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NeonKnight
06-16-2009, 01:31 PM
I see this topic come up over and over, and I have often posted, and reposted and linked to previous posts, etc, and now we have a sub forum for this wonderful topic. So, here we go:

For me, when I was creating my world way back, names were kinda easy.

A few examples:

Empire of Brighton, saw the name Brighton on a sign post as a street name.

Ferringio was just a play on the name Ferigno (guy who played the Hulk on the TV Series).

As I got older (my original campaign world is over 20 years old), I started thinking, how do we, as humans in the real world come up with city names? In our English speaking culture we have a tendency to name them after either people, other places (England has York, The US has New York, England has Jersey, US has New Jersye, France has Orleans, US has New Orleans), or after prominent physical/environmental features: Swiftwater, Bridal Falls, etc.

So, Kingdom names aside, place names are easy.

The name of a Human city were they first arrived in a new land could be First Landing, because it makes sense from a Etymological point of view. Its where they first arrived, it would be their biggest settlement, as a lot of the first timber for construction would have come from the dismantling of the ships they arrived on, etc.

A web search on Toponomy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toponomy) (the scientific name for the study of place names), brought me this little gem regarding place names in Britain:


Places were originally named in Old English, Norse, Scots, Welsh, Gaelic or Cornish, according to landscape features (topography), nature of settlement (habitat – city, town, village, fortifications) or the people or tribe living in the area, often combining two or three descriptive terms in one name. These names were then influenced and modified at various historical periods through language shift driven by socio-economic and political changes.

These sometimes introduced new language influences, such as French from the Norman Conquest.

So, if you have names for towns villages, etc called Walden's Bridge because some guy named Walden built a bridge and a village srpung up there because it was a good crossing point, so be it. Even the name of the game "Neverwinter Night" is based on the city of Neverwinter in the Forgotten Realms, so named because even though it is far north, it seldom experience Winter in it;s full force.

So, for example, in Britain, there is this place called Oxford, which obviously was named because it originally was a good place for herdsmen to bring the Oxen across a river.

Here in the province of British Columbia, I was born in they city of Prince George, which was originally known as Fort George. This fort, from back in the early frontier days, was named after the Prince of England, named George.

All around Prince George are communities with names like MacKenzie (Named after the explorer of the same name), Fort St John, Fort St James, Dawson Creek, and the youngest, the mining town of less than 30 years, Tumbler Ridge. Even Canada was named (incorrectly) because the local natives invited the French Explorers back to Can-na-ha (or something of that effect), which in their language meant Village or Group of Huts.

Thus, when naming your communities, do not worry about trying to come up with bizarre, wacky names that may look cool, but be hard to pronounce. If it's hard for you, it will likely be equally hard for your fantasy inhabitants.

Another method I use when naming areas is I look around and the things near me. I think of the names of things around me and switch some letters or exaggerate other parts of it.

For instance, I am looking at my MONITOR as I write this. Monitor has a cool sound, so change a couple of letters and I have Monather, or Monistor, or reduce to two syllables, Montor. I guarantee, when people see that name on your map, they are not going to go: "Hey you just changed a few letters in Monitor! You Suck!" Nope, never will happen.

Finally, use a bit of imagination when naming areas too. Swift Current is a cool name for a small town/village on a river. So what if there are umpteen million real world Swift Currents, it is a descriptive name. Why do you think there is practically a Springfield in almost every one of the states in the US

So, think of geographic features and simply name communites after them. This gives you BlackRock, Red Rock, Greenfields, Blue Water, Windbluffe, Blue Lake, Pineglen, etc.

Best of luck!

Gandwarf
06-16-2009, 03:00 PM
I have been reading an interesting book on Medieval villages and it seems naming was pretty easy back then. With no surnames people would be identified by their profession or elders. For example: John Smith or John Carpenter. Or John son of Harrold. Later this name might have changed to John Harroldson.

