Whether you're writing fiction or building out a D&D campaign, you know that choosing the right names for your characters is a tough task. You want to make sure your characters' names are appropriate, memorable, and meaningful!
If you're hoping to stumble upon that perfect character last name, check out this article's list of 78 unique last names for girl characters, guy characters, and characters from a range of genres, including:
- Action Adventure
We've also put together a list of five tips for selecting unique last names for your characters to help you put a name to your characters' personalities all on your own. So, let's get started!
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's last name is "Gale"...which is a nod to the tornado that whisked her away to Oz in the first place! (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/CNN)
Cool Last Names for Girls
Though last names for girls and guys are interchangeable in most situations, the following 13 cool last names for girls are ones that can help your strong female characters stand out.
|Amana (ah-MAH-nuh)||Integrity, faithful, trust|
|Barlowe (bahr-loh)||Lives on the hill|
|Hart||Stag; strong; brave|
|Hendrix (HEN-dricks)||Ruler of the home|
|Katz||Priest of justice|
|Laurier (law-ree-ay)||Bay tree|
|Sai (sigh)||To order; to send|
|Villarreal (bee-AH-reh-AHL)||Royal settlement|
Han Solo's last name tells you a lot about his character: he's a lone wolf who has to learn to be part of a team. (Lucasfilm/StarWars.com)
Cool Last Names for Guys
Like with unique last names for girls, the choices in our list of last names for guys could be last names for anyone. We think these names could be especially useful in bringing many types of male characters to life!
|Abraham||Father of nations|
|Ashford||Edge of a sword|
|Benjamin||Son of my right hand|
|Boone||Good; a blessing|
|Elrod||God is the king|
|Hale||Hero; from the hall|
|Langston||From the tall man's tower|
|Levisay (leh-vih-say)||Dear victory|
|McElfresh (mc-EL-fresh)||Son of the brindled lad|
|Trevino (treh-VEE-noh)||Lives at a place where boundaries meet|
|Yarbrough (yar-bro)||Earthworks; fortifications|
Could Indiana Jones have been even cooler if he'd had one of these last names? We're just saying that it's a possibility... (Lucasfilm/The Telegraph)
Cool Last Names for Adventurers
If you're setting out to write an action hero or adventure fiction, consider trying the following unique last names for your heroes and villains.
|Beam||One who lives by a post or tree|
|Dash||From the ash|
|Jian (jee-uhn)||Simple; uncomplicated|
|Moses||To draw out of water|
|Remington||Boundary stream (also associated with Remington arms, the gun company)|
|West||From the west|
Sam Spade is the main character — and private eye — in The Maltese Falcon. His last name makes it clear that he'll keep digging for answers! (Warner Bros./The Hollywood Reporter)
Cool Last Names for Characters in a Mystery or Thriller
It seems like characters' last names in mysteries and thrillers often sound highbrow and sophisticated. Try out the unique last names in the list below to shroud your mystery characters in...well, mystery!
|Abernathy (a-ber-nath-ee)||Confluence of rivers|
|Driscoll||Descendant of the messenger|
|Ninomae (nee-noh-may)||One before two|
|Undergrove||A grove of shrubs beneath tall trees|
|Vandenberg||From the mountain|
|Webb||Weaver of cloth|
Dumbledore means "bumblebee" in Old English. J.K. Rowling (the author of the Harry Potter series) said that she always pictured Albus walking around humming to himself...hence his last name (Warner Bros./CNN)
Cool Last Names for Fantasy Characters
The evocative and unique last names in the list below could easily fit any fantasy character from a hero, to a sage mentor, to a love interest, to a villain. Take a look and see what you think!
|Abednego||Servant of Nebo (the Babylonian god of wisdom)|
|Dagon (DAY-gone)||To be cut open|
|Damaris (duh-MARE-is)||Calf; gentle|
|Einar (AY-nar)||Bold warrior|
|Festus (fehs-tuhs)||Festive; joyful|
|Gallio (gal-ee-oh)||One who lives on milk|
|Lightfoot||A messenger or nimble runner|
|Priestley||Priest of the wood|
|Sierra||Saw; mountain range|
Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice is one of the most famous romantic heroes around. Darcy means "from the fortress," which isn't surprising given how long it takes for him to realize he's locked his heart away and is actually in love with Elizabeth Bennett. (Focus Features, et. al/Bustle)
Cool Last Names for Characters in a Romance Story
If you're searching for the right last name for star-crossed lovers in a romance story, try out the dreamy names in our list below.
