When Will (hi, Will ?) explained the meanings of Aisha and Nex’s names to an Aisha/Nex hater on YouTube, their response was:
So what? Characters aren’t their names.
That’s true. They aren’t. You can’t judge a character solely by their name.
But you can’t treat the meaning like a worthless piece of trivia, either.
A character’s name can accomplish many tasks: explain their personality and interests, describe their abilities, reveal their role, and/or add depth and meaning to their story. Let’s pick a random non-Winx character: Dash from The Incredibles. His full name is Dashiell Robert Parr, and every part is meaningful:
Even though Dashiell is his actual name, he goes by Dash, which is also his superhero name. This suits him because his power is super-speed.
Robert is his father’s first name, so his parents gave it to him as a middle name. It’s not symbolic, but it connects to his background.
His last name, Parr, helps him and his family blend into society and hide their superhero identities. But it’s also a pun. “Parr” is a play on the word “par”, which means “average or normal” — i.e., not incredible.
Back to Winx Club. Together, Aisha and Nex’s names mean “life and death”. It’s part of their yin-yang symbolism.
But they’re not the only Winx characters or couple with meaningful names. For example:
Stella is the Fairy of the Shining Sun. “Stella” means “star” in Latin, and the sun is the largest, brightest star in our galaxy. Her signature colors are orange and yellow. Also, her parents’ names are Radius and Luna. One meaning of “radius” is “ray of light”, which is fitting for the king of the sun kingdom. And “luna” is Latin for “moon”. So together, their names reference the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Flora is the Fairy of Nature. “Flora” refers to flowers and plants, and it’s derived from the name of the Roman goddess of flowers and springtime. Winx Club‘s Flora’s signature colors are pink and green. (Think of a field of pink flowers.)
Tecna is the Fairy of Technology. Rainbow made up this name, but it obviously alludes to her powers.
And examples of other Specialists besides Nex with meaningful names:
Helia is Flora’s boyfriend. “Helia” is derived from “Helios”, the Greek personification of the sun. (Helia is named Helio in some dubs.) What’s one thing that flowers need? Sunshine. His signature color — the color of his gem and now his Specialist uniform — is orange like Stella’s. Also, he appears to be Asian-inspired, most likely Japanese. A big giveaway is his love of origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. How does this tie into his name? The Japanese call their country Nihon or Nippon, both of which mean “origin of the sun”.
Riven is Musa’s ex-boyfriend (maybe not anymore). “Riven” is the past participle of “rive”, which means “to tear apart”, “to break [the heart]”, or “[of the heart] to be broken”. That’s his entire character in a nutshell: his supposed backstory, his internal conflict, his tendency to mess up relationships — everything. He rives because he’s riven.
Good writers don’t pick names out of a hat. They research them and consider how they’ll relate to, define, and/or enhance the characters. Names are the foundations of who the characters will be and what they’ll represent.
So, characters aren’t their names…but often names are their characters.