it when just starting his career.
False Memory — the psychologist, Dr. Ahriman (named for a personification of evil).
From The Corner Of His Eye — quite a few characters, most notably the villain, Enoch Cain (named for Cain, the first murderer in Genesis, and his son)
Life Expectancy — the Tock family were given an unexplained prophetic list of important dates upon the birth of Jimmy Tock, so they are very aware of the passing of time. The maiden name of one of the older women in the family is Greenwich.
Patricia A. McKillip's The Riddle Master Trilogy has a character named Deth, and a historical figure named Yrth. It eventually is revealed that 1) they're the same character; 2) he's a member of the race of Earth-Masters; and 3) the trilogy is about his plans for his death.
In Flannery O'Connor's short "Good Country People", guess what traveling bible salesman Manley Pointer's ulterior motive is?
In David Prill's Second Coming Attractions (a novel lampooning the inspirational Christian film industry), there are characters named Ricky Bible, Rance Jericho, Grant Godlee, Buck Verilee, and Paul Pedphill (!). The first two are actors' stage names; the rest, though, are apparently people's legal names. And humor this broad is the least of the novel's problems...
In the Neal Stephenson novel Snow Crash, the hero and protagonist of the story is named Hiroaki "Hiro" Protagonist. This is an Invoked Trope, as he actually changed his name to this.
Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: "Nemo" is Latin for "no one", which is likely why the character chose this name after building the Nautilus and exiling himself to the sea. This might have also been used because of a tendency in Victorian literature to reassure the reader that "this isn't real".
The captain gets smacked with this trope twice. The name he gives in Mysterious Island, Dakarr, is apparently a Hindu word for Prince. He proceeds to tell the main characters that he was an Indian prince before exiling himself to the sea.
The narrator of What Was She Thinking? (filmed as Notes on a Scandal) is named Barbara Covett.
In House of Leaves, you have Holloway ("Hollow way") Roberts. This can also be read as "hallway".
Also, Johnny Truant from the same work.
Naming a colony "Roanoke" shoulda been a hint in The Last Colony. Lampshade Hanging ensues when, after he figures out what's happening, the main character chews himself out for having missed the reference.
Tad Williams'sOtherland series includes a character who goes by the name of John Dread. His mother gave him the name "Johnny Wulgaru" because, according to the book, a "Wulgaru" is a type of demon in the mythology of the Australian aborigines, and she wanted him to grow up to be a monster who would take her revenge on the white man for destroying her people's way of life. Later, when the Big Bad hires him to be The Dragon, he starts to go by the alias "Johnny More Dread", because the Big Bad thinks of himself as being like King Arthur and "More Dread" sounds like Mordred. And, yes, he follows Mordred's example.
H. P. Lovecraft had an especially blatant case: Asenath Waite, whose name means "she belongs to her father". She has been possessed by her father's spirit, who moves from host body to host body.
Also "Gilman", in The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Possible inversion, in that "Gilman" is a common name around Gloucester, Massachusetts, the real-life town on which Innsmouth was partially based. Lovecraft may well have used the pun as inspiration for the entire story.
Most of the Everafters (people and creatures from fairy tales) in The Sisters Grimm have obviously meaningful public names. Most of them are only enough to make it obvious who's who if you already know that Everafters exist — such as Ms. White and Mrs. Heart — but a few are so extreme that you'd expect them to be remarked upon even by people who have no reason to suspect their possessors are anything but ordinary people — Charming and Canis aren't exactly common surnames, nor is Robin Goodfellow a full name you'd normally expect a schoolboy to have. Some are legitimately obscure.
Played with twice in Robert Zubrin's The Holy Land. The American terrorists have names (David Crockett Christianson, George Washington Jones, Mickey Mantle Ostrowski, and Thomas Jefferson Clark) unabashedly evocative of Americana, and the aliens looking for a country to punish for their vile deeds know this. The Americans point out that the terrorists all legally changed their names (to David Crockett Christianson de Peru, George Washington Jones de Peru, Mickey Mantle Ostrowski de Peru, and Thomas Jefferson Clark de Peru). Peru gets PWNED.
Douglas MacArthur; originally Herman Witherspoon, but he felt he deserved a "more glorious appellation" when he prepared to assert military control over about half of Kennewick, Washington. He renamed his top officers to Patton, Pershing, Lee, Stuart, and Jackson so that he would have command over more famous generals than anyone else in American history. Lee, Stuart, and Jackson turn traitor and declare their sovereignty over the southern blocks of the city.
In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, a geologist is named Ann Clayborne. Her husband is called Simon (in the bible, Simon the apostle was given the new name Peter, meaning 'rock'), and her arch-rival is named Saxifrage (after a variety of flower also known as "rock-breaker".)
