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This blog post was originally published on April 10 2011, and heavily edited and updated on April 16 2015.

Ayame is a female ninja in the Tenchu series; she appears petite and feminine, but is possessed of a sharp tongue, and is a cunning and aggressive fighter. Her real name is Omon, so Ayame is her professional or code name. Ayame is the Japanese word for the iris flower. It is used as a girl’s name in Japan, and has a long history, for five generations of kabuki actors, beginning in the 17th century, adopted it as a stage name while playing female roles. The name has become a favourite for Japanese video games, anime, and manga. Pronounced ah-YAH-me, I have seen two girls in Australia with this name, and heard of another. The soft sound and floral meaning make this name an attractive choice which fits in with names like Aya and Ayla.

Coco is the smart, fearless younger sister of Crash Bandicoot in the Crash Bandicoot series, set in Australia. Coco is a nickname for any name with a CO sound in it, or given because of its similarity to the word cocoa. Its most famous namesake is French fashion designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who got her nickname from her days as a cabaret singer. It may have been an allusion to either one of her signature songs: Ko Ko Ri Ko (“Cock-a-doodle-doo”), or Qui qu’a vu Coco (“Who Has Seen Coco?” – Coco was a lost male dog). Another theory is that it was based on the French word coquette, used as a slang term for a kept woman or a mistress. Coco the Clown (born Nikolai Poliakoff) is one reminder of its use for males as well. Coco became a celebrity baby name when it was chosen by actress Courtney Cox for her daughter in 2004. Australian journalist Mia Freedman named her daughter Coco the next year, actress Diane Farr called one of her twin daughters Coco in 2008, and Tony Kanal from No Doubt welcomed a daughter with this name in 2011. This is a cute, flirty, yet stylish name that is still underused.

Prince of Persia is set in ancient Persia and inspired by the religion of Zoroastrianism. Elika is a runaway barefoot princess who must help the hero by systematically travelling the area, and magically healing particular sectors of ground called Fertile Lands; unfortunately each time she does this her life force becomes weaker. In appearance, Elika is beautiful with tousled dark chestnut hair, enigmatic hazel eyes, and a slender, fragile figure; her personality is guarded and serious. She is much greater than she appears, for she holds many secrets, and almost has the status of a demi-goddess. Elika is a name which is found in many different cultures, but I have seen the Persian name Elika translated as being derived from ela or ellka, the Sanskrit for “cardamon”, a fragrant spice tree. In the game Elikas’s name is pronounced ELL-eh-kuh, but eh-LAY-kuh is more traditional. This pretty name fits in with popular names like Ella and Layla, and is not too different from fashionable Elke.

Kingdom Hearts is a collaboration between the makers of Final Fantasy and Disney, whereby Disney settings are crossed-over into a fictional universe, and characters from Final Fantasy interact with the player and popular Disney characters. Kairi is one of the hero’s best friends, and also one of the seven Princesses of Hearts – pure maidens whose hearts are free of all darkness. The name Kairi was invented for the game and according to creator Tetsuya Nomura, her name is derived from the Japanese word for “sea”, just as the other two main characters’ names mean “sky” and “land”. The name has become quite popular for use in use other Japanese video games, anime, and manga. It is pronounced KY-rhee, and is similar in sound to familiar names such as Kara, Kyra and Kylie. There is an Australian Aboriginal tribe called the Kairi, whose name has been given to a small town in Far North Queensland, so the name does not even have a particularly foreign sound to Australian ears. Kai can be used as a unisex nickname.

Lara Croft is the beautiful and intelligent heroine of the Tomb Raider series, an archaeologist travelling the world in search of adventure [pictured]. Lara is a Russian short form of Larissa. In Greek mythology, Larissa is a nymph, and it was also a common name for ancient Greek cities, as the name means “citadel”. Saint Larissa was a 4th century Goth who was martyred in the Crimea; her name is otherwise recorded as Baren or Beride. She is recognised as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox church, and the name Larissa is traditional in Russia and Slavic countries. The name Lara became known in the English-speaking world from Larissa, nicknamed Lara, in Boris Pasternak’s 1957 epic novel, Doctor Zhivago, which was banned in the Soviet Union but popular in the West. It was made into a successful Hollywood movie in 1965, with Julie Christie playing Lara; the piece Lara’s Theme from the film has become a favourite. Lara has charted in Australia since the 1960s, when the film was released, debuting at #337. It reached the Top 100 in the late 1990s, and peaked at #27 in 2002. In 2013 it was #54. Romantic and exotic, Lara is a softer alternative to names such as Laura, Laurel, and Lauren.

