Saturday, April 20, 2013


Emilia Clarke plays the Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen on HBO's 'Game of Thrones'

As a name lover and fan of the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' books, I was pretty excited when I first heard that the books were being adapted to a TV show. And like many others, I couldn't help but wonder how the show - titled 'Game of Thrones' for the small screen - would affect the baby naming landscape.

I think occasionally people would name a child after their favourite character from the books, but of course there are some that a few years ago would seem much more wearable than others. You could easily use Jon, Rob, Ned or Catelyn. Arya, Bran, Sansa, Theon and possibly Tyrion would get some questions, seen as more "out of the box" than outlandish. And then others such as Daenerys, Viserys or Targaryen would seem completely unusable.

But the good thing about being part of a hit TV show is that such names now have a wide audience, and the once "out of the box" names become less questionable, the "unusable" a possibility. Suddenly a wide range of people would know how to pronounce a name that before would have only been recognised by loyal readers.

I had to wonder which 'Game of Thrones' names would capture peoples attention and start appearing in the birth notices. So far Arya has perhaps had the most success. And then a few months ago one popped up in an Australian birth notice that I had not expected to see - Khaleesi.

If you have any knowledge of the books or the show, you'll know that Khaleesi isn't actually a given name, it's a title. It's the closest thing the Dothraki people have to a queen, and Daenerys receives this title when she weds Khal Drogo in the first episode, and is almost always referred to as Khaleesi rather than Daenerys in the show from that point on.

Now, a Khaleesi isn't always a prestigious position. Basically they are a possession of the Khal, and could be treated like dirt if he so wishes. However Daenerys' determination and ability to become respected by her husband and therefore his people is a pivotal plot point, the first proof we see that this young, sometimes frail looking girl is actually a strong, powerful force to be reckoned with. This is further reinforced when she survives fire to hatch her dragons. Although her storyline is set far, far away from the land of Westeros, we see that she has the determination to possibly take Westeros and be a worthy contender for the Iron Throne.
Emilia Clarke enjoys a lighter moment
with Kit Harrington, who plays Jon Snow

I can see why Khaleesi has been picked up as a given name for a child. It's a word that is associated with inner and mental strength, resilience, assertiveness, determination and power. And sound wise, it's quite similar to Kamari, Kymani or Kalani, all of which are listed among the top 100 American unisex names in Nancy's Baby Names book titled 'The Most Popular Unisex Baby Names of 2011'. It has a sound that people find appealing for both boys and girls.

Due to it's connection with the 'Game of Thrones', it has so far been primarily (possibly only) used for girls. In the US it appeared on the charts in 2011 at position #5094, given to 27 girls. Considering the first season of the TV version started that year, I'm interested to see how it fared in 2012 when those results are released next month.

I have to admit I wouldn't have picked it, but so far it seems that Khaleesi is the surprise breakthrough name from the show. What else do you think might race up the charts for 2012 thanks to 'Game of Thrones'?


  1. I personally know somebody (Illawarra region, NSW) who used Khaleesi for a middle name.

  2. There's a lot of great names on the show. I would have chosen Daenarys over Khaleesi.