Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Name generator

Oh, hey, this is kinda neat for anything set in the real world: a character name generator.

No options for “throw letters together to create neat names for secondary worlds,” unfortunately, but plenty of other options. Let me just see … how about a female, virtuous, Andorran princess, born in 1200 AD?

Princess Agnes Glaser (Nessa)
–Agnes: tagged as wise, tagged as witchy, tagged as Catalan
–Glaser: tagged as witchy

Really? I wonder why Glaser is “witchy.”

Princess Monica Belnades
–Monica: tagged as wise, tagged as Catalan
–Belnades: tagged as witchy

Okay, what if I switch the country to … Sweden.

Princess Louise Eriksson (Loulou)
–Louise: tagged as wise, tagged as witchy, tagged as Swedish
–Eriksson: in use in Sweden, in use in Sweden, in use in Sweden

Well, not terrible, honestly. This might be useful for those (many) moments when one gets stuck trying to think of names for random characters.

I saw the link at The Passive Voice blog, btw.

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3 Comments Name generator

  1. Hanneke

    Hmm. This might work well for English names, but I tested it for Dutch male and female names, and the results were not very good.
    Not totally impossible, for use in a modern Dutch setting, but very English-leaning, and at least a third were just not likely at all.

    Half the names for females (and a few of the male names) used (men’s) first names as last names (e.g. Vera Bob); one of the men’s first names was a woman’s name (Ava Van Leeuwen, so not an ambiguous one, like Anne = a woman in most of the Netherlands, but can be a man in Friesland).
    A lot of the names they suggested do occur in the Netherlands but aren’t originally Dutch – almost half had an English flavour, though I had prioritised only Dutch, Frisian and Limburgs. As a year of birth option is only available for English names, using it to generate Dutch names for anything historical would give quite anachronistic results, as the English influence on naming started in 1945.

    There were very few instances of the quintessential Dutch first names that have been used for centuries (for ages, it was tradition to name kids after grandparents or uncles/aunts, so the same names were reused a lot): only one for the men, Jan – no Piet, Kees, Klaas, Henk, Hans, Harm, Huib, Jaap, Joop, Mark, Maarten, Martijn, Bas, Gert, Geert, Fred, Ouke/Auke, Otto, Teun, Ties, Thijs, Theo, etc, and the names they offered didn’t often fall into that short simple syllable pattern, either. Longer names are possible, especially as baptismal names, but they are very often shortened in use to one, at most two syllables for men (Johannes > Jan) – for women the shortening is a bit less universal.
    No authentic Dutch origin first names for the women appeared in my selections at all, and not a single occurrence of the ubiquitous diminutives used in traditional Dutch female names, like -ke or -tje. Nor did any of the Dutch diphtongs appear in any of the names, like eu, ei, ou, au, ij, ui, except the oe in Boer – I don’t know if they didn’t add those, or if the choice is weighted against them, as that makes the choices easier to pronounce for English readers, but less authentic, as I’d guess nearly a third of the names have one of those. Remember the discussion about the woman called Trui in the Hanseatic historical fantasy? I can understand wanting to avoid that, but they should let the user decide that.

    Where the names had the prepositions that often occur in Dutch names (of, of the, the) they were capitalised in the American style – in Dutch these aren’t capitalised when used with the first name, only when used without the first name. So John Farmer = Jan de Boer, but mister Farmer = meneer De Boer. They listed that as Johannes De Boer (Johnny) whereas the usename is much more likely to be Jan than Johnny, and that D really looks strange to Dutch eyes.

    So not really useful if you want an authentic Dutch flavor to your names, which means that I would’t trust it to steer me right in other non-English languages either.
    It might serve as a starting point, if you research the names they suggest further on the internet; but looking at an online Dutch phone book might be just as useful.

  2. Hanneke

    In your own example, Agnes, Monica and Glaser don’t look very Spanish/Andorran to me, and Louise shows a French influence… that’s 4 out of 6 naming elements that don’t really belong, historically, to the countries you asked for.

  3. Rachel

    Hanneke, I’ve played with it a little more and I have real questions about it. I put in Ugandan names and what I got were … English names! I’m not quite sure what’s going on, except a powerful default-to-English tendency?

    So yes, probably a useful-ish name generator for English, maybe French or a few others, but probably they should just take all the other countries out of their list until or unless they add a whoooooole bunch more names that are truly from the correct regions.

    Honestly, this site doesn’t hold a candle to baby name sites like Behind the Names — though baby name sites aren’t great for picking good last names.

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