Hunger Game Names: Inventions and Reinventions
Even if you haven’t read the books, you’ve probably heard of The Hunger Games. The trilogy has topped the bestseller lists, and buzz about the upcoming movie adaptation has been constant for the past few months.
It is the tale of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who overthrows a cruel and despotic government. Katniss Everdeen becomes the unlikely heroine after she is chosen to fight to the death in a televised game controlled by the all-powerful Capitol. It’s part Greek myth, part reality TV.
Author Suzanne Collins is quite the storyteller, and she’s a masterful namer of characters. Katniss sounds like a smoosh of classics like Katherine and Frances, but the name is borrowed from an edible aquatic plant. Sagittaria, the plant’s Latin name, comes from its arrow-shaped leaves. And wouldn’t you know it? Katniss saves the day through her extraordinary skill with a bow and arrow.
Even if you’re not into sci fi, the series is worth a read for the names alone. In Collins’ post-apocalyptic future, some familiar choices have endured, while other names have been sourced from the past. Many are new, drawn from the changed world in which her characters live. Each of the outlying Districts has a certain specific style.
This list includes minor characters and villains, and they range from the perfectly wearable to the truly out-there.
FELLOW CONTESTANTS & PAST CHAMPIONS
Cato – A willing contestant, from wealthy District 2. In the more affluent Districts, children often train for the Games, hoping for a chance to win riches and glory.
Marvel – Like many of the District 1 and 2 names, less wearable than other options in the trilogy.
REBELS & REFUGEES
Annie – A past champion, and Finnick’s true love.
Finnick – A trident-wielding past champion and rebel leader. Johanna
Plutarch – He once helped create the Games, but eventually brings his skills to help overthrow the Capitol.
FROM THE CAPITOL
Venia – Along with Octavia and Flavius, she joins the rebellion. It’s a truly clever name. Venality – taking bribes – is a vice, but a venial sin is forgivable. Over the course of the series, Katniss recognizes that many of the Capitol’s residents deserve forgiveness, even if they’ve enjoyed their privileged status.
KATNISS’ HOME TOWN: DISTRICT 12
Darius – A good-natured peacekeeper, sent by the Capitol to enforce their rule in District 12.
Maysilee – Madge’s aunt, and a past contestant.
Peeta – The baker’s son, he and Katniss are chosen to represent District 12 in the 74th Hunger Games. Their apparent romance helps keep them both alive.
And thanks, Abby, for a great blog!
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on April 4th, 2011 at 1:00 am
I’ve had the first Hunger Games book laying around for ages. I’ve heard they’re excellent, and I really wish I would have finished it before the end of my pregnancy! Maybe I’ll be able to get around to it in 18 years when they go off to college haha.
on April 4th, 2011 at 1:04 am
Oh, and I’ve always loved Gale for a boy. Very excited to see it up there. When I saw it listed I was sure it was going to be some girls’ nouveau version of Gail, luckily my unisex cynicism was wrong for once!
on April 4th, 2011 at 6:13 am
The books truly are amazing.
I think Gale for a boy could be the big story of The Hunger Games. He’s a compelling character. I’m hearing Cale/Kale more and more, and there’s also Cade and Gage. Plus I’m sure none of the little Abigails would ever consider using Gail, so … why not?
on April 4th, 2011 at 7:05 am
I love Gale (Gael) for a boy. The names were definitely one of my favorite things about reading the series. As soon as I read Katniss I mourned the fact that I could never use it without it being constantly linked to the books. Katri might do just as well though.
on April 4th, 2011 at 8:30 am
I haven’t read Hunger Games yet, but it’s in the queue for sometime this year. I like so many of the names from the series!
Effie & Posy are two nicknames Josephine uses often!
I probably won’t use any of these but not because I don’t like them but rather I’d hate for the kid to have to say “Yeah, my Mom’s a fan” forever. Rather why I won’t use Arya either.
on April 4th, 2011 at 9:06 am
Love this post. I even named my kitten Katniss.
I read the whole series (my nephew had them)over Christmas break. They were amazing and I loved all the unique names the characters had.
I keep searching for my first Katniss, but I have found a Maysilee.
on April 4th, 2011 at 9:16 am
Maysilee – whoa! Wonder if the parents were huge fans or stumbled on the name some other way? With Macy/Miley in vogue, you can imagine it being invented by someone who never read the books.
But Maysilee seems like a really clever HG name to bestow – you’d have to read all three books to know her significance, and I’m not sure if they’ll fit her into the movie adaptation or not …
on April 4th, 2011 at 9:36 am
Yeah, that name could go either way. Her parents may be surprised when someone brings up The Hunger Games thinking they invented the name from grandma Maisie and grandpa Lee. 🙂
Plus, Maysilee fits with other trends going on. The -ley, -lee, -leigh (sadly) is so popular right now. Just this week, I’ve found a Rensley (girl), Hatley (girl), Lizlee, and so on. Maysilee fits right in with that group.
Yeah, Maysilee make not make it in the movie. We’ll have to wait and see.
on April 4th, 2011 at 9:48 am
I kind of love Marvel. And I certainly love the rest. (Except Cato, which gives me an icky feeling. Maybe we can blame Kato Kaelin?)
If there were an award for Best Naming in a Book or Series, Ms. Collins would certainly be nominated.
on April 4th, 2011 at 10:02 am
Yea! I kept waiting for a Hunger Games blog. Suzanne Collins is fantastic at creating character names . . . And the books are so good–Read them if you haven’t.
on April 4th, 2011 at 10:37 am
on April 4th, 2011 at 11:46 am
My favorites are Marvel, Rue, Mags and especially Gale. I love and adore Gale.
