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The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  459 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Character Names

Back in print and better than ever, "The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook" has been updated and expanded to help you find character names and their meanings quickly and easily!

This one-of-a-kind resource was specifically designed with the writer in mind. Inside you'll find: 25,000+ first names and surnames, and their
Hardcover, Second Edition, 486 pages
Published May 21st 2005 by Writer's Digest Books (first published February 1st 1994)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,295)
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Nov 13, 2012 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: romance, non-fiction
This book is extremely comprehensive and excellent for seasoned and aspiring writers. The listing by ‘cultures’ is extremely helpful for reference by what writers are actually writing about. It tells you where the names came from and their meanings making choosing a name all that much more fun and appealing.

AND you could also use it for potential baby names!

Also on
Mar 01, 2009 Dwayne rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
There are lots of interesting names and name meanings in here. For intance, did you know Lolita is a form of Charles in Spanish, and means "manly"? And Humbert is Teutonic for "shining support". I reference these two character names because--given the nature of the characters--the meaning of their names seems odd. I'm left to wonder if Nabokov was aware of the meanings of the names he chose for his principle characters, or if he just liked the way they sounded.
One thing I did not like about this
Amy Kline
Jun 01, 2010 Amy Kline rated it it was amazing
The cover looks a bit different, but if this book is the same one I have, it's a great resource for a writer who thinks way too hard about naming characters (like me). In it, names are categorized by cultures. I say "cultures" because it is not limited to modern day nations. It lists old names, new names, surnames, and even goes so far to suggest what sort of a character the name should be given to. It's both extremely useful and informative!
Nov 08, 2011 Meaghan rated it it was ok
Meh. Not worth it. The advice was really generic and the lists are not very extensive or very useful, in my opinion. If you want help naming your fictional characters you'd be better off looking at a few baby name books that talk about context as well as meaning (like Linda Rosencrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran's books) and, most importantly, using the internet.
Karen Docter
LOVE this book! I have several quality baby naming books to help me choose character names. However, this one also include bane. Already used this one several times!

I recommend to every writer I know!
Mar 07, 2008 Kathrynn rated it it was amazing
An excellent resource book for genealogy research, character naming, children, etc. The author includes various Internet sites where you can cross-reference a selection as she is careful to mention mistakes are often made in naming. The book is separated into three parts:

Part 1: The Craft of Naming
- Neat (short) section with some wonderful ideas for each genre; includes naming places, settings, animal names, etc. Also, some clever "setting" ideas--other than naming.

Part 2: The Lists
- Wow!
- In
Anthony Ragan
Jun 16, 2016 Anthony Ragan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rpgs
A useful book containing a good variety of names (personal as well as family/clan) from various cultures useful for both writers and roleplaying game enthusiasts. Lost one star for the absolute lack of Turkic names, a surprising omission.
Feb 26, 2014 Robin rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I am not sure what I expected from this book but this was different. Kenyon gives us two chapters on the art, philosophy and skill of naming fictional characters. The rest of the many chapters are a resource for the names, meaning of names, and naming practices of numerous nationality and peoples (such as Celtic and Anglo-Saxon). Chances are any given writer will use only a handful of these chapters, but it is a very good resource.
Oct 18, 2010 Kathleen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fiction writers
Recommended to Kathleen by: Writer's Digest
Shelves: reference
I am keeping this book on the shelf closest to my computer so it's always ready to roll whenever I want a fresh name for one of my characters. I like that there are numerous ways to look up names, and a good index. I own the first edition, and have checked out the second edition at the library -- it's even more amazing than the first edition. I still also use baby name books, but this is my main source for names.
Handy for writers and just plain interesting to browse through. The book lists names by culture of origin and gender, and provides the meaning of each name. This is handy for all fiction genres, periods, and places, but I find it especially helpful for naming SF characters so that they don't all end up sounding like Midwestern Americans.
And as a bonus, you could use it to name your baby, too!
Aug 17, 2011 SmarterLilac rated it really liked it
At first, I was going to write this off as a derivative, unimaginative bill payer from largely commercial writers (many of the contributors write mass market romance, fantasy and mystery novels.) But the tips and tricks in here seduced me. Also, it became obvious after reading a few of their thoughts that the authors who contributed here put a lot of thought into their 'process.'
Jun 30, 2009 J.M. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: keepers, writing
This is an excellent resource for character names, sectioned off by ethnicity. If you write historical fiction or are looking for a specific type of name (Irish, German, French, Native American), this guide will gives you not only a list of common names for each ethnicity but also provides some insight to the naming conventions used by each. Highly recommended.
Jul 07, 2009 Lia rated it it was amazing
Wonderful reference book for naming characters. Includes a "reverse lookup" index where the names are sorted according to meaning. Throughout the bulk of the book, names are categorized according to culture/country and divided into female names and male names. There are short tidbits throughout about different authors and how they pick names for their characters.
T.M. Carper
Dec 06, 2014 T.M. Carper rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, non-fic, writing
The best naming resource I've come across. I'm very glad I bought it. It separates names by ethnic origin (Greek, Irish, Latin, Russian, etc.), has several useful indexes, and includes some last names. I've never come across a naming guide with last names in it. I use it all the time and I highly recommend it to anyone working on a novel.
Andrea Evans
Jul 20, 2013 Andrea Evans rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
This book is extremely helpful for a writer. For naming character's you are either forced to look on the internet(which most of the time can just be useless crap), or get a baby naming book (Oh joy, especially if you are checking it out at the library and you are under 18). This book is helpful if you want to know the origin of the names.
Nicole Galloway-Miller
Jul 22, 2012 Nicole Galloway-Miller rated it it was amazing
A must-have for any fantasy writer. A great resource when it comes to developing names for people and places in fantasy worlds. I open to a random page, pick an interesting name and start rearranging the letters until I get something that will work. I couldn't live without this reference book. Thank God, Writer's Digest printed it.
Aug 30, 2010 Meiran rated it it was amazing
The best book for naming I have ever found, far and away better than picking up a book of baby names. You can get baby name information on the internet, but the layout of this book and the way it presents information is perfect for writers, making it worth the purchase.
Aug 23, 2007 Jens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book of names and their meanings is an invaluable resource. But it shouldn't be your only resource for naming characters. The writer proceeds on a simple alphabetical order within each ethnicity, with no regard for whether it is a given name or a family name.
May 15, 2010 J. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writer-y-books
This is by FAR one of the best writer's sourcebooks I've ever used. It has an absolutely FANTASTIC breakdown of every name you could ever think of. By ethnicity, popularity by year from 1880 on, alphabetical index and by meaning. Freaking fantastic.
Caleigh Cohen
Aug 16, 2012 Caleigh Cohen rated it liked it
Euro-centric, but within those limits it was quite helpful. I would have preferred more practical info on namees, such as common nicknames or which classes used which names. The book is most helpful for naming slightly-above-walk-ons.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Jun 20, 2011 Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Snail in Danger (Sid) by: Seanan McGuire (blog)
As a starting point this is an impressive reference. But I don't think it should ever be the end point unless you are just refreshing your own memory. I also felt that the front matter could have used more material.
Jul 26, 2012 Judity rated it it was amazing
This is a great reference book for any serious writer. I used the book often to find names for characters in my "1,000 Words or Less" collection of short stories.
May 03, 2008 Kristen rated it really liked it
This is a good reference to have for all writers who write scripts, short stories or novels. It's updated and have new name lists, handy for all. (I also have the first edition too.)
Tina Marie (Highlandress)
This is very usefull for finding character names. I love that it is easy to find names for the countries you are looking for. I love it!!!!
Cynthia Sims
Jan 24, 2010 Cynthia Sims marked it as to-read
A friend just gave me a boatload of encouraging writing books. I could cry. Ask if you want to borrow any.
Apr 17, 2008 Gina rated it it was amazing
This book is a great help for those who like to write but aren't too sure what to name their characters.
Anne Marshall
Aug 31, 2012 Anne Marshall rated it liked it
Shelves: writing, non-fiction
An interesting book full of name origins and how other novelists name their characters.
Nicole Engard
The Writer's Digest character naming sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon (1994), 1st ed
Leah Good
Jul 19, 2012 Leah Good rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
My family laughs at me because I read this book like a novel. Great resource.
Lisa J
Jul 10, 2010 Lisa J rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Lots of great names, and I like the randomizing factor.
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