Gormenghast's Sepulch[re g]rave, Seventy-Sixth Earl of Groan. Guess what his personality is like.
It's rare for a character in the series not to have a meaningful name. Swelter the chef, Prunesquallor the doctor, Muzzlehatch the zookeeper, etc.
A Neptunian tries to persuade Phaethon that he is suffering from Laser-Guided Amnesia by pointing to the name he chose for himself. A knowledge of Greek Mythology gives a hint at why Phaethon has said amnesia before it is explained.
In Daphne's dream universe, a prince named Shining is a significant character. Because of her Laser-Guided Amnesia, she thinks that her universe has no connection to the real one, but "Phaethon" means "shining."
Anyone in the Thursday Next series who isn't a Public Domain Character or just has a Punny Name has a Meaningful Name. The Hades gang's first names all relate to their personalities and powers. In The Eyre Affair, Thursday is partnered with two Redshirts named Khannon and Fodder, who don't last long. They're replaced by two more named Dedman and Walken. And there's two ironically identical thugs called Chalk and Cheese. The grand prize winner, though, has to be recurring villain Jack Schitt.
Kvothe, the main character of The Name of the Wind, says that his name means "to know." His curiosity is constantly being referenced throughout the book, usually getting him into trouble. A throwaway line of dialogue also reveals that "Kote", the pseudonym he's been going by, actually means "disaster".
The names of demons in C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters are generally evocative: Screwtape (thumbscrew and red tape, Lewis himself said), Wormwood (a bitter poison, and mentioned in Revelation), Slubgob, Triptweeze, and Toadpipe.
J. R. R. Tolkien, philologist that he was, would come up with the name FIRST and extrapolate a character from it. "Samwise", for example, is another term for "half-wise" or simple.
Gimli, whose name is Nordic for "fire", obviously due to his impatient, chaotic personality.
Frodo is a name derived from the Old English word fród, meaning "wise by experience".
Tolkien was quite keen on Meaningful Names in general: virtually all his names have a meaning, be it in Old Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Elvish or plain English (though often enough the meaning came after the name and sometimes even changed over the years). Many of the characters' names also reflect one of the bearer's qualities; a few of the more complex characters receive quite a few names over the course of their lives.
Interestingly enough, as revealed in the notes and in "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien", there are several other cases. For instance, in the actual language that was being spoken, the masculine ending to hobbit names was "a", not "o". So, Bilbo would have actually been named Bilba, and Bilbo comes from Bilbao, Spain (home of high-quality swords).
Certainly the most obvious Meaningful Name in his works is the flying, foul-smelling, smoke-belching dragon Smaug, — that is, Smog.
The name Smaug is derived from the Germanic verb smugen meaning "to squeeze through a hole." A most excellent joke on the professors part.
Tolkien sometimes gave names a history in-universe (or several: see for instance Elrond and Elros, for whom Tolkien wrote two conflicting stories). Sometimes the choosing of a particular name is meaningful: see for instance Túrin (always renaming himself in the hope to escape the curse laid on him) or the sons of Fëanor (they were all given names with the element -finwë (their grand father's name) by their father, but all but one chose to be called by their mother-name). And choosing a name can have consequences: it's said that it was partly because Nolofinwë chose to call himself Finwë Nolofinwë (Fingolfin) that Fëanor abandoned him.
Fëanor himself is particularly big on names: most notably, he dubbed Morgoth ("enemy of the world").
Many characters have names that are just Anglo-Saxon words, often referring in a boringly literal manner to what they are. For instance, Théoden is the anglicized form of the Anglo-Saxon word "Ðéoden", which means "king". Tolkien did have some fun with other names; the word "Samwis" means either "foolish" or "half-wise", "Déagol" means "secret" (Gollum hid his murder of Déagol for years) and "Gríma" means "mask", presumably a reference to Gríma Wormtongue's double-agent role. Tolkien even got in a dig at Gríma's father Galmod, "galmod" means "licentious".
In fact, the vast majority, if not all, of the names of the kings of Rohan are variations on the word 'king' or 'lord'.
Hamfast "The Gaffer" Gamgee's first name means "home-bound", or by extension, "parochial".
Invoked regularly, primarily with the nobility, in The Farseer, because of a folk belief that if one is named after a virtue, the child will eventually grow into his or her name. Seen most clearly in the Farseer royal bloodline, which is composed most notably of King Shrewd and the princes Chivalry, Verity, and Regal. Shrewd is so sharp-witted he could cut someone. Chivalry lives up to a stiff-necked moral code to the point of political suicide, abdicating when it comes out that he sired a bastard before he even married. Verity is blunt and honest to a fault, making him a well-liked leader amongst soldiers but a poor politician. Regal is a self-important Jerk Ass, playing out the worst stereotypes of "nobility" and "regalness." Most who fail to live up to their names do so ironically, such as Patience, who is one of the most impatient and distractable people around, jumping from project to project so sharply she could induce whiplash.
