Names of the FUTURE!!!
(Or, what and how to name your characters living 100, 200, 500+ years in THE FUTURE!!!)
There were a couple of people on Yahoo! Answers asking for names for characters in stories set in the future. After answering them, I realized that there are probably a lot of people faced with the same question, so I was inspired to write this article.
First, according to Namenerds.com, names go through a 100-year cycle of popularity. This means that if your main character was born in the year 2138, you could look up which names were popular in the year 1938 and get a general idea of what might be popular in your character's year of birth.
Now, one should not think that names will be exactly the same 100 or 200 years hence as they are today, because they won't - newly-minted names will come into popularity, while some names will fall out of favor and never come back. For example, refer to these names popular in mid-16th century England - most of them are familiar to us, but others are rarely, if ever heard today. Now go back farther, between 1250 and 1450, and you'll find even more names that are unheard of today.
So, the farther the future, the greater the differences will be. In 100 years, the vast majority of names will still be recognizable; in 1000 years, not so many. There will still be names you'll recognize, but many of them will be very different.
We can also look at current naming trends to predict where names might be going:
- It's becoming increasingly popular to give girls names perceived as masculine.
- More parents are choosing words that weren't commonly used as names before, such as "Story" or "Blue."
- As more people become environmentally-conscious, nature-oriented names rise in popularity.
- Some parents combine names of parents or other relatives - a child might be named after Aunt Caroline and Grandma Annie with a name like "Carannie." (I have a name generator to create names exactly like this.)
- Some parents try to make their children's names "unique" by changing the spelling - Jason might become Jasyn.
- It's become fashionable among some white people to appropriate "meaningful" names from non-white cultures, especially those perceived as mystical or wise. I don't endorse doing this in real life (ethical issues with cultural appropriation and all) - but it's something to keep in mind for worldbuilding's sake.
If your story is set in the near future - that is, in a time when your protagonists would be alive (if very young) right now, you can choose likely names by checking Social Security's database of popular names. Simply search for the year your character was born in.
Other near-future names might be inspired by today's popular entertainment, celebrities, and politicians. All of these tend to have an impact on what parents name their children.
Parents also give their children names expressing their values. Puritans often gave their children names such as Prudence, Love, or Humility. A webpage full of "hippie" names suggests Harmony, Peace, and Understanding. If your story is set in the far future, ask yourself what kind of traits and qualities your characters' culture or cultures admire; you will have a good selection of likely names right there.
Names with religious significance are always popular - for example, Biblical names have been popular among Christendom; Muslims often use Biblical names as well as the names of figures important to Islam. In both cases, these names have endured and remained popular for centuries. Since the Abrahamic religions don't show any signs of disappearing anytime soon, it's likely their favorite names will stick around, too.
But, let us say for the sake of argument that ancient Greek religion became dominant for some reason - it would be reasonable to have a lot of Platos, Apollos, Perseuses, Cassandras, Athenas, and Hypatias running around. Alternatively, if most people belonged to an entirely new religion introduced by a group of "prophets" named Roger, Lily, Juan, Unity, Susie, and Jim-Bob, all of these names would likely be very common, with adherents giving them to their children as a gesture of piousness.
There will still be a lot of good old-fashioned guesswork, but this should give you an idea of what some of the names we can expect in the future might be.