Anyway, the locations in my world also have easy, practical names. Places like Greenwood, Lakesight or Salthope. I think it's an easy way to build character :)

NeonKnight
06-16-2009, 03:39 PM
Yes, English surnames for the most part with commoners (Nobility was much different) was based on profession.

In the early dark ages, one only had a first or given name. Thus, a village was filled with many Johns, Williams, Roberts, Daniels, Isacs, Ians, etc. In order to differentiate them it became necessary to some how tell which was which. Thus to differentiate between two Johns, one who was a cooper (maker of Barrels), and the other who was a village baker, we had John the Cooper, and John the Baker.

If John the Baker from the villages of Leeds (Making this part up), was visiting in Umbridge, he would not be called John the Baker (as umbridge might already have a baker named John), he would then be called John of Leeds.

Over time a lot of the profession Surnames became the actual Surname, regardless of the person's eventual profession. Part of why in the English Speaking world we have a great many Smiths, Bakers, Archers, Coopers, Wrights, Tanners, etc.

And before one thinks this phenomenon was limited to the English, the Irish and Scots also had this to a degree (I am certain my Surname of Thomson resulted from a bastardization/shortening of Thomas's Son).

But this also happened with the French and Germans as well. For Instance, my mother is French, and her Maiden Surname was Boisvert. Bois is French for Wood, and Vert is French for Green, thus my mother's maiden name was the French form of Greenwood (likely resulting down the ages as From the Green Wood. Other surnames on my Morther's side of the family is Le Compte, or The Counter, so likely an accoutnant in times past.

Some interseting studies.

Dogzilla
06-16-2009, 04:47 PM
I like to make a mini-language, just a few hundred words, making sure you have words for things like natural features, colors, Gods, common adjectives, etc. The you can convert your English names to more exotic-sounding names, but you have a pattern and a consistency you wouldn't have if you just made up random names.
For maximum consistency, you'd have to have some Religion, Culture, and History developed before you name most of your places.
Probably too much work for a quick map, but for a world you plan to spend a lot of time on, I couldn't imagine doing it any other way.

Gamerprinter
06-17-2009, 10:33 PM
Its much the same for Japanese names. The town of Matsue, literally means Pine Tree. Kyoto means "capital", while Tokyo, is taking the "kyo" from the front of the word and moving it to the back, to mean capital on the opposite side - this is the literal translation.

My mother's maiden name is Shimizu, which means purest water. Her ancestors going back a thousand years were all doctors, some one way back when decided to use "purest water" as a means to improve the health of provincial lord, which helped cure him, thus the first Shimizu was named.

As someone mentioned in my May Challenge entry: Tanaka's Challenge, whom I chose to make "Tanaka" a lord's name was incorrect. As "Tanaka" means rice field worker - and a lord would never be named that, even though Tanaka is a very Japanese name.

Except for noble and samurai houses, whose names are generally different local plants, trees and flowers, the commoner's surnames are the place they are born. Often the word "no" appears between the surname and the personal name, which means "of". Thus Aki no Mori, means Mori of Aki.

In Japan the family is more important than the individual, thus the Surname comes first, then the personal name. Taira no Kiyomori is Kiyomori of clan Taira, and Taira means a specific flowering swamp plant. Thus Taira is a nobles name.

Strange, yet similar to western conventions.

GP

Diamond
07-08-2009, 01:01 AM
I like to make a mini-language, just a few hundred words, making sure you have words for things like natural features, colors, Gods, common adjectives, etc. The you can convert your English names to more exotic-sounding names, but you have a pattern and a consistency you wouldn't have if you just made up random names.
For maximum consistency, you'd have to have some Religion, Culture, and History developed before you name most of your places.
Probably too much work for a quick map, but for a world you plan to spend a lot of time on, I couldn't imagine doing it any other way.

I do that as well. Just a simple lexicon, just enough to get me going. Then, as the map progresses and I find myself in need of new words, I add 'em in, making sure to check with consistency and 'feel' with the original group.