In addition to a pterodon named Cirrus, Dinotopia: The World Beneath features a character named Oriana Nascava. She's searching for the origins of her ancestors and points out that her name means "from a cave" The characters have found an underground passage to a lost city called Posidos (Atlantis).
Silas Fennec in The Scar. A fennec is a desert fox; Silas is not just a spy, he's also a ruthless and greedy character with Smug Snake tendencies.
The name of the wizard himself is a Meaningful Stealth Pun. He gives an Overly-Long Name, the initials of which spell out O.Z.P.I.N.H.E.A.D. Nobody says so in the book itself.
The second part of Asimov's Second Foundation begins with the heroine of that part, 14-year-old Arkady Darrell, writing an essay for school, and dreading having to read it because she hates the way in which pupils are obliged to say their names when doing so — initial, then surname ("A. Darrell" in her case). The only exception being Olynthus Dam, because everyone laughed the first time he did it. A good thing, then, that his name wasn't Randu Slicker...
It's a little strange that Asimov chose to name a female character with a male Russian name. Granted, this far in the future, people would likely have no knowledge of that, but Asimov himself had to have known this.
Artemis Fowl is named for the Greek goddess of hunting, referring to his elaborate schemes. He references it once. Orion, the alternate persona of Artemis, is also a legendary Greek hunter.
His Battle Butler is named "Butler", coincidentally enough. Butler's given name is Domovoi, the name of a Slavic guardian spirit. His sister is named Juliet, referring to her youthful, impulsive, and cheery nature.
It's stated in canon that the household position of butler was actually named after that particular family (bodyguarding for very rich people is the family business), rather than the other way around. People who couldn't hire real Butlers hired a guy to stand around in a suit and take orders so that they could pretend.
And his Distaff Counterpart — a fellow genius — is named Minerva Paradizio, Minerva being the Roman goddess of knowledge.
Don Quixote: Doctor Pedro Recio (could be translated as "Doctor Hard Rock"), a doctor who insists that Sancho, as a governor, must have a very strict diet. Sancho even lampshades it: "he is called Doctor Pedro Recio, and is from Tirteafuera; so you see what a name he has to make me dread dying under his hands." Tirteafuera sounds like "tirarte afuera", "throw you outside".
Dulcinea's name means "sweet," although this may not be her real name.
The findings of astronomer Galileo, who discovered the Earth orbitted the sun, were published in a work written as an argument between fictional scholars. The scholar who backed the church's viewpoint was called "Simplicio".
In The Edge, Rose is prickly and standoffish to outsiders, but to her own family she is sweet, gentle and loving.
Madoc (a Welsh name) is punned and lampshaded in story: turns out it's linked to a third-world terrorist who nicknamed himself "Mad Dog."
David Linsay's classic allegorical fantasy novel A Voyage to Arcturus is rife with meaningful names; some portmanteaux of English words, others Anglicized or slightly altered versions of words from other languages, mostly Germanic. Examples: The name of the protagonist, Maskull, is a portmanteau of "mask" and "skull"; and eventually reveals himself to be simply a "mask" of the character Nightspore, whose journey through the story is an allegory of his philosophical "journey of the mind (skull)". Joiwind, "joy wind", who enables Maskull to survive in the alien atmosphere, and teaches him love. The Lusion Plain, "plain of illusion" from Hindu/Buddhist mythology. Surtur, a gnostic demiurge, and Muspel, his residence and the source of life; from Surtr, lord of Muspellsheimr, the world of fire from Norse mythology.
In Indigo's homeland, that color represents death and mourning. In the third book, The Good Chancellor instrumental to a warlord's successes is named "Phereniq" ("bringer of victory"). And as for the warlord himself, his surname contains the word "human," which may be foreshadowing: The heroine suspects him of being a demon in mortal form throughout most of the book, but ends up being wrong.
In Alien Secrets, the protagonist is named Robin Goodfellow, (nicknamed Puck) and she only half-jokingly blames her name for cursing her to be very short.
In the young adult novel The Giver, the name Rosemary (which stands for remembrance, according to Ophelia in Hamlet) will never be used again after the death of previous Receiver-in-Training forced the community to remember the vivid emotions they have left behind.
Jonas's own name was that of a reluctant prophet in The Bible who fled his homeland. The word is also Hebrew for "dove," the bird which was the harbinger of a new, clean world after the Flood ended.
Fiona is an Irish name; although ethnic names of all types appear in "the community," Fiona is the only person with red hair, a feature the Irish are known for.
Gabriel is the name of an angel who is often considered a symbol of healing.
Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe combines the imperiousness of Caesar with the wolf, only in this case the wolf hunts crime. His assistant Archie Goodwin is the archetypal good guy who always wins. On the other hand, Saul Panzer's last name is sometimes assumed to be an allusion to the powerful, all-conquering Nazi German panzer divisions, but Saul was created and named before Hitler took office. (Stout was also a strident anti-Nazi and would never make that mistake, especially with a Jewish character.)
The eponymous protagonist of The Acts of Caine has set in motion events that would lead to the death of his wife, best friend(s), father, the suffering of everyone who's cared for him, etc. etc. If the dude had a brother he probably would have offed him too. Also like the biblical Caine, there are gods looking out for him after his punishment (gods who want to punish him tend to get owned hard).
The Wicked Lovely series gives every character a meaningful name:
Aislinn means "vision" or "dream", and she has the sight. Hence, 'vision'. Also, Keenan's dream about her.
Keenan means "little ancient one", a reference to him being over 900 but still being treated — and acting — like a teenager. It is also likely a way for his Mother to belittle him.
Donia means "bitter" or "dark", a reference to how she feels about her relationship with Keenan.
Leslie means "joy", and she largely was Niall's only source of happiness for most of Ink Exchange.
Irial means "obscure" or "eerie", and he was the king of the court of nightmares.
Rae means "wise protector", and she can enter others dreams and help them through them and has knowledge of the future.
Gabriel roughly equates to "warrior of god", and he is the dark king's right hand man, and a great fighter.
Sorcha means "bright", and her court opposes the dark court.
Niall means "champion", and is a reminder of the times he failed as one.
Seth means "appointed", and he is implied to be some form of The Chosen One by Sorcha, although it's unclear as to what he was chosen for.
In the first sequel to the book The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, one of the people who helps to fuel the fires of tension between the Ember people and the Sparks people is a troublemaking Emberite kid named... Tick Hassler.
In the Books Of Bayern, Ani meets a character named Enna, who in later books is a fire speaker — the name "Enya" is gaelic for Little Fire or Flame, while "Ena" is Gaelic for "bright and shining".
In Farworld, the orphaned and unknown Markus is given the surname "Kanenas", meaning nobody, or no one. most of his power, or at least what he learns in the first book, is rooted to his being 'no one'.
In an odd example, 1st Sgt. Welsh in The Thin Red Line is noted to actually be "of Welsh extraction".
Bella (beautiful) Swan. Her first name could be taken as a Shout-Out to Bela Lugosi, an actor well known for his role as Count Dracula.
Her last name, meanwhile, carries ominous connotations: the "swan song," the moment of beauty or accomplishment that only occurs before one either retires or expires. And given that she dies after achieving her dream of marrying Edward and bearing his child, this could be considered a good fit.
Swans are also a Christian symbol of self-sacrifice; it was believed in the Middle Ages that swans drew blood from their own bodies to nourish their offspring.
The name Cullen means "handsome".
Alice means "of a noble kin"
Jacob means "supplanter" - seen as trying to push Edward out of the way and take his place
The antagonist Victoria, whose name means "Conqueror"
Quil, short for Quillan, means "cub"
and Leah ("weary").
Edward means "guardian".
The Jungle Book: Most of the names in the Mowgli stories are Hindi in origin. Roughly translated, "Bagheera" means "Panther", "Baloo" means "Bear", "Shere Khan" means "Lord Tiger", and Tabaqui (the jackal) means "dish-licker". However, the name "Mowgli", meaning "frog", seems to have been invented by Kipling himself. The wolves call the man-cub "frog" because of his hairlessness, but the name can also be seen as referring to Mowgli's 'amphibious' existence, i.e. as both human and animal.
Kipling did this a lot; Naga and Nagaini, the serpents in "Rikki-tikki-tavi," are named from the Sanskrit word for snake.
The Redwall series is riddled with these, sometimes intentionally on the character's parts, Enfant Terrible Veil's being an obvious one.
Give him a name and leave him a while Veil may live to be evil and vile Though I hope my prediction will fail And evil so vile will not live in Veil.
Most notably, "Goniff" is Yiddish, and yes, it means rogue or thief.
A key part of the Skulduggery Pleasant books where a person dealing in magic must choose a name to hide their true identity. The name however, must be connected with the character's personality.
More specifically: Skulduggery is a word which means to participate in suspicious or illegal activities, which he often does. (It has nothing to do with actual skeletons; that's just an ironic pun.) Pleasant probably refers to his gentlemanly demeanour. Valkyrie, as explained, refers to the Scandinavian women who guide souls to Valhalla, and Cain comes from a saying: "to raise Cain" or to make trouble. It could also possibly reference the reflection.
The Silver Kiss: Zoë is the protagonist. Her mother is dying, she runs into vampires, and her name means life. Pretty straightforward cue to look at the differences? Not quite. Another translation of Zoë is eternal life—which looks like foreshadowing of her becoming vampire...She doesn't.
Vivian of Blood and Chocolate is certainly lively, and it could also be taken as a subtle Lampshade Hanging on her shared characteristics with Zoë ("(eternal) life"), since both books are by the same author.
Stardust: The seven sons of the Lord of Stormhold are quite transparently named Primus, Secundus, Tertius and so on. Their only sister - and the firstborn child of the House - is named Una (in Spanish or Italian, "one").
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, Ulysses Prospero. He is quite peeved when someone thinks it's from James Joyce's Ulysses and not Homer's The Odyssey. Others may have them, but in this work, a number of the characters are those that gave the meaning to the name in the first place.
Dr. Georgina Orwell from the fourth book is named for author George Orwell. Dr. Orwell hypnotizes Klaus several times throughout the course of the plot, probably as a reference to the Thought Police in Orwell's novel 1984.
Dewey the librarian.
In Octavia Butler's Wild Seed, the names of the two main characters, Doro and Anyanwu, translate respectively into their native languages as "the east" and "the sun". The characters themselves take note of this in the beginning of the book as a strange coincidence, or a sign that they were intended to meet each other.
Lolita is only ever called that by one person. Her legal given name means "sorrow" (she is raped on a nightly basis for two years), her surname means "a cloud or fog" (her rapist eventually admits that he "did not know a thing about my darling's mind"), and her most common nickname means "a toy in the shape of a human".
From Malevil, a French post-World War III novel, The Hero and The Big Bad are both make-shift holy men with meaningful names: Emmanuel's name means "God is with us". Fulbert shares the name of an 11th century Bishop. "Saint Fulbert"' has controversial status as a saint, he was never canonized, and he lived during the turn of the first millennium, a moment feared to be the Apocalypse.
The names of the main characters of A. S. Byatt's Possession carry multiple levels of significance. The Victorian poet Christabel La Motte and her present-day relative Maud Bailey, both of whom are deeply concerned with solitude and autonomy, are named for the motte-and-bailey, the most common type of medieval castle; further, both women's personal names come from 19th century Romantic poems. Roland Michell's name alludes both to the eponymous knight of The Song of Roland and the Robert Browning poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, which points again to the "castle" meaning of Maud and Christabel's names, while his surname comes from St. Michael, the angelic warrior. Robert Browning is one of the writers on whom Christabel's friend, the great poet Randolph Henry Ash, is based. Ash writes numerous poems based on the symbolism and mythological context of his surname. Leonora Stern - from leo, "lion", with a feminine suffix - and Fergus Wolff both have names that describe their personalities. Beatrice Nest, curator of Mrs. Ash's diaries and letters, surrounds her work area with shelves and papers, hiding/residing at the center; "Beatrice" is famously the name of Dante Alighieri's muse and spiritual guide. Prof. Blackadder of course shares a name with the multi-lived protagonist of the BBC comedy series which mocks British history, although he is the antithesis of that character who traditionally uses his wits to further his own advantages.
Solomon Kane is a deeply devout man and a determined killer who bears the names of the man most favoured by God and the first murderer.
Scaramouche: Andre-Louis Moreau believes that the stage name given to him is the one that describes him most accurately: the sly, roguish trickster.
The names in Warrior Cats are always meaningful. Firestar is named for his flame-colored pelt, which is also significant when you find out he's the "fire" prophesied to save the clan. Tigerstar (formerly Tiger CLAW) has long claws and is as fierce as a tiger. Crowfeather chose the second part of his name in honor of Feathertail. Leaf POOL discovered the Moonpool. Brightheart is described in the book itself as having "a bright heart." The list could go on and on.
As far as non-warrior names go, there's Sol, who predicts a solar eclipse.
Almost everything in The Magic Thief: The Night Bridge connects The Twilight with The Sunrise, a pickpocket named Conn, etc ...
Footfall: named by something resembling an elephant, it's not good.
Icarus, a wheelcart driver in book 3 of Detectives in Togas. He dares too much during a race, and, guess what, falls.
In Congo, Herkimer is searching for diamonds. His name means 'fake diamond.'
Also "Zinj" is a homonym of "singe", the French word for monkey or ape.
This is used extremely often in The Dragon Hoard, giving us: King August, King Purple, Prince Fearless, Princess Goodness, the sorceress Maligna and the sorcerer Awful.
In William Faulkner's stories (like "Wild Horses"), the family most responsible for criminal activity in the county is the Snopes family. One of the best known of the family is Flem (as in 'flimflam' — or, even less appealingly, 'phlegm') who is a conman and thief.
