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Name Meaning of a Fictional Person

Long, long ago, back when I started playing Final Fantasy XI in 2004, I created a character, a simple human woman named Exelia. I've reused this character multiple times, in multiple video games, in D&D campaigns, and in stories I've written, all based on this same character and the archetype that's built over time for her.

When I first created the character, I didn't actually have anything in mind. The way Final Fantasy XI worked back then, you couldn't choose what server your character started on, it was assigned randomly. There was a way to get onto a specific server by getting a code from someone else already on that server, and I was planning on playing with some friends, but had a day before they could get me a code where I just played a throwaway character on a server to learn the controls and such. For the name of the character, I used the games built-in name generator, hitting that a bunch of times until I found something I liked. It was not Exelia at this point, though.

After I had the name, and since I had some free time, I had started just creating and deleting my character over and over, trying to land on the server I wanted to naturally. I never did, but I did find something else doing that: since the game every character name had to be unique, and you only had one name (the next Final Fantasy MMO, XIV, added a surname as well so there was less collision), and some of the servers I tried I couldn't join because someone else already had that name. I ended up rearranging the letters of the name, ending up with Exelia. At the time, according to what I could find on the internet, this was not a real name, either of a person or a business (since then a few businesses and a Youtuber have popped up with that name).

But.... Turns out that it isn't a fake name at all. Every so often, as I would make up new characters and look up name etymologies, I would try searching for a theoretical etymology for the name Exelia. And one day, suddenly there was a forum thread on a site discussing it as a real name. In this thread, someone looking at their family tree found the name belonging to their great grandmother, and was wondering about the meaning themselves. The thread has some discussion as they tried researching it, finding a few more instances of the name in 19th century Quebec, but since it was obscure and apparently localized to that region they couldn't come to a firm conclusion for origin.

Their best guess for the name was derived from the Latin word meaning 'to excel'. Another theory was that it derives from the hymn Gloria in excelsis Deo, with excelsis meaning 'the highest'. Either one is an interesting theory, but for the particular women in question who knows which it would be (or even something different) without anyone having family records from the time which talked about the meaning.

Of course, by the time I made this discovery, I had long since had to come up with a surname for the character. I had done it in a mind blank moment when creating my XIV character the first time, and used the name Antonov as I was working on my short story The Pocketwatch at the time and that was the only surname that came to mind. I then canonized it by writing her into a book as the younger sister of the Fiole Antonov character. So now she's a Russian woman with what we've now learned is a French Canadian given name. Ah well.

Date posted: 12 May, 2021
Tags: names
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