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Animal Naming Conventions

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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"), can lean into Meaningful Names, and frequently are a Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom.

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.

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    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" ("trash" in Swahili) before gaining his scar and renaming himself.
  • In The Land Before Time, dinosaurs refer to their species by descriptive names like Long Necks, Spike Tails and Sharptooths. 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 . Cats will even sometimes name their kits after respected predators, like badgers or foxes, though no character has been called "Dog[x]" yet (possibly because feral cats don't respect dogs much). Certain prefixes are especially common depending on the Clan.
    • When a kittypet joins a Clan they're renamed, such as when Rusty became "Firepaw" in the first book. Clan cats receive several name changes during their life. When they're born they're called "[x]kit" but when they become 6 moons old, and become either warrior apprentices or Medicinecat apprentices, they are renamed "[x]paw". When they finish their training they're renamed again, however the end part of their 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're received (like "Halftail" or "One-Eye") or even rarer a young cat can be renamed after a disability they gained.
    • 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.
    • A badger named Midnight and a cougar named Sharptooth appear in the series, however no other's of their species are named.
    • Rogues don't follow the Clan naming schemes. Some are ex-kittypets while others apparently named themselves. They generally use naturalistic names like "Pounce", "Snapper", "Snowflake", and "Sniff".
    • Originally Clan cats didn't have their two-word names. It took a while for that to develop. It's been shown that the original four leaders were named "Shadow", "Wind", "Thunder", and "River".
  • Rabbits in Watership Down have nature related names like "Hazel" and "Blackberry" or descriptive names like "Bigwig" and "Buckthorn".
  • 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.
  • Tailchaser's Song:
    • Tailchaser's Song is about feral cats. They have three names: their "heart name" that only cats close to them use, their "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. 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 names.
  • 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".
  • 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:
    • Most characters are named typical dog names like "Lucky", "Sunshine", or "Bella". Most of these dogs used to be pets, but don't rename themselves when they become strays, like the cats in the sister-series Warrior Cats do. Wild Dogs who were born feral either name themselves more simple, nature based names or names related to things dogs know. Pups are born with descriptive names like "Squirm", "Lick", "Yap", or "Nose" but are either given "adult names" by longlegs or on their own during a Naming Ceremony. For example, Yap was renamed "Lucky" by a longleg 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.
  • It's mentioned in Stray by A.N. Wilson that animals reject the names humans give them. The main character is a cat is known as "Pufftail".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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", however, like in Survivor Dogs, their adult names are single-word and unrelated to their cub names. Lions tend to have names such as "Fearless", "Titan", and "Ruthless". Cubs get their names in a Naming Ceremony after they display a key characteristi. 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" and 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".
  • In 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.
  • 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.
  • In Tomcat Blue Eyes Diaries, cats have descriptive names like "Blue Eyes" and "White Whiskers Rusty".
  • Foxes in Run with the Wind 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 jellicle cats of Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit play Cats have their own names, though a few accept the name bestowed upon them by their human companions. Some of these names are Quaxo, Skimbleshanks, Rumpleteaser and Bombalurina. The Obiwan of the jellicles is Old Deuteronomy.

  • 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.

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    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.