What Do the ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Character Names Mean?

Gwynne Watkins

John Boyega in ‘The Force Awakens’ (Lucasfilm)

From the moment George Lucas changed his hero’s last name from “Starkiller” to “Skywalker,” names have held special significance in the Star Wars universe. Han Solo’s surname indicates his lone-warrior nature; “Vader” is taken from the Dutch word for father. And while few details have been revealed about most of the new characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (in theaters December 18), one thing we do know is their names. As part of their Star Wars-heavy Fall Preview issue, Entertainment Weekly spoke to director J.J. Abrams about his often-surprising name inspirations — and got a major hint about where Finn and Rey might fit into the Star Wars universe. Read on for the scoop behind seven Force Awakens character names, and go to EW for more.

Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley)

It’s no coincidence that the surnames of two major Force Awakens characters — the desert scavenger Rey and the rogue Stormtrooper Finn — have yet to be revealed. “I will only say about that that it is completely intentional that their last names aren’t public record,” Abrams hinted to EW. Could it be because those names are already familiar to fans — say, Skywalker, Solo, or Calrissian? Abrams isn’t saying.

Related: Should You Name Your Baby Anakin? The Rising Popularity of a ‘Star Wars’ Baby Name

BB-8

Like its robotic predecessors C-3PO and R2-D2, the new ball droid has a catchy alphanumeric name… that doesn’t stand for anything in particular. “I named him BB-8 because it was almost onomatopoeia,” said the director. “It was sort of how he looked to me, with the 8, obviously, and then the 2 B’s.”

Gwendoline Christie in ‘The Force Awakens’ (Lucasfilm)

Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie)

Here’s a name with a very surprising pop culture origin — one that’s sure to please horror aficionados. The chrome First Order trooper was named for the 1979 cult classic Phantasm, in which a time-traveling villain dubbed The Tall Man uses a flying silver orb to bore holes in his victims. “Phasma I named because of the amazing chrome design that came from Michael Kaplan’s wardrobe team,” said Abrams. “It reminded me of the ball in Phantasm, and I just thought, ‘Phasma sounds really cool.’”

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)

Contrary to speculation, the X-wing pilot wasn’t named for horror writer Edgar Allen Poe, but for a warmer, fuzzier character. “Someone reminded me recently that my daughter had had a polar bear named Poe [or Po’ — short for ‘polar’], and that might’ve been why it felt right,” said Abrams. As for Dameron? It’s the last name of Abrams’ assistant, Morgan Dameron. “Dameron came out because it was, obviously, a name that I know, and it just musically felt right,” Abrams explained. “I also knew it would make Morgan blush if we named a character that.”

Related: New ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Revelations — Including One About Luke’s Lost Lightsaber

General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson)

Abrams couldn’t pinpoint the origin of Hux, the name of the ambitious First Order general played by Gleeson. By his best recollection, the name was generated during his long story-writing sessions with co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. “We were walking through a cemetery that’s near the Bad Robot offices, and we would often, as we were talking about characters, sort of just be glancing at names to see if any of them stuck. I don’t believe that Hux came from there, but it may have,” Abrams said. (For the record, EW found no record of someone named Hux buried around Santa Monica.)

Adam Driver in ‘The Force Awakens’ (Lucasfilm)

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)

Like the ‘Darth’ in Darth Vader, ‘Ren’ is actually a title assumed by The Force Awakensmasked villain. “He is a character who came to the name Kylo Ren when he joined a group called the Knights of Ren,” said Abrams.

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