George R.R. Martin has succeeded in creating some of the best fantasy names in literature. There are just under 1,700 named characters in the first four books of A Song of Ice and Fire, the books on which the HBO television series Game of Thrones is based. Martin’s characters reflect our continuing advice about creating fantasy names: make them easy to pronounce and easy to spell. Well, maybe with the exception of Daenerys.
Some of his names are based on Medieval and old Celtic names, which normally conjure up a fantastical world. Many are just simply plucked from current name charts (Kyle, Jon, Lucas, Jenny, Kyra). But a great majority of the ASOIF character names are created by Martin himself. And although they are purely imagined by the author, they still seem like acceptable personally identifiable names. He does that by using a simple actual English word name like Oliver and changing it just a bit to make a character named Polliver. I’ve never known a Polliver, personally, but I hear it once, and it does sound like a name to me.
Truth Following Fiction: Popular character names from literature and television often influence baby naming trends. Many of the names Martin created for the books are now becoming real baby names in and of themselves. I personally know of one couple who just recently named their newborn daughter Khaleesi. The name Arya/Aria skyrocketed onto the popularity charts in the year 2011, the year Game of Thrones debuted on HBO. Popular character names from literature and television often influence baby naming trends.
Observations from my analysis of the ASOIF/Game of Thrones full character name list*:
1. The most popular names are Jon (22) and Jeyne (17) for male and female characters, respectively.
2. As in a real society, first (given) names are reused. Male characters are sometimes named after their father or another character.
3. As in real life, characters have nick names. Eddard Stark is often called Ned. Catelyn (pronounced CAT-a-lin, not KATE-lyn) is called Cat. Sandor Clegane is most often called “The Hound,” and Petyr Baelish, “Littlefinger.”
4. Some characters are only referred to by nick name or description: Mad Axe, Old Grey Gull, Sleepy Jack, Smiling Knight, Stone Thumbs, Pudding, Alebelly, Spotted Pate the Pig Boy.
5. Wildings, Free folk, and other fantastical/quirky characters tend to only have a given name (no family name). Melisandre, Ygritte, Osha, Craster, Orell, Gilly, Hodor, Varys.
6. Names are part of the story. The surname “Snow” indicates a person was born illegitimately out of wedlock. One character can only say one word, “Hodor,” which we assume is also his name. It is later revealed that his true name is Walder (a name shared by nine other characters) and that the utterance “Hodor” was a foreshadowing of a pivotal scene in the series. Theor Greyjoy is re-named “Reek” by his captor in order to demean him.
7. Real names—given and surnames—are changed just a bit to create new names. Androw, Polliver, Ortin, Illifer, Victaria, Mollander, Joseth, Dunaver, Abelar, Jodge.
8. As mentioned above, real naming conventions are used to create new names. Martin often uses Welsh-like spellings–specifically using the letter Y in place of an I or E. Daenerys, Beony, Denys, Frynne, Mhaegan, Edwyn, Elys, Dykk, Lenyl.
9. Similarly, Martin often uses occupational or place names as surnames, a common practice in early England. Brienne of Tarth, Tom of Sevenstreams, Thoros of Myr, Watt of Longlake, Arlan of Pennytree, Bran the Builder.
10. Martin peppers his cast of characters with silly names, which sound like they are plucked out of children’s books. TomToo, Big Boil, Toefinger, Tickler, Sand Snakes, Rat Cook, Patchface, Moon Boy, Jack-Be-Lucky, Poxy Tym, Cutjack.
11. Some characters are only referred to by one letter: C, H, O.
12. When Arya Stark is “lost” in Braavos, she becomes “A girl with no name.” Only until she finds her true self, does she refer to herself as Arya Stark again.
Considering a ASOIF/Game of Thrones Name for your Baby?
Be careful. What appears to be a cool, trendy name now may be “dated” in ten years. Also, consider the meaning. The term Khaleesi, for example, is a title in the story, not a name. It means “Queen of Everything.” Do you really want to impose this on your daughter? It’s equivalent of calling her “Queenie” or “Princess.” Great for a nickname or pet name, but can your child live with it?
