What’s in a name? Naming in the T.V.-series LOST

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2010

24 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 Names of theotechny
2.1 Benjamin (Ben) Linus
2.2 James (Sawyer) Ford
2.3 Jacob
2.4 Desmond and Penelope
2.5 Dharma
2.6 Christian Shephard

3 Famous names
3.1 Henry Gale
3.2 Daniel Faraday
3.3 Desmond David Hume
3.4 Danielle Rousseau
3.5 Further references

4 Names with reference to literature
4.1 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
4.2 The Wizard of Oz
4.3 Lord of the Flies
4.4 Addendum

5 Anagrams
5.1 Ethan Rom
5.2 Mittelos Bioscience
5.3 Herarat Aviation
5.3.1 Amelia Earhart
5.3.2 A variation earth
5.4 Further Anagrams

6 Mixed patterns
6.1 Gale Island
6.2 Linus
6.3 Sayid Jarrah
6.4 Claire Littleton
6.5 Jack’s Tattoo
6.6 Literal meaning of names

7 Conclusion

List of references


1 Introduction

"Must a name mean something?" Alice asked doubtfully. "Of course it must, "Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: "my name means the shape I am—and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost" (Carroll quoted in Alvarez-Altman (Ed.): Preface).

Until the ninth century it was not likely to have a first and a last name, but by that time things started to change. In Venice the indication of surnames began in this time period, France (10th/11th century) and the German-speaking area (12th century) followed this example (Kohlheim 1996: 1280), so the common practice of naming changed and thenceforth people were called by both, forename and surname. This giving of names led to the science of onomastics – representing a separate discipline (Wittkowski 1995: 289) -, whose purpose basically is "die Geschichte und den Gebrauch eines Namens zu klären und mögliche Schlüsse daraus zu ziehen" (Hansack 2004: 51), as the character of naming had caused people to think about the meaning of personal names for centuries (Eichler 1995: 2). Such name-interpreting can also take the role of a poetic device and by this means as literary onomastic (Hansack 2004: 51) function as a link between linguistic and literary studies bearing on "the study of the way names function in fiction" (Ashley 1989: 198). The following term paper will take up this and consequently concentrate on the names of the characters in the TV series LOST. This idea came up after reading an article by Matthew Gilbert, who quoted Damon Lindelof - one of the makers of LOST - mentioning that not one name of the island’s inhabitants was chosen incidentally but that every single name had a special meaning concerning the storyline (Internet: Gilbert 2005). Lindelof and co-producer J. J. Abrahams used "names that gesture outward from the series" in a way that "name[s] assists [the] definition of character[s], suggesting clues of […] personality" and are an "entrance to that what [they] represent[s]; direction; past, current or future position" (Rowden 2000: 115) and therefore played "the name game quite shrewdly" (Internet: Gilbert 2005). Some of these connections between the names and the behavior of the characters are pretty obvious, but others are not easy to figure out. In order to reconstruct the thoughts and explanations concerning these, the content of the series needs to be known, but, due to the vast amount of information which is presented during the six seasons of LOST, will not be summarized in this term paper. So, as to be able to follow the train of thought of this paper, it is sufficient to read the texts listed in the succeeding footnote which contains all the relevant information about the different actions taking place on the island.[1] As there is so much input available in LOST, it may be necessary to provide further information, which can be found on the respective wiki dealing with LOST, where every single episode is summarized.[2]

In order to show potential relationships, the names of the characters or organizations will be subdivided into different categories - names of theotechny, famous names, names with reference to literature, anagrams and mixed patterns. Due to their names giving more than one possible solution concerning their meaning, some names, however, match more than one of these topics, which is why they can be found subsumed under multiple topics, partially.

As there are virtually no books about LOST, except for such resulting from a cooperation with the LOST producers (Cotta 2005), most considerations will be based on online articles and investigations I myself conducted. Since the thoughts of other viewers are important to gain more information, not only discussions in online forums but also articles from Wikipedia will be found in the glosses of this term paper, which I read to glean more ideas of interpreting the fictional characters’ names. Because of the fact that every human being on this planet is theoretically able to upload information on Wikipedia all articles referred to and likewise the web pages containing summarized plots of the different LOST episodes were checked before in order to make sure that the given information is correct and that no bogus input found access to this term paper. The possibility of leaving out such forums could have been another strategy to deal with this specific topic, but, as Kohlheim and Kohlheim state: "[Es] sollten viele außer-onomastische Quellen herangezogen werden, wie […] literarische Zeugnisse, direkte Äußerungen von Zeitgenossen zur Namensgebung [und] sozial- und kulturgeschichtliche[r] Literatur" (Kohlheim 2004: 683). As this term paper must not exceed the amount of fifteen pages, it will not be possible to analyze the names of all characters, episodes and buildings of the story, which is why only a small sample of the series’ naming can be picked up on. Nevertheless this amount will be sufficient in order to answer a question which was mooted as far back as in Shakespeare’s time using the example of LOST: "What’s in a name?" (Jowett, Montgomery, Taylor, Wells (Eds.) 2005: 379).

2 Names of theotechny

The knowledge of names is a great part of knowledge (Plato quoted in Internet: Butler 2010: 9).

Names of theotechny as well as famous names and names with reference to literature share one basic feature: they refer to some other person, meaning or story and therefore show that every time when a connection to the past is made also a special meaning of the named thing or person exists (Hansack 2004: 60). It is necessary to regard factors such as history and culture as not inhibiting literary naming, but rather affecting the reverse (Internet: Butler 2010: 10). Concerning the naming in LOST it can be stated that plenty of the characters of LOST were given a name of biblical origin or relating to the Greek theotechny. In the following paragraph examples for this will be given and furthermore it will be pointed out, how these names relate to the storyline. In this context online dictionaries of names are consulted, as Kohlheim and Kohlheim recommend (Kohlheim 2004: 684).

2.1 Benjamin (Ben) Linus

Meaning “son” or “fortunate” (Smith 1903: 146), Benjamin is a son of Jacob in the Bible as well as in the Qur’an (Internet: Baby 1 / LostFan). His last name Linus relates to the holy Linus, who was the first successor to Peter, the first bishop of Rome (Internet: Baby 2).

Benjamin being the son of Jacob perfectly fits to the story. Jacob is a kind of direct supervisor of Ben in LOST and whatever Jacob says Ben is willing to do without questioning it. This behavior reminds one of an obedient son acting as his father wants him to. In series six Ben kills Jacob, so concerning to the meaning of his name, he should be the one replacing him as the head of the island’s community, but, as the last season hasn’t been completely shown yet, we cannot be sure, whether this is actually going to happen. However, it would be very elucidating, if the story actually developed this way, but most probably this is not going to happen, as Ben does not belong to the “candidates”.

2.2 James (Sawyer) Ford

James and Jacob (another character’s name) both descend from the Hebrew name Jacob, containing the denotation “he who supplants” (Internet: Thinkbaby 1). This insinuates a possible relationship between James and Jacob, which actually could be a clue to the puzzle of LOST as James is one of the candidates to replace Jacob after his death. Moreover James was the name of one of the twelve apostles and possibly also one of Jesus’ cousins (Internet: Behindname), which is hinted at in LOST, as there are photos of the LOST cast sitting at a table in a way similar to the fellowship at the Last Supper.[3] Lostpedia even refers to the apostle James as having a brother called John, which is the name of another LOST character.

2.3 Jacob

In the Bible Jacob is not only the father of Benjamin (see 1.1), but also the son of Isaac and twin brother of Esau. His children became the ancestors of the nation of Israel (Internet: Thinkbaby 2). LOST’s Jacob has a twin brother, too, who is the “new” Locke as well as the smoke monster and therefore is responsible for Jacob’s death. The reader of the Bible is informed about God’s loving of Jacob and hatred relating to Esau (Internet: Bible), which is also pointed out in LOST. Here a training film produced by the Dharma Initiative contains a hidden message at a short stop in the video screening the words "God loves you, as he loved Jacob", which constitutes another hint in this direction (Internet: Youtube). So LOST’s Jacob and the historic Jacob share plenty of similarities, which makes it seem very unlikely for them to occur just accidentally. The literal meaning of Jacob additionally underlines this statement, as “Jahveh shall protect” depicts Jacob as being under God’s shelter (Internet: Baby 3).

2.4 Desmond and Penelope

Desmond’s girlfriend Penelope, who at the same time is Charles Widmore’s daughter got her name from Greek mythology, wherein Penelope waited for the return of her husband Ulysses, who, the same as Desmond, was lost at sea. In both, LOST and Homer’s Iliad, a reunion takes place (Internet: Lostpedia 1).

2.5 Dharma

On the island where the series takes place most of the time we got to know Dharma as being the initiative which the group of others work in or used to work in, respectively. In real life Dharma is of Sanskrit origin and is used in Buddhism representing the teachings of Buddha including the truth and legislation which Buddha realized, applied and taught (Internet: Buddism). The signs of both Dharma terms are also alike so that a link between both must be assumed by the viewer.[4]


[1] Concerning the using of Wikipedia-pages see introduction.

Season I: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_%28season_1%29, 19.03.10,

Season II: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_%28season_2%29, 19.03.10,

Season III: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_%28season_3%29, 19.03.10,

Season IV: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_%28season_4%29, 19.03.10,

Season V: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_%28season_5%29, 19.03.10,

Season VI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_%28season_6%29, 19.03.10. /

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_%28Fernsehserie%29, 19.03.10. /

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_%28TV_series%29#Season_1_.282004.E2.80.932005.29, 19.03.10.

[2] http://lostpedia.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page, 19.03.10. From now on the references to web pages will be

indicated in a shortened form included in the text following the MLA-style, if the author is not known. The

complete connotations can be found in the glossary. The form will be (Internet: Short Form Year (if known), Numbering (if possible)).

[3] Image 3.

[4] Image 4 / Image 5.

Excerpt out of 24 pages


What’s in a name? Naming in the T.V.-series LOST
University of Cologne  (Philosophische Fakultät / Englische Seminar 1)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
582 KB
Auch andere Literatur, die die Namensgebung betrifft und unabhängig von LOST ist, wird berücksichtigt.
Lost, Sawyer, Jack Shepard, Kate Austen, Island, TV, Series, Namensgebung, Onomastic, Onomastics, Bedeutung von Namen, Serie
Quote paper
Stefan Langenbach (Author), 2010, What’s in a name? Naming in the T.V.-series LOST, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/155523


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