For maps which are based on real-world cultures or nations, like France or Italy, I've found a couple of random name-generators which are very useful:

http://direpress.bin.sh/tools/name.html

http://www.squid.org/rpg-random-generator

http://nine.frenchboys.net/

I'm sure these are very widely known amongst this community, but hey, I like 'em. :D

Ascension
07-08-2009, 01:28 AM
Didn't know about frenchboys, will give that a look.

Steel General
07-08-2009, 07:24 AM
A lot of times I will simply alter the spelling to make it look more 'exotic'. It's probably not the best way to do it, but it certainly is the easiest.

Ex. The name 'Kevin' could easily be turned into 'Khevan' or 'Smith' into 'Smythe' or 'Smiith'

Diamond
07-08-2009, 11:28 PM
A lot of times I will simply alter the spelling to make it look more 'exotic'. It's probably not the best way to do it, but it certainly is the easiest.

Ex. The name 'Kevin' could easily be turned into 'Khevan' or 'Smith' into 'Smythe' or 'Smiith'

That's good, except when you go overboard with it, like the Horseclans books, or David Weber's 'Off Armaggedon Reef' series. Then it just looks silly.

Steel General
07-09-2009, 07:52 AM
That's good, except when you go overboard with it, like the Horseclans books... Then it just looks silly.

Wow Horseclans books! I have a bunch of them somewhere in my house, haven't read those in years. :D

You're right though, he did go overboard at times.

Diamond
07-09-2009, 09:59 PM
Yeah, I never really understood the purpose in the Horseclans books of doing that. I mean, if the names are spelled phonetically, why not everything else? When they go swimming, do they go in the whaater? Do they climb mowntens? :D

NeonKnight
07-09-2009, 11:15 PM
Yeah, I never really understood the purpose in the Horseclans books of doing that. I mean, if the names are spelled phonetically, why not everything else? When they go swimming, do they go in the whaater? Do they climb mowntens? :D

Wouldn't that be WHAATUR?

mmmmmpig
08-03-2009, 02:03 AM
I am going to go on a slightly tangential rant for a moment I could not find an appropriate thread and don't think this deserves its own thread as much as it deserves a thread hijack...

As a consistent reader of fantasy and an off and on gamer, I think it is incumbent upon the community at large to stop the dire place names convention. No more "Cliffs of Despair" or "Swamp of Tears" or "Graggy Hills of Doomy Doom!" or "Dark Scary Forest Don't Go In There" or "The Plot Point Hills of Dread."

I get tired of seeing places like the aforementioned "the Dark Forest." In the "real world" places are named by the people who live and use the areas (even if it is a hard and dangerous life). No one wants to live in the "Dire Marsh." The people who do scrabble out a living in or near that swamp would not give it such an imposing name.

Ascension
08-03-2009, 02:09 AM
"Craggy hills of doomy doom" is awesome! I gotta use that, if but only once :)

NeonKnight
08-03-2009, 02:23 AM
I am going to go on a slightly tangential rant for a moment I could not find an appropriate thread and don't think this deserves its own thread as much as it deserves a thread hijack...

As a consistent reader of fantasy and an off and on gamer, I think it is incumbent upon the community at large to stop the dire place names convention. No more "Cliffs of Despair" or "Swamp of Tears" or "Graggy Hills of Doomy Doom!" or "Dark Scary Forest Don't Go In There" or "The Plot Point Hills of Dread."

I get tired of seeing places like the aforementioned "the Dark Forest." In the "real world" places are named by the people who live and use the areas (even if it is a hard and dangerous life). No one wants to live in the "Dire Marsh." The people who do scrabble out a living in or near that swamp would not give it such an imposing name.

Just cause I can :P

http://www.destination360.com/europe/germany/black-forest

The History, of HOW the Black Forest Got it's Name.

So, name like TANGLE WOOD or DENSE SWAMP, are certainly not as 'scary' as DEATH WOOD or DIRE SWAMP or anything, but they ARE Evocative, and how people go about naming places.

Another example (with pictures even), is the SLEEPING GIANT PROVINCIAL (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Giant_Provincial_Park) PARK in Ontario, Canada, so named because an island looks like a sleeping giant.

In fact, if you do a Google search for images on Sleeping Giant Mountian, we have LOTS of mountains around the world that is named exactly that:

http://images.google.ca/images?hl=en&q=sleeping+giant+mountain&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=9HV2StX7GZCiswPUtOzWCA&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4

Coyotemax
08-03-2009, 03:02 AM
You want some real fun with this, take a look at my Roilwachhs map :) It's full of stuff like this.. one extreme example being "Sandy Desert Full of Sand that gets in your Bits and Makes You Feel Uncomfortable"

I dunno, I can imagine the people living near there naming it like that :P

Steel General
08-03-2009, 07:42 AM
"Dark Scary Forest Don't Go In There" - That got a good old chuckle out of me.

altasilvapuer
08-03-2009, 01:34 PM
[...]
In fact, if you do a Google search for images on Sleeping Giant Mountian, we have LOTS of mountains around the world that is named exactly that:

http://images.google.ca/images?hl=en&q=sleeping+giant+mountain&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=9HV2StX7GZCiswPUtOzWCA&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4

From my relatives' house in Stuyvesant, NY (near Hudson, etc; roughly 30-45 minutes south of Albany), you can see to the Southwest the very tip of the Catskill Mountain range - specifically three peaks of it. The three peaks are sometimes referred to as "Rip Van Winkle," after the legend of the man who slept for 100 years. From the right angle (at about which their house sits, in fact), the three peaks form what looks like a man's brow, nose, and chin.

I think I have a picture on my harddrive of it; I'll see if I can find it.
I thought I had a picture of it, but I can't find any from the right angle that are very clear. A quick internet search found this one, though: http://rogerkenner.ca/Bike/Nyc00/Bike_July00_Nyc/bknyc00_129.jpg which, oddly enough, appears to be quite near my relative's house. Unless I miss my reckoning, they're off to the right a couple miles at most.

The mounts in question are the three close to each other in the center. The angle's not quite right, but that's them.

-asp

Pegasos989
09-06-2009, 12:34 PM
While others have already mentioned that English, German, Japanese, etc. names form as they do, I'll add Finnish names to that list.

Last names are generally Finnish words with "nen" or "lä/la" added in the end. "Lä/la" means "a place where something is". For example, a name Seppälä would mean "A place in which you can find seppä" (And seppä means "smith"). This is the list of 9 most common last names in Finland at the moment.

1: Virtanen (Virta means "stream")
2: Korhonen (Korho means "dry hay" though it is old word. Had to look it up.)
3: Nieminen (Niemi means "peninsula")
4: Mäkinen (Mäki means "hill" or "ascent")
4: Mäkelä (Also based on word mäki. "A place where is a hill")
5: Hämäläinen (Means "someone from Häme" which is a place, named after Hämä, a pagan goddess whose name also apparently means "land" though is so old word that it took some serious googling to find out)
6: Laine (Laine means "wave")
7: Koskinen (Koski means "rapid")
8: Heikkinen (Heikki is a common first name. It is Finnish version of Heinrik, which comes from german Haimrich, which... I don't know.)
9: Järvinen (Järvi means "lake")

You see a pattern? Yes, it's that simple. Pick pretty much any old finnish word meaning some pagan deity or something nature or agriculture related, add "nen" to the end and the chances are it is someone's last name.



The place names are a bit more complex to explain but still simple.

This place where I live now is called Lehmihaka. Lehmä means "cow" and haka means both "hook" and a fence to keep something in some area. Lehmihaka means a fenced area in which you keep cows (kinda flattering, eh?). You can guess that there used to be a lot of cows in this area. The suburb in which Lehmihaka is is called "Havukoski", which is from Havu (branch of evergreen, twig) and Koski (rapid). Nearby is a rapid with evergreens on the shore.

