Guinea Pig Names: considerations, solutions, inspiration and resources

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Wiebke

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I have written this article for Guinea Pig Magazine. It has been published in issues #40, #41 and #43 (September 2017 - March 2018).
I am sharing this with the generous permission of Guinea Pig Magazine and with huge thanks to all the forum members who have so generously contributed their own naming themes and pictures.

Flower became FflurCutout.png
Flower became Fflur (pronounced 'Fleer', Welsh name meaning 'Flowers')

Part 1: A meeting of Cavies and Names

Naming new pet guinea pigs is always a deeply personal choice. It is one of the most exciting aspects of getting a pet.
But it can also turn quickly into a nightmare when you find yourself stuck being too spoilt for choice and cannot decide or when you suffer from a mind block trying to find inspiration in a hurry!


Asparagus, nickname Gus (veg) (Gia)_edited-1.jpg
Asparagus' nickname is Gus (veg theme) @Gia


But first things first…
...and the first step is surprisingly basic, but absolutely vital: Please double-check the gender of your new cavies!

It is always advisable to double-check the gender of your guinea pigs upon arrival. There are some guides on good quality online information sites and online forums around that will help you with the sexing. If your vet is guinea pig savvy, consult them; but not all vets are necessarily familiar with guinea pigs. Vets will also sex your guinea pigs for you when you register your guinea pigs with a clinic. Ideally you ask as many knowledgeable people as you can!
This is is our own illustrated sexing guide for all ages, full and neutered boars: Sexing Guide

Sexing guinea pigs wrongly sadly still happens far too often! I have come across a fair few piggies requiring new names in a hurry after a rather embarrassing experience during a vet check or waking up to unplanned and unprepared for babies!
I have however met also several boars called Lily and a sow named George… named by intent, not accident!

Fudge Lucky Sweetie Cutie Snowy (endearments) (flamestriker)_edited-1.jpeg
Fudge Lucky Sweetie Cutie Snowy (endearments) @Flamestriker

How soon do I need to find a name for my guinea pigs?
You may already have names ready before you get your guinea pigs; or you have got names you absolutely adore. Sometimes a name seems just to hit the nail on the head, or it has great significance for you. Go with your gut feelings! Overall, it is important that the choice of name is right for you.

But sometimes there is no name that is singing out to you or you struggle to choose between too many really good names.

Coll and Tiree (Scottish place names) (Rachel Malcolm)_edited-1.jpg
Coll and Tiree (Scottish place names) @MerryPip

Short-listing favourite names
In order to get around the problem of needing to come up with a definite name before a piggy arrives, I usually compile a short list of names I feel suit the looks and personality of the cavies that I am planning to adopt. I often let the rescue people or previous owners choose their favourite Welsh name from that short list as they know their piggies best unless I feel that I have already hit on the perfect name – and so far my particular choice has thankfully always been enthusiastically welcomed by the rescue!

But short-listing can also work when you yourself cannot decide on the name or your partner/family has other ideas.

Alby for white coat (Julie M)_edited-1.png
Alby (for his white coat) @Julie M

'Name trial' week
In case you haven’t been able to make up your mind, consider using all your short-listed names in turn over the course of a week after your guinea pigs have arrived. You will find that usually one of the names has stuck by the end of the week or even sooner. It is not necessarily your first choice, but it is the name that obviously fits your piggy best!

You may also find that your guinea pigs name themselves with a nickname or endearment while you get to know them.

Calli-1.jpg
8 year old Calli (anagram of 'lilac'), who kept her name

Rename pre-loved guinea pigs or not?
Guinea pigs usually get a name upon arrival in a rescue. These can often be unusual, exotic or imaginative names if a rescue does its best to not repeat names – which after a few hundred or thousand intakes can become somewhat of a challenge!
Some rescues prefer to give private surrenders a new name irrespective of whether guinea pigs of theirs already come with a name in order to protect future adopters and to give their guinea pigs a fresh start. Other rescues don’t mind to keep already established names.
If you acquire pre-loved guinea pigs through other channels, you also may have to make similar choices.

Rescues generally do not expect you to continue with a rescue name, but you are of course welcome to!

I usually go by the rule that a guinea pig with a well-established name and a loving background gets a similar sounding Welsh name, especially where I am staying in contact with the previous owners or if that is not possible, I give the previous owner the ultimate choice of the new Tribe name.

