Meanings Behind The Most Iconic Character Names

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The power of names is undeniable. So don’t be surprised that many of your favorite characters from books, movies and TV shows have names strongly connected to their personalities and potentially hinting at their ultimate fates.

Frodo The Wise

The nephew of Bilbo Baggins is the main protagonist of the Lord Of The Rings saga, a likeable Hobbit who embarks on a mission to return a mysterious ring to the depths of Mordor. The name Frodo stems from the Old English frod, meaning “wise by experience.”

Names Meanings Frodo Baggins

We’re Off To See The Wizard?

In the closing scenes of the classic film The Wizard Of Oz, the pivotal Wizard from the title appears as a large, imposing figure. Designed to intimidate Dorothy and her band of misfits, it is revealed that the grand Wizard is actually just a small, friendly man with some insecurities. His true name is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Abmroise Diggs, with each first letter forming to make the aptly pathetic acronym, “Oz Pinhead.”

Names Meanings Wizard Of Oz

Chewbacca Means “Dog”

The ultimate duo first hit the big screen in 1977’s original Star Wars, meeting Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the notorious alien cantina. Although Han is pretty much devoid of meanings, much like the character himself, Solo refers to his disposition as a lone wanderer who doesn’t depend on anyone but himself. However, the smuggler has always had his best friend by his side, Chewbacca. Also known as Chewie, the Wookie’s name derives from the Russian term собака (sobaka), which means “dog”.

Names Meanings Han Solo Chewbacca

Hakuna My Simba!

Disney’s The Lion King is full of wonderful character names full of deep meanings. The hero of the story, Simba returns from exile to reclaim the throne from his terrible uncle, Scar. Simba is a name which derives from Swahili, meaning “lion.” Simba’s friends Pumba and Timon also have fittingly appropriate names. Pumba is Swahili for someone who is silly and Timon is Greek for someone who is honorable and respectful. So their names are perfect representations of how they behave in the movie.

Names Meanings Lion King

The Man With No Name

The explanation behind Clint Eastwood’s most famous character is pretty straightforward. The man at the forefront of Western classics such as A Fistful Of Dollars and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is a cold anti-hero character shrouded in mystery. The inspiration came from Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, where a ronin with no name walks alone bringing an unorthodox sense of justice. As Eastwood’s character was never named in the films, he is colloquially known as “The Man With No Name.”

Names Meanings Man With No Name

Katniss The Archer

The word Katniss is a plant from the species Sagittaria. Its Zodiac partner, Sagittarius roughly translates from Latin as “archer.” This is directly linked to Katniss Everdeen’s weapon of choice, a bow and arrow. Katniss’ surname, Everdeen potentially stems from Bathsheba Everdene, the main protagonist of Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. Suzanne Collins, who wrote The Hunger Games book series, has been quoted saying that “the two are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts.”

Names Meanings Katniss Everdeen

Snow The Bastard

In order to understand the meaning behind Game Of Thrones character Jon Snow’s name, one must understand the mythology of George R. R. Martin’s Westeros. In the popular fantasy story, an entire code of ethics revolves around the subject of illegitimate children, which Jon Snow is supposed to be. In Westeros, there are two types of bastards, the commoners’ kind and the noblemen’s kind. As Jon Snow is from the North, he is given the bastard surname of Snow.

Names Meanings Jon Snow

Norman Bates Is Far From Normal

One of the most recognizable names in horror is that of Norman Bates, the main antagonist of Alfred’s Hitchcock’s Psycho. Despite being a complicated personality to say the least, the name Norman Bates on face value does not scream out “psychopath.” In fact, Norman sounds very close to “normal,” which the character ironically, is anything but. However, the word bate stems from words such as “beat” or “batter,” which is the type of activity you would associate with Norman Bates.

Names Meanings Norman Bates

Buffy Is A Dull Yellow

The protagonist of the show of the same name, Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a woman summoned to fight against vampires, demons and other agents of darkness with her friends Willow and Xander. The choice of the name “Buffy” is an in-jest reference to the heroine’s humble beginnings as a ditzy high school girl who is unlikely to amount to much in life. The word Buffy is literally an adjective describing something of a dull yellow or yellowish-brown color.

Pinocchio Sounds Better In Italian

Despite being brought to the big screen by Disney, Pinocchio has long been a staple of Italian culture, ever since being created in Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio in 1883. The story is about a wooden puppet who dreams to become a real boy. Although there is no direct translation of the name, it is believed to stem from the Italian word pinolo, which translates to “pine seed” or “pine cone.” While ochio evolved from the Latin term oculus, meaning “eye” or “to see.”