John Crowley's Little, Big doesn't have a name in it that isn't [[Meaningful Name meaningful]]. Let us start with the hero, Smoky (his real name is Evan S. Barnable). His first friend in the City is George Mouse — a city Mouse with country cousins, including Smoky's future wife, the six-foot-tall Daily Alice Drinkwater. Her grandfather's middle name was Storm. All of the families who live near Edgewood have significant names: Flood, Lake, Wood, Noon ("Have you met my boy Sonny?"), Bird, Stone ("Clouds on their mother's side"), Bush, Meadows, and Dale and Cloud. Even the minister who marries Smoky and Daily Alice is "Doctor Word". And then there's the cousin, Ariel.
In Death series: Eve Dallas's name is this. Eve is the name of the first woman in The Bible. Dallas is the name of the city of Texas where she was found. The first name suggests sentimentality, and the last name suggests pragmatism. Creepily enough, Max Ricker in Judgment in Death explains all this to her face.
Percy's mother named him after Perseus, because he was one of the few demigods who had a happy ending.
Speaking of Perseus, his love interest was named Andromeda. Percy Jackson's love interest has a somewhat similar-sounding name: Annabeth, who is a daughter of Athena. So her name is her mother's with a few extra letters.
Clarisse - Ares, with some extra letters.
From the "painfully obvious" archives, we have Grover Underwood the forest-loving satyr and Rachel Elizabeth Dare the firey redhead.
Happens so often among the supporting cast that one wonders if the Greek gods are choosing their mortal partners based on their surnames. Hermes (thieves and trickery) has a pair of twins named Stoll ("stole"), one of Demeter's (agriculture) children is named Gardner, and Aphrodite (beauty) has a daughter named Silenea Beauregard (French for "good looking").
Frank Zhang of The Son of Neptune acknowledges it. "I would like to have been claimed by Apollo, because Zhang means master of bows in Chinese."
Ethan Nakamura, son of Nemesis, goddess of revenge and balance. 'Nakamura' is a Japanese surname that means 'middle village', which could be interpreted as 'neutral', which is pretty good for describing his mom, who aims to keep the balance. This may foreshadow his heel face turn in The Last Olympian.
In the web-novel Domina, we have Adam Andrew Anders, all three names which mean approximately "man." This foreshadows the fact that he doesn't have a power, and is immune to the toy maker.
In The Hunger Games, the setting is a brutal Police State named "Panem", where the residents of the Capitol are bought off with luxury and the Districts are kept in brutal subjection. The name "Panem" comes from a classical quotation. Explained and lampshaded in the third book:
"Panem et Circenses translates into 'Bread and Circuses.' The writer was saying that in return for full bellies and entertainment, his people had given up their political responsibilities and therefore their power."
Among many meaningful character names, Katniss is a plant in the genus Sagittaria ("archer") which is a close relative of the arrowhead plant. It's also edible.
Peeta's name is meaningful in two ways. It's an evolved version of Peter, who was Crist's rock as Peeta is Katniss's (Peeta also ends up denying Katniss when he is hijacked). It also sounds like pita bread and he's the son of a baker.
In Jodi Picoult's Keeping Faith, the titular Faith is a little girl who starts showing signs of being The Messiah. The book is also about her mother trying to keep Faith in a custody battle and keep faith in her everyday life. Also, since Faith is believed by some to be the Second Coming of Jesus, it's fitting that her mother is named Mariah (which comes from the name Maria, otherwise known as Mary).
First there's the angel Aziraphel. "Zira" in Hebrew means "brightness of morning." Aziraphale used to guard the East Gate of Eden.
Crowley, the demon. Crowley obviously referencing Aleister Crowley, the occult alchemist. Fun fact: his (the demon not the alchemist) original name was Crawly but he eventually decided it was just wasn't him.
Adam Young, the Anti-Antichrist. His (human) father didn't agree with the traditional Satanic names suggested and eventually just went with Adam as in the first human.
Anathema Device. Her mother named her Anathema because she thought it sounded nice and her family name actually comes from the founders of the Device, but still she lives up to her name by being a plot device to help avert the Apocalypse. Device is actually a Real Life West Country name, it's pronounced "DEH-viss" and is probably an alternate spelling of Davies.
The name Thérèse Raquin has been speculated to have something to do with the saying "You reap what you sow." Thérèse meaning "to harvest" and Raquin coming from the colloquial verb raquer meaning "to pay" or "to cough up."
Vida Winter in The Thirteenth Tale. Both Vida and Winter point to a theme of emptiness and death.
Clary, of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments. It's painfully obvious that her name stems from the author's pen name.
Stark's War by John Hemry briefly references the McClellan tank, a very advanced and powerful tank of the late 21st Century. It is so spiffy — and so expensive — that the high command refuses to risk it getting damaged in battle. George McClellan was an American Civil War general who did a superb job of training the Union army — but then didn't want to risk it getting torn up by the fighting.
