Naming babies is tough. The hardest part isn’t being saddled with the responsibility of giving your child one of the most defining aspects of their identity, though. It’s the reaction from your friends and family when you tell them which name you chose. Everyone has an opinion: Mom, Dad, Grammy, the guy at the coffee shop, Uncle Elroy and Aunt June…especially Aunt June. It’s even harder for us geeks. When Nicolas Cage named his son Kal-El everyone poked fun at him. It was the height of audacity to name his son after an unbeatable superhero who fights for truth, justice and the American way. But what non-geeks don’t understand is that, for the geek, Superman is not just an unbeatable superhero; he’s a beatable superhero because everyone is forgetting about kryptonite. (Hello!) Also, Superman is more than just a character in a comic book…he’s a character in TV shows, movies and Saturday morning cartoons: shows, movies and cartoons that we love. Is it audacious to name the one thing we love above all else after something that we love nearly as much? No, but here are some ways to name your baby while honoring your geekdom and keeping Aunt June happy.
Geek Bonus: You are already ahead of the baby-name game because the names of our heroes have already been chosen carefully by their creators. Luke means “giver of light.” That was no accident. George Lucas specifically chose that name for his savior of the light side. Zelda means “woman warrior.” Shigeru Miyamoto must have researched that name before giving it to his 8-bit heroine.
15 Go Biblical
Who wouldn’t want to name their son (or daughter) after Sam Raimi’s beloved horror character Ash Williams (played with machete-blade sharp sarcastic wit by Bruce Campbell)? In the old Testament, Asher was one of Jacob's sons. He founded the Tribe of Asher and made his mother, Leah, so happy when he was born, she named him Ash, which means Happy in Hebrew. So even if his first preschool teacher calls you in after he won’t stop chasing other kids in the yard while yelling “this is my boomstick!” this kid will always bring you happiness. The guy at the coffee shop may ask you if you named your baby after Ash Williams or Ash Ketchum, the main character of the Pokémon franchise. If you are geek enough, you can look him in the eye and say, “Both.” If you’re even geekier, you can tell him that little Ash’s middle name is Smart (Shop smart, shop S-Mart).
Bonus Geek Points: If you’re having a girl and want to name her after one of DC Comics fearless feathered females, Black Canary or White Canary, you can choose their alter ego names: Dinah or Sara. In the Old Testament, Dinah was the beautiful daughter of Jacob and Leah while Sara (Or Sarai or Sarah) was the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac.
14 Go Bandwagon
Geek culture is getting more and more popular. Pokémon Go is so incredibly popular right now that people can’t walk through the park without being mobbed by hordes of players looking to catch a rare Vaporeon or Mewtwo. It seems like everyone on earth is either playing Pokémon Go or complaining about it. You would not be alone if you named your baby after the multitude of catchable creatures in the game. According to Baby Center, Pokémon inspired names like Evee, Star, Roselia, Onyx and Shay (short for Shaymin, a grass-type mythical Pokémon) have been on the rise lately.
If Pokémon Go isn’t your thing, chances are Game of Thrones is because, seven hells, isn’t it everybody’s thing? Imagine a kindergarten classroom five or six years from now. Now, try to imagine it without two Tyrions, at least three Daenerys and a Cersei. You can’t, can you?
Bonus: The hacktastic Mr. Robot is becoming more popular in the geeky world than five hour energy drinks and high-speed internet. You can’t go wrong naming your future code-writer Gideon, Angela, Darlene or Elliot.
13 Go Historical
When Zelda Williams was in the womb, her parents, actor Robin Williams and wife Marsha, were playing Nintendo’s popular RPG, Legend of Zelda. All pregnant women should play Zelda because after defeating Ganon, labor will seem almost easy. Zelda is a perfect girl’s name for almost any gamer. Even though Link has been tasked with rescuing her, Zelda is no damsel in distress. She actively fights for, and is the key to, her own rescue. The real Zelda was no slouch, either. Zelda Fitzgerald was an artist and writer who very nearly survived being married to author F. Scott Fitzgerald during the Jazz Age: a time that did not treat warrior women very well at all. It was quite an impressive feat. If you don’t want to tell people that you named your baby after a video game, you can hold your head high and say, “yeah sure” when Aunt June asks if you named her after the famous flapper.
But what if you’ve killed Ganon while gestating a male baby? Well, Link of course. If Aunt June complains, just tell her you named him after Abraham Lincoln. She can’t argue with the 16th President of the United States, can she? (Well…maybe she can, but she really shouldn’t.)
Bonus: If you want to name your son after the flawed, but redeemed Hunger Games mentor Haymitch, but don’t like the name Haymitch because you’re afraid everyone is going to call him Mitch, which sounds like the name of someone who cheats at online Scrabble (oh sure, Mitch, like you’ve ever even heard of the word oxyphenbutazone), you can go last name first and name him Abernathy. You’ll get some extra historical cred if you tell people that Reverend Ralph Abernathy was a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement.
12 Go Middle
Middle name, not Middle Earth. Middle names are nothing new to geek baby naming. The middle slot is like a secret bunker for geeky names. People can walk around talking to bankers and other non-geeks, saying things like “Hello, my name is Jim. Let’s do lunch and talk about boring banker stuff.” And everyone thinks he’s a very boring guy indeed. That is until he shows up at the hobby store to buy drone parts and signs up for the amateur robot builder newsletter with his first and middle name, James Tiberius, as in James Tiberius Kirk, and you know one thing: this drone-flying, robot-building, erstwhile boring banker is a serious geek—a quality he inherited from his Trekkie parents.
Some other geek names that work best as a one-two-first-and-middle-name punch are Peter Parker, Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Diana Prince, Lara Croft, William (Billl) Baggins, Anthony Stark and Jonathan Snow.
Bonus: Middle names are a good way to separate the Star Wars fans from the Marvel comic book fans. Without a middle name, how is anyone going to know that you named your boy after Luke Cage not Skywalker?
11 Go Nickname
If you’re a Buffy fan, you might really want to name your daughter Buffy, while also really not wanting to name your daughter Buffy. Buffy is a hard name to explain to visiting family and travelling dignitaries. Hey, you know what name is beloved amongst travelling dignitaries and family alike? Elizabeth. It’s a font for nicknames: Liz, Lizzie, Liza, Betty, Bette, Eliza, Beth and yes Buffy. You’ll need to be diligent. Your baby’s birth certificate will say something like: Elizabeth Anne Summers insert your last name here, so don't forget to specify that Buffy is her preferred nickname when you sign the kid up for camp, daycare and school. While Buffy's "Oz" was short for Osbourne, if you name your baby boy Oscar, you can remind everyone that he likes to be called Oz…even when he’s a newborn.
Bonus: What if comics are more your thing than vampire slayers? If you want to name your daughter after Marvel’s Peggy Carter, you should know that Peggy is a nickname for Margaret. If you’re having a boy, take a cue from Daredevil sidekick Franklin P. "Foggy" Nelson and just decide that Foggy is somehow a nickname for Franklin.
10 Go Greek!
What? Go Greek? But geeks and the fraternity/sorority system don’t mix! True, but geeks and baby names with Greek origins do. Some names can go from geek to Greek with just a few changes. If you choose to spell your daughter’s name Elektra, like the Sai-weilding Marvel hero, Uncle Elroy is going to have a fit. But if you change the K for a C, you can tell Uncle Elroy that the name Electra is a Greek name that means “the fiery sun.” You can go on to explain that Electra was the mythological daughter of Agamemnon who teamed up with her brother to get revenge against their mom and step-dad for the murder of their dear daddy. Real Greek tragedy stuff. It’s no wonder she was the titular character of two plays: one by Sophocles and one by Euripides.
Bonus: X names have quite a bit of geek cred as well as Greek origins. Xena does not mean warrior princess, it means “hospitable.” (What? Xena is very hospitable…as long as you don’t cross her.) Xander (short for Alexander) means “defender of the people.”
9 Go Mythical
Deep down, past the memorized hit points of long gone D&D characters, Monty Python quotes and opinions on Peter Jackson movies, there is a little place right in the very heart of every geek: a place that really wants to be named Thor. Picture the God of Thunder in your mind. He’s wearing a toga, lounging on a cloud and tossing lightning bolts at people, right? That image combines so many things that geeks love: electricity, weather patterns, smiting our enemies and loose clothing. So why wouldn’t you name your baby boy Thor or your baby girl Thora?
Bonus: The badass hero from Irish mythology Fionn mac Cumhaill’s name translates to the English as Finn McCool. An apt name for a guy who once pressed a red-hot spear against his forehead to keep himself awake for a battle where he would kill his enemy with the very same spear. Star Wars geeks who want to name their babies Finn could do worse than adding the middle name of McCool. How amazing would it be to have a kid named Finn McCool? And then when the coffee shop guy asks where it comes from you can look him in the eye and say, “It’s an ancient Celtic name.”
8 Go Origin Story
While you are creating the origin story of your own little superhero, why not go back to the origins of your favorite comic book legends. Go way back, to when Superman was an alien baby named Kal-El with a dad named Jor-El and a cousin named Kara Zor-El. Go back to when Green Arrow was a spoiled playboy named Oliver Queen. Go back to when Steel was John Henry Irons. Or to when Black Widow was a Russian orphan named Natalia Allanovna Romanov. Unless you prefer your orphans French, then you’ll want to go back to when X-Men’s Gambit was scaring the nuns in a New Orleans’s orphanage as little red-eyed Remy LeBeau. If you prefer your X-Men to be X-Women, go back to when Storm was a wind-swept Kenyan princess named Ororo Munroe. Speaking of princesses…what about naming your tiny warrior Princess Adora after the alter ego of She-Ra? Because, let’s be honest, we all want to name our daughters She-Ra, but we don’t want our grandparents to cut us out of the will.
Bonus: Gamers know of course that the hero of Ninja Gaiden’s is Ryu Hyabusa and Metroid’s heroine is, of course, Seamus Aran. Ryu is a boy and Seamus is a girl in those games, but why not mix things up?
7 Go Natural
Geeks have a rap of eschewing the natural world for the technological world. People think that geeks prefer coding to camping, smoking craters to bucolic vistas, flotsam and jetsam to flora and fauna, but the truth is that much of geekdom have origins in and are improved by the natural world. No one is going to accuse us of being treehuggers, as we spend a sunny afternoon blogging about Joss Whedon, but that’s not going to stop us from naming our baby girls Willow. And hey, we may not get out of the house during the hours when diurnal animals are awake, but that won’t stop us from naming our baby boys Fox, after Fox Mulder, or our baby girls Raven, after Mystique’s alter ego, Raven Darkholme. We might not be well acquainted with the edible tuber found in the Pacific Northwest by the Lewis and Clark expedition and loosely translated from the native language as Katniss, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to name our bouncing baby girls after it. And we might not know that Primulaceae is the scientific term for the primrose, but that won’t stop us from naming baby girl number two after it.
Bonus: If you’d like to name your baby girl after a dweller of the shire, go floral. There aren’t many famous female Hobbits, but there are many female Hobbits and a lot of their names come from plants and trees, hence one of the better known female Hobbit names: Rosie Cotton, Sam Gamgee’s wife.
6 Go Stealth
Throughout history, geeks were forced by a society ruled by popular non-geeky culture to go underground…not unlike the characters in one of our dystopian sci-fi novels. Even though these days geek culture is popular culture, and we can come out once again into the light (but we don’t because geeks tend to burn and blink in direct sunlight), some of us don’t want to explain to our parents and grandparents why we named our baby after a robot from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Still who’s going to know why you named him Marvin if you don’t tell tell? Or Arthur Dent, for that matter? No one is going to accuse you of being an X-Files fan because your girl’s name is Dana or a Buffy fan if your boy’s name is Rupert. No one is going to know that you are a huge Harry Potter fan if you name your baby boy Ronald or Harry unless you draw a lightning bolt scar with a sharpie on your napping baby’s forehead.
Bonus: Doctor Who companions are a goldmine of subtly geeky names: Zoe, Clara, Vicki, Martha, Polly, Grace, Amelia, Alistair, Jamie, Jack…the list is nearly as long as the list of companions. (Leela and Ace are not exactly subtle, but don’t even get us started on Lethbridge and Perpugilliam.)
5 Go Last First
Last Names are often used as first names in geek lit. Who knew that Ripley’s real first name was Ellen? Okay. All of us. We’re geeks…we’ve seen the Alien movies. But take the X Files. Mulder and Scully usually go by their last names. Sure, every once in awhile Mulder calls his partner Dana, but how often does she call him Fox? Not often because it would be weird for her to call Mulder a fox. Especially since, considering their story arc, we all know that she has always considered him to be one. But lots of characters who go by their first names actually have last names that would make geeky yet respectable first names. For example: Gale Hawthorne, Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Reed Richards, Steve Austin (the Six Million Dollar Man, not the wrestler) and Barbara Jordan.