Names Meanings Pinocchio

I Now Pronounce You “Lady Time Lord”

Donna Temple, played by Catherine Tate, was a companion of the Tenth Doctor of the time traveling franchise, Doctor Who. Like many characters in the British sci-fi show, her name directly complements the nature of her character. Because the Italian word Donna means “lady” and Temple stems from the Latin word tempus (time), this means that Donna Temple is technically “Lady Time.” And getting married on the show meant that she became Donna Temple-Noble, meaning “Lady Time Lord.”

Names Meanings Donna Temple

Fester Is A Rotten Name

The Addams Family are a peculiar family who enjoy all things spooky and supernatural. The family name was given by the writer of the same name, Charles Addams, who originally created the characters in a series of cartoons. Uncle Fester is a considerably unsavoury character even in a family as odd as The Addams. Fester can mean a variety things, such as forming pus, becoming rotten and generally worsening or becoming more intense. These all seem to be qualities that encapsulate Uncle Fester’s troubled character.

Names Meanings Fester Addams

The Name’s Bond, James Bond

Ian Fleming’s deliberately blandly named spy James Bond has been at the forefront of literature and cinema for over half a century. But look a little deeper at the name. James loosely translates to “one who follows,” while the definition of Bond is something or someone who ties things together. This makes perfect sense when it comes to the character of James Bond and the stories that revolve around him: a spy who follows criminals and tries to tie mysteries together.

Names Meanings James Bond

Neo Is The One

In the sci-fi epic The Matrix, average-joe computer hacker Thomas A. Anderson discovers that the world he has lived in all his life is nothing but a lie. When he wakes up in the real world, he is told that he is The One who will bring peace between humans and machines. He is given the name Neo, which of course is an anagram for “one.” Also, Neo is a name of Greek origin, meaning “new,” alluding to Neo being the new hope.

Names Meanings Neo

Bambi Makes A Thumping Pair

Disney’s fifth animated movie, Bambi came out in 1942. The coming of age story detailed the adventures of the white-tailed deer Bambi and his energetic rabbit friend, Thumper. The bunny teaches Bambi how to the walk and talk, setting him off on his journey to becoming the Great Prince of the Forest. Bambi derives from the Italian bambino, which literally means “baby” or “little child”. The meaning behind the name Thumper, on the other hand, is little more self-explanatory.

Names Meanings Bambi

It All Started With Sheldon Leonard

Chuck Lorre, the genius behind the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory is a fan of show The Dick Van Dyke Show. As a way of paying respect to one of his inspirations, Lorre took that show’s producer, Sheldon Leonard’s first and last names and used them to create two of his main characters: Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter. There is no denying that Sheldon Leonard would have approved of Lorre’s use of his names.

Names Meanings Sheldon Leonard

Xander Is A Fishy Name

One of the characters from the hit 90’s show Buffy The Vampire Slayer, is Buffy’s friend, Xander Harris. He is the comic relief of the show and even became the hero of the show in Season Six. The first name is a peculiar way to spell Zander, a type of fish. The Zander is closely linked to the Pike fish, which in itself is a callback to the name of Buffy’s best friend, Oliver Pike, from the original 1992 movie of the same name.

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Not Such A Good Man After All

One of the original characters of Breaking Bad is the corrupt lawyer Saul Goodman. Saul is a Hebrew name, literally meaning “asked for,” which is an in-jest play on the character’s advertising campaign “Better Call Saul.” Although pretty self explanatory, it is ironic that Bob Odenkirk’s slimy attorney, who was originally called Jimmy McGill, would change his name to Goodman. Based on his actions throughout both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Saul is certainly not a “good man.”

Aragorn Is Heir To The Throne

The mysterious anti-hero from The Lord Of The Rings gradually becomes one of the main heroes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure tale. Discovered by the Hobbits under the alias of Strider, the ranger of the north is revealed to be the heir to Isildur, claiming the thrones of Arnor and Gondor. In the fictional language of Sindarin that Tolkien amazingly invented, Aragorn means “kingly valor.” Ara literally means “noble” or “kingly”, while g’orn translates to “of the tree.”

Meaning Aragorn

“Say My Name…”

The main character of the award-winning show Breaking Bad, Walter White is often described as “Mr. Chips-turned-Scarface.” This is due to his fall from grace from family man to a notorious criminal. Walt adopts the street name “Heisenberg,” an homage to the physicist Werner Heisenberg. Walter White also sounds very similar to the poet, Walt Whitman, who’s book Leaves Of Grass is mentioned on numerous occasions throughout the show and is an important plot device towards the climax.