This whole city is called Vantaa and I don't know if that means anything (probably) but before that, this was just called "Helsingin maalaispitäjä" as that means "countryside municipio of Helsinki (bigger city next to this one". The center of Vantaa is Tikkurila. Tikkuri is old finnish word for squirrel's hide. (and 'la' addition. "Place where are squirrelhides"). It was a common trading post when people used squirrels' hides as money.

Ascension
09-06-2009, 01:31 PM
Now that's some great info there, Peg...very nice and thank you very much. I'll definitely be using this.

Gidde
09-06-2009, 02:08 PM
I like to make a mini-language, just a few hundred words, making sure you have words for things like natural features, colors, Gods, common adjectives, etc. The you can convert your English names to more exotic-sounding names, but you have a pattern and a consistency you wouldn't have if you just made up random names.
For maximum consistency, you'd have to have some Religion, Culture, and History developed before you name most of your places.
Probably too much work for a quick map, but for a world you plan to spend a lot of time on, I couldn't imagine doing it any other way.

Holly Lisle did a great (drm-free e-)book (http://shop.hollylisle.com/index.php?crn=214) on a simple way of creating a realistic language that if you're into spending a few dollars on, I found really useful. It's a great addition to my (rapidly expanding) worldbuilding library.

SereneParadox
05-26-2010, 09:06 PM
I do that as well. Just a simple lexicon, just enough to get me going. Then, as the map progresses and I find myself in need of new words, I add 'em in, making sure to check with consistency and 'feel' with the original group.

For maps which are based on real-world cultures or nations, like France or Italy, I've found a couple of random name-generators which are very useful:

http://direpress.bin.sh/tools/name.html

http://www.squid.org/rpg-random-generator

http://nine.frenchboys.net/

I'm sure these are very widely known amongst this community, but hey, I like 'em. :D

Thank you so so so so so so so so sooooooooo much.

wisemoon
06-07-2010, 03:32 PM
While others have already mentioned that English, German, Japanese, etc. names form as they do, I'll add Finnish names to that list.<clip excellent post for space>

I just wanted to add (for those few who may not know) that J.R.R. Tolkien based his Elvish Quenya language on Finnish. So, if you wanted a Tolkien-ish feel without completely ripping him off, using Finnish as a base would probably do it.

Also...someone mentioned Holly Lisle's _Create a Language Clinic_, and I just wanted to add my props to that mention. Holly Lisle's writing instruction materials are all very well thought-out, and pretty clearly written. She makes no claim to "Ultimate Writing Technique Mystical TRUTH" but just gives her own methods as succinctly as possible. So if you are making maps for Roleplaying Games (which involve story) or for your own fiction, I highly recommend you give her site a look-over. She has a lot of stuff that totally free, as well as more detailed instruction that costs money. And even the stuff that you pay for has a range--some is very cheap for the amount of information she gives, and there are even more extensive works that cost more.

And no--I am not getting paid for this or compensated in any other way (LOL). I have many of her "Clinics" though, and have also taken her "How to Think Sideways" course. Just thought I'd throw a plug out there for her, since I've gotten a lot out of her work.

wisemoon

Thorsten
08-05-2010, 07:43 AM
Just read through this, and found it interesting, so I'll add my own little tuppence.

One of my favourite places, when it comes to looking at Toponomy has to be "Torpenhow Hill" in England.
This name, as I understand it, basically means "Hillhillhill Hill"; "Tor", "pen", and "how" all meaning hill in different languages (Old English, Welsh and Danish I think) - I guess it goes to show, that when a new power arise in a region they may use old toponomy, but add to it themselves. And I find that rather interesting.

Ascension
08-05-2010, 05:09 PM
Now that's too darn funny; but very enlightening.

arakish
08-21-2010, 09:42 PM
Just read this thread and liked all posts. I also tend to create a whole new language for the people who created the names. One web site I found helpful that has been up for the last 13+ years: The Language Construction Kit (http://www.zompist.com/kit.html). Holly Lisle's site seems good, but it also seems you have to buy the book to get all of it. The LCK is free.

