All the World's A Stage: Common name conventions

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|05.23.10

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All the World's A Stage: Common name conventions

Anne Stickney is subbing for a very busy Michael Gray. Anne enjoys roleplay and was delighted to fill in. This has nothing to do with any grand schemes involving Mr. Gray or the eventual theft of his puppy. Promise.

One of the questions I'm asked most often in regards to roleplaying has nothing to do with lore, or story development, or character concept. Instead, it revolves around one of the first things you do when you create a new character -- naming it. RP servers run a little differently than your typical PvE or PvP server, and have their own set of unique guidelines for naming in addition to the policies that already exist. These additional naming guidelines are:
Non-Medieval/Fantasy Character Names

This category includes:
If a player is found to have such a name, he/she may:
  • Be assigned a randomly generated name
  • Be given the appropriate additional penalty if the name violates standard naming rules.
Generally speaking, most people playing on an RP server will report a name that does not fall under these guidelines -- and if a case is made, your name can be changed. So how do you create a name that fits? Luckily, all of the races in World of Warcraft have a few particular naming conventions -- traits are common to the NPCs already existing in game. Today we're going to go over these conventions and suggest some ideas and resources you can use to get a name that is unique, and won't get you reported.


Orcs: Orcs tend to follow a standard firstname/lastname format, with the exception of Thrall, who was named by the humans he lived with. Last names are generally two syllable words, like Warsong, Hellscream, or Doomhammer. With orcs, think "brutal" -- last names generally have some sort of meaning that's related to great heroism or honor, something they've done rather than a family name. Usually last names are a "clan" name, and not everyone in that clan is blood related.

First names are a different story. Most, but not all, orcs have one-syllable names, and none of these names really make "sense." Male names tend to end with a consonant. Common first name suffixes are "osh" or "om" or simply the letter g. When you're thinking of a male name, try to think of a guttural sound rather than a name that makes sense -- Throk, Banosh, Krag, Krom. The first names of orcs are rarely words that make any kind of sense in English -- it's more the sound of the word than the word itself. Female orc names tend to end with a vowel (but not always), or a soft consonant. Any of the names suggested above could be female simply by adding a vowel on the end – Throka, Banosha, Kragu, Kroma. Keep this in mind when you're naming a female orc.

You can choose to name your character by either their first name, or their clan name. But keep in mind if you're naming the character with a clan name, that's a two-word statement and could be considered reportable. Err on the side of caution!

Trolls: I love troll names. You can go pretty nuts with trolls and still come out with something that sounds "authentic." Trolls have some of the most exotic names out there, along with the draenei, and creating them can be a painful process if you aren't sure where to start. While there are many trolls that have an apostrophe in their name -- Vol'jin, Sen'jin, Gan'zulah, Ana'thek -- keep in mind you cannot have a character name that has an apostrophe in it. Sadly, it's not allowed. Trolls have a habit of regularly using the letters z, k, j, and x in their names, giving them a "tribal" feel.

Trolls don't really have last names to speak of. Instead they simply use titles to denote their position in life. Overlord, Bloodlord, High Priestess, Hex Lord, War Master -- for those without titles, it's simply a name.

While orcs are fairly easy to make up, trolls are a little harder. Personally, one of the best ways I've found to come up with troll names is by looking up common words in various Native American languages. Google is your best friend here -- most foreign languages have some sort of English to whatever language you're looking up dictionary online. For trolls, I literally managed to stumble across one that worked for me while I was looking up story references for a troll storyteller I'd made.

I use the English -- Central Sierra Miwok dictionary myself for the troll names I grab. All I do is look up a word in English that best sums up my character or what I'm doing, look at the translation, and then tweak it a little if necessary -- add a double k here, or a z in place of an s -- and I've got a troll name that sounds fairly accurate. With female names, it's the same story as with the orcs -- add a vowel or a soft consonant to the end, and you're good to go.

Tauren: Tauren are pretty easy as well. Firstname/lastname just like the orcs, and the last name is again, usually the name of a particular tribe, or branch of a tribe. Last names are usually descriptive, like Bloodhoof, Grimtotem, Brightmane. Last names for tauren can be just as much about description as they are about what that particular tauren has done -- it's not at all about glory, war or honor like the orcs. There's a list of common tauren tribe/clan names on WoWWiki -- it's not a full list by any means, but a quick look at that can give you an idea of the general naming conventions for last names.

First names are a lot like orcs -- they generally don't have any particular meaning, but they've got a distinct earthy feel to them. You can get away with using the same sources for tauren as you do for trolls – Native American languages have lots and lots of words that can be tweaked for both. With tauren, I lean towards tweaking by adding double letters, like Hamuul Runetotem, or just by softening the word. Tauren females, same conventions, but add a vowel at the end. The difference between troll, orc and tauren names is that tauren generally don't have harsh names, the overall feeling of the name is usually a soft one.

Blood elves: Blood elves are awfully fun to come up with names for. Blood elf names generally have a soft, lyrical quality to them. The French language is excellent for coming up with base words for names, and those words can then be tweaked into something that sounds suitably "elven." Common letters in elven names are k, e, s, and l -- and much like trolls, elven names can have apostrophes in them, though you can't actually name a character with an apostrophe.

