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Animal Naming Conventions

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"Our leader is Whitewater. Normally in our Tribe, cats just have plain names, like I'm Wood and the silver idiot back in Yellowroot's den is Frost. Whitewater used to be called White, because of her clear white eyes. She's an albino cat, I think. Whatever that means. I just heard Yellowroot say it one day. Anyway, when a cat becomes leader, they add on 'water' to the end of their name, because we're Water Tribe. Makes sense, right? In Ice Tribe, the leader adds on 'ice' to their name. The leader of Ice Tribe right now is Stoneice. In Ice Tribe, they name cats for their pelt color. For instance, even if a cat is white but has brown eyes, they'll still be named after their white pelt. Isn't that weird?"

When it comes to xenofiction and similarly minimally anthropomorphic animal fiction, to emphasise how differently animals think from humans they often give themselves names besides common human names. Often these names are descriptive of characteristics the animals have (like a black-footed fox named "Black Foot" or a lion with a scar named "Scar"). They can lean into Meaningful Names and are frequently a Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom. Sometimes, animals have a Rite-of-Passage Name Change ritual.

Sometimes an animal will have two names: a "human" name that people call them and their "true" animal name.

Compare to Law of Alien Names. Contrast to Stock Animal Name, which are names humans commonly use to address animals, and I Was Named "My Name". Sub-trope to Fantastic Naming Convention.


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    Comic Strips 
...and "The Names They Give Themselves".
Dog: Hello. I am known as Vexorg, Destroyer of Cats and Devourer of Chickens.
Other dog: I am Zornorph, the One Who Comes by Night to the Neighbor's Yard, and this is Princess Sheewana, Barker of Great Annoyance and daughter of Queen La, Stainer of Persian Rugs.

    Fan Works 
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Sun Princess, Winona refers to herself as "Faithful Student" because she considers herself extremely faithful to her owner Applejack (or "Sun Princess" as she calls her).
  • Warriors Redux has a strict naming system for Clan cats:
    • All kits are given the suffix "-kit" while all warrior apprentices have the suffix "-paw". Clan Leaders are given the suffix "-star".
    • Cats are given their prefixes by their mother. There are over 200 choices. Prefixes are chosen based on a kit's coloring and marking. They can't be too poetic sounding or too vague. They also can't be too spiritual and they can't reference death.
    • There are only 25 potential suffixes for a warrior's name: -claw, -cloud, -ear, -eye, -face, -fang, -flower, -foot, -fur, -heart, -jaw, -kit, -leaf, -nose, -path, -paw, -pelt, -star, -step, -storm, -stream, -stripe, -tail, -throat, and -whisker. A suffix notes a cat's most notable trait, be it their skills, a personality trait, or their looks.
    • A cat may be given a Meaningful Rename if their name no longer fits, such as if they receive a severe injury. Whether they change their name or not is up to the individual. To outsiders names like "Deadfoot" or "Halftail" are Unfortunate Names, but to warriors they're a mark of pride. It's considered a feat to survive such injuries with little-to-no issue. It proves the strength and adaptability of cats.
  • In the Warrior Cats fic Falling Smoke, the Tribes have different naming conventions than the Clans. Cats have "plain", one-word names like Wood and Frost. In the Water tribe, cats are named after their eye colour. Tribe leaders add a "-water" suffix to their name and herb cats add a "-root" suffix to theirs. In Ice tribe, cats are named for their fur colour and leaders add an "-ice" suffix.

    Films — Animation 
  • Some of the animals in The Lion King lean into this. For example, Simba's name shows that he's a lion. According to a licensed book Scar was originally named "Taka" ("to wish", or "trash", in Swahili) before gaining his scar and renaming himself. This wasn’t canon though and The Lion Guard named him Askari, then Mufasa nicknamed him “Scar”.
  • In The Land Before Time, dinosaurs refer to their species by descriptive names like Long Necks, Spike Tails and Sharpteeth. As for proper names, they zigzag between descriptive names (Littlefoot, Ducky, Spike) and names derived from their scientific names (Cera the Triceratops, Petrie the Pteranodon).

