I spend a lot of time coming up with character names. I have an 11-page Google doc of lists, ideas, and links to favorite resources. I have spreadsheets with multiple tabs; one spreadsheet is entirely dedicated to anagrams for a single name!
There is a method to my madness and the ultimate goal is to come up with a unique name that is rarely used. Regardless what game you are playing, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft (WoW) Armory app/website is a great way to determine a name’s rarity. WoW has been around for more than 10 years and the Armory is essentially big data for character names.
I use a sliding scale to determine a name’s rarity. If there are 50 results, but only 5 of them are above level 80, I consider the name to be rare. My rarity threshold can depend on various factors and isn’t 100% consistent. Generally, more than 50 results means try again. Zero results is the ultimate win!
And yes, I suppose finding a unique name is its own game for me. Wanna play?
Let’s start with Elves. They are prevalent in most fantasy role-playing games. And you just may need an elvish name for the demon hunter you plan to play in August, or at some point in WoW’s Legion expansion. Sure, a plethora of name generators are readily available. But what fun is that when you can generate your own, and possibly with some meaning behind it?
Tolkien’s Elvish languages are a great source of inspiration. There is a vast amount of information, dictionaries, name lists, even scholarly linguistic studies influenced by Tolkien’s invented languages. All of them very long rabbit holes, so I decided on a single rabbit hole—the Tolkien Gateway—and used it to search for word and feminine name suffixes (sorry fellas!). The suffixes included here do not represent all possibilities, just the ones that I might like to use. If you geek about this stuff as much as I do, you might have more fun searching for suffixes on your own!
Time to Play
Using the first two initials of my first (al) and middle name (da) to create my very own name element—alda—I was pleased to discover that it is a Tengwar letter that also means “tree” in Quenya. Tree! Can you believe it? How fitting for someone who loves druids! A search for “alda” on the Tolkien Gateway also returns the following names:
In the Armory, there are currently 108 Aldamirs and 154 Aldarions and about 10-12 of each are max level. If I were in love with either name and either were available on my server, I may go ahead and use it in WoW or any other game.
I always take it one step further to see if I can get that win. Adding “a” to the end of each name returns 3 Aldamiras and 1 Aldariona. I may try appending some different letters to see if I can get zero results on the Armory and, more importantly, a name I like.
That’s pretty much how I play my naming game!
Applying a Name Element to Suffixes
Let’s say I’m not happy with any of the results so far. I’ll pull up my Google doc listing the suffixes I like from the Tolkien Gateway—yes, that’s a different Google doc than the 11-page one I mentioned earlier—and begin combining my name element with suffixes. If it sounds good and has few Armory results, it will become a final contender. If it sounds good and adds meaning for the character I’m creating, then it becomes an ultimate final contender.
Using a few suffixes listed below, some options may be:
Aldael (64), Aldaenca (0), Aldaeth (3), Aldaiel (0), Aldandil (0), Aldanwe (0), Aldanya (4), Aldasse (2), Aldaya (12)
The number of characters with these names on the Armory are in parenthesis. With 64 Armory results, Aldael, is out. I like Aldaeth, which would mean “woman of the trees.” I also like Aldanwe, which would mean “treeness.” Both are perfect druid and nature loving character names. They are made even more perfect by winning at my naming game—three results for Aldaeth and zero for Aldanwe!!
This can also be a great way to go about establishing a set of common names for multiple characters.
My Elf Hates Trees
If your elf would rather chop down a tree than hug it, clearly you need your own name element to play this naming game. If you don’t already have one in mind, you can try combining the first two letters of your first/middle, first/last, middle/last, etc. If you want to remain “elvish,” some links are included in the suffix list below to get you started on exploring the Tolkien Gateway. You can also try any of the other Tengwar letters, explore the Quenya words or Sindarin words, or search this Quenya word list (going for the obvious with demon hunters, you can find “demon” here).
If you want something non-elvish, another option is to explore two of my favorite rabbit holes for name elements that are meaningful to you, the Nordic Names wiki and the Online Etymology dictionary. I’ve spent many evenings past my bed time on these sites!
My elf doesn’t live in Azeroth! If your elf is a mer or drow, look to their racial naming conventions for guidance and toss in an extra vowel or consonant or two (or three). The UESP wiki is a great source for mer (and other racial) names. The Forgotten Realms wiki has a brief drow language dictionary that can get you started.
I hope this has helped! If not, hit me up in the comments or on Twitter. I just might have the name you are looking for in one of my many lists or spreadsheets.
–dil: see -ndil
–duinë: rare Quenya suffix used for rivers (of large volume)
–el: feminine suffix
- Ailenil = “lake”, ailin, and the feminine suffix -el
–enca: meaning “without, -less”
–eth: feminine suffix (Sindarin?)
- Núneth is Sindarin and means “Woman of the West” (from annûn, ‘West’, and -eth, a feminine suffix)
–iel: feminine patronymic suffix in Elvish languages. “Daughter of ____”
- Uinéniel = “Daughter of Uinen”
–ielde: feminine suffix in Quenya
- Elerondielde = “Daughter of Elrond,” which is another name for Arwen.
–ien: meaning “daughter”
–iën: see -ien
–ima: meaning “-able”
–indë: feminine agental suffix. The masculine counterpart is –indo
–issë: feminine agental suffix in Quenya
- melissë = “lover” (“mel-” = “to love”; MEL)
–mar: pl. -mardi, means dwelling. Although Angmar is a Sindarin name, the Quenya suffix -mar and the Sindarin suffix -bar come from the same root, MBAR.
–ndil: added to names to indicate friendship, love, or devotion to an object, idea, grouping, course, occupation or spirit (Ainur) to which one is devoted for its own sake
–ndur: is a Quenya suffix added to names to indicate faithful service or servitude.
–në: denotes a set of something
- carcanë = “row of teeth” (carca = “tooth”|KARAK)
–nil: see -ndil
–nur: see -ndur
–nwe: has two meanings:
- It is equivalent to the English suffix -ness. This can be seen in Manwe (“blessedness”) and Voronwe (“steadfastness”)
- It is a dual exclusive pronoun suffix meaning “we, both of us”
–nya: pronominal Quenya suffix, 1st person singular possessive, “my” (e.g. tatanya = “my father”)
–ssë: denotes abstract or locality
- Vala = “angelic power, god” (valassë = “divinity”|BAL)
- laiqua = “green” (laiquassë = “greenness”)
- hande = “intelligent” (handessë = “intelligence”|KHAN)
–vëa: an adjentival ending with the specific meaning “-like” in Quenya. The plural is –vië.
- elvëa = “starlike” (él = “star”; the long é in él becomes short before the cluster lv)
–wen: shows feminine derivation, usually as “maiden”
–ya: Quenya suffix of endearment.
- Anardilya = “dear Anardil”