Abraham Lincoln: "If General McClellan does not want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a time."
In Gene Stratton Porter's Michael O'Halloran, Mickey's name is lampshaded to ensure we know the meaning.
The big fellow called him 'Mickey'; no doubt a mother who adored him named him Michael, and thought him 'like unto God' when she did it.
"He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield."
In Aprilynne Pike's Wings Quartet, Yuki's name means "snow", which is fitting since she's actually a winter faerie.
Heinlein's Starship Troopers gives us Juan "Johnny" Rico. His name means "Johnny Rich", and he's a Spoiled Sweet rich kid before he joins the marines.
In Dan Abnett's Ravenor vs. Eisenhorn novel Pariah, Beta's name is a nickname for Alizebeta. Still, she learns, late in the novel, that she's not quite a clone of another pariah named Alizebeth Bequin — the beta version.
In John Steinbeck's East of Eden, the boys are named Caleb and Aaron, and the meaning is discussed in story to make it clear. In a counterpoint to the Cain and Abel sequence, it was Caleb and not Aaron who lived to reach the Promised Land, but because Caleb was one who hadn't sinned.
The main character’s last name is "Hosea"—in the Bible, Hosea was a prophet who, on God’s command, married a prostitute and treated her as if she were a faithful wife. The novel’s Michael Hosea is a farmer who does essentially the same thing (although rather than being a living object lesson to his country like the Biblical Hosea, he is the hero of a story in which Love Redeems). This is lampshaded in the text when Angel remarks on it being an unusual name, and Michael replies with something along the lines of “go figure this is what would happen to me with that name."
Angel’s real name is Sarah, who in the Bible was a woman who was barren and, for a long time, homeless. When Angel reveals this to Michael, he latches on to it as a sign that they will someday conceive children despite Angel’s sterilization, a wish which is revealed in the epilogue to have come true.
"Tirzah", the name Michael gives Angel while she refuses to tell him her real name, means “she is my delight” and is intended by Michael as a deep and deliberate expression of love to his wife, contrasted with the name “Angel” she used as a prostitute, which is only a superficial compliment to her physical beauty.
Legacy of the Dragokin: Daniar named her son, Benji, after Ben who was her friend and the previous protagonist.
In A.L. Phillips's The Quest of the Unaligned, all aligned mages have their discipline's name as part of theirs (Laeshana, Deshamai,Ruahkini, etc.)
In George Du Maurier's Trilby, the title character is an aspiring (female) singer (trill-by).
Justified in A.L. Phillips's The Quest of the Unaligned, in that all aligned mages have the name of their discipline as part of their own. So two of the heroes are an aesh named Laeshana and a ruahk named Naruahn.
In Julie Kagawa's The Iron Daughter, the Leanansidhe can't be bothered to remember the names of the men she holds captive and inspires. She calls them all "Charles" — which means "man."
In The Scarlet Letter, there is a passage that goes over why Pearl's name is meaningful. Justified, since she was named for those very characteristics by her mother: her mother traded everything for her one treasure, her Pearl.
Hester's husband, Chillingworth, is pretty self-explanatory.
Miles Vorkosigan, the hero of the series; Miles meaning "soldier". The meaning does not escape his mother, who tells him to try not to be swayed by it.
Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan, aforementioned mother of Miles. Cordelia brings to mind the faithful daughter of King Lear, foreshadowing Cordelia's loyalty to her family.
Aral Vorkosigan, named for a Russian sea. This both references the Russian heritage of Barrayar, and Aral's hidden depths.
Ivan Vorpatril, meaning "God is gracious". A more apt meaning is that Ivan is the Russian equivalent of "Jack", the fool hero, everyman character.
Gregor Vorbarra, the Emperor of Barrayar, which is similar to Gregory, meaning "watchful, vigilant".
Miles's wife, Ekaterin, meaning "pure".
Miles's twin clone-brother Mark, meaning "warlike". Especially apt since Mark was engineered for war, and constantly fights his own multiple personalities.
ImpSec] security chief Simon Illyan's given name means "to be heard", though his name also comes from fellow mysterious Russian spy Ilya Kuryakin.
In Voyage Of The Basset, a Kid Hero is called Cassandra. She warns that "something bad will happen" when her father steals something from trolls, but her warning goes unheeded.
The Mortal Instruments: Valentine Morgenstern. "Morgenstern" means "morning star" - signifying, of course, Lucifer.
Luke Garroway sounds like loup-garou, French for werewolf.
Clary sage is a plant historically used to help clear the eyes, so Clary is a name suitable for a heroine who sees the Shadow world, which most people are blind to. The meaning behind her name is mentioned by Jace upon learning it in City of Bones.
