This article is from the Final-Fantasy and other Square Soft Games FAQ, by firstname.lastname@example.org (Nick Zitzmann) with numerous contributions by others.
Hades (from FF IV & VII): Hades, in Greek Mythology, was Zeus &
Poseidon's brother, and controller of the Underworld. (Note: Hades is
not an actual character in FF IV, but the King and Queen of Eblan make a
reference to him, or at least they do in the American version. Also, the
"Black" items for Cecil in the American version of the game were called
the "Hades" items in the Japanese version.)
Heidegger (from FF VII): Heidegger was most likely named after Martin
Heidegger, an early 20th century philosopher. Heidegger wrote that: "The
feeling of dread (Angst) brings the individual to a confrontation with
death and the ultimate meaninglessness of life, but only in this
confrontation can an authentic sense of Being and of freedom be
Heimdal (from Xenogears): Yet again, more Norse mythology. The Norse god
Heimdall was the keeper of Bifrost, a rainbow bridge which lead between
the world of the gods (Asgard) and the world of humans (Midgard). (See
Hermes (from SaGa/FFL I and SaGa II/FFL II): Hermes (aka "Tiw," or
"Mercury" in Roman mythology) was the Greek god of communication, and
the protector of the travelers. "Tuesday," or "Tiw's Day," is named
Id (from Xenogears): Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology,
devised this important topic in psychology. Freud used the term to
represent human instinct; this includes survival instinct as well as
hunger, greed, reproduction, and destruction.
Ifrit/Jinn (from various FF titles and Chrono Trigger): An "Ifrit," or
"Ifritah," is a powerful version of a djini (or jinn, sometimes spelled
as "genie" in English). In pre-Islam Arabia, jinn were demons of the
desert with malformed animal forms, and were considered dangerous. After
the spread of Islam, jinn continued to exist as one of three created
intelligences: angels formed of light, jinn of subtle fire, and humanity
of the dust of the earth. In the later Islam formation, jinn only
appeared as forms of fire and smoke. Perhaps the most well-known story
about jinn is the story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, told by
Scheherezade as part of her "1,001 Arabian Nights" stories, where a poor
man named Aladdin found fame, fortune, and some adventure through a jinn
he found in a magic lamp.
Jabberwock/Jabberwocky (from SD II/SoM): "Jabberwock" is a creature
mentioned in Lewis Caroll's famous poem, "Jabberwocky". The poem's first
& last paragraph goes like this:
"'Twas brillig, and the slithy toevs
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome rabs outgabe."
The Jabberwock, then, was a "monster" in this poem. The first RPG to
have a portrayal of a Jabberwock was Electronic Arts/Interplay's famous
RPG, "The Bard's Tale." In that game, the Jabberwock was portrayed as a
mighty two-headed dinosaur who guarded the Crystal Sword, an essential
item to finishing the game. Every Jabberwock appearance in every game
since then has been portrayed in a similar way, and Secret of Mana is no
Janus (from Chrono Trigger): In Roman Mythology, Janus is the god of
open doors and generally represents various opposites that we see in
life. Janus has no equivilant in Greek Mythology, making him a "unique"
god to the Romans.
Kadomony (from Xenogears): "Kadmoni" is a Hebrew word, meaning "the
Knights of Round (from FF VII): The Knights of the Round Table, in the
original Arthurian legend, were King Arthur's main group of knights.
Kraken (from FF I, FFA, and SaGa/FFL I): The kraken is a legendary sea
monster of northern seas. Not to be confused with the legendary Loch
Lavos (from Chrono Trigger): The idea for Lavos seems like it may have
been inspired by the infamous Cthulhu (pronounced "kuh-tue-lue"). In
"The Call of Cthulhu," by H. P. Lovecraft (a horror writer from the turn
of the 20th century), Cthulhu is an entity who sleeps silently below
ground. In the story, his awakening would spell the Apocalypse, as he
would rise and drain the world of all its natural resources.
Lich/DarkLich (from FF I, FF VI, FFA, SaGa/FFL I and SoM): A lich is a
dead body which has been reanimated by some strong source of magical
Locke (from FF VI): Again, this is pure speculation, but Locke might
have been named after John Locke, a political commentator of the 17th
century. Locke was one of the philosophers who created what we call
"natural law" today, which basically means that he believed in reason
being the best government. Locke, unlike his peers, believed that
experience was the thing that brought us knowledge, and the environment
around us forms our minds.
Lucca (from Chrono Trigger): Probably named after a region of Italy, but
no one has any idea if that's right or not.
Malak/Malakh (from FF Tactics and Xenogears): "Malakh" is a Hebrew word,
Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthezar (from Chrono Trigger and Xenogears): In
Christianity, these three wise men departed to meet Jesus on the night
of Christ's Mass (Christmas).
Merkava (from Xenogears): In Judaism, Merkava is another name for the
chariot of God. It was described in Ezekiel 1:4 to 1:28: "And I saw,
and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, and a great cloud, and a
fire infolding it! And brightness was about it, and out of the midst
thereof, that is, out of the midst of the fire, as it were the
resemblance of amber. And in the midst thereof the likeness of four
living creatures [cherubs]: and this was there appearance. There was the
likeness of a man in them." ... "As the appearance of the rainbow when
it is in a cloud on a rainy day: this was the appearance of the
brightness round about."
Midgar (from FF VII): In Norse Mythology, Midgard was the realm of the
living, where all of the humans lived. Wrapped around Midgard is the
Midgard Serpent (see "Terrato"). Midgard will cease to exist after the
Day of Ragnarok (see "Ragnarok").
Minerva (from FF VI) and Arachnid (from FF I): Minerva was a Greek/Roman
goddess who was thought to be the foremost weaver the world had known,
until a skilled mortal named Arachne challenged her to a weaving
contest. So, Minerva accepted the challenge, and when she wove, she wove
a message out to Arachne to give up before something bad happened. But
Arachne didn't yield, instead, she wove up a design which directly made
fun of the gods. For her blasphemy, Minerva turned Arachne into a
spider, so she would go out and weave for the rest of her life. Today,
the words "arachnid," "arachnophobia," etc. come from the outcome of
Minotaur Brothers (from FF VIII): The Minoan Civilization, which existed
on Crete Island between 2600 and 1100 BC, became fascinated with stories
of humans with the heads of bulls. One such story said that the original
Minotaur was the son of King Minos, who was born with a bull's head and
lived out his life in the king's dungeons.
Mu/Void (from FF V): Mu was supposed to be a lost continent of sorts
that was rumored to exist somewhere around Polynesia. Because Mu has
been proven to not exist, just the word "Mu" has come to mean
"nothingness" or "nonexisting". "Mu" is also a Zen Buddhist principle
referring to nothingness, and has been incorporated into the Japanese
language to mean "nothing". (NOTE: There are characters in Chrono
Trigger who call themselves "Nu". These are totally different, and
shouldn't be confused with Mu.)
Masamune and Murasame (from most FF and SaGa/FFL games): The Masamune
and Murasame blades were made by two rival Japanese swordsmiths, who one
day competed against each other. Their swords were put into the water
for a period of time. Since leaves passed around the Masamune, but were
sliced by the Murasame, the Masamune won the competition. Since then,
the Masamune has been associated with holiness, while the Murasame has
been associated with curses.
Musashi and Kojiro (from Brave Fencer Musashiden): Both characters were
named after legendary Japanese samurai. Musashi was named in honor of
Miyamoto Musashi, a 17th century samurai, who used an original style of
fighting which involved a short sword and a long sword. Kojiro was named
in honor of Sasaki Kojiro, one of Musashi's opponents.