Khaleesi comes from Game of Thrones, a name that isn’t even a name – except now it has become one.
Our Baby Name of the Day celebrates the new season of the blockbuster series.
Khaleesi: George R. R. Martin
Twenty years after George R. R. Martin first started writing science fiction and fantasy, he began a wildly successful series. Game of Thrones was published in 1996, the first book of a proposed trilogy. Martin now plans to write seven titles in total. We’re expecting book six, The Winds of Winter, soon.
Daenerys Targaryen belongs to a powerful dynasty in Martin’s world, except they’ve lost their throne when the story starts. Daenerys is forced into marriage with a Dothraki warlord. Despite the inauspicious start, Daenerys comes to love her husband, and transforms from timid girl to capable – even ruthless – leader.
She’s also got a way with dragons.
When Daenerys married the warlord Drogo, she became the Khaleesi, the title given to the wife of the Khal. A Khal rules a clan, or a khalasar. It almost means queen – but there’s a cultural distinction that matters, especially to Daenerys.
After Drogo’s death, everyone expected Daenerys to retreat to the holy city, where former Khaleesi formed a council of respected women.
She rebelled, claimed the title of Khaleesi for her own, and formed her own khalasar. This involves more than a little bit of violence. But hey, we’re talking Game of Thrones here.
Will she reclaim the Iron Throne long held by her Targaryen ancestors? It’s too soon to say, but fans can’t wait to find out.
Khaleesi: Small Screen
The series became an immediate smash hit for HBO.
Game of Thrones debuted in 2011, with Emilia Clarke starring as Daenerys. She’s won plenty of accolades for her work, including Emmy and Screen Actors Guild nominations.
Clarke is set to graduate from GoT to yet another beloved sci fi series. She’ll play Han Solo’s love interest in the next Star Wars spin-off, expected in 2018. She also starred in Me Before You, the adaptation of JoJo Moyes’ bestseller. Safe to say that Clarke’s star is on the rise.
Take a smash hit series with an appealing character played by a talented actor, and no surprise that parents might embrace the name. Only it’s not Daenerys that soared.
It’s that title – Khaleesi.
The title became one of the top girls’ name debuts of 2011. It took another year for Daenerys to make some noise.
As of 2016, Khaleesi ranks #765, while Daenerys has yet to crack the US Top 1000.
The name succeeds for several reasons:
- First, the popularity of the series plays a part.
- In our age of big, bold baby names, a title that means queen will appeal to some families.
- While some invented names feel less sophisticated – like the Twilight smoosh name Renesmee – Martin’s inventions feel more like Tolkein. They may come from fantasy languages, but there’s a logic and a substance behind them.
- Three-syllable, ends-in-y names for girls boast history galore. We’ve traded Dorothy for Kimberly for Emily for Avery, but we’ve always embraced this rhythm and sound.
- With names like Kaylee, Kaitlyn, and Kelsey so popular for girls, Khaleesi sounds like a different-but-similar option.
Khaleesi: After GoT
This leaves us asking: what happens to this name after Game of Thrones ends?
After all, HBO has announced that the series will end after season eight. That means it leaves the air sometime after 2019. A final book or two might still linger after. And, of course, successful series never really die. Reboots and feature-length films and so on will likely remain rumored possibilities for years.
In order for Khaleesi to succeed post-series, parents will need to accept the name as more than the character. It happens all the time. Not every Luna was inspired by Harry Potter, and many moms of Arias have never watched Pretty Little Liars.
And yet, this title feels more closely tied to the series than either of those names. It’s possible we might have discovered Madison without Splash, Piper without Charmed and Orange is the New Black. But Khaleesi originates completely within the show.
I suspect that makes Khaleesi very much a 2010s – and maybe 2020s – name, the kind of choice that will remain on the edges of the mainstream.
But names can surprise, and since we’ll probably be reading Martin’s novels for generations to come, the name could filter into wider use.
What do you think? Will Khaleesi go mainstream? Or fade after the series leaves the screen?
I love the series, but can’t stand Khaleesi as a given name. There are much better names to choose from on that show: Sansa, Arya, Bronn, Theon, Karsi, Ygritte, Missandei, Yara, Jorah, Sandor, Davos, Gilly, Talisa, Loras, Olenna, Nymeria and Salladhor are but a few that I find infinitely more appealing than than Khaleesi.
I really wish more people were aware that Khaleesi is pronounced the same as calici, as in calicivirus, a nasty respiratory virus in cats that causes ulcers in the mouth and often leads to death.
I love GoT and this character but I don’t think Khalessi as a baby name will persists after the show ends, like an equivalent to any Leias or Xenas born in the 80s (as opposed to Luke or Gabriela, and from GoT probably Arya which I think has more traction)
I don’t care for the name Khaleesi beyond its place onscreen, but I love her middle name – Stormborn! What a fun middle name this would make for a baby born during rain or lightning or snow!