Breaking Bad (Season 5)

A Mid-Vito Crisis

Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Don Corleone in Francis Ford Copolla’s The Godfather will go down as one of the most iconic performances of all time. Don Corleone’s first name is Vito, which is an Italian name derived from the Latin term, vita, meaning “life.” This alludes to Vito’s goal to balance a healthy, happy family life with a life of crime. It is also ironic that someone who is responsible for multiple deaths would be called “life.” Corleone is an Italian town in the province of Palermo, Sicily.

Names Meanings Vito Corleone

It Was Just A Dream, Morpheus

In The Matrix, the man responsible for bringing Neo into the real world is Morpheus, played by Lawrence Fishburne. Neo believes he is living in modern day New York, only to be “woken up” after taking the red pill from Morpheus. Fittingly, Morpheus in Greek mythology is the god of dreams and sleep. He is able to appear in other peoples’ dreams, which is pretty much what Morpheus does in the first instalment of the Wachowski’s sci-fi film franchise.

Names Meanings Morpheus

Somebody Call A Real Doctor

Since its inception in 1963, the main character of the British Sci-fi show Doctor Who has always been given the alias, The Doctor. However, the reason for this choice of name has never been given. The mystery is particularly frustrating because The Doctor generally doesn’t work as a doctor. In an audio clip, when The Doctor is asked his name, the conversation goes as follows:

“I’m the Doctor.”
“Doctor? That’s a profession, not a name.”
“It’s all I have.”

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Order Of The Dracula

One of the most the iconic character’s in the history of horror, Count Dracula is inspired by the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler, or Vlad III Dracula, coming from a line of rulers who were part of the Order of the Dragon. Vlad the Impaler was probably the most famous medieval ruler in Eastern Europe. But Bram Stoker made a connection between Vlad and vampirism. Dracula derives from the Romanian drac (“devil”), which also stems from the Latin draco, meaning “dragon.”

Names Meanings Count Dracula

The Bear Necessities

A beautiful friendship was made in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, when man-cub Mowgli stumbled across friendly bear Baloo to discover the bare necessities of life. In the original stories, Mowgli is believed to mean “frog.” But Kipling insisted he made up the name and in his words, it “does not mean ‘frog’ in any language other than the language of the forest.” Mowgli’s grizzly friend Baloo has a name that directly corresponds to his species. In Hindi, Bhalu means “bear.”

Names Meanings Mowgli

All Echoes Must Come To An End

The main character of sci-fi thriller show Dollhouse is a girl who goes by the name of Echo, whose mind is wiped. This alludes to the Greek nymph of the same name, who was punished by the goddess Hera by only being able to speak by repeating what others said to her. This mirrors Echo’s arc in the show, a person who seeks to restore to her original self, instead of carrying out tasks that others have programmed her to do.

Names Meanings Echo

Hyde & Seek

The man with a split personality naturally has two names, each attributing to either side of his character. The two-syllable name “Jekyll” is a play on the phrase “I kill” (Je is the French term for I). In the last chapter of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Jekyll explains how he tried very hard to eliminate the Hyde in him. Also, Hyde naturally alludes to the hidden nature of Dr Jekyll’s alter ego.

Names Meanings Jekyll Hyde

A True Man In A World Of Liars

Jim Carrey starred in 1998’s The Truman Show and his character Truman Burbank is brought up to believe he lives a completely normal life. But in reality, he is trapped in a city sized studio and the focal point of a global TV show. Literally meaning “loyal one,” Truman can be taken at face value as he was a “true man” trapped in a world of lies. Burbank means “lives on the castle’s hill,” which could imply Truman’s isolation from society.

Meaning Truman Burbank

He Who Should Not Be Named

The villain of the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort, has a name nearly as grotesque as his appearance or evil ways. There is a chance that “He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named” had a name inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s character M. Valdemar, who died and came back to life as a mass of rotting flesh. Fittingly, this is pretty much what happened to Harry Potter’s arch nemesis. Also, the French term “Vol de mort” literally translates to “flight of death,” also connecting to the Dark Lord’s resurrection.

Names Meanings Voldemort

Uhura, A Star Of Freedom

In 1966, Nichelle Nichols was one of the first African American actors to play a main role on an American TV show, when she portrayed Uhura in Star Trek. Creator Gene Roddenberry originally planned to name the character Sulu, but felt that it sounded too much like “Zulu,” being counterproductive to the racial diversity of the show. He ultimately chose the name Uhura, stemming from the Swahili word “uhuru” which means freedom. Her first name Nyota means “star.”

Names Meanings Uhura

Run From The Past Forrest, Run!