While my wife was still alive, she and I created the Vinyarik language with about 18,000 words. Alas, I no longer have the notebooks for this language like Holly Lisle suggested.

rmfr

Slipguard
08-29-2010, 08:56 AM
On my map of Paidixira (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?8713-Paidixira-My-first-worldmap!-HMOG!), the world is supposed to have a decidedly greek influence, so i kept a nifty greek translator (http://www.kypros.org/cgi-bin/lexicon)site on bookmark at all times and translated a couple words together any time I needed a name. I went the same direction naming animals too: a hound with an axe shaped head is called a Xikouri combining the greek words for "axe" and "hound." I also recommend the site Behind The Name (http://www.behindthename.com/) for anyone struggling to come up with forenames for characters. Not only do they have the etymology of thousands of names, but they also have tons of statistics and historical connections about names.

I've found things to be decidedly easier when taking from established languages. Behind all of the names i've made, I recognize the whisper of a real city or country. Some of the names have come out looking very alien (for example, trying to name forests often uses the root "Xylo" for wood, which has the odd effect of obscuring the meaning of a name whenever I use it.) but i'm using a blunt tool and one can't expect too much. I'm interested in using some of the techniques mentioned in this thread, so i hope my two cents have at least a glimmer of the usefulness your suggestions did.

tilt
08-29-2010, 09:31 AM
While my wife was still alive, she and I created the Vinyarik language with about 18,000 words. Alas, I no longer have the notebooks for this language like Holly Lisle suggested.
rmfr
very impressive - thats a lot of work

Lalaithion
02-26-2011, 09:00 PM
i wish you still had those notebooks... that would be a real piece of work...

Korrigan
03-01-2011, 11:25 AM
For those who'd like to use french as a basis for your toponymy, there are a few facts that are worth knowing (especially if you plan to give it a medieval feeling).

Lots of places are named (as in any language, I guess) after landmarks : rivers, hills,... or after what the place was used for in the first place.

For example, if you want to use landmarks :

- The french city of Bordeaux is named after the fact it is a coastal city. Bordeaux a contraction of "bord des eaux", which could be translated as "water side".
- The town of Liège is named after a small river that crossed it before it was "forced" underground, the river Légia.
- You can find a whole lot of places with names like Montrouge (red hill), Le Chesne ("chesne" is an old form of the word "chêne", which means "oak tree"),...

Places named after what they were used for :

- There's a neighborhood in the city I grew up in called La Bergerie (the sheepfold). Of course you won't find any sheep, but it's what it used to be.
- There are villages called La Forge (the forge), Vieux-Moulin (old mill),...

A lot of place are named using ancient words. This is what makes french medieval places sound "medieval"... You can use oldish versions of some words quite easily :

- The word "château" (castle) used to be "castel" (as in Castelnaudary, the new castle of Ary, or in Castelsarrasin, the Saracen castle)
- The word "royal" (related to the King) used to be "réal" (as in Montréal, the King's Hill)
- The word "nouveau" (new) used to be "nau" (like before, in Castelnaudary, which we can decompose as "castel nau d'Ary", the new castle of Ary)
- The word "libre" (free) used to be "franc" (as in Villefranche, free city)

People who named the places liked to show how new they were :

- Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Pope's new castle)
- Villeneuve-d'Ascq (the new city of Ascq)
- Neufchateau (new castle)
- Funilly enough, the "Pont Neuf" (new bridge) in Paris is the oldest one in the city :D

Of course, we also have more than a few names that come from other languages : latin, german, flemish, italian, spanish,...

m2wester
03-05-2011, 04:11 PM
Not sure how that works in other countries, in Germany the endings of village and town names are often regional for various reasons.

One typical thing is that in borderregions or conquered regions, place names are derived from the original language, for example, in Eastern Germany, there are a lot of places that were originally slavic settlements and retain some features of those (-in, -ow, -itz, -leben [probably Germanized from -slav). The far north has some endings common with Skandinavian city names (-by, -holm).