Richard Cypher in the Sword of Truth books. Richard means "strong/brave leader". Cypher can either mean a king's monogram or (more likely) a hint at Richard's secret origins (i.e. "cipher" meaning "code" or "secret"), especially considering it's not his real surname.
The evil ruler of D'Hara is Lord Darken Rahl. It's difficult to come up with a more obvious way of saying "evil" (even though his hair is pure white). His just-as-evil father Panis's name likely refers to a class of Hindu demons (alternatively, could be related to the Polish/Ukrainian honorific "pan" meaning "master").
Cara, one of Richard's companions, a former enemy, is an interesting case, since the name has different meanings in various sources. The Irish name Cara means "friend", since that's what she is to Richard after her Heel-Face Turn. The Cornish word "kara" means "love", although she is not Richard's Love Interest, so this is likely unrelated. The Turkish word "kara" means "dark". Given the fact that Cara was a Mord-Sith, this definitely applies.
In Harry Turtledove's Colonization series and the novel Homeward Bound, American spaceships tend to be named after explorers. The first nuclear-powered spaceship is called the Lewis and Clark, while the second one is the Christopher Columbus. The first American Sleeper Starship is called the Admiral Peary (after the man who supposedly lead the first North Pole expedition). The first American faster-than-light starship is deliberately called the Commodore Perry as a step away from this naming theme, named after the guy who forced the Japanese to trade with outsiders through Gunboat Diplomacy. When the Race learns of the meaning behind the latter name, they are not amused. The second American FTL starship is named after an inventor (Thomas Edison).
The Race names all ships in the Conquest and Colonization fleets after past Emperors. Ships built to defend Home when they learn of the Admiral Peary's impending arrival are named after real or mythical beasts of Home (e.g. Horned Akiss, Pterodactyl's Wing).
In Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch, Anton's Love Interest (later, wife) Svetlana. The name is derived from the Russian word svet meaning "light". Given that she is one of the most powerful Light sorceresses in the world, this is fitting.
Anton himself may have been named due to a common misconception that the name comes from the Greek word for "flower". At the beginning, Anton is an inexperienced Other but grows in power and wisdom over the series.
A point-of-view character from the second book is named Vitaliy Rogoza. Vitaliy is the Russian variant of the Latin name Vitalis meaning "of life, vital" and was the name of several saints and martyrs. Guess what happens to Vitaliy in the novel. As for his last name, "rogoz" is the Russian word for typha (AKA bulrush or cattail), a plant with a wide variety of uses (including healing). Since Vitaliy's purpose is to be used to restore the balance to Twilight and then disposed of, this name also makes sense.
One of Anton's friends and colleagues is a wise old Other named Semyon, a named derived from the Hebrew name Shim'on meaning "he has heard".
Anton and Svetlana's daughter is named Nadezhda, which literally means "hope" in Russian. Since she was prophecied to be the greatest magician since Merlin even before she was conceived, her parents may have named her deliberately.
Anton's former neighbor and friend Kostya's full name is Konstantin, derived from Latin for "constant" or "steadfast". Kostya was turned by his father (a vampire) very early in life, so the "constant" part is definitely true.
Anton's Friendly Enemy Edgar is a Dark Other. The name is derived from Old English words ead ("rich/blessed") and gar ("spear"). Being a high-ranking member of the Moscow Day Watch, Edgar is pretty well-off, so the "rich" part applies ("blessed", not so much). Edgar's introduction to the readers is during a battle between Light and Dark Others, with Edgar being on the front line, so the "spear" fits too.
Anton's friend Igor is an idealistic Light battle magician, whose views is that Dark Is Evil and that it is his purpose to rid the world of all Dark Others. The common Russian name Igor is a variant of the Old Norse name Ingvar, which was derived from the name of the Germanic god Yngvi (AKA Freyr) combined with arr meaning "warrior". With some creative interpretation, one could easily see "Igor" meaning "holy warrior".
Jacob and John Reckless from The Mirrorworld Series. Subverted by Will, who doesn't really seem to do anything at all.
In Billy Budd, the merchant ship from which Billy is impressed is named the Rights-of-Man, whose meaning Billy is not fully aware of.
A central part of City of Devils is that, once turned into a monster, the new monster chooses a "rebirth name." These names are inevitably meaningful, or at least cool sounding. Many of the monsters have specific naming conventions: mummies tend to prefer things that sound Egyptian and dynastic (e.g. Juba II, the missing City Councilman), while ogres like barbarian titles (e.g. the security guard at Visionary Pictures, Ugoth the Castrator). Some names include: Imogen Verity (doppelganger), Hexene Candlemas (witch), Oculon (crawling eye), Lou Garou (wolfman), Cacophony Jones (phantom), Bloody Bridget (ghost).