Last names for blood elves are usually combinations of words, but not always. Sunstrider, Bloodsworn, Brightwing, Sunsorrow, Sunreaver -- all of these are last names that have been used in Warcraft. Keep in mind the main difference between night elf and blood elf last names is that blood elves generally reference the sun, the light -- bright things -- while night elves reference names related to ... well, night. Go figure!

Forsaken: The large chunk of the Forsaken population are humans that died and were reborn. Having said that, you can use common names for people when you're naming your Forsaken, though a lot of standard names are assuredly going to be taken. Baby name dictionaries available online are perfect for this though -- simply look up a letter you'd like to use for your character's first name, and start scrolling through the list to see what you can find!

Personally, I like looking up Victorian era names for the Forsaken, for two reasons: the names generally sound old, which suits a dead character, and also because you can generally find names that aren't taken because they're so ... odd. Last names are pretty standard last names with no particular meaning -- Forsaken don't really have clan names to speak of.


Humans: You can use the guideline I just gave above for Forsaken names -- baby naming dictionaries are a really good source. For humans, I lean away from the Victorian names and tend to use more modern names, but that's really just personal preference. Humans are about the easiest characters to come up with a valid sounding name for; they're hardly a challenge at all. Thank goodness!

Gnomes: Gnomes are amazingly fun to think of names for. Gnomes are inventors, tinkers, mechanics, and short little things that are incredibly smart. Gnome first names are generally short and sharp. Common letters include k, t, and i. When you're thinking of gnome names, never, ever look to the goblins for reference -- goblins and gnomes are way different! For gnomes, I like coming up with words that sound like sound effects or adjectives. Plink, Wobble, Poing, Widget, Sneak, Fizz, etc. You can however, use a standard human sounding first name and a suitably outlandish last name, too!

Last names tend to follow the same two-word convention as the horde last names mentioned above, but gnomes lean towards naming themselves after inventions, gadgets or their particular area of expertise -- Steamrigger, Fizzlebang, Fullthrottle, Mekkatorque, Manastorm -- all of these are last names that have been used. Gnome names should be fun, lighthearted and entertaining -- much like the gnomes themselves!

Dwarves: Dwarven names are also pretty fun to come up with. Dwarves generally have clans or family names, again with the two word naming convention. Flamebeard, Bronzebeard, Stormpike, Wildhammer -- if you reference either a beard or some sort of weapon you're generally going in the right direction. First names are a little easier than most -- you can go with naming dictionaries, but what you want to look for are names that are commonly Irish, Scottish, Gaelic or old, old English in origin if you want to go that route.

If you'd like to simply make up a name, make a word that sounds earthy. Common letters in dwarf names are m, n, b, and k. Double up on the n's, and combine your vowels, oi and ae are the two most common vowel combinations in dwarven names.

Night elves: Night elf names are much like blood elf names in that they have that soft, lyrical quality to them -- it's the letters used that are different. Night elf names usually include the letters m, s, and l. You can double up on letters if you want, but keep in mind that most night elf names sound ... quiet for want of a better word.

Last names are much like the last names of blood elves, except that the overall tone of the word is darker -- Shadowsong, Whisperwind, Ravencrest, Bearmantle. Last names for night elves usually involve some sort of element of nature or night -- when in doubt, add a "night" word like moon, star, dusk, etc, or a "nature" sounding word like leaf, tree, wind or any sort of natural critter.

Draenei: As you can tell simply by the name of the race -- vowels are important. Double up on them any time you can. Draenei names tend to have an alien quality to them and their names have more than their fair share of vowels. You can look at Eastern European languages for a starting point and tweak from there to come up with a name that sounds suitably alien. Common letters in draenei names are v, u, o, e, i -- see the vowels coming into play? You can even use common names if you'd like -- the name James can be tweaked into something that sounds Draenic simply by messing with the vowels and doubling a letter -- Jaemmes would work and so would Joomaes.

Draenei names are incredibly fun to mess around with just because they are so alien -- you can't really go wrong as long as the vowels are present. Draenei don't typically have last names to speak of, though they do use titles.
Nicknames: So what do you do if you really just can't think of a name that would be appropriate? The other option is to go with a nickname. If you are going to use a nickname, make sure that it's something appropriate to the character you're playing -- a dark, stealthy rogue probably wouldn't be wandering around with the nickname Sparkletwinkle, for example. You can use the naming conventions listed above to think of nicknames that would work in the context of the character and their origins, too.

Avoid the following at all costs:
Naming yourself after someone prominent in pop culture, naming yourself after an existing lore character, naming yourself after a popular character in a novel or comic book, combining first and last names into one character name. Yes, Justinbieber, Arthusthelichking and Isabellaswan, I am looking at you.

Keep in mind, the above is just guidelines -- feel free to go nuts with other methods or names. There's really no limit, as long as you're staying in within the RP guidelines when naming your character. While the naming conventions listed above certainly aren't the only way to name your character, hopefully they'll give a good idea of what a character's name can be, and what sounds "right" in the context of World of Warcraft. If you've got any source suggestions for names, go ahead and leave them in the comments -- and remember, when you're on a RP server, your name is everything -- so make it a good one!
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