American history was told through the eye’s of a pleasant simpleton in the 1994 classic Forrest Gump. Played by Tom Hanks, the title character’s name is actually broken down in the movie. Gump explains to a passerby that his mother named him Forrest after their ancestor Nathan Bedford Forrest, a confederate general who was also part of the Ku Klux Klan. She gave him this name to remind him that “sometimes we all do things that, well, just don’t make no sense”.

Names Meanings Forrest Gump

All Hail King Harry

On face value, Harry Potter doesn’t seem like such a dense name with much significance in terms of meaning. However, dig a little deeper and you will find a couple of fascinating nuances. The name Harry is the Middle English form of “Henry,” a name affiliated with many English kings. Harry takes on a leadership role in his story and the Old High German word “Heri” means “army,” which of course alludes to his connection to Dumbledore’s army. Also, “pottery” is a craft that requires artistic prowess.

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Soze, So He Says

In 1995’s The Usual Suspects, it takes the majority of the movie to reveal that the main antagonist, Keyser Soze and the character Verbal Kint are in fact one and the same. But for Turkish viewers, the answer probably would’ve been right in front of them from the very beginning, simply based on the names. “Soze” is a Turkish word, literally meaning “talks to much” or “verbal.” While Keyser is the Turkish equivalent of Kaiser, meaning “emperor” or “king,” and Kint sounds close to king.

Names Meanings Keyser Soze

From Starkiller To Skywalker

The hero of the original Star Wars trilogy was Luke Skywalker, a humble farm boy who grows strong with the force, learns valuable life lessons and becomes a Jedi Knight. When originally creating the hero character, George Lucas considered calling him “Luke Starkiller,” but concluding that it sounded too dark and went with the more pleasant “Skywalker” instead. And fittingly, Luke is Latin for “light,” alluding to the fact that Luke would never turn to the dark side.

Meaning Luke Skywalker

Queen Of The Fingers

In classic 90s sitcom Friends, Lisa Kudrow’s character Phoebe Buffay would often refer to herself as “Regina Phalange.” The pseudonym loosely translates to “queen of the fingers,” which is fitting since Phoebe was a masseuse. The name Phoebe itself is Greek meaning “bright” or “pure.” And Phoebe certainly brought a light-hearted quality to the dynamic of the gang. Buffay is the westernized version of the French Buffet, portraying Phoebe as a self-serving, independent woman.

Names Meanings Phoebe Buffay

Super Indie

Another iconic character that Harrison Ford made his own came in the 1981 classic Raiders Of The Lost Ark when he played the adventurous archeologist Indiana Jones. As the story goes, Dr. Henry Walton Jones Jr. gave himself the nickname Indiana, a “non-superhero superhero” who is able to go on daring adventures to recover important artifacts. Creator George Lucas took inspiration from his dog who was also called Indiana. The same dog’s appearance also helped create the look of Han Solo’s friend, Chewbacca.

Names Meanings Indiana Jones

Mr. Know-It-All

The iconic puppet of Yoda made his first appearance in the Star Wars sequel, 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker is astounded when he finds that the frail 900-year old alien is a wise master who has taught many Jedi knights in the ways of the force. The name Yoda can be traced to the Hebrew language. The term “Yodea” translates to “know,” alluding to Yoda’s vast knowledge in the force, the mystical energy that binds all beings together in the Star Wars universe.

Meaning Yoda

Hannibal The Cannibal

The name Hannibal can be traced back to the Aramaic language, literally meaning “grace of Ba’al” or “gracious master.” The original Hannibal was a Carthaginian general and considered to be one of the greatest military leaders in history. While there is no clear definition for “lecter,” there’s no denying its similarity in sound to the term “lector.” When considering the character’s grotesque monologues spread throughout The Silence Of The Lambs and its sequels, the name is perfectly fitting.

Names Meanings Hannibal Lecter

Belle Is In The Eye Of The Beast

The heroine of the Disney classic Beauty And The Beast is Belle. The young lady flees her quiet village to pursue adventure. But despite losing her father to the hands of a beast, she sees the good in the monstrous creature and the two fall in love. Naturally, Belle is French for “beautiful.” In fact, belle can describe a beautiful girl or woman, especially who is the most beautiful at a particular event or from a specific group of people.

Names Meanings Belle

No, I Am Your Vader

Arguably the most iconic villain of all time, Darth Vader transformed from a menacing figure in black to a more horrifying creature altogether when he revealed to Luke Skywalker that he was in fact his father, Anakin Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. Darth is an archaic form of the word “dark,” while Vader is the Dutch term for “father.” Even the name Anakin can be broken down accordingly to the story, as “an akin” literally means “somebody of similar character” or “related to.”

Meaning Darth Vader

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