Inaccurate Names in Fiction

One of my biggest naming pet peeves in fiction is character names that are inaccurate for the time and place where the story is set. E.g. stories set in historical times having modern names like [name_u]Jayden[/name_u], or a male Spanish character being given a name that’s only used for women in Spain. Does anyone else feel this way? What examples have you noticed?

I remember reading a book that featured an elderly Irish woman named [name_f]Mackenna[/name_f] (which is just… extremely unlikely for anyone born in [name_u]Ireland[/name_u] before about the year 2000!).


I know I have some but I can’t remember right now. In the TV series Orphan [name_m]Black[/name_m] a Finnish female character was called [name_u]Mika[/name_u] which is a 100% male name in Finland.

This isn’t exactly it, but I’ve always been annoyed by [name_m]Remus[/name_m] Lupin’s name in [name_u]Harry[/name_u] [name_m]Potter[/name_m]. He wasn’t born a werewolf, he was bitten as a child so why would he have been named after a famous woolf baby (Romulus & Remus) and have a surname that literally means wolf :roll_eyes:


I once started a book set in mediaeval times with a central character called [name_u]Arlo[/name_u]. It wasn’t being used as a name then i don’t think and it’s believed to have been invented by [name_m]Edmund[/name_m] [name_u]Spenser[/name_u] in the late 16th century…

Things like that don’t bother me hugely, sometimes it’s just a bit jarring


I can’t think of one specifically right now, but it bothers me sometimes. It most often happens when an author or writer wants to add an Icelandic character, and just picks a random Icelandic name that doesn’t fit the character’s age and background, or sometimes a name they think sounds Icelandic but is, for example, Norwegian and not even on the list of Icelandic approved names. Argh :unamused: :sweat_smile:


This is a pet peeve of mine too!

In my (limited, mostly English-language) experience it almost always manifests as “current” names being used on older characters, born way before those names were fashionable. Obviously that happens, but it’s unrealistic that every character would have a name like that, unless set in a very specific context.

I also usually dislike names that foreshadow the character’s destiny or fate, unless very very subtle. Funnily enough @Iris_Claire [name_u]Harry[/name_u] [name_m]Potter[/name_m] is an exception for me! I think it’s because the whole world is kind of a suspension of reality and the character names are generally so fabulous and really enhance the magic (for me). I enjoy all the little nods to history and mythology, even though you’re totally right that sometimes it’s anachronistic!


In most books I read the names seem accurate enough.

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I read a [name_f]Colleen[/name_f] [name_m]Hoover[/name_m] book with characters [name_f]Layla[/name_f], [name_u]Willow[/name_u], [name_u]Sable[/name_u], [name_u]Aspen[/name_u], and Leeds that were all supposed to be in their 20s. That definitely seemed off to me because those names are popular now for babies, not 25 years ago.

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A lot of them names could of been used thousands of years ago for all we know. If your from the us and look at the charts they only go back to 1880! I always think 1000 years ago names that are considered “modern” today like the ones you listed above very may well of been used in the time but the charts don’t have the data because it only goes back so far!

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The [name_u]Harry[/name_u] [name_m]Potter[/name_m] names don’t bother me because it’s such a fantastical setting, it’s easy to suspend disbelief, and you don’t think about it as much in terms of like “it’s a crazy coincedence that [name_m]Remus[/name_m] would be named that and becomes a werewolf and [name_m]Sirius[/name_m] would be named that and becomes a dog Animagus”. It’s like…the meaning is prioritized and it’s sort of mythic, and that’s more of an authorial choice than an actual piece of worldbuilding. similar to what @katinka said.

I’ve definitely come across names where it’s sort of an eye-roll historically, though, particularly when it’s like. names that were common when the story is set but they’ve been put on the people of an older generation, like the story is set in the 1980s but the mom character is [name_f]Amber[/name_f] or whatever. [name_u]Or[/name_u] contemporary books where the characters are adults but all named stuff that’s trendy right now and shot to popularity recently.


Yes! This bothers me, too. For one example, I remember seeing a book on Goodreads once, not too long ago, where the story was supposed to be set in the 1910s, but the heroine was named [name_f]Madisyn[/name_f] (yes, with that spelling even). :anguished:

It’s like with poor costumes in period pieces: It’s not hard to do research and get it right. Sometimes I think these authors/creators don’t even try, they just want what will, in their minds, appeal to modern audiences. Well, modern audiences can appreciate historical accuracy, I think! Honestly, it’s just kind of insulting that they seem to think we can’t. :woman_shrugging:t3:

^^ THIS. I feel like I see this constantly, and it is rather silly, honestly.


I saw a movie with a character in her late twenties/thirties named [name_f]Luna[/name_f]. It’s possible, but come on, really?

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