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The Hilarious Origin Of Indiana Jones' Name

When "Raiders of the Lost Ark" first premiered back in 1981, it introduced the world to one of the most iconic action heroes in all of cinema: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). The whip-wielding archaeologist blended the "tough guy" persona of a grizzled Western hero with the dry humor and sarcastic wit that Ford embodies so well. There's a bit of James Bond in there too, with Jones regularly finding himself battling his foes through elaborate, action-packed set pieces — and always coming out on top.

The end result is a hero who is smart, funny, and incredibly easy to root for. These days, the name Indiana Jones is nearly synonymous with the action genre itself — which is perhaps why so many have forgotten how strange that name actually is. Indiana isn't exactly the state one would associate with archaeology, nor with action films, and it's definitely an unconventional name for a​​ film's hero. So where did that name actually come from?

George Lucas named the character after his dog

As it happens, the real-life story of how Indiana got his name is pretty similar to the story we get in the film series itself. In "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (which sees the titular archaeologist teaming up with his father (Sean Connery) on a quest to track down the Holy Grail), it's revealed that Indiana got his nickname from the family dog. Indy's real name is Henry Walton Jones Jr., and throughout the film, his father constantly calls him "junior," refusing to embrace the ​​nickname that Indiana took from their beloved family pet.

In reality, George Lucas (who created the character alongside Steven Spielberg) used to own a dog named Indiana, an enormous Alaskan Malamute that also inspired him to create the character of Chewbacca while writing "Star Wars" (via Flip the Movie Script). Lucas initially named the character Indiana Smith, though the last name was later changed to Jones. Hilariously, the transcript of Lucas and Spielberg's original brainstorming session for "Raiders" includes a bit where Lucas attempts to justify the name, saying, "It has to be unique. It's a character. Very Americana. Square. He was born in Indiana" (via The New Yorker). But at the end of the day, it appears he simply named the character after his dog.