Bonus: If you really want to name your baby after the founder of the X-men, Professor X, but think that Professor would make a terrible first name, remember that his full name is Charles Francis Xavier. Xavier means savior and is the name of a catholic saint. (Cough.) I mean, if Aunt June is into that sort of thing.
4 Go Real Science
If there is anything that geeks love more than Sci-Fi, it’s just plain old sci. We don’t just want to believe in science. We actually believe in it. We study it. We love it and nurture it. We get very cranky if anyone says anything bad about it. We have high hopes for its potential and worry about its future. It’s almost like science is our baby. Of course we want to name our babies after science. Actress Shannyn Sossamon actually named her baby boy Science. (Well, Science is his middle name, but his first name is Audio, so she’s not exactly being stealth about it.) If you want to go a bit more subtle with your name you could choose the names Adam and Jamie (or your favorite Mythbuster), Kelvin (either for the unit of thermodynamic temperature or the British scientist it was named for), Ada Lovelace (or any other female scientist or mathematician), Ruby (for the general-purpose programming language developed in the mid-1990s by Yukihiro Matsumoto), or any combination or iteration of Neil, deGrasse or Tyson.
Bonus: You could combine the Greek trick with the middle name with the nickname and add some real science with the first name Xyla (which is Greek for of the wooded area) and middle name Ray, or X-Ray for short.
3 Go Obscure
This is a no brainer. Obscure baby names are the lifeblood of the comic book geek, and they’re as bountiful as barely-drunk cups of mead at a ren faire. Having a little girl geek? You could name her Ivory, after your favorite second tier SHIELD agent, or , your favorite forgotten member of Guardians of the Galaxy, or if you want to make sure people have to ask her how to pronounce and spell her name every single day for the rest of her life, go with Zsaji the alien, white-haired healer from the Marvel Comics Universe. If you’re birthing a guy geek, you could go with Zauriel. He was an angel sent by God to make a brief cameo in the Justice League, so his sounds kind like a biblical name, it’s not, but it might fool Uncle Elroy. Remember Marvel hero Quasar? Sure you do, but you’re a geek. Everyone else will think you’re really, really into astronomy…which is most likely also true.
Bonus: Go obscure : a random dude wandering around Mos Eisley who looks like a cross between a pig and a lizard wearing a Trump wig. Or, if you’re a Tolkien fan, you can just flip through The Silmarillion and point at a random word. Anduin. Great. So what if it’s a river and not a person? No one will know except your geekiest friends, and they will love you for it.
2 Don’t Go There
There are some geek names that you just can’t, as a responsible parent, give to your child. If you're a big Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fan, it would be cute to name your daughter Trillian Astra, but if you named your son Ford Perfect he might go a little Marvin-the-Paranoid-Android trying to live up to that name. If you love Firefly, it’s cool to name your daughter Serenity, but no, you can’t name your son Mal. It means “bad”. You don’t want to set this kid up with a complex. If you get the urge to name your baby boy Jayne Cobb, listen to the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue” a few hundred times and the urge will pass.
Bonus: No matter how big of a fan you are of the DC Comic and 70s Saturday Morning TV heroine, Isis, you can’t name your daughter after her for obvious reasons. Nope. Sorry. Just no. Unless, you go origin and name her Andrea Thomas or Adrianna Tomaz. Feel free, however, to name your boy Shazam.
1 Go for It
When it comes to baby naming, there are only three people whose opinions matter—and let’s face it, when you discount the one who isn’t capable of coherent thought, it’s really only two. If there can be an entire generation of adults with names like Sunshine, Granola and Dreamcatcher who tell people a few times a day, “my parents were hippies” then why can’t you name your kid Optimus Prime? To be sure, for the rest of little Optimus’s life, any conversation that begins with “What is your name?” will devolve into a lengthy conversation about you. Don’t you realize what that means? Your child will be forced to talk about you at least once a day. When you think about it, a geeky name is a surefire ticket to immortality. And what more could a geek want?
Bonus: Wear your love of Twilight on your sleeve by naming your daughter Reneesme (pronounced ruh-nez-me). It’s a combination of Bella and Edward's mothers' names, which were Renee and Esme. It’s a name that only exists in the Twilight Franchise, so no, there’s no Greek origin, mythological counterpart or way to be subtle about it. Say it out and say it loud: you’re a geek and you’re proud.