Lola became Iola.jpg
Lola became Iola

Lola, for instance, has become Iola (pronounced Yola); Fflur (Welsh for flowers) was called Fflower in her previous home, to just name a few. The piggies are usually very forgiving of my garbling up their names a bit!
But I have not changed 8 year old lady Calli’s name when she has come here to live out her life with the Tribe after she got depressed in the wake of losing all her old friends.

Oscar became Bryn Oscar (the name deaf).jpg
Oscar became Bryn Oscar (the name deaf)

My 5 year old widower Bryn Oscar ended up with a double name as there was no similar sounding Welsh name available and he was definitely not an “Owen” for me! Anyway, the name change didn’t bother him in the least since he happily ignored either name in his quest to pack as much excitement into his life and make up for lost time!

In any case, guinea pigs see a human name just as a personal call name, but they have their own identity, which is composed of looks, group status and group smell, as well as their personal markers and their sense of identity.

Whether you decide to change or keep a name is at your own discretion. A new chapter in life starts when a guinea pig arrives in your home and you build your own special bond. This doesn’t take away from what has gone before. It is your choice whether you want to mark this change or not.

Naming new-born babies
Guinea pig babies are usually ever so cute and of course you want to give them names straight away! Unplanned babies from shop or breeder sows or from free-ads guinea pigs whose owners have been either very economical with the truth or ill-informed about some relevant biological facts do sadly still happen far more often than they should.

Eva Eden Ellie Emmett (Eileen's Mum, also owner of Edna and Eileen).edited-1.jpg
Mother Eva with Eden Ellie and Emmett @Eileen's Mum (also owner of Edna and Eileen)

But what names to go for? Sexing new-born babies is often not quite easy and may take a bit of time to become somewhat clearer. You have to make a decision before 3 weeks’ of age just before baby boars become sexually fertile and are not choosy about whether that is mommy, any sisters or any other sows within their reach that they impregnate. Guinea pigs of both genders really start as soon as the weaning process is mostly over!

A way around this problem is to choose gender neutral baby names based on looks or cuteness. By the time baby boys need to be separated at 3 weeks of age, all babies have started to develop their individual personalities. You can then keep the baby names or choose a new adult name.
Baby Syndod became Tegan SyndodCutout.png
Tegan Syndod: 'Little Beautiful Surprise'

As an example, I named my own surprise baby from a recently arrived sow which didn’t look pregnant at all admittedly somewhat unimaginatively Syndod, “Surprise”, until I was absolutely sure that she would indeed be a Tegan Syndod (“Little Beautiful Surprise”) and not a Tecwen Syndod ("Beautiful and Blessed Surprise”).
 

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Part 2: More Opinions than Cavies!

Because names are so personal, it is rather inevitable that household members have often very different ideas about what guinea pig should be called. In this part I am looking at various options and ways for coming to an agreement over guinea pig names.

Family guinea pigs
Guinea pigs live on average about 5-7 years; they are never children’s only pets but family pets with the responsibility of ensuring daily and medical care throughout their whole lives firmly resting on the parents, especially once the inevitable loss of interest happens.

If you have reservations about having a toddler’s choice of name shouted out together with your surname in a vet’s waiting room years after said toddler has lost interest or has long outgrown their original preferences, you may want to consider giving your guinea pigs an extra official vet name, especially when they are in fact your own cavies anyway for all intents and purposes in the long term.

Alternatively, you could opt for a family theme, within which your children can choose their personal favourite piggy names, like storybook names, princess names etc.

The best way of finding names you all agree on is by looking at things that you all enjoy together as a partnership or family, whether that is hobbies, activities, places or foods.

Noodle and Ginger (favourite family dish) (Talulah)_edited-1.jpg
Noodle and Ginger (favourite family dish) @Talulah

A good example for a joint naming theme are Ginger and Noodles, whose names are derived from a mother and daughter’s shared favourite special dish – ginger chicken udon at the international restaurant chain Wagamama.


Holly Violet Poppy (flowers) (VickiA).JPG
Holly Violet and Poppy @VickiA

Ways of choosing and agreeing on names
Living in a family or with a partner, compromise is often on the cards when there are fewer guinea pigs than people to go around or when an agreement on a name cannot be reached. But how to make it fair and best avoid squabbles?

It is important to take into consideration that trios in guinea pigs are generally the most difficult to get right. Baby boar trios in particular have a very high fall-out rate once they hit the teenage months. You may prefer to just go for a couple of guinea pigs, even if you have three children; especially if sows or bonded boar trios are not always available. Please never choose just a single guinea pig; guinea pigs are group animals that are not wired to be on their own!

Mistletoe and Jingle (kept Christmas themed rescue names) (flowerfairy)_edited-1.jpg
Mistletoe and Jingles (kept Christmas themed rescue names) @flowerfairy

Compromise names
If you and your partner are both too fond of your own choice of name, you can either agree to give your new guinea pigs double names - since guinea pigs are perfectly able to cope with being called something else by different people - or you can choose a third name that everybody is OK with, so there are no outright winners.
Get inspired by names from things, places or activities you share or that hold special memories for both of you!

Wenlock and Wellingtom (Shropshire placenames) (Tewdric)_edited-1.jpg
Wenlock and Wellington (Shropshire placenames) @Tewdric

Letting the guinea pigs choose their own names
Ask every family member to come up with their favourite names, either one name per person or as many as there are guinea pigs. Write the names on pieces of paper and fold them up.
Then draw different vegetables and herbs on as many envelopes as there are names. Seal the envelopes with a name slip inside and serve a veg feast with one of each of the drawn vegetables to your piggies. The vegetable that each piggy is eating first is going to determine its name; if two make a beeline for the same veg, the piggy eating first gets the name in the corresponding envelope.
You may have to wait until your piggies have settled in into their new home enough to come out for dinner, but letting the piggies choose their own names couldn’t be fairer, could it?

Beans and Toast (food theme) (Beans&Toast, also owner of Fizz Toffee Cinnamon Candy and Chocol...jpg
Beans and Toast (food theme) @Beans&Toast, also owner of Fizz, Toffee, Cinnamon, Candy and Chocolate

Choosing letters to make up names
Let each child choose a vowel and a consonant from two envelopes, one with vowels and one with consonants. Next, you google names that contain these letters once. You may want to leave out some awkward letters like X or Q or leave them in as a challenge!
This is a way of finding a compromise name where everybody makes exactly the same contribution to the piggies’ names.

Wuschel, i.e. Tousles, whose name was chosen by family vote.jpg
My childhood piggy Wuschel (i.e. 'Tousles'), whose name was chosen by family vote

Voting for names (with slightly older kids)
The Swiss democracy has its uses – when it came to choosing names for our family guinea pigs (or other major family issues we children were allowed to have an input on), we would vote in several rounds. Firstly we all would choose a favourite name and write them on a list.
Then we would write down the one name we liked most after our own idea (voting for yourself was not allowed). If there was a tie, there would be another round between the tied names. As we were an odd number of children, a decision would usually be reached unless there was an abstention.


Delphinium and Geranium - aka Del and Gerry (flowers)(Reenie)_edited-1.jpg
Delphinium and Geranium, aka Del and Gerry @Reenie

Nicknames
Pet guinea pigs are very likely to acquire nicknames, especially if they carry rather long names. As you get to know them better, you will also likely develop special endearments. Sometimes these special names can stick and become what you actually call your guinea pigs for the rest of their lives.

Two of my own piggies actually ended up with the nickname replacing their initial names - including an official name change at the vet clinic!

Tegan became Telyn for her loud voice.jpg
Telyn

My Telyn (“Harp”) was originally called Tegan, but she had such a loud voice and truly ear splitting wheek that her nickname stuck. Tegan Syndod, who was born just three months after Telyn’s unexpected passing, is in fact named in memory of Telyn.


Briallen became Ffowlyn for her looks.jpg
Briallen, who became Ffowlyn for her looks

Ffowlyn (“Chicken”) changed her name a few weeks in when the hair at her back end suddenly grew out and looked like a chicken tail. She was originally Briallen (“Primrose”), but that name didn’t somehow suit her; after a week of trial between both names, Ffowlyn stuck.


The new Briallen (name stuck).jpg
The new Briallen whose name stuck

I have recycled 'Briallen' two years after Ffowlyn’s death with another aby because I love the name. The new Briallen’s endearment is the shortened version of her name, “Bree-ah”, and this time the name really suits the cavy!
 

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Part3: Get inspired!

