Friday, March 28, 2014

What's in a Name? Part 1: The Major Male Protagonists

When someone I know is expecting a baby, one of the first things I want to know is: What's his or her name? (Besides whether "it" is a he or a she, of course!) Then, once I work the information out of the expectant parents-to-be, I usually will look that name right up on an online name finder so that I know what it means. Why? I suppose some of my love of the meanings of names comes from reading Scripture, in which a person's name is so closely linked to what is expected of them, where they came from, or what they're known for.

Take, for example, Nabal. His wife says of him, "He's called Nabal, and he is a fool." Or Peter, upon whose testimony the Lord built the Church. Or - in an interesting twist - Jabez. (Nope, I've never read the book about him, so I can't tell you if that's good or not.) He was named Jabez, meaning, "He will cause trouble." And it seems that his life would have followed that course, had he not cried out to God, asking that he not cause trouble, that he not fulfill the meaning of his name. And God granted his request.

So, in that tradition, when I write, I try to choose carefully the names I give to the characters. The names have to include some meaning for that character's life or personality or what the Lord is going to do through/in them. The names also have to be time-period correct. In The House of Mercy, I didn't include a glossary of the characters' names, but some readers have asked about them. For those of you who are curious about why I chose the names I did and what they mean, here you go, the first in a three- or four-part series! (Just the major male protagonists this week ... The villains and the ladies come next!)


Gaelic for "wanderer, exile," this young man is not only a physical exile from his kingdom of Lothian, but he is also an emotional exile (from his foster-father, King Arthur) and a spiritual wanderer. Appropriately, he receives his true name...


A Scottish form of Patrick, this originally-Latin-based name means, "nobleman." In other words, he now has his inheritance as a son of the Living God. He has reconciled with his earthly family as well. Interestingly, this is the only character - I think! - whose name never really changed from draft to draft (though, in the first and second drafts, he was Patrick, rather than Padruig).


I changed this poor character's name about four times before settling on it! The character changed so drastically as I wrote the drafts that the name change became necessary. A Scottish form of the Latin name Columba, Calum means, simply, "dove." And that was Calum's destiny, wasn't it, to be at peace at last. And also, to know that the hand of God (think of the Holy Spirit descending) rested upon him yet.


Bearing a Scottish name meaning "solace, peace," Solas became a balm of healing for his mother, Seonaid in the aftermath of Dunpeledyr's siege. Weylin had torn her first son, Padriug, from her; Solas became an atonement for Padriug and a symbol of the peace Seonaid found in Christ.

So I've a question for you:  Do you know the meaning of your name? If so, has knowing it shaped you/influenced you in any way? 

UP NEXT: What's in a Name? Part 2 - The Major Female Protagonists