The name “Dracula” was first attributed to Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (born c.1431 – December, 1476), more commonly known as Vlad the Impaler. (The word “tepes” means “impaler.”) Vlad is known for the exceedingly cruel punishment he imposed as ruler of Wallachia (southern Romania). One famous drawing of Vlad shows him calmly eating in front of a selection of his dead victims – all of whom have been impaled. Even so, Romanians still refer to Vlad as a savior to their nation and justify his method of torture as typical for that period in history.
His Romanian surname “Draculea” means “Son of the dragon” and is derived from his father’s title, Vlad the Dragon. There were several spellings (”Draculea”, “Drakulya”) but Vlad III eventually came to be referred to as “Dracula.”