  • Warrior Cats:
    • The feral Clan cats have portmanteau names such as "Bluestar", "Dappletail", "Dawncloud", and "Oakheart". Their names are based around nature or things that feral cats would realistically knownote . Certain prefixes are especially common depending on the Clan; RiverClan tends to have more names related to water or fish, for instance.
      • Clan cats receive several name changes during their life based on rank. When they're born they're called "[x]kit" but when they become apprentices at the age of 6 moons old, they are renamed "[x]paw". When they finish their training and become a warrior or full medicine cat, they're renamed again; the end part of the name can be anything and doesn't follow a trend. If a cat ends up becoming a Clan leader then they're renamed again, "[x]star". Rarely, cats can be renamed in order to match injuries they've received (like "Halftail" or "One-Eye"). When an outsider joins the Clan, they are usually renamed to fit the Clans' naming scheme, such as a cat named Frankie being renamed "Stormpaw".
    • The Tribe Of Rushing Water has cats with unusual names even by the series standards, such as "Brook Where Small Fish Swim" and "Bird That Rides The Wind", but they're usually called by nicknames instead of their full names. Tribe Of Rushing Water cats are named after the first thing their mothers see after giving birth.
    • Both the Clans and the Tribe originated with an ancient group of cats living around the lake who had two-word naturalistic names such as "Fallen Leaves" and "Half Moon". These seemingly influenced both the Tribe and Clan naming patterns: the cat who led the group when they first became the Tribe was named Stone Song and was named for the wind at his birth, similar to how Tribe cats now get their names; meanwhile, the Tribe cats who founded the forest Clans still had the two-word names which are reminiscent of the Clans' current compound names.
    • Rogues don't follow the Clan naming schemes. Some are ex-kittypets while others apparently named themselves (or were named by their mothers). They generally use naturalistic names like "Pounce", "Snapper", "Snowflake", and "Sniff"; the group called the Sisters is specifically known for having very nature-themed names (Sunrise, Ice, Leaf, etc) since it's in line with their beliefs of being connected to the land and spirits.
    • The only character from another species who has a name of their own (rather than one that was given to them by humans or cats) is another natural name, a badger named Midnight.
  • Male rabbits in Watership Down have plant-related names like "Hazel" and "Blackberry" or descriptive names like "Bigwig" and "Buckthorn". Females instead have poetic names in untranslated Lapine, such as Nildro-Hain translating as "song of the blackbird". The most prominent of these is Hyzenthlay, which means "fur that shines like dew."
  • Most characters in Raptor Red have species names, however the titular Raptor Red is named after the fact that she is a Utahraptor with a red snout. (It's explained that this is from her mental image of herself, because she has a concept of 'me', but, like most animals, no concept of a name.)
  • Tailchaser's Song:
    • It's implied that animals reject the names given to them by their owners. The few pets seen don't refer to themselves by any standard pet names.
    • Tailchaser's Song is about feral cats. They have three names: their "heart name" that only cats close to them use, their portmanteau "face name" that is what most others call them, and their "tail name" which a name they figure out for themselves. The protagonist is a cat named Fritti Tailchaser (with "Fritti" being his heart name, and "Tailchaser" being his face name). Other characters include the tagalong kitten Pouncequick, the Talkative Loon Eatbugs, and the Sole Survivor of a massacre Firsa Roofshadow. A heart name is derived from the old cat-exclusive language while the face name comes from the common language used by all animals.
    • Squirrels attach titles like "Lord" or "Mistress" to their onomatopoeia-like names. Squirrel characters include Lord Pop, Mistress Whir, Master Fizz and Lord Snap.
    • Dogs use names with hyphens like Huff-so-Gruff and Bite-then-Bark.
    • The Boneguard are unusual amongst cats because they have Egyptian names. The only two named are Bast-Imret and Knet-Mekri.
  • Subverted in Coraline. A cat character says that cats have No Need for Names. Thus he is only known as "The Cat" by Coraline.
  • In The Underland Chronicles most of the rats have portmanteau names like "Twitchtip", "Ripred", and "Twirltongue". And the bats have names from mythology, such as "Ajax", "Ares" (who is ultimately paired up with the character who the prophecies call "the Warrior") and "Aurora".
  • In the book Windrusher a cat named "Tony" is abandoned by his owners and the plot involves him trying to get back home. Other animals call Tony "Windrusher".
  • Survivor Dogs:
    • Several characters are named typical dog names like "Lucky", "Sunshine", or "Bella" because they used to be pets. Wild Dogs who were born feral name themselves either more simplistic, nature based names or names related to things dogs know. Pups are named within their first weeks and are given descriptive "pup names" like "Squirm", "Lick", "Yap", or "Nose". They're given their "true names" either by longpaws or they name themselves during a Naming Ceremony. For example, Yap was renamed "Lucky" by a longpaw, while Lick chose the name "Storm" for herself.
    • The dogs in the Fierce Pack are named after weapons but they're an exception more than a rule and several were named by humans.
    • It's mentioned that even some Leashed dogs reject the names that their owners give them, though this is uncommon.