Then, the spelling of the same thing very often depends on the local slang, eg -rode, -roda, -rath and -reuth all stem from "Rodung" (deforestation), -rode is typical for north Germany, -roda east Germany, -reuth Bavaria, -rath Rhineland. Other example: -um in northern Germany, -heim elsewhere (Heim=home). In some cases a word might just be typical for a region (-wig for market in old north German).

In most maps, this shouldn't play much of a role because you won't need enough names for it to matter, but in a detailed map of a large enough empire, I believe this is something to keep in mind, especially if you want to give different regions an own flair.


I'd also like to mention that while Fantasy names are often pretty tacky, Dark Forest is perfectly fine (Apart from the "Schwarzwald" - Blackwood - there's also a German town called "Finsterwalde" - Darkwood) and in cases where the location lives up to its name, I wouldn't object a Dire Swamp either - if there's just a couple of hermits living in it and the neighbours fear going near, they might well call it the Dire Swamp.

Saule
10-09-2011, 02:24 PM
Interesting :)

I know that (English) Irish placenames are usually just how an English speaking person would write the original Irish name. The names in Irish are often references to the landscape. I personally think it's interesting how very mysterious sounding names can have a very basic history. Inisheer for instance is 'Inis Óirr' in Irish, which simply comes from 'East Island'.

I actually had to look up how it usually works in the Netherlands, but I found that most are references to the landscape as well. Because they come from very old Germanic languages, most names aren't recognizable by people today.

Lukc
10-15-2011, 05:59 AM
Hey, tacky names are great! They're a barrel of laughs for everyone. Nothing like exploring the Unholy Dome of the Rock or the Pink Petal Mountain of Light... Also, if you look at the real world, a lot of names are totally cheesy. In old countries you have basic descriptive names, possibly in different names, while in newly explored countries you get rivers, lakes, bays, mountains, plains, towns all named after monarchs, aristocrats, explorers, their families, their dogs, etc.

Anyway, if you need some slavic names, you get lots of typical names that are used in toponymy (I'm just going to use my obscure and strange slavic language, but with a bit of tweaking it should apply to most of those that use latin alphabets, more or less). There's actually a word-cloud that lists the commonest town and settlement names in Slovenian (http://www.stat.si/novica_prikazi.aspx?ID=4062), but I'll just repeat it here, vaguely from commonest to least common, with some very literal translations (I'm telling you, they're TACKY and don't take my etymology as official or anything).

Gradišče - fortified settlement, Grad - castle (town in other slavic languages), Vas - village, Mesto - town, Dolenja vas - lower village, Brezje - place of birches, Lipa - linden, Podvrh - underpeak, Straža - guard, Gorica - little mountain, Bistrica - clear-water, Podgora - undermountain, Ponikve - sinkholes, Pristava - manor house (or something like that, I'm really not sure about this one), Selo - smaller village, Gorenja vas - upper village, Dol - down, bottom, valley, bottom-land, Podkraj - underplace or undersettlement, Laze - hillside clearing (there's lots of hills in my country, which shows on the language), Loka - meadow or somewhat swampy meadow, Dvor - court, as in noble court, palace, Osredek - middle-place, Podgorje - undermountains, Dobrava - good-place (sort of), Leskovec - place of hazels, Borovnica - either place of blueberries or, more likely, place of pine trees, Nova vas - new village, Kal - muddy or split, broken (not sure), Ravne - flat place, the flats, Planina - highlands, hill, highland meadow, Brdo - another type of hill, Bukovica - place of beeches, Gabrje - place of hornbeams (lots of those, I guess), Koritno - basin, Zavrh - behind-peak, Križ - cross, Strmec - steep-place, Plešivica - bald-place, treeless place, Praproče - place of ferns, Slovenska vas - slovenian village, Breg - bank, hillside, slope, Log - forest or swampy meadow by river (lots of those too), Draga - small, narrow side valley, Hrastje - place of oaks, Trstenik - place of reeds, Slivnica - place of plums, Cesta - road, Trnje - thorns, Prelesje - before or overwoods, Stara gora - old mountain, Stara vas - old village, Gorenje - upper place, Čeplje - dunno, some plant or narrow blockage, I guess (really, no clue).

