While you usually can’t choose your surname, it can be something you need to do when it comes to writing books, movies, or gaming stories.

As a part of this, you will need to find plausible but interesting last names for your characters that fit into the genre and don’t distract the audience from the story. Whether it is a historical novel, a fantasy game, or a contemporary movie, it can be tough to find appropriate last names. It would be boring to pick the most widely used surnames unless you intentionally look for your character to blend in or be exaggeratedly generic. On the other hand, you don’t want to pick something so outlandish that it isn’t believable at all.

To help you think of last names for your characters, this list covers unique and interesting last names for any gender, genre, or meaning. There are many things to consider when picking the last name for your character, so read on for some of our top characters’ last names and some additional tips on picking a great name that fits your character.

Education resources


Factor in meaning

A lot of last names are likely to have a meaning behind them. Before you assign a name to a character, it is worth checking if there is any meaning beyond the surface and if this could add extra connotations to the character that may not be desired. On the other hand, it may add a new side or personality trait to your character and help build up your story and the people in it. Alternatively, if there are specific traits or events in your story that you want to hint at through names, looking for last names with certain meanings is another way to choose them.

Consider the first name

You have probably already considered this, but the last name needs to sound natural with the first name you gave the character. In most situations, a child has a surname before a first name, so if you want your character names to sound realistic, you should consider who named them and whether the first name you desire would have made sense with the last name when it was given. It can help to read the name out loud to make sure it sounds natural, and it might even be worth reading out in different scenarios and sentences to check that it makes sense.

Think about length

When writing a story, whether it is for a book, film, or a game, the last thing you want is to distract the reader or draw them out of the story’s world. Finding a name is a key part of this, as one wrong name can easily shatter the illusion of good storytelling. One factor that heavily influences this is length. Check how many syllables are in the name you choose since an excessively long name can distract from the story.

Ordinarily, names are only a few syllables long and, even if they are longer, will commonly be replaced by nicknames if they are too wordy. If you are set on a longer first name, you will likely need to come up with a nickname to accompany it. This is less relevant for last names, and you may need to come up with a shorter option instead.

Factor in the feeling of the name

No matter how long you have been working on your masterpiece or developing your characters, their name is likely one of the first things your reader will learn about them. For this reason, it is important to ensure that the name you choose matches the personality or aura that you imagine them to have. It can strongly impact how a reader imagines or feels about a character. Be careful when choosing options for characters you want to be particularly liked or disliked or have particular personality traits that you want the audience to pick up on.

It could be as simple as choosing names with harsher or sharper sounds for villains and softer names for more fragile or innocent characters, for example. You can also use names to indicate age and other traits about a given character, which also needs to be considered. An older last name could indicate a prestigious family connection or a certain work history for a character, possibly giving a lot away just in one name.

Think about uniqueness

While it is common to want to pick a unique last name for your characters to help them stand out amongst your other characters as well as from those in other books, sometimes it is best to be a bit more restrained. If you are looking for stranger names to fit a fantasy world, feel free!

However, when it comes to more background characters or supporting figures, the last thing you want is their convoluted or unbelievable names to take the attention away from the plot you have worked so hard to craft and the world you have built. For this reason, it is a good idea to pick more familiar-sounding names for background characters so that the reader is not distracted by something irrelevant to the overall story.

Historic last names

Historic last names are perfect for a piece set in the past but also to inspire fantastical or modern last names. They originate in a range of places. Some are patronymic, a surname indicating family lineage, for example, Davidson, meaning son of David. Other historic last names descend from the location where the person resides or the physical features of that area. Yet more last names come from the occupations of medieval people or nicknames developed due to their meaning.

  • Booker – a bookkeeper by profession
  • Norton – from the north of their town
  • Steele – a steel worker by profession
  • Truman – nickname for a trustworthy person
  • Miller – a mill worker by profession
  • Baker – a baker by profession
  • Andrews – son of Andrew
  • Erickson – son of Erick
  • Hughes – son of Hugh
  • Morrison – son of Morris
  • Mannering – nickname for a manly person
  • Lancaster – from near Lancaster
  • Townsend – from the outside of town
  • Park – from near a park
  • Hill – from near a hill
  • Knapp – lives on top of a hill
  • Clarke – a teacher by profession
  • Knight – a knight by profession
  • Blythe – nickname for happy
  • Arden – a noble family name

Unique last names

Sometimes you want your characters to stand out, especially if your story is set in a futuristic, alternate reality, or fantasy world. If this would be useful, look no further for some of the unique names that would be perfect for your out-of-this-world story.

  • Shade
  • Laurier
  • Barlowe
  • Whitlock
  • Hayes
  • Collymore
  • Huxley
  • Adler
  • Pierce
  • Griffin
  • Aldine
  • Alvar
  • Hart
  • Sinclair
  • Raven
  • Solace
  • Samson
  • Wisteria
  • Hansley
  • Bardot

Names with meanings

Considering if the last name you choose has meaning is important to decide if it is suitable for your character. On the reverse of this, you may even want o find a name with a specific meaning to hint at your character’s personality or even as some subtle foreshadowing of what will happen to them.

  • Ambrose – divine or immortal
  • Aphelion – point of orbit furthest from the sun
  • Alinac – light
  • Bobusic – battle
  • Brager – thunder
  • Chalut – beyond
  • Dempsey – proud
  • Lamgnon – lives by a small stream
  • Macherac – humble
  • Mailon – beloved
  • Miracle – deriving from a stem word meaning dark
  • Neredras – dear
  • Nuttal – nut nook
  • Rochelieu – wealthy
  • Roqueze – rough
  • Suva – taste
  • Sufelon – a noble serf
  • Sutcliffe – south of the cliff
  • Suteuil – shoemaker
  • Vernize – bringer of victory

Common last names

For characters that you want to blend in or to seem ordinary, you might want to choose some of the more common last names. Here are some of the most widely used last names across the world. Of course, you will need to be aware of the culture, ethnicity, and geographical location in in which your story takes place to help inform your choice of the most common last names. If your story is set in China, the most common last names will be very different from a story set in Norway.

  • Smith
  • Jones
  • Williams
  • Johnson
  • Brown
  • Miller
  • Davis
  • Garcia
  • Li
  • Stewart
  • Campbell
  • Thomson
  • Wilson
  • Robertson
  • Wang
  • Harris
  • Walker
  • Devi
  • Taylor
  • Kim

Fantasy based names

For a storyline set in a fantasy world, you will need last names to go along with your new world. Here are some of the more fantastical options that can ensure the immersion of your readers stays intact, and you can sell your world believably.

  • Ginerisery
  • Duras
  • Hallowswift
  • Echethier
  • Ambers
  • Bizeveron
  • Amery
  • Einar
  • Damaris
  • Festus
  • Seibert
  • Stillblade
  • Yarrow
  • Fellowes
  • Charna
  • Blakely
  • Bates
  • Corleone
  • Dunn
  • Vikiar