  • Pufftail from Stray (1987) is a cat who claims that cats have No Need for Names. He only reluctantly lets others use "Pufftail" for convenience's sake. However, pet cats don't seem to follow this rule and seem fine with their names.
  • Subverted in Varjak Paw. Varjak and his family actually just have Preppy Names that are seen as weird by the outside cats. Strays have human-esque names like "Ginger", "Sally [Bones]", and "Holly".
  • Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats: Cats are said to have three different names, a family name bestowed by their humans, one name unique to them, and a third secret name "that no human research can discover, but the cat himself knows, and will never confess".
  • Discworld:
    • The intelligent rats in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents take on names based on the first thing they read when they became smart enough to understand written words. Since most of them became sentient while living in a trash disposal pit beneath a wizard's tower, these names include things like Dangerous Beans, Sardines, Hamnpork, and Darktan.
    • Discussed in Moving Pictures, when Victor meets a group of animals that have been rendered human-intelligent by the Magic of Holy Wood. When they explain that they don't have names, never having needed them before, he tells them about the kinds of names animals like them have in stories. They're not impressed.
    • In Feet of Clay, some werewolves have "wolf names" that are the sort of names humans would imagine wolves have (Angua's parents Guye and Serafine are also known as "Silvertail" and "Yellowfang"). Wolves themselves do not have names like this. (Two named wolves appear in The Fifth Elephant. One has a scent-marker name which Gaspode translates as "Arsehole", and the other uses the name Gavin because "he once ate someone named Gavin".)
  • Zigzagged in Redwall:
    • For example, there are mice with names like Martin and Tim, and others with names like Cornflower and Gonff. However, the Always Lawful Good species (which includes mice) are usually more likely to have members with human names than the vermin, who are more likely to have Names to Run Away from Really Fast like Darkclaw or Bane, or madeup names like Kurda or Slagar.
    • Additionally many characters tend to have surnames indicative of their species or some physical characteristic. Ie. Cornflower Fieldmouse, Colin Vole, Basil Hare, Ambrose Spike, etc.
  • This is subverted in Seeker Bears. Unlike the other Erin Hunter books, the bears have non-English but still human names like "Toklo" or "Ujurak".
  • In Bravelands, different animals feature different trends in naming:
    • Like in Warrior Cats with domestic cats, lion cubs are born with names like "Swiftcub" (following the format of 'mother's name' + 'cub'), however, like in Survivor Dogs, their adult names are single-word and unrelated to their cub names, being changed when they reach a certain age and/or start to display distinct personalities. Lions tend to have names such as "Fearless", "Titan", and "Ruthless". Cubs get their names in a Naming Ceremony after they display a key characteristic. Lions have surnames and are named after their pride leader (and prideless lions are just called "[x] Prideless"). For example, Fearless' full name is "Fearless Gallantpride", even after his father Gallant is killed in chapter 1.
    • Baboons have basic, nature-related names like "Thorn", "Grub", "Mud", and "Berry". They also have surnames based on their troop name or rank. Baboons in the lower caste have less refined names than ones in the higher caste.
    • Elephants generally have celestial names such as "Comet", "Sky", "Moon", "Rain", and "Night".
    • Vultures have flight related names like "Blackwing" and "Windrider".
    • Spiritual leaders are usually given Meaningful Renames and are referred to exclusively by titles, such as the "Great Mother", "Great Father", and "(the) Starleaf".
    • Rhinoceros' have rocky and strength related names like "Rockslide" and "Stronghide".
  • A Dog's Life:
    • Dog mothers name their puppies after things that are important to them. Out of a litter of five, only two puppies survived: Squirrel and Bone. Their mother was named "Stream". Later on Squirrel befriends a dog named "Moon".
    • A fox named "Mine" briefly appears, but it's assumed she named herself so it's unknown if all foxes have names like that.
  • Animorphs reveals that whales and dolphins are sentient and telepathically communicate with each other. They refer to themselves collectively as Great Ones and Little Ones respectively.
  • K. A. Applegate's Wishtree has lots of fun with this. First of all we also get Plant Naming Conventions: the protagonist is a red oak named Red, like all red oaks. His/her best friend is a female crow named Bongo, because crows name themselves after sounds that they like (and may change them frequently). Opossums name themselves after things that scare them ("HairySpiders"), skunks name themselves after pleasant smells (Red isn't sure if this is because they're defensive or have a good sense of humor) and all raccoons are apparently named "You." Owls are somewhat the Odd Name Out because they use "sensible" human names like Harold.
  • Wings of Fire: The different types of dragons follow different naming schemes. For example, MudWings prefer earth-related names like "Reed", "Clay", and "Marsh". This is lampshaded when Glory (who is a RainWing) disguises herself as a MudWing and others find her name weird. Generally, though, they're named after animals or natural features of their environments. The exceptions are NightWings which have descriptive names such as Morrowseer, Fierceteeth, Mastermind, and Moonwatcher.
  • In Tomcat Blue Eyes' Diaries, cats have descriptive names like "Blue Eyes" and "White Whiskers Rusty".
