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Meaningful Name
aka: Significant 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.



    open/close all folders 

  • 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).

    Comic Strips 

  • 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 
  • Universal Studios:
    • EVAC in Transformers: The Ride is an Autobot that handles evacuations.
    • Cindy Caine from Halloween Horror Nights has a twofer, though the second meaning is most likely a coincidence. 1) It sounds like Sindy, and she's just as much of a Creepy Child as that implies. 2) It resembles the word "cinder", and her second and third backstories both involve fire (being burned to death when an angry mob torched her father's home in the second, burning down the orphanage she lived at herself in the third).

  • 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

    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.
    • Its discoverers originally suggested naming it "Xena", after the Lucy Lawless character. It has a moon. Named Dysnomia, after the Greek spirit of lawlessness.
  • 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 North America's greatest racehorse of all time (with the possible exception of Secretariat), 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.
  • Hollywood director Tim Story.
  • Usain Bolt, Olympic sprinter, is the world record holder in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4 × 100 metres relay.
  • Quite a few U.S. college rivalries have this type of name, sometimes unusually specific. Examples of "unusually specific" include (but are not limited to):
    • Battle of the Boulevard: Nashville rivalry, primarily in basketball, between Belmont and Lipscomb, with the schools being separated by a bit over 2 miles (4 km) of Belmont Boulevard.
    • Battle of the Domes: A recently applied name to the long-standing rivalry between Idaho and Idaho State. The reference is to the fact that both schools play football in domed stadiums (and, at least through the 2020–21 season, also play men's basketball in said facilities).note 
    • Battle of 33rd Street: Philadelphia rivalry, also primarily in basketball, between Drexel and Penn, with campuses that share a physical border and basketball arenas separated by 3 blocks of 33rd Street.
    • Causeway Classic: College football rivalry between Sacramento State and UC Davis, public schools separated by about 11 miles/18 km. The "Causeway" in question is the Yolo Causeway, which carries Interstate 80 over a flood bypass that had once been a seasonal barrier to transportation between the two cities.
    • Revolutionary Rivalry: Washington, D.C.-area rivalry between George Mason, in the Virginia suburbs, and George Washington, in the District proper. Both schools were named after Founding Fathers whose plantations were in Mason's home area of modern-day Fairfax County.
  • Randy Rainbow, a Youtuber known for his political parody songs, is openly gay and was indeed born with the name Rainbow (his father had it changed from "Ribner" before he was born).

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


Example of: