Heroes get all the perks—top billing, romantic fulfillment, influence over cultural naming conventions. It's no surprise, really. Names are aspirational. Parents name their babies after characters that possess the qualities they hope to pass on to their children. Courage, grace, beauty, strength—qualities associated with heroes and occasionally anti-heroes.
Many naming conventions and trends tend to overlook the villains—often equally if not more memorable, ambitious, colorful and unapologetic in pursuit of their aims. Parents who want to empower their children to be unapologetically themselves and willing to take a walk on the dark side should consider taking inspiration from beloved—and often loathed—Disney villains.
With that in mind, here are 10 Disney villains that deserve a place on your list of possible baby names:
Where You've Seen Her: The Little Mermaid
Name Meaning: The name is derived from a diminutive of the Latin word ursa, which means she-bear. Therefore, the name Ursula means “little bear.”
Variations to Consider: Urszula, Ursella, Ulla, Ursel, Orsolya, Orsola
Other Famous Ursulas: Ursula K. Le Guin, Ursula Burns, Ursula Andress, Saint Ursula, Ursula Brangwen, Úrsula Iguarán
Whatever your opinion of the sea witch—and odds are if you've seen The Little Mermaid you have one—there's no denying that she makes a powerful impression. More specifically, Ursula embodies multiple aspirational traits including self-confidence and style. Despite her habit of taking advantage of the gullible and desperate, Ursula is utterly unapologetic about pursuing what she wants and loving herself regardless of what anyone else might think.
Bustle's “Why Ursula From ‘The Little Mermaid' Was Actually The Movie's Hero” points out that “Ursula takes up space like nobody's business.” She knows how to strike a deal, and has the business acumen to enforce the terms of these deals making the name an excellent choice for parents who want their daughter to carve a place for herself in the world. And with the character's ties to the ocean, and the name's meaning, Ursula would be an excellent name for a future oceanographer or wildlife biologist.
Where You've Seen Him: Aladdin
Name Meaning: This Arabic name means stream, river or rivulet.
Variations to Consider: Ja'far, Jaffar, Jafer, Jaffer
Other famous Jafars: Jafar al-Askari, Jafar Khan, Jafar Sharif-Emami, Jafar Panahi, Jafar Ebrahimi
There's something to be said for a character with the confidence and bearing to pull off a black robe and bell sleeves topped off by a headdress and magical, gold, ruby-eyed, cobra-headed staff. Aladdin's Jafar revels in his role, posturing, pontificating and plotting as only the most convincing villains can. From his Grinch-like smirk to his mouthy parrot, Jafar doesn't do anything in half measures and doesn't allow the fact that he's likely the least popular man in Agrabah to bother him in the least. Parents who want to gift their children with a name that sounds wise and has a long, respectable history while empowering them to be as confident, flamboyant and unapologetic as Agrabah's Royal Vizier would do well to consider Jafar.
Where You've Seen Her: Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent
Name Meaning: As a non-traditional name, Maleficent doesn't have a clear definition but it is derived from words meaning working or productive of harm or evil, baleful.
They don't call her the Mistress of All Evil for nothing. Maleficent defines villainous style goals from her sinister black headdress to her intricately and elegantly carved staff to her sleek raven, Diablo. Despite the name's undeniably evil origins, Maleficent has a lyrical quality to it, rolling through four syllables with an unexpected playfulness and elegance.
As the Visual Thesaurus' article “Why ‘Maleficent' is a Magnificent Villain Name” points out, “Maleficent resonates with all of those ‘mal-‘ words, but it also echoes ‘magnificent,' befitting a grand character who is not to be trifled with. And it also sounds like a plausible woman's name, not too far off from ‘Millicent.'” Maleficent makes a powerful impression—both as a name and character—and the fact that it doesn't have much of a history of being used as a name outside of a Disney movies ensures a degree of originality many parents appreciate.
Where You've Seen Her: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Name Meaning: This is a Norse name meaning Mother of Gudrun.
Variations to Consider: Grimhild, Krimilda, Grimhildis, Grimhilt, Grimilde, Cremilda
Beautiful. Vengeful. Careful of transforming herself into an old witch. What more could you want? While it's true that Snow White's Evil Queen is unhealthily obsessed with beauty, it's also true that she possesses remarkable power, commitment to her mission and undeniable and distinctive style. The fact that she's generally known as the Evil Queen, the Wicked Queen or simply the Queen doesn't change the fact that she does have a first name: Grimhilde.