This time we look at where the most commonly chosen names come from but also where and how you can find unique and special names.

Mycroft and Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes) (Tewdric)_edited-1.jpg
Mycroft and Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes) @Tewdric


What are the most common guinea pig names?

Thorunn Auslag Helga Siggy Norbert (Kattegat-History channel Vikings show) (CogGirl, also owne...jpg
Thorunn Auslag Helga Siggy Norbert (Kattegat - The History Channel Vikings Show) @CogGirl , also owner of Lagerta and Ragnar

Human names
Human names make the bulk of piggy names, especially slightly more old-fashioned names.

- Names from children’s programmes or stories make another big group, not quite surprisingly. Piglet and Peppa are the top scorers in this group.

- Names from favourite films, series or books, sports people (especially formula1 drivers for rumbling boars) or celebrities are also often chosen.

- Names inspired by another language or country you have connections to, are also not all that rare. I am not the only one with a Welsh name theme; in my case, it is courtesy of a Welsh husband!

- Exotic names – now there is a wide field, whether they really exist or are made up! Why not create your own perfect name?

Squeaky (rescue name Jackson from his white paw) (Qualcast&Flymo)_edited-1.jpg
Squeaky (rescue name 'Jackson' for his white glove) @Qualcast&Flymo

Looks, markings, behaviours or circumstances
- Sweets or cookies, especially those that reflect coat colours or markings are the most popular. Oreo, Fudge, Caramel, Toffee or Biscuit are the most common, as they refer to coat colours.

- Names that relate to looks are Fuzzy, Fluffy, Spike and Teddy for rexoid cavies. Snowy and other names with ‘snow’ obviously belong to a white, Rufus or Red to a ginger and Blackjack or Sooty to a dark guinea pig.

- Speedy, Bubbles, Squeaky, Chewy, Randy, Popcorn etc. refer to behaviours that stand out to their owners.

- “Naughty” names like Mischief, Minx, Tramp, Rascal, Hoyden, Havoc, Mayhem; Dennis the Menace or Evel Knievel also have a following.
In fact, my first very own guinea pig was called Strolch (Tramp), and Minx and Mischief were my first adult cavies of pre-Tribe times.

- Other animals with similar markings can also be an inspiration for a name. Bear, Badger, Coon being the most frequent choices. There are also a number of guinea pigs with dinosaur names.

- Circumstances under which a guinea pig has come to you can also be a factor in naming a guinea pig. Lucky is the most common of these names, or Moses for a foundling.

Beaver and Badger (boy scouts themed) (Qualcast&Flymo)_edited-1.jpg
Beaver and Badger (boy scouts) @Qualcast&Flymo

Pioden “Magpie” and Pili Pala “Butterfly” (for her patch over one eye) are both named for their striking markings. Hafina “Summer” for her perfect golden tan, Gethin “Dusky” for his long black hair.
Hedydd “Skylark”, Heini “Lively” and Nosgan “Nightsong” refer to characteristic behaviours.


Parsley Rosemary and Thyme (Reenie)_edited-1.jpg
Parsley Rosemary and Thyme @Reenie

Plants, clouds, precious stones and the natural world
- The natural world, especially herbs and flowers, are another popular area of inspiration.

- Precious stones for sows are also firm favourites, the top favourite being Ruby.

- Clouds and weather (think snow...)

Ginny Pig and Miss Piggy (pig puns) (clsmell, also owner of PIglet)_edited-1.jpg
Ginny Pig and Miss Piggy (pig puns) @clsmell , also owner of Piglet

Endearments, puns and the very last resort
- Some people prefer endearment names right from the start, like Teddy, Tom, Jack, Eddie or Gertie, Molly, Lizzie or Betty.
Bedo is an old endearment to Meredith and Myfina comes from a very traditional, but for my Swiss-German accented tongue rather unpronounceable Myfanwy for instance.

- Personal endearments, like our editor’s Chick-Chick, can also make official names.

- Puns like Bubble and Squeak (from a dish of fried potato mash and cabbage).

