Naming Conventions
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"Today" said the old medicine man "I shall teach you more of the ways of our tribe. Today, you will learn how we learn from the Great Spirit what names we should give our children".
He looked around the wigwam and was pleased to see all of his pupils sitting attentively waiting to hear this latest mystery.
"The method is very simple - as soon as the child is born, its father pushes his head out of the door to their wigwam and the child is named for the first thing that catches his eye"
"What an amazing thing" said Jackal-hunts-at-twilight.
"How wise" gasped Fire-on-lonely-mountain.
"That's retarded" grumbled Two-dogs-shagging.

Basic Information

Each culture has its own naming conventions on which kinds of name sound "tough" or "intimidating"… and which sound "soft" and "weak". Names are often thought to tell something about the character of a person. This isn't necessarily true in real life, but in stories names frequently have hidden meanings.

In general your given name should at least tell someone that understands your culture your gender - and very often your home region and social class, as well as your religion if your culture has more than one. In some cultures it may even indicate your birth order. Your full name may tell them a great deal more - if only in added detail - as it generally identifies your kinship groups to a greater or lesser degree. That said, in some cultures - such as the Romans - the given name is almost a formality and often all but ignored1.

There is room for almost infinite incomprehension between cultures as to the arrangement and interpretation of names - witness the number of Oriental men addressed as " Mr. (given name)" by Westerners unaware that the Oriental tradition puts the surname first, or the tendency of non-Sikh bureaucrats to enter 'Singh' as a family name - let alone the trouble caused anywhere in a developed country by someone possessing a one word name.

It is entirely normal in many cultures to add or change names following significant life events - the most obvious modern example is that of a woman changing her surname when she moves from her father's family to her husband's - although in the era of extensive written records, very few of these changes are official anymore as such things tend to muddy the bureaucratic waters.

Note also that for many historical figures, their names can be literally translated as titles, making it unclear as to whether the name was a personal appellation or not - examples might include Vortigern ("Supreme Chieftain") and Abraham ("Father of Many").

List of Naming Conventions






Pets and sidekicks



3. Plains Indians Names — a brief overview of some of the naming customs of the Plains Indians and how a person's name could change over the course of his life.
4. Northwest Coat Indian Names — More Indian naming customs, this time from the Northwest Coast region on North America

Game and Story Use

  • Characters with good names - whether player characters or NPCs - will seem much more impressive if they have equally impressive names instead of something mundane like "Bob".
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