  • Foxes in Run Wild are named things like Fang, Vickey (a play on "vixen", the term for a female fox), Old Sage Brush, and Black Tip.
  • In The Plague Dogs, wild animals don't have names. A fox character is simply referred to by the dogs as "The Tod" (with "tod" being what male foxes are called).
  • The Loads and Loads of Talking Animals in The Summer King Chronicles follow a variety of naming conventions.
    • Gryfons have Nordic names, such as Sigrun, Stigr, Baldr, Brynja, and Dagny, and introduce themselves with a patronymic, e.g. "Kjorn, son-of-Sverin". Eagles are shown to use the same naming conventions with matronymics instead.
    • Wolves have vaguely Native American-sounding names, such as Tocho, Ahote, and Ahanu.
    • Dragons have Japanese names, such as Hikaru, Natsumi, and Ai. Subverted with wyrms. The one Shard establishes a dream connection with responds to the name "Rhydda", but they are not sapient like every other species.
    • Lions have African-sounding names combined with titles, such as "Ajia the Swiftest" and "Bahia, Who Is Pale".
  • Badgers in The Cold Moons use this trope to a degree. Many have naturalistic or descriptive names like Corntop, Greyears, Growler, Bamber, and Whortleberry. But then you have characters like Zoilos, Kronos, Titan, Harvey, and Vulcan. Buckwheat and Fern have a son named Beaufort.
  • This Is Not a Werewolf Story is kind of an odd example, as the protagonist, Raul, often refers to his Shapeshifter Mode Locked mother as if "White Wolf" is her name. Somewhat related, they spend some time living with Raul's father, who bonds with them but never names them, just referring to them by their respective colors.
  • In Doglands, many dogs reject their human-given names in exchange for the dog names given by their mothers. For example, Furgul (who is named "Rupert" by his owners) meets a German Shepherd named "Dervla", whose owners call her "Samantha".
  • In The Bees, each caste is named for a different plant, such as Rose, Sage, and Teasel, with the lowest caste being simply Flora. An individual worker bee's name is her caste followed by a serial number, e.g. "Lily 500." Drones are instead named after trees, preceded by "Sir."
  • Julie of the Wolves: Wolves think of each other with "names" based on signature characteristics (based on things such as their scent, appearance, or voice), which are sometimes replaced by or combined with the names that the human girl Julie gives them. This includes their viewpoint of Julie herself:
    ''As Kapu became friends with the girl-pup, a name for her formed in his mind. It was a scent name: Willow. She smelled of the tiny tundra willows she had crept through to join him and his brothers and sister at their den. She was a puppy herself, and so she became Willow Pup. Many months later, when she went back to her people, he heard them call her "Julie" and added that sound to his scent, sound, and sight picture of her. She was Willow Pup Julie.
  • Child of the Wolves:
    • Granite's siblings are predominantly named after things related to nature: Digger, Nugget, and Cricket. However, they were named by humans.
    • Wolves have naturalistic names like "Snowdrift", "Ebony", "Roamer", and "Climber".
  • In Hunter's Moon (1989), foxes in England have names like O-ha, A-ho, A-konkon, O-sollo, O-mitz, and A-cam. Vixens have "O-" names and todds have "A-" names. Camio is the Odd Name Out because he's from an American zoo.
  • In Raven Quest, the ravens, crows, and wolves have different naming conventions for one another. The animals refer to humans as Two-Legs, and to manmade objects with names based on what they resemble or noises that they make. For instance, an airplane is referred to as an airgrawl, while guns are referred to as firesticks.
  • Dinotopia has both. Some dinosaurs have names from their own languages, like a Saurolophus hatchling named Gosnold, the swift moving, and Enit and Enots the Deinonychus, while others come from natural abilities and features. There’s Highjump the Struthiomimus, Lightwing the Quetzalcoatlus Brokehorn the Triceratops (his original name was different, but he broke one forehead horn) and Bigtusk the mammoth to name a few. Names from nature show up as well, especially among Skybaxes (Quetzalcoatlus) and carnivores. There’s Cirrus, Nimbus and Windchaser the Skybaxes, Copperjaw the Tyrannosaurus Rex’’ and Stinktooth the Giganotosaurus'' among others.
  • Andre Norton‘s A Breed to Come had uplifted cats, dogs, rats and pigs. The cats did have names; the main character is Furtig. But they had simple names for each species. The Barkers were the dogs, the rats were Ratons, the pigs were Tuskers, and the cats simply referred to themselves as The People.
  • The Book of the Named had both the Named, who did have names, and the unintelligent Unnamed, who rarely had names. One Unnamed did pick up the name Bonechewer, which originated as an insult thrown at him. Ratha was the main Named character and her daughter was Thistlechaser, showing a bit of different name styles. The hunter cats had a leader named True-of-Voice, although that was a title just as much as it was a name, since it was passed on to each leader.
  • The White Bone: Elephants are given simple names at birth, usually one or two words refering to to the circumstances of their birth, like "Date Bed" (born onto a pile of dates) or "Mud" (fell into a puddle). Bulls keep this name for life, but cows change it at puberty to a name following the format "She-[verb]", or "She-[verb]-and-[verb]", if there's already someone using the intended suffix. Other animals don't have personal names, just a species-wide endonym in the form of an adjective, and they refer to themselves as "this [endonym]".