Rinoa Heartlilly is the main female character in Final Fantasy VIII, and the love interest of the hero. She is a cute friendly teenager who is member of a resistance faction seeking to liberate a small nation from occupation, and also has magical abilities which render her a “berserker” during warfare. Although it hasn’t been confirmed, game experts believe that the name Rinoa is supposed to be a Japanese rendition of Lenore, a short form of Eleanor. Lenore has a long history as a literary Gothic name, appearing in a Gothic German ballad as well as a poem by Edgar Allen Poe; it is possible that this dark side was intended as part of the character of Rinoa. As there is no spoken pronunciation of her name, you can say it however you like, but RINN-oh-uh seems to be the most commonly used. The nickname Noa gives this a unisex option.

Tira is a character in the Soulcalibur series. She is a very disturbed person who has been raised since childhood by a group of assassins, and has an uncontrollable urge to kill. A split personality, she has pledged herself to the powers of evil. Tira’s appearance reflects her madness, with rag-doll hair, tattered clothing and bizarre make-up. As her weapon of choice is a ring-blade which looks like a hula-hoop, she resembles a mental patient who has run away to join the circus. The name Tira is most likely an Anglicisation of the Scandinavian name Thyra, which means something like “strength of Thor”. It is pronounced TEE-ra, and people have told me that they love the sound of the name Thyra, but don’t like the look of it, or worry that others would pronounce it like TY-ra or THY-ra. The Tira spelling does solve that problem, and this name fits in well with Australian trends in girls names. I don’t know if it’s because of the video game (which is a slightly worrying thought), but I have seen and heard about quite a few babies called Tira. It seems to be popular to use it in a double name such as Tira-Lee or Tira-Rose.

Wynne is a character in Dragon Age: Origins, a prominent mage and powerful spirit healer. Wise, dutiful and virtuous, she could have had a successful political career, but refuses power in order to fight demons and aid the innocent. A tall, handsome, middle-aged woman with an intelligent face, she takes a motherly role, and is blessed with common sense and a dry sense of humour. Wynne is a Welsh surname based on the male name Wyn, meaning “blessed, white, fair”. Although Wynne can be used for both sexes, it is often understood as a specifically feminine form of Wyn. It is the middle name of famous children’s fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones, which may have been a factor in the game makers choosing it. Simple and clean, this resembles the fashionable Winnie.

Zafina is a character in the Tekken series who is born into an ancient bloodline which fights evil. The protector of a royal tomb, Zafina uses her spiritual powers to gain omens from the stars. Of Middle Eastern appearance, the game makers believe she is most likely Egyptian. Zafina is an Arabic name, which I have seen translated as “victorious, triumphant”. Pretty and usable, it makes an exotic alternative to Victoria, and sounds enough like familiar names such as Zara, Sophia and Seraphina to be easily accepted.

The Legend of Zelda is the longest-running video game series so far. The eponymous Zelda is an elfin princess, usually slender and blonde with dark blue eyes, and often with magical powers. Zelda is a feminine form of the Yiddish name Selig, meaning “blessed, happy”, although it can be also be used as a short form of names such as Griselda. One of its most famous namesakes is Zelda Fitzgerald, wife and muse of American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. Beautiful, glamorous and daring, she was an icon of the Jazz Age, until her intensity and high spirits descended into obsession and mental illness. Zelda’s mother named her after characters in two romantic stories; in both of them, Zelda is a beautiful gypsy. The creator of The Legend of Zelda has said that Princess Zelda’s name was inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald. In turn, Princess Zelda has inspired a celebrity baby name, because actor Robin Williams named his daughter Zelda in 1989 because of his love for the video game series. Zelda can be found in Australian records in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and this is a zippy vintage name that feels clunky cool and fit for a princess.

People’s favourite names were Lara, Zelda, and Wynne, and their least favourites were Elika, Tira, and Rinoa.