- “Little” names are also very common, especially for babies or youngsters like Mini, Tiny, Pip, Kernel, Dot, Pixel or Stuart Little

- There are a surprising number of often much loved cavies simply named Guinea Pig, Guinea or Pig… and as the very last resort, even well cared for and well-loved nameless guinea pigs! I have temporarily fostered a pair of beloved nameless piggies for a local owner with a problem pregnancy once (of course, they only stayed nameless for about an hour after their arrival here…)

Ryou Sakurai Eevee (Anime; Pokemon) (julesie, also owner of Bakura, Romano, Ludwig, Gilbert an...JPG
Ryou Sakurai and Eevee (Anime and Pokemon) @Julesie , also owner of Bakura, Romano, Ludwig, Gilbert and Matthew


Where to get inspiration from and what to use as resources?
- Baby name sites (some with names in various languages) are always a good resource; especially if you’d like to choose a name with a specific meaning or you are looking for something unique and special!

- Your favourite actors or characters, singers and groups, films, television series or books (new or childhood ones) as well as comic figures can inspire naming themes. Why not be inspired by the titles or lyrics from your favourite songs?

- names inspired by places, memories or people that are very precious to you

- games or fantasy related names

- planets, gods and figures from mythology,

- historic persons or celebrities, politicians and persons or characters your guinea pigs remind you of…
Nosgan was originally named Victor Meldrew after the grumpy old man in the comedy series One Foot in the Grave.

Marx Brothers - Little Dude (started out as Harpo) Chicco and Groucho (Reenie)_edited-1.jpg
Little Dude (started out as Harpo) Chicco and Groucho: The Marx Brothers @Reenie

- Drinks, snacks, fruit and veg, spices, favourite foods and dishes

- car, motorbike, aeroplanes etc. makes

- fashion brands or fabrics

- job or hobby related names

- dream destinations

Voltti and Ampeeri (electrical units in Finnish) - (Powerpigs also owner of Ohmi)_edited-1.jpg
Voltti and Ampeeri (electrical units in Finnish - 'dad' is an engineer) @Powerpigs , also owner of Ohmi

For resourcing my Welsh Tribe piggy names now that I have had to come up with around fifty different names over the years and it is no longer quite as easy, I use baby name lists, but also lists of Welsh birds and plants, as well as an online dictionary.
Within the Tribe I have got several mini-themes going like using the same initial for piggies of the same breed, but also opting for rather traditional names in one group, coat colours in another, flowers and birds in a third and adjectives for yet another group of sows…
Guinea pigs from neglect backgrounds often get a name that associates with love or happiness because that is what they need and will hopefully find with me. But each Tribe name has a meaning that relates to its bearer in some way!

BB-8 Rey Chewie (Star Wars) (Guineapigfeet)_edited-1.jpg
BB-8 Rey and Chewie (Star Wars) @Guineapigfeet

Continued...
 

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Mr Darcy (period dramas) (carrie anne, also owner of Mr Rochester)_edited-1.jpg
Mr Darcy (romantic heros) @carrie anne , also owner of Mr Rochester


Always remember...

Hadley (Aliens) and Leela (Futurama) sci-fi theme (Freela)_edited-1.jpg
Hadley (Aliens) and Leela (Futurama) @Freela


Whichever way you want to go down, whether you are looking for the unique, the special, the naughty, the traditional or the everyday, when searching for the right names please keep in mind above all to have fun and to not get stressed out when you can’t decide or draw a total blank at first!

... naming should be fun!


Errol (Nightwatch's dragon) and Binky (Death's horse) (Terry Pratchett) (kallasia, also owner ...jpg
Errol (Nightwatch's dragon) and Binky (Death's horse) from Terry Pratchett @Kallasia



Captain Jack (Sparrow) and Admiral Jellicoe (Nautical) (Mother Hubbard).jpg
Captain Jack (Sparrow) and Admiral Jellicoe (WWI hero) @Mother Hubbard


Telford and Brunel (industrial pioneers) (Tewdric)_edited-1.jpg
Telford and Brunel (industrial pioneers) @Tewdric


Anyway, your guinea pigs generally come with the knack of taking matters into their own paws and popping an endearment into your head while they burrow a nest in your heart before you realise what has hit you!

Don't worry: Guinea pigs have a way of naming themselves once you get to know them!

Hogwards Herd (Andromeda - Nymphadora Tonks - Narcissa - Bellatrix) (Cavy Kung-Fu also owner ...jpeg
The Hogwarts Herd: Andromeda - Nymphadora Tonks - Narcissa - Bellatrix (Harry Potter) @Cavy Kung-Fu , also owner of Ignotus aka Iggy
 
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