I can’t believe that my name made the list.
on April 4th, 2011 at 12:09 pm
I am in love with “The Hunger Games”, the books and names are truly amazing. I’m so excited about a blog about the names!
Favorites that I may or may not consider using:
Finnick (one of my favorites of the series)
Hazelle (although I prefer Hazel)
Ooh yay, this blog made my day. Thanks Abby!
on April 4th, 2011 at 1:10 pm
@Johanna, she’s a neat character, too.
@Rachelmarie, Finnick really is wonderful, isn’t he? With Finn so fashionable, I wouldn’t be surprised to meet a Finnick.
@Jenny, Suzanne Collins would TOTALLY walk away with the trophy.
@SarahinJune, I like Katri. Love Kateri, actually, but I’m never sure about pronunciation issues.
on April 4th, 2011 at 3:22 pm
Am I the only one who hears “catnip” for Katniss?? I just can’t settle into this name. It jars me every time I hear it.
on April 4th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
“Catnip” is Gale’s nickname for Katniss, so the author hears it too 🙂
Anyhow i agree with pp about Gale. I know several Dale’s and Cale’s so Gale will definitely come after.
on April 4th, 2011 at 6:50 pm
Love the Hunger Games. Probably my favorite series after Harry Potter. 🙂
Even as I was reading I loved the ancient Roman-ness of some of the names mixed with the random word/plant names. I feel like the names are a sort of allusion towards the whole story compared with ancient Rome, which is an interesting analogy that I’m sure the author put in intentionally.
Suzanne Collins’ lesser known series (Gregor the Overlander) also boasts some fantastic names.
on April 5th, 2011 at 10:01 am
I think Finnick is a real gem, a water name, and I’m sad it doesn’t have a link. Finn and Nick put together in a modern, masculine fashion. Cato slaps of old world charm with just enough edge and sport for a modern boy; I love this name even though the character was a beast. It fits right into the “O” trend with Milo, Otis, Omar, Owen, ect. I would totally consider Cato because of it’s history (it’s meaning in Latin, “all knowing”, is cool and it is also Shakespearean!). Posy falls right into the retro name trend, as does Madge (GREAT alternative to Maggie!!). These books are really suspenseful reads that make you think and I recommend them to all the readers out there! Great Blog!
Bella (spotlightstarlit) Said
on April 5th, 2011 at 10:52 pm
Hey there, as always Abby has done a great job of compiling these names, but just in case you want a more in-depth look into the “whys” of Collins cast of characters stop by my blog: http://themodpodgebookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/12/friday-name-fame-1-hunger-games.html
Also, hate to nit-pick, but as a YA reviewer I can tell you that the genre of book is called “Dystopian” not “Sci-Fi.” To give you an idea, Dystopia is the antithesis of Utopia.
on April 6th, 2011 at 7:44 pm
Looovvve Finnick! He’s one of my favorite characters, and I love his name. My absolute favorite character is Peeta, even though I’m not in love with his name.
Sunday Summary: 4/10/11 | Appellation Mountain Said
on April 10th, 2011 at 12:54 pm
[…] week’s Nameberry post was all about Katniss and company. This week’s list goes in a very different […]
on April 11th, 2011 at 10:32 pm
I love the idea of taking a plant name and using it as a name. Grandiflora comes to mind, but that would probably work better in the middle spot.
on May 16th, 2011 at 10:23 pm
I’m writing a book and I named one of my characters Rue. Fits her perfectly because her guardian doesn’t really want her. As further revenge, Rue’s full name is Brunhilda Hortense, whick I’m actually starting to like!
on June 6th, 2011 at 8:02 pm
I know a woman named Marvel! I think a lot of the really roman sounding stuff is cool, but feels really stilted on the tongue. can you really imagine calling a toddler Cressida? I just love the associations the names tug on, but they are certainly more appropriate for a different time– Collins did a fantastic job. And like the blogger I love how the names also imply the post-apocalyptic America, as themes persist. Is Peeta a post-literate Peter? I wonder…
on July 27th, 2011 at 3:14 pm
I had vaguely heard of this before, but I was just doing a few searches on origins of names I love, and I came across this book series using the names both Effie and Rue. I’m so upset that this is becoming a movie and will boos the popularity. Ugh!
on November 2nd, 2011 at 2:15 am
My son’s middle name is Finnick. It would have been his first name if I had the choice, but my husband didn’t love it. I think it’s very handsome and masculine without going overboard.
on June 13th, 2013 at 3:43 pm
I always hear the comments that Katniss (which sounds really beautiful initially) sounds like catnip. But for me, I actually hear cat piss 🙁 which is much worse really and makes it unusable for sure
on July 23rd, 2013 at 9:06 pm
I would use Vick, I think it’s really cute and he is a very minor character so a kid wouldn’t get Hunger Games references his whole life. Or you could name your son Victor and nickname him Vick.
on July 23rd, 2013 at 9:09 pm
I think Peeta has more to do with Pita than Peter. He is the bakers son after all, and many characters from this series name their children after their employment. Especially District One
Literary Baby Names: YA book characters – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Said
on October 23rd, 2016 at 11:18 pm
[…] into movies, too. When that happens, it’s even more likely that an unusual name might catch on. Hunger Games-inspired names like Finnick and Primrose are already making more parents’ […]
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