|Aberra (uh-BER-uh)||Light; one who shines|
|Agapov (a-gah-puhv)||To love|
|Albertine (al-ber-teen)||Noble and bright|
|Cherith||To cut off; to separate|
|Desai (deh-sigh)||Lord of the land|
|Knight||Youth; serving lad|
|Lozano (loh-zah-noh)||Elegant; haughty|
|Rossi (rah-see)||Red haired|
While "Vader" isn't technically Darth Vader's last name, it kinda works like one! In this case, "Vader" sounds a lot like the German word for "father," which...uh...gives away a pretty important plot point. (Lucasfilm/BGR.com)
Cool Last Names for Sci-Fi Characters
Sci-fi is a big genre that features people (and creatures!) from galaxies unknown. The unique last names in the list below might fit right into plans for sci-fi characters that involve space, futuristic societies, and much more!
|Alastair (al-ah-stair)||The one who repels men|
|Aphelion (uh-FEE-lee-uhn)||The point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid, or comet at which it is furthest from the sun|
|Callisto (cuh-lihs-tow)||Most beautiful|
|Chrysalis (KRIS-ah-lihs)||Pupa of a butterfly or moth; a transitional state|
|Furi (foor-ee)||Adhere the soul to the body|
|Gibbethon (jih-beh-thahn)||Mound; lofty place|
|Gregorios (greg-OR-ee-ohs)||To awaken; to watch|
|Sapphirus (saff-EYE-ruhs)||Blue stone|
|Silvius (SIL-vee-us)||Forest; wood|
|Umbra (UHM-bruh)||The dark, central spot of a sunspot; shadow or darkness|
5 Tips for Choosing Unique Last Names for Your Characters
If you have a strong idea of what your characters are going to be like but the perfect name still eludes you, check out our five tips for choosing good last names for your story characters below.
Tip 1: Consider the Character's Age
One important thing to consider when you're trying to choose good last names for your story characters is when they were born. Popular and common last names have changed drastically over the years. Whether a particular last name is suitable for a character will depend heavily on what time period your story is set in.
For example, characters in a story set in Shang era China probably won't have the last name "Windsor," which is English. Doing your research on what last names were common during the time period in which your story is set will help your reader feel more immersed in the setting or your story and will make your representation of your story's setting more convincing.
Tip 2: Stick to the Location of the Story
Fictional stories are often set in a particular location, and you want your characters' last names to respect the cultural conventions of names of that place.
For instance, if your story is set in ancient Rome, last names like Axius, Gallius, and Octavius would sound truer to the conventions of that time and place than contemporary American last names like Williams or Roberts. Alternatively, if you're trying to think of a last name for a heroine from Thailand, Irish names like O'Leary or McMahon probably wouldn't make sense.
You can learn more about common names for people from a particular country or region by doing your research! Remember, it's also important to make sure you know what the last names you select mean.
When you're writing genre fiction, readers will have certain expectations for characters, including how they're named. (Genre convention is one reason that fantasy characters, like Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, have complex names!) (HBO/Esquire)
Tip 3: Follow the Genre
Different genres of fiction have loose but generally observed conventions for naming characters. Based on these conventions, readers will likely bring some assumptions about what your characters' names will sound like and signify to their reading of your story.
If you're writing a traditional American western, for example, last names like Aphelion or Omega wouldn't really match the conventions of character last names for that genre. Instead, you might want to browse last names for people of Spanish, English, or indigenous origin.
No matter what genre you're writing in, genre conventions should definitely shape your name selections so that your characters' names support the themes of your story.
Tip 4: Think of Other Characters
As you select last names for your characters, you want to make sure that no two are too similar. Having two characters with similarly spelled or pronounced last names might confuse readers, causing them to mix up your characters.
While you might want to select last names for characters that allude to similarities in their personalities or life situations (like, for example, choosing posh French names for wealthy characters in a story set in Paris), you don't want the names themselves to sound too much alike. Instead of Beauchamp and Beaufort, go for something slightly different...like Delacroix or Fauveau.
Tip 5: Consider Your Character's Qualities
Part of choosing good last names for your characters involves evaluating the character's personality traits. For instance, writers often want their villains to have names that create a sense of foreboding or distrust, and they want heroic characters to have names that sound strong, pure, and valiant.
If you're naming a character who always does the right thing and fights for the good of others, you probably don't want to give them a last name that means "snake in the grass" or "backstabber." The same would go for a character that starts out good but becomes the villain as the story goes on. You don't want to give away the plot twist!
That's why it's important to have a clear sense of who your characters are and what your name choices mean. Choosing names with meanings that mirror your character's traits can implicitly communicate aspects of your character that are important to understanding their role in the story.
Looking for a last name that's more run-of-the-mill? Check out our article on the 85 most common last names in the US and the world as a whole.
Found the names you want to use, but still facing writer's block? We have over 100 creative writing prompts to get yourself going, along with 50+ writing prompts for kids.
There's more to writing a good story than just naming your characters! You need to make sure you're incorporating literary elements, too. Why not start with the nine literary elements you'll find in every story?
Another critical element of a story is its plot, which is the sequence of events that happen as a story unfolds. You can learn more about plot here.
But what if you want your readers to feel something while they're reading your story? Good news: that's what rhetorical devices are for! Our favorite rhetorical devices can help your story really come to life.
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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.