    Live-Action TV 

  • In Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit play Cats, just as in the original book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats it's based on, the song "The Naming of Cats" describes how the Jellicle cats have three names: one is the name that their family uses daily, one is a name that is uniquely theirs ("Names that never belong to more than one cat"), and the third is a secret name that only the cat itself knows.

  • My Little Pony:
    • Ponies usually are given a Meaningful Name that somehow relates to their design, special talent, hobby, or symbol/Cutie Mark. For example, the original six ponies were Butterscotch, Blue Belle, Minty, Snuzzle, Cotton Candy, and Blossom.
    • Until G3 broke the tradition partway through, all foals (even if they acted more like toddlers or young children), sans Lucky and Ember who count as Early-Installment Weirdness, were named "Baby [x]" (Baby Cotton Candy, Baby Firefly, Baby Winter Ice, etc). Most shared their name with their mothers.
    • Sea ponies have sea-related names.

    Web Animation 
  • In My Pride, Pride lions use different naming conventions for males and females. Female cubs do not have names, being called "Daughter", "Sister," etc., until they come of age. After they take a hunting assessment and are deemed worthy full members of the pride, they are given a descriptive name based on their strengths or characteristics, such as Powerstrike, Sharptongue, or Longrun. Male cubs, on the other hand, are given one-word naturalistic or descriptive names such as Fire, Feather, or Proud. Should he successfully take over a pride, he adds the suffix "-mane" to his name, as the dominant male of a pride is called the Mane. Then you have Prideless lions, who typically have one-word names, the most prominent being Hover.

    Western Animation 
  • The Animals of Farthing Wood features many cases of A Dog Named "Dog" but also has characters whose names are descriptive, such as Scarface.
  • The titular race in Gargoyles do not typically have given names and identify each other by distinct physical features and a second person singular you in dialog. If they do have names, it is out of respect of the human that named them, but they tend to introduce themselves by "You humans call me..." for their names. Of course, this varies between clans. The younger Gargoyles choose names to help their new human friend, based on locations in New York City, where as the elder Gargoyle protests that he doesn't need a name like the sky or river, only to relent when he learns the river has a name (possibly still being a protest to the idea of having names all together). This varies between clans as the Avalon Clan do have given names (Most of them Biblical or Shout-Outs to Shakespeare) and don't understand the concept, having been raised by humans. The Guatamalan Gargoyles have names, but they seem to be limited to the four who hold special gems and are more titles to pass down than names. The London Clan all have names, but they seem to develop from teasing and nicknames. The Ishimori Clan also have names, but have a better relationship with the local humans, so its not sure if its given by the clan or by the humans.
  • Many animals in The Lion Guard have Swahili names. Many, like Ma Tembo the elephant, are named for their species. The Night Pride use Hindi names, like Rani and Surakh.
  • The characters of Tumble Leaf are mostly named after plants, at least in the first season (Fig, Maple, Hedge, Pine, Buckeye, Willow). The notable exception is Fig's pet caterpillar, Stick, although he's named after a part of a plant.
  • Some of the Mute groups in Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts use these:
    • The Timbercats have slightly Tailchaser's Song-esque "first name, compound last name" names that fit their lumberjack theme. Their two leaders are Yumyan Hammerpaw and Molly Yarnchopper.
    • The raccoons of Trash Canyon "find their names in the garbage," naming themselves after objects such as Empty Can, Fishbone, and DJ Crowbar.