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Meaningful Name

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Pleased to meet you; I'm Caption.

Alexandria: This "Odious" — he bad man?
Roy: Oh yeah.

A name that has a direct, barely-hidden meaning to it. The first, second/third/middle/nth, last, or full name says something primal about the character. Often has multiple layers. To hide the meaning a bit, use an alternate spelling or foreign equivalent. Instead of writers having to make up random words or think of real names, they can use mythological names or old words.

As an example, it is common to use for heroic characters names associated with hunting. So, apart from Hunter, which is a valid first and last name in English, you can use a translation to another language (Jäger, or the phonetic Yeager); the name of a predatory animal (Wolf, Hawk) or a translation of that (Wolfe, Lupin, Lupis, Wulf); or Orion, the constellation of The Hunter. Which is kinda cool, which is why this can double up with "Awesome McCool" Name.

Often, the characters in-universe are completely unaware that a name has any meaning, and act as if the name was just like any other. If this is the case, the name is a sort of Unusually Uninteresting Sight. This can be Played for Laughs when the characters are Comically Missing the Point, or alternatively, can become a Chekhov's Gun if the name turned out to be an important plot device.

Sometimes used more subtly; the Meaningful Name only becomes obvious in hindsight, but when the clincher is revealed it's a moment of "Now how did I miss that?"

Self-chosen names can manifest this naturally, but may make the character look arrogant if the symbolism is too blatant. This can be a problem with bestowed names as well; although the character didn't create it, if he accepts it without much objection, the effect is similar.

Very common in cartoons, where the meaning is most times not hidden at all, except that the target audience may not have the vocabulary to get the joke. Also common in Anime, since Japanese names have a lot of obvious literal meaning to start with note . See notes at Theme Naming.

Real-life examples of this are often referred to as "aptronyms". The magazine New Scientist refers to it as "nominative determinism" in a tongue-in-cheek manner, and encourages people to send examples in. The proper name for this trope is "charactonym".

This goes back to the Bible and probably turns up in the books of other religions, due to the way that names in many different cultures had significance beyond the merely cosmetic.

When additions or alterations to names signify stronger versions of said beings, that's Tiered by Name. Compare Named After Somebody Famous, They Call Him "Sword". Contrast with Nonindicative Name. Also compare/contrast with Ironic Name. See also Names to Run Away from Really Fast, which is about names indicating power and villainy and heavily overlaps with this trope, and Punny Name, which many of these names fall into as well. Can also be related to Dead Guy Junior if the naming is intended to symbolize a deceased in-universe character's legacy in some way.



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  • Marriage A-la-Mode:
    • The old Earl of Squanderfield has done exactly that with his family fortune. Even before he dies, his son and daughter-in-law are living up to the family name with chronic financial irresponsibility; the Viscount gambles and spends money on women, while the Viscountess buys a wide assortment of truly ugly ornaments.
    • The lawyer drawing up the paperwork for the marriage who has a long-term affair with the bride is seen in The Marriage Settlement whispering into her ear, his words evidently having a powerful enough effect to attract and keep her attention until their deaths. Silvertongue by name, silver tongue by nature.
    • The French barber-surgeon whom the Viscount visits in The Inspection is identified on the documents next to the mechanical contraptions he has invented as Monsieur de la Pillule, which approximately translates as "Mr. Pill". Aptly, he is treating the Viscount and one or both of the ladies for syphilis with mercury pills (the standard treatment for the disease in the 18th century).

    Newspaper Comics 

  • Some Sequinox characters have them. Yukiko, aka Yuki aka Winter, contains "Yuki", the Japanese word for snow. Hannah, aka Spring's name is phonetically the same as "Hana", meaning blossom in Japanese. And of course her last name is also Flowers.

    Theme Parks 

  • LEGO at one point caused quite a controversy for trying to trademark words from the Maori language as BIONICLE names. These included Tohunga (craftsman, name of the resourceful villagers), Toa (champion, name of the heroes), Turaga (village chief), Kanohi (face, used as masks in BIONICLE), and a collection of others. After the controversy, which had forced LEGO to change a few of these names (most famously Tohunga to Matoran), they began using made-up words, although the online games occasionally still took meaningful words from existing languages like Finnish, Egyptian, Hawaiian, Hungarian or Japanese — however these weren't trademarked, and the few that were had to have their spellings changed. A lot of the made-up names also have clear meanings:
    • Axonn: carries a mighty axe
    • Brutaka: a brutal brute
    • Barraki: undersea mutants, named after barracuda:
    • Hydraxon and Hydruka: in reference to the underwater setting
    • Spinax: a spiny creature
    • the Phantoka Makuta have bat-themed names:
      • Antroz: Antrozous pallidus or pallid bat
      • Chirox and his Matoran partner Kirop: chiroptera, the order of the bats
      • Vamprah: vampire
    • most of the Light and Shadow Matoran have light-based names:
      • Tanma: tan
      • Radiak: radiation
      • Photok: photon
      • Solek: Sol, or Sun
    • Vultraz, an evil Matoran manning a black-and-gray jet: vulture
    • Mistika: fighters in the mist
    • Bitil and Krika, two Makuta suffering Mode Lock as insects: beetle and cricket
    • Mutran, a Makuta specializing in mutations and transformations
    • Icarax: Icarus — in the sense that he liked to aim too high, not that his wings stopped working
    • Ignika, a mask used to re-ignite the life of Mata Nui
    • Voya Nui, a floating island: voyage
    • Karda Nui, Mata Nui's heart-chamber: cardiac
    • Rockoh: a jet operated by Pohatu, a Stone-element character
    • Jetrax: another jet
    • Axalara: accelerate
    • Umbra: real Latin name that has the same meaning in-universe, darkest part of a shadow. Actually a deceptive name, since he has light-powers
    • Skirmix: a steed used in skirmishes
    • Fero: a ferocious bandit
    • Boxor: a mech that punches
    • Bara Magna, the desert planet: from "barren"
    • Aqua Magna, the water planet (literally means "great/powerful water")
    • Bota Magna, the jungle planet
    • Solis magna, Bara magna's sun - Literally, "great sun"
    • a lot of elemental suffixes are meaningful:
      • Ba-: gravity, from the Greek baros (weight)
      • Bo-: green, again from botanics
      • Ce-: psionics, from cerebrum (brain)
      • De-: sonics, from decibel
      • Fa-: magnetism, from Michael Faraday, who studued electromagnetism
      • Fe-: iron
      • Su-: plasma, from superheating (kind of a stretch, but that's the official explanation)
    • And of course almost all the names have their own in-universe meanings in the fictional BIONICLE languages

     Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius:
    • Word of God has it that Theopholous DuMedd was originally "doomed" to be killed off in volume 3, but the Foglios so enjoyed him that he stuck around.
    • Most likely Sleipnir O'Hara wasn't supposed to be kept around either. Agatha needed a roommate to introduce her to the world of the Baron's flying castle, so the Foglios gave her someone to "sleep near".
    • The town of Mechanicsburg is integrated with the mechanical Castle Heterodyne.
    • Bangladesh DuPree. Bang duPrey. Or Du-praved.
    • Heterodyne: The principle of periodic functions upon which theremins and radio modulation rely. Possibly related to the Theme Music Power-Up.
    • Portentius Reichenbach's Portentous Operatic Masterpiece: The Storm King.
    • Othar Tryggvassen, GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER. His surname roughly means "Safe Waters" in the North Countries where he's said to be from.
    • Doctor Chouteh (pronounced shout-ay) is a Large Ham of ridiculous proportions.
    • Agatha's foster parents are called Adam and Lilith and it doesn't look like they are very god-fearing. Not to mention their surname, Clay. (Note that they almost certainly picked these names for themselves.)
  • Almost everyone in Gloomverse has a name related to their power set. Seaweed, Lady Nim, Petunia, Professor Purple....
  • El Goonish Shive: Immortals tend to give themselves names. Sometimes they're self-important, sometimes they're plain. Pandora Chaos Raven chose hers deliberately to be meaningful with all three segments, and told Magus (after beating the crap out of him) to call her by one or any, she was all of them: Pandora (after Pandora's Box; she actually sees herself more as the box, but even fewer people got it when she called herself 'Box') Chaos (she hates being able to predict things based on what she knows), and Raven (her married name).
  • The Noordegraaf Files LOVES this trope. Ok, let's go down the list...
    • Theo's full name is Theodoric, who was the king of the goths who sacked Rome. Also, his last name, Noordegraaf, hints that he's related to "Young" Neil Noordegraf of Scott Pilgrim. [[spoiler:Turns out he's Neil's son. Scott is revealed to be his uncle, which means Neil married (and had a child with) Stacey.
    • Lars' full name is Lars Secundus Gilmore, who was also named for a barbarian king, Lars Porsenna, and his middle name means "The second" in Latin. He's the second character in the comic.
    • Katrina is NOT named after the bow wielding heroine of The Hunger Games.
    • Akila's middle name is Selene.
    • Violet has Purple Eyes.
    • Andromeda. Enough said.
    • Orion's full name is Orion Victor Bjorn, which is basically three of the coolest possible names in one name.
  • Grim Trigger: Hunter. There's also Camilla, who's named after the warrior in The Aeneid.
  • The names in Homestuck.
    • The post-scratch counterpart of John is named Jane.
    • 'Lalonde' may be a play on Jérôme Lalande, who was known for being a writer and an astronomer, just like Rose's post-scratch self was.
    • 'Roxy' is short for 'Roxanne' which means 'Bright' or 'Star', an inversion of her aspect, Void, which has to deal with the dark and nothingness.
    • Dave's post-scratch counterpart is named Dirk.
    • 'Jade' is a semi-precious green stone, tying in to her Earth and green theme.
    • Mostly the ones of the trolls:
      • 'Aradia' was a witch goddess, and 'Damara' is a breed of sheep. 'Megido' is derived from 'Megiddo'—which is the root of the word 'armageddon.'
      • 'Tavros' is greek for 'Taurus', and 'Rufioh' is a direct reference to Dante Basco's character in Hook. 'Nitram' is the reverse for 'Martin'.
      • 'Sollux' and 'Captor' are 'Pollux and Castor' with the S and P reversed. 'Mituna' is an abbreviated form of 'Mithuna,' the Sanskrit word for Gemini.
      • 'Karkat' comes from the Sanskrit name 'Karkata', and 'Kankri' comes from an Esperanto word meaning 'crayfish.' 'Vantas' is a cancer treatment.
      • 'Nepeta' comes from the Latin name for catnip, and 'Meulin' sounds like Merlin, referencing her title as a Mage (as well as sounding nearly identical to 'mewling,' referencing her cat motif). 'Leijon' is Swedish for 'Lion'.
      • 'Kanaya' comes from 'Kanya' (the Sanskrit name for Virgo), and 'Porrim' is short for 'Porrima,' a star in the Virgo constellation. 'Maryam' references the Virgin Mary.
      • 'Terezi' is Albaneze for 'Scales', and 'Latula' comes from the Sanskrit name Tula. 'Pyrope' comes from a form of garnet, and means 'red-eyed'—fitting, considering how Terezi was blinded.
      • 'Vriska' comes from the Sanskrit name 'Vrschika', and 'Aranea' is the Latin word for 'spider.' 'Serket' was an Egyptian scorpion goddess.
      • 'Equius' comes from 'Equus', and 'Horuss' sounds like 'Horse'. 'Zahhak' rougly means: 'The one who has 10,000 horses'.
      • 'Gamzee' comes from 'Gamze,' and Kurloz from 'Kurtlooz,' both referencing a fan who roleplayed Gamzee prior to his formal introduction. 'Makara' means 'miracle,' tying into the characters' religious beliefs.
      • 'Eridan' comes from 'Eridanus', and 'Cronus' from a Greek titan. 'Ampora' is derived from 'amphora', which is a variety of vase.
      • 'Feferi' comes from a variety of cuttlefish, and 'Meenah' comes from the Meena caste of India, who claim to be descended from Matsya, the fish avatar of Vishnu. 'Peixes' is Portugese for 'fish'.
  • Mock, from One Over Zero, turns out to be an adept shape-shifter.
  • Creative Retort Man from Zero Percent Discount.
  • Angel Moxie:
    • Alex, Riley, and Tristan all have gender neutral/masculine name. They are three (girl) incarnates of three boy heroes.
    • Miya's last name "Gato", which is Spanish for "cat". She takes the form of a feline on earth to mentor the girls. Her first name too: "Miya" when spoken sounds like "meow" and "neko" is Japanese for "cat."
    • Shugari's name sounds a lot like "sugary". The name she uses while posing as a student is Candi Shugari.
    • Grant Kyokasho spends his time on Earth disguised as a teacher. His surname is Japanese for "textbook".
  • In The Order of the Stick, the reveal that the Draketooth family were descended from a Black Dragon turns out to be a critical plot point for the Blood Runs in the Family arc.
  • ''Carry On: Kathy's new honor guard, the SBD (Songween's Bodyguard Detail) all have these.
    • Keela, "...because she's good at killing things." Bonita, "...because she likes gnawing on bones." Dixie "She's from the South."

     Real Life 
  • "C++" is a computer language that's an improved version of the "C" computer language. The Meaningful Name, as well as Pun (if you understand the computer language) kicks in when you know "++" is an affix within "C" that when attached to a variable, increases its value. Thus the name "C++" means "C improved/taken Up to Eleven" - which it is.
    • Similarly C# (pronounced C Sharp) has two interpretations. First is from the musical term, where a sharp is a "higher" pitch version of the tone, and so C# is a higher version of C. Or you can take two "++" operators and stack them, producing the # character. Or "C++ improved"
  • It's weirdly poetic and funny that the guy responsible for the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time is named Bernie Madoff.
  • There's a sort of poetic justice in the U.S. Supreme Court case striking down laws prohibiting interracial marriage in the country being titled Loving v. Virginia.
  • In 2003, astronomers discovered an object in the outer solar system that was larger than Pluto. This, a long with the discovery of other similar objects in that same era, kicked off a 3 year long debate among astronomers about whether ought to remain classified as a planet. This culminated in Pluto being demoted from its status as a planet, and the object in question being named Eris, the Greek goddess of discord, due to all of the arguments it caused.
  • One of the most notorious cocaine traffickers was Griselda Blanco Restrepo. Commonly called just Griselda Blanco. That's right, the "Cocaine Godmother" was named Griselda White.
  • Prohibition advocate and cult person Carry A. Nation (the A stands for Amelia) took advantage of her meaningful name in speeches where she promised she would "carry a nation" towards prohibition. Her adversaries and critics also joked about it, with the phrase "All Nations welcome except Carry" becoming a bar-room slogan. She eventually had her own name trademarked.
  • Actor Tod Slaughter (think Dastardly Whiplash) had such stage name, which makes sense for someone who made a habit of playing serial killers (and maintaining Kayfabe). His real name, though - Norman Slaughter.
  • Considered the greatest racehorse of all time, Man o' War was defeated only once in his career, by a horse named Upset.
  • American senator George McGovern.
  • Nobel prize winning economist Richard Thaler, thaler being an old European silver coin.

Alternative Title(s): Significant Name, Appropriate Name, Nomen Est Omen, The Name Says It All