Recommended Baby Names
From the created names in the series, here is a list of names I would recommend for real baby names:
For Girls: Cersei – although she’s a terrible character, this is actually a cool name. Daenerys – although it’s difficult to spell/pronounce, this character is such an icon that people will know the spelling in five years. It also has an easy nickname, Dani. Also: Alysanne, Arwyne, Bellena, Bellonara, Beony, Cassana, Cassella, Elenya, Emberlei, Ermesande, Gwynesse, Janei, Jyanna, Jynessa, Kella, Leslyn, Lyessa, Lynesse, Malora, Matrice, Melisandre, Mylessa, Myrielle, Nymeria, Obara, Obella, Rohanne, Ryella, Sallei, Sansa, Sarella, Sarra, Sarya, Selyse, Senelle, Shiera, Shyra, Taena, Talisa, Tya, Tyana, Tyene, Tysane, Tysha, Victaria, Zhoe
For Boys: Alfyn, Allar, Alleras, Andar, Andrik, Arrec/Arryk, Balon, Bannen, Beck, Bowen, Brenett, Cayn, Cerrick, Dacks, Dake, Davos, Dennett, Dyn, Dunaver, Durran, Erreck/Erryk, Gallard, Gendry, Gevin, Harys, Hendry, Jorah, Joseth, Karlon, Kemmett, Khal, Kirth, Koss, Lancel, Lucan, Lucos, Mance, Mandon, Matthar, Morrec, Norren, Orivel, Orland, Paxter, Polliver, Portifer, Qalen, Quaro, Quent, Qyburn, Rafford, Renly, Rhaego, Rolder, Ronnel, Roose, Ryam, Samwell, Shadd, Skyte, Stannis, Styr, Symond, Syrio, Tallad, Tanton, Ternesio, Terro, Theon, Thomax, Thoros, Timeon, Timett, Timoth, Todric, Tommen, Tristifer, Triston, Tyrion, Vardis, Vayon, Vickon, Vyman, Walder, Wallen, Wex, Yoren, Zollo
Main Characters, Game of Thrones – [Contains Spoilers]
|Balon Greyjoy||Lord of the Iron Islands and the father of Theon and Yara.||Arya Stark||Daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark|
|Barristan Selmy||Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and a member of the Small Council. Forced into retirement by Joffrey and Cersei. Offers his services to Daenerys.||Brienne of Tarth||Originally a member of Renly Baratheon’s Kingsguard, accused of killing him and flees with Catelyn, ending up in her service.|
|Benjen Stark||Eddard’s younger brother, First Ranger of the Night’s Watch.||Catelyn Tully (Stark)||Matriarch of Stark family, wife to Eddard (Ned)|
|Bran Stark||Son of Ned and Catelyn, maimed in fall from tower, pushed by Jaime Lannister||Cersei Lannister||Queen of Roberth Baratheon, mother of Joffrey|
|Bronn||Tyrion’s right hand man||Daenerys Targaryen||Daughter of King Aeryss II Targaryen (The Mad King) and Mother of Dragons.|
|Davos Seaworth||Knight and supporter of Stannis Baratheon||Lysa Tully (Arryn)||Sister of Catelyn Stark, a little mad.|
|Eddard Stark||Patriarch of the Stark Family. Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon.||Margaery Tyrell||Wife of the late Renly Baratheon, marries King Joffrey for political reasons.|
|Edmure Tully||Catelyn and Lysa’s younger brother and the Lord of Riverrun. Groom at “Red Wedding”||Meera Reed||Joins Bran (along with brother Jojen) in hi sjourney to the Wall.|
|Gendry||Illegitimate son of King Robert||Melisandre||A priestess of R’hllor in service to Stannis Baratheon.|
|Gregor Clegane (“The Mountain”)||Ser Gregor Clegane is a huge knight and the elder brother of Sandor Clegane (“The Hound”).||Myrcella Baratheon||Younger sister of Joffrey|
|Hodor||Mentally handicapped stablehand at Winterfell who can only say the word: Hodor. Becomes protector of Bran and siblings.||Olenna Redwyne||Grandmother of Loras and Margaery Tyrell|
|Ilyn Payne||Mute executioner||Osha||Free folk woman, captive of Winterfell, protector of Bran Stark|
|Jaqen H’ghar||Tells Arya she can name three people for him to kill to repay the three deaths she stole.||Roslin Frey (Tully)||Bride in “Red Wedding”|