Where You've Seen Her: The Sword in the Stone
Name Meaning: The name is a diminutive of Miriam which means bitter in Hebrew and wished-for child in Aramaic.
Other Famous Mims: Mim Possible, Mim Herbert, Miriam "Mim" Grey, Emily "Mim" Micheloudakis
As far as Disney villains go, Mim's certainly one of the least objectionable. She doesn't attempt to kill puppies, imprison princesses or poison anyone. And given that she holds her own in a wizard's duel against Merlin, there's no denying that her powers are impressive. This name is surprisingly endearing for a Disney villain; parents who select the name Mim can rest assured that the name isn't laden with the same baggage as many other Disney villains and the name sounds modern without being overly trendy.
Where You've Seen Her: The Emperor's New Groove
Name Meaning: This Arabic name means higher position and esteemed privilege and honor.
Variations to Consider: Edme, Izme, Eizma, Iyzma, Edhme, Eidma, Ezme, Iddma
Disney villains tend to make a practice of being flamboyant but few can boast Yzma's distinctive sense of style. This villain would feel perfectly at home on the fashion runway, strutting with confidence because she knows she looks fabulous. From statement headpieces to on point color coordination, Yzma is proof that age is just a number, Emperor is just a title and henchman are nothing if not fallible. This is a rare Disney villain name that parents can use without drawing obvious and immediate connections to Disney villains making this a viable option for parents who aren't major Disney fans (do such people exist?) or want to avoid villainous associations.
Where You've Seen Him: The Jungle Book
Name Meaning: This name is of Indian, English, Iranian, Arabian and Egyptian origin and means darling.
Variations to Consider: Cher, Chere, Cherie
Shere sounds like one of those really modern unisex names that nonetheless has an interesting origin and history. Its namesake is a fierce, well-spoken tiger and rightful lord of the jungle giving the name a regal, masterful edge. Shere Khan is undeniably one of the more sophisticated Disney villains, making the name an excellent choice for parents who aren't afraid of the villain label but don't necessarily want the stigma of a silly, blundering character overwhelming their child's more noble qualities. Given that the name is a homophone for Cher, the name has some fun, playful popular culture connotations as well.
Where You've Seen Her: 101 Dalmatians
Name Meaning: As a non-traditional name, Cruella doesn't have a clear definition but it is derived from the word cruel meaning disposed to inflict pain or suffering.
Even in a blog post about naming your baby after Disney villains, Cruella is a tough sell. It's derived from the word "cruel" which isn't necessarily a quality most parents want to link to their child from the get-go. Worse, the name is associated with attempted cruelty to adorable puppies, but a kind-hearted child named Cruella could turn that all around by devoting her life to rescue animals or other animal-friendly causes. On the positive side, Cruella makes a very fashionable and imposing figure. She's strong-willed, knows exactly what she wants and is not shy about going after it. Parents who want to make a bold statement with their baby's name could do worse for themselves.
Where You've Seen Him: Beauty and the Beast
Name Meaning: This name of French origin means the foreigner or the guest.
People Named Gaston: Gaston Bachelard, Gaston Leroux, Gaston Calmette, Gaston Green, Gaston Doumergue
For parents who want their son to be the town darling with an appetite for five dozen eggs per day, Gaston is a solid choice with a fun French twist. Parents with an affinity for the name may need to temper their child's hubris by making liberal use of the word "no" and closely monitor their child's cholesterol levels because sadly, life is not a Disney movie and consuming five dozen eggs per day is not healthy even if your name is Gaston.
Where You've Seen Him: Mulan
Name Meaning: This name is of Gaelic origin meaning old, wise.
People Named Shan: Siana, Siani, Sian, Shaun, SeanThis is one of those rare Disney villain names that parents can employ without immediately drawing attention to the name's origin. Despite the fact that he is not the most recognizable of villains, Shan is not to be underestimated. Disney fandom calls him “one of the most ruthless and merciless villains ever seen in the Disney universe” while noted that he garners the respect of his Hun soldiers and army which “seems to be kept together out of loyalty to him, rather than out of fear for him.” Shan is focused and committed to the cause and while he does embody the physical characteristics of brute force, he demonstrates keen tactical knowledge and understanding of the more complex principles of warfare.