Then you get others. For example, mountains. The highest mountain hereabout is Triglav - Three-heads - named for an old deity. Mrzli vrh - Cold peak. Vodil vrh - Leading peak. Kozlov rob - Billy goat's edge. Globoko - The Deep. Krn - Wedge (a mountain). Škrlatica - Scarlet (a mountain). Sveta gora - Holy mountain. Porezen - Cut-off [Mountain]. Krvavec - Bloody [mountain]. Snežnik - Snowy [mountain]. Rdeči rob - Red edge. Kobilja glava - Mare's head. Palec - Thumb. Na koreninah - On the roots. Vrh nad Peski - Peak above the Sands. Pleče - Shoulders. Na oslih - On the donkeys. Špik - Spike. Francova bula - Franz's Lump. Visoka glava - High head. Skodelica - Cup. Čelo - Forehead.

Etc. etc. etc. Just goes to show, those tacky rpg names aren't that horribly tacky after all :P

BlueMoon
10-21-2011, 10:54 PM
I am going to go on a slightly tangential rant for a moment I could not find an appropriate thread and don't think this deserves its own thread as much as it deserves a thread hijack...

As a consistent reader of fantasy and an off and on gamer, I think it is incumbent upon the community at large to stop the dire place names convention. No more "Cliffs of Despair" or "Swamp of Tears" or "Graggy Hills of Doomy Doom!" or "Dark Scary Forest Don't Go In There" or "The Plot Point Hills of Dread."

I get tired of seeing places like the aforementioned "the Dark Forest." In the "real world" places are named by the people who live and use the areas (even if it is a hard and dangerous life). No one wants to live in the "Dire Marsh." The people who do scrabble out a living in or near that swamp would not give it such an imposing name.

I agree with you on most of that and its definitely overdone but the only thing about that is,maps are a way to convey information , same with the naming of places , if "Dark Scary forest don't go in there" is a place where you're gonna get your face ripped off maybe the name makes more sense , right?

rdanhenry
10-28-2011, 02:05 AM
Historically, heavy forest was frightening to humans. And in no small part on account of their darkness. Germany's "Black Forest" is named not for the cake, but on account of the darkness under its thick trees, not so far from "Dark Forest".

There's a desert in my state called Death Valley -- I'm not sure how much more scary place names are supposed to get.

Watching some Animal Planet show, it told the tale of a tourist in Australia who was killed by a crocodile. I was sympathetic at first, but my sympathy dissolved into laughter when I learned where it happened -- Crocodile Creek. I'm not sure how much more of a warning a place name can get.

As for sinister place names, it is hard to beat Sinister Peak in Skagit County, Washington, USA.

How about Bloody Island, Bloody Point, Bloody Rock, Bloody Canyon, Broken Rib Mountain, Wounded Knee Mountain?
Deadman Crossing, Ohio? Skullbone, Tennessee? Tombstone, Arizona? Slaughter - be it the one in Delaware, Louisiana, or Tennessee? The many, many names with "Devil" in them?

Virginia has both a Black Swamp and a Black Marsh, not to mention part of the Great Dismal Swamp.

They may not be as common as in some fantasy settings, but gloomy, scary, morbid, or warning-giving names are not absent from the real world.

Lukc
10-30-2011, 08:41 AM
Yup. There's a Devil's Bridge about 4 km from my house, altho', admittedly, I could just translate a bunch of place names around here and they'd sound a bit like fantasy.

Hm ... the German Charnel House, the Austrian War Cemetery, Italian Mausoleum, Dante's Cave, Napoleon's Bridge, Ox