|Jaime Lannister||Twin brother (and lover) of Cersei, the Queen. Member of the Kingsguard and an exceptionally skilled swordsman.||Sansa Stark||Daughter of Net and Catelyn Stark. Originally betrothed to King Joffrey, ends up marrying Tyrion Lannister.|
|Jeor Mormont||997th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, is the estranged father of Ser Jorah||Shae||Prostitute, companion of Tyrion, hand maiden to Sansa Stark|
|Joffrey Baratheon||Current child king of the seven kingdoms. Son of Jaime and Cersei Lannister||Ygritte||Wilding woman, in love with Jon Snow|
|Jojen Reed||Joins Bran (along with sister Meera) in journey to the Wall||Talisa (Stark) – not in books||Wife of Robb Stark, killed with unborn child in “Red Wedding”|
|Jon Arryn||Former Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon. Deceased when the story begins.||Yara Greyjoy||Sister of Theon|
|Jon Snow (Stark)||Illegitimate son of Eddard Stark. Joins Night’s Watch.|
|Jorah Mormont||Exiled knight in the service of Daenerys Targaryen|
|Khal Drogo||Warlord of the Dothraki people. Married Daenerys Targaryen as an arranged marriage. Daenerys names her favorite dragon after him: Drogon.|
|Lancel Lannister||Cousin of Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion Lannister. Becomes Cersei’s lover when Jaime goes to war.|
|Loras Tyrell||Brother of Margaery – Gay|
|Mace Tyrell||Father of Margaery and Loras|
|Mance Rayder||Former ranger of the Night’s Watch who became “King-Beyond-the-Wall” and leader of the Wildings.|
|Orell||Wilding raider and warg, capable of entering the minds of animals. Killed by Jon Snow.|
|Petyr Baelish (“Littlefinger”)||Master of Coin in King Robert Baratheon’s Small Council. He grew up with Catelyn Tully and fought Ned’s brother Brandon for her hand.|
|Podrick Payne||Podrick is a young squire assigned to Tyrion Lannister|
|Pycell||King’s advisor, pretends to be frail|
|Ramsay Snow (Bolton)||Captures and tortures Theon-renames him to Reek|
|Renly Baratheon||Youngest brother of King Robert Baratheon|
|Robb Stark||Eldest son of Eddard and Catelyn Stark. Goes into battle with the Lannisters for the Iron Throne.|
|Robert Baratheon||Friend of Ned Stark, succeeds the “Mad King” as King of the Seven Kingdoms.|
|Rickon Stark||Youngest child of Eddard and Catelyn Stark.|
|Roose Bolton||Patriarch of the Bolton family, known for flaying their enemies alive. Father of Ramsay. Betrays the Starks in the “Red Wedding”|
|Samwell Tarly||New recruit to Night’s Watch, companion to Jon Snow|
|Sandor Clegane “The Hound”||Joffrey Barathion’s bodyguard and member of the Kingsguard. Ends up being the protector of Arya and Sansa Stark.|
|Stannis Baratheon||Brother to Robert, fighting for throne|
|Theon Greyjoy||“Ward” to Eddard Stark|
|Tommen Baratheon||Younger brother of Joffrey|
|Tyrion Lannister||Dwarf son of Tywin Lannister, his mother died while giving birth to him. Becomes “Master of the Coin” to King Joffrey and is ordered to marry Sansa Stark.|
|Tywin Lannister||Patriarch of the Lannister family, father to Tyrion, Cersei and Jaime Lannister.|
|Varys||Eunuch advisor to the crown.|
|Viserys Targaryen||Narcissistic brother to Daenerys. Exiled prince and heir of the Targaryen dynasty.|
|Walder Frey||Head of House Frey, Lord of the Crossing and bannerman to House Tully. Known for outliving his many wives and fathered over 100 children. Betrays the Starks as the host of the infamous “Red Wedding”|
Full List of Characters
A full list of ASOIF characters can be found here.
* My analysis is based on the character names from the first four books of the George R. R. Martin A Song of Ice and Fire series along with the Game of Thrones television series.