Stoker loosely based his character on the historic Wallachian (southern Romania) ruler Vlad III, also known as Vlad Tepes ("Vlad the Impaler"). In his six year reign (1436-1442) he is estimated to have killed 100,000 people, mainly by using his favourite method of impaling them on a sharp pole. However, it should be noted that the history of Romania at this time was mainly recorded by German immigrants, a group with which Vlad Tepes is known to have clashed several times. Indeed, Vlad Tepes is revered as a folk hero by native Romanians for driving off invading Turks with his brutal techniques.
The name "Dracula" is derived from a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon, founded by King Sigismund of Hungary (who became the Holy Roman Emperor in 1410) to uphold Christianity and defend the Empire against the Ottoman Turks. Vlad III's father (Vlad II) was admitted to the Order around 1431 because of his bravery in fighting the Turks. From 1431 onward Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and later, as ruler of Wallachia, his coinage bore the dragon symbol. The word for dragon in Romanian is "drac" and "ul" is the definitive article. Vlad III?s father thus came to be known as "Vlad Dracul," or "Vlad the dragon." In Romanian the ending "ulea" means "the son of". Under this interpretation, Vlad III thus became Vlad Dracula, or "the son of the dragon." (The word "drac" also means "devil" in Romanian, giving a double meaning to the name for enemies of Vlad Tepes and his father.)
In writing Dracula, Stoker may also have drawn upon stories about blood-drinking ghouls from his native Ireland, and the Dracula myth as he created it and as it has been portrayed in films and television shows ever since may be a compound of various influences; many of Stoker's biographers and literary critics have found deep resonances of Sheridan le Fanu's earlier classic of the vampire genre, Carmilla, in his work.