Hello My Name Is…Exploring The Meaning Of Your Favorite Character’s Name

by Ben Reeves on Feb 24, 2010 at 08:06 AM

Would a rose by any other name really not smell as sweet? Probably not, but if was called the buttflower how many people would be sticking their noses in it? Names are important – even in video games. The history of a character’s name can sometimes show us significant traits that character has, and possibly reveal the intentions of that character’s creators. Join us as we explore the true meaning of the names belonging to some of video game’s most recognizable faces.

Albert Wesker
(Resident Evil series) – Albert is originally an old Germanic name, Adalbert, composed of two different word, adal meaning "noble" and beraht meaning "bright". This name was common among medieval German royalty. Wesker, on the other hand, has 7th century Old Norse origins and derives from the word viscr, meaning “wise.” We assume the “er” was added latter, giving his last name the additional meaning “ridiculously overpowered superman.”

Altaïr (Assassin’s Creed) – The name of Ubisoft’s top assassin means “high flying one” or “bird of prey,” in Arabic. Altair is also the name of a star in the constellation Aquila – Aquila being another name meaning eagle. Not coincidently, Ezio (from Assassin’s Creed II) is the Italian form of a Greek name that also means “eagle.” However, the name of the man reliving the memories of both men from the future is Desmond. His name literally means “a man from south Munster.” Maybe he got lost and ended up in the wrong game.

(Final Fantasy VII) – The annoying stuffed puppet from FFVII is actually a reference to an ancient fairy creature found in Scottish mythology. A Cat Sìth is said to resemble a large black cat with a white spot on its breast. Legend tells that this specter is actually a disguised witch, and rumors hold that it still haunts the Scottish Highlands today. If that creature had been in Final Fantasy VII we might have actually used him.

Chris Redfield (Resident Evil series) – Christopher is a late Greek name meaning "bearing Christ.” The name was used by early Christians as a metaphor expressing how they carried Christ in their hearts. Redfield, on the other hand, is a bit redundant. It derives from two words, the Olde English ryd meaning “a cleared area suitable for agriculture,” and field another old word meaning “area cleared for agriculture.” Chris Redfield’s full name could be literally taken to mean to carry across fields of fields –symbolic perhaps for all the backtracking he did in the early entries of the Resident Evil series.

Chun-li (Street Fighter series) – In Mandarin, the name of Capcom’s leggy fem fatal is 春 麗. Chun (春) meaning "Spring", and lì (麗) meaning "beautiful.” In other words, Chun-li is a young girl filled with the beauty of spring. This is better than Capcom’s first choice for the character’s name, Kuà-dà (胯 大) meaning “large thighs.”

Francis (Left 4 Dead) – Most of the cast from Valve’s co-op shooter have names appropriate for a zombie apocalypse survivor. Bill, for example, comes from the Germanic name Willahelm, which was composed of wil meaning “will or desire” and helm meaning “helmet or protection.” Louis comes from another Germanic name, Chlodovech, which means "famous warrior." And Zoey derives from an old Greek word meaning “life.” Francis, it seems, is the black sheep. Francis is the English form of a Late Latin name, Franciscus, which literally means “Frenchman.” Frenchmen? Proof that Francis was the weakest link.

Gordon Freeman (Half-Life series) – Gordon is a Scottish clan name that is now used more often as a first name. It means "great hill." Freeman on the other hand emerged from pre 7th century Anglo-Saxon society. Built off of the word freo, which means “born free.” People with this designation were particularly fortunate especially in a society where most of the population lived as slaves. Freeman is an insightful name for a character who spends his life rebelling against an oppressive alien race.

Mario (half of Nintendo’s lineup) – The popular rumor is that Mario was named after Nintendo's U.S. landlord during the early ‘80s. However, the name Mario is actually the Italian form of the name Marius, which means “child of Mars,” Mars, of course, being the ancient Roman god of war. Mario’s brother Luigi is no slouch either. His name is the Italian version of the German name Ludwig, which means “famous warrior.” Maybe he was switched at birth.

Mordecai (Borderlands) – Our favorite sniper with a pet hawk has a highly unusual name. In Persian, Mordecai simply means "servant of Marduk.” In Babylonian mythology, Marduk was the chief god who presided over heaven, light, sky, battle, and fertility. Incidentally, Mordecai is the name of the hawk in the Wes Anderson film The Royal Tenenbaums. Coincidence? Gearbox hasn’t said.

Zelda (Legend of Zelda series) – The name Zelda (alternately Selda or Segula) might not be used much anymore, but this old Yiddish name means “blessed, happy, or lucky.”  Considering how often this chick gets kidnapped, maybe its time she changed her name. May we suggest Terah? It means “easily fooled,” and “old goat.”