View Full Version : place names?

03-18-2013, 09:46 PM
Do you guys use topographical name conventions like those in the UK; do your names describe the place?

03-19-2013, 03:24 AM
Well, naming locations based on a description is a pretty simple way to do it, which is probably why it's so common in the older countries - it's easy, and it helped people get around when there weren't maps available. "Go to Flattop Hill and turn left" is a lot easier for someone to understand than "go to Elioshai and turn left" - what if the listener has no idea what "Elioshai" is? Hill? Forest? Town? Rock? New countries may "import" place names from their old country, or use (and often abuse) the names already applied by indigenous peoples. "Ohio" is an anglicized form of a Native American word meaning "beautiful river", for example.

The other common way of naming locations is naming them after someone important; "Seattle" (Seattle, WA) is actually based on the name of a Native American chief who lived in the area and negotiated with the white settlers coming in, although obviously the name has been anglicized for easier pronunciation (for those white settlers).

All that being said, I personally prefer to start with a name that describes the place; then, once I figure out what kind of people lives there and whether or not they're "new" residents, I can modify and/or replace names to match the naming conventions of that people.

- kes

03-19-2013, 12:52 PM
Thanks! I think I'll go with compounds, so a descriptive place name as well as the name of the tribal region it belongs to.

03-19-2013, 02:44 PM
Sounds cool; a good way to mix some "cultural flavor" in with a descriptive label that helps people visualize/remember where/what things are ^-^

03-20-2013, 01:59 AM
You can make the naming practices of the people of your setting obvious, with a little repetition. Not even knowing their language, if I see the same suffix or lead word on all rivers' names, I'll get the idea that bit *means* "river". Label some obvious settlement size symbols in the key, say yabba, dabba, and due (big to little) and I'll know when I see a big city name Something-due I'll have an idea that during the tenure of the current language it probably grew from town to city.

That said, a little such goes a long way on a map. No matter how well thought out the language you have crafted, you don't want to force your map user to do a lot of decoding; that'll get in the way of understanding when you were trying to *transmit* information. The extreme case of this is where an entire map is labelled in a ' local script' unfamiliar to the reader. Such winds up being an 'art piece' instead of a functional map; one can glean some from the graphical elements alone, and certainly the *flavor* of the setting can be conveyed... If you really want to do a lot of in-character labeling like that, consider tossing the reader/ players/ users a bone, and "scribbling in" some pronounceable or even real-world annotations. That way you can have the beauty of say the elvish original, but the apt or snarky remarks of the human who took notes can carry whatever info is crucial to the user.

03-20-2013, 10:14 AM
I plan to have an artsy map for myself in the script I made for my language but I'll make one that has the place names transliterated into English. But since I plan to compile a grammar for my language, I'll enclose a map towards the end together with a small dictionary so it'll be easier to figure out the place names and such.

Will Brawner
04-23-2013, 08:14 PM
I like your ideas so far. I'm not really into conlanging, but I could give it a try. My current plan, however, is to use English-ish names for everything on the map, rather than translating them into other languages, real or fictional. The idea for this is to convey to the readers an easily accessible sense of what the places are. However, I'm afraid it will appear that my world is a mono-ethnic British/American place, when it is in fact just the opposite - quite diverse in culture, religion, and practices, but all the names happen to resemble each other. How can I solve this problem?

05-10-2013, 01:22 AM
Personally, I've been long working on a giant pool of names for people, races, and locales for my universe (currently accumulating over 1300) and I've worked certain conventions for different races and their respective cultures.

For instance, the Chal (Humans mildly based off Celtic Culture, and my most well developed race) share some conventions with the Celts (a given) while maintaining many of their own unique ones. Their capitol is Reinwall, based off one of their unique prefixes: Rei-, and the Celtic word Cornwall. They also take some inspiration from their divine masters, the Val, and will sometimes incorporate their conventions (or their names outright) into both naming their children (like Valfast, or Valos) and their towns and cities, like the farming "city" of Seraphim, named after the elite knights of the Val legions, in honor and the hope that they would be protected and blessed as the Chal pioneers ventured so far inland and built up their civilization against all the potential dangers.

Though truth of the matter is, I hadn't come up with that reasoning as to why Seraphim was named that until 7 years after I had come up with it (I started developing my world when I was 10) It's makes perfect sense now. But it hadn't then, especially since the Val weren't really at all divine in nature at the time, or even called Val.

What I'm trying to really get at is that instead of all names having a coded meaning, ask yourself rather what were the circumstances that brought about that name. What was the culture, who in particular named it, what's he like? It's a lot more work, but these are the things that really make it memorable, even if the actual history to the name comes later.

Maybe I just completely missed the point. :F

05-27-2013, 05:22 PM
For my part I've always tended to name things from first where they are (IE River) and then from the circumstances of their geography or function. My capital city in my homebrew campaign setting is named "Riverhewn" because of the fact that the island it sits on was "hewn" from the two rivers that surround it. I've always preferred "simple" names that can be pronounced although I have been "guilty" of using long and complex names to ancient ruins or anything Elven... :)

06-17-2013, 04:15 PM
In my world, toponomy is still being developed, but a few conventions have already been made:

City Rank
In the Savrinian culture, larger town get an honorary suffix from the Imperial Population Commission:
-trivan : town (5.000 - 15.000 inhabitants)
-jurmos : larger town (15.001 - 25.000 inhabitants)
-ardan : small city (25.001 - 50.000 inhabitants)
-muros : city (50.001 - 125.000 inhabitants)
-van : metropole (over 125.000 inhabitants)
-irvan : capital (given to the capital)

basic rules
1. 'Locative town' : Bedbasirvan ==> Bedba (rock) -zi- (loc. sg.) -irvan (capital) : Capital on the rock
2. 'Gentive town' : Amvaimuros ==> Amva (ancient sea godess) -i- (gen. sg.) -muros : City of Amva

06-18-2013, 01:22 AM
So place names change over time according to the official census? And people actually switch the name they use? How brutal are the punishments for using the older name to make that work? Or maybe there is a ramped up Mass Suggestion spell after every census to get people to change what they call a place? Or does the Empire accept that this is for official use only and most people stick to traditional names?

06-18-2013, 03:35 AM
The Empire, of which I am speaking, knew in fact two periods of great prosperity, from 1900 NE uptill 2350 NE and from 2785 NE uptill 3049 NE. In the Classical Empire and the Second Empire, there were no punishments for ordinary people using the old names. The decision was mostly taken in Nasairian (the fifth month of the year). E.g. Amvaiardan was changed into Amvaimuros on the 15th Nasairian 2854 NE, but the message had to be brought to Amvaimuros, and that took 5 days (Bedbasiravan to Amvaimuros was about 450 miles). The local Counsil had to change all the plates mentioning Amvaiardan, all the new documants had to mention the new name, in older documents Amvaimuros was added to avoid ambiguity. There were only punishments for official instances, who didn't use the official name. The offender had to pay a UD 150 fine. However, if the old name was used in folklore or an other non-official instance, the Empire allowed it.

07-25-2013, 08:33 PM
I don't really use name convention but the name of the same culture are more similar. Unless you choose you word carefully, I found that names that descibe the place don't do well in a fantasy world. But it might be ok for you if you want something more historically acurate.

Try to find something that sound great and that reflect the spirit of the place. Having memorable names is the most important thing. Of course not all names should be memorable.
So what I usually do when I don't have ideas is to find something like an object, flower, color, plant... that is linked to the place and just change the letters in the word a little bit. Just enough to sound unique.
You can also modify words from other languages but it's betgte to have some understanding of it to avoid being a fool to native speekers.