Meaningful Name

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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

A name that has a direct, barely-hidden meaning to it. The first, 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 (Jager, or the phonetic Yeager), or the name of a predatory animal (Wolf, Hawk) or a translation of that (Wolfe, Lupin, Lupis, Wulf). Which is kinda cool, which is why this can double up with Awesome McCoolname.

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. If any part of a character's name is written in kanji, and your imagination is vivid enough, you can probably find a way for the meaning of the characters to fit someone and apply this trope. 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 used to encourage people to send examples in...until they found themselves completely inundated. 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.

Compare Appropriated Appellation. Contrast Non-Indicative Name. Compare and contrast Ironic Name. Often Punny Names are meaningful.

See also Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom, Names to Run Away From Really Fast, Prophetic Names, Significant Monogram, Steven Ulysses Perhero, and They Call Him "Sword".

Examples of Meaningful Names are listed on these subpages: