Meaningful Names

I just finished reading a book where the men’s first names were North, West, and Laine, and the women’s first names were Whitney and Blaire. Forgetting for the moment the silliness of naming two unrelated males in a book after directions, whatever happened to simple names? Names with meaning? Like Andrew (which means manly) and Louis (which means famous warrior) or Bonnie (which means pretty) and Mildred (which means gentle hope). I suppose Mildred is too old-fashioned for a child of today, but I do like what it means. Maybe someday I will name a character Mildred — I can see her now, a quiet little girl with long dark hair, who resembles the great-grandmother she was named after.

Whether it’s for a character in a book or for a baby, a name can become destiny, so it needs to mean more than a direction.

Other meaningful names:

Alden: Old friend
Alfred: Good counsel
Arnold: Power of an eagle
Basil: Kingly, royal
Bernard: Bold as a bear
Carmen: Song
Clement: Merciful
Curtis: Courteous
Cyril: Lordly
David: Beloved
Dennis: God of wine
Derek: Ruler of the people
Dexter: Fortunate
Donald: World leader
Earl: Warrior
Edgar: Spear of wealth
Edward: Guardian of wealth
Felix: Happy, prosperous
Gregory: Vigilant
Hector: Holding fast
Hubert: Bright in spirit
Ira: Watchful
Jason: Healer
Leonard: Strong, brave
Leroy: Royal
Lionel: Young lion
Maynard: Bold in strength
Merle: Blackbird
Morgan: Dweller on the sea
Nathan: Gift
Raymond: Wise protection
Richard: Strong in rule
Robert: Strong in fame
Solomon: Peaceful
Winfred: Joyous peace
Wolfgang: Path of the wolf

Abigail: Source of joy
Adelaide: Of noble rank
Alma: Cherishing
Amy: Beloved
Audrey: Noble strength
Beatrice: She that makes happy
Bernice: Bringing victory
Bertha: Bright
Bonita: Pretty
Celeste: Heavenly
Cherie: Dear
Clara: Bright
Dorcas: Gazelle
Esther: Star
Ethel: Noble
Eunice: Happy Victory
Evangeline: Bringing good news
Felice: Happiness
Florence: Bloom, prosperity
Hilda: Battle
Irene: Peace
Iris: Rainbow
Leila: Dark as night
Letitia: Gladness
Mabel: Lovable
Melanie: Blackness
Nadine: Hope
Naomi: Pleasant
Phoebe: Shining
Regina: Queen
Sylvia: She of the forest
Vera: Faith


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

8 Responses to “Meaningful Names”

  1. joylene Says:

    The protagonists in Dead Witness are Valerie and Michael. In my 3rd manuscript they’re Marina and Mateo. In the 4th: Brendell and Gabriel. 5th: Sally and Danny. In my 6th: Ava and Jason.

    Wow, you’ve got me thinking, Pat. What drew me to these names for these particular characters? If I figure that out, will it spoil my creativity? Do I miss the mark by choosing names randomly?

    I wonder.

  2. Pat Bertram Says:

    A few of my characters’ names, like Bob Stark in More Deaths Than One, I chose to remind me of his character — an ordinary guy (Bob) who isn’t a great talker (Stark), but most I chose randomly. Because of a discussion of names in my No Whine, Just Champagne writing group, I’ve become more aware of choosing names to fit the character. Supposedly it adds subliminal depth.

  3. Suzanne Francis Says:

    I group names by nationality within my imaginary worlds. For example, all the Firaithi characters were given Welsh names. All the people from Beaumarais got French names. Gives the reader a subtle clue as to where to place the characters.

  4. Joojoobees Says:

    Coincidentally I was thinking about this yesterday. I was thinking that these so-called meanings are not well-known. Instead these names have become just names — the original meaning has become archaic, and unknown without looking it up in a book. There are a few names that still have prima facie inherent meanings, such as Rose, Lily, Iris … Prudence … I can only think of names used for women, and these all also have an “old” sound to them, that is they sound like a prior generation, not something someone would be named today. The only such name I can think of that is still used is Melody.

    I don’t know about naming someone “North”, but I have met a girl named Spring, which is unusual, but credible.

  5. Sandy Nathan Says:

    Very interesting list, Pat. Thanks for providing it. I tend to make up names that fit the character/feeling of the “person” I’m writing about. Looking up what the name means is a good idea, too. Might be a surprise. When I read your list, I thought of my middle name, Valdine. It’s a Norse name. The web sites label it as both a male and female name, meaning different charts say different things. The roots mean “famous” “warrior”. Think I’ll go get me a hat with curved horns on it and a sword and shield!

  6. ellisv Says:

    Pat, I do look up the meanings of names, especially foreign names. I have to like the sound first, but I also want the meaning to suit the character. Opposites are harder to pull off. Can you imagine a serial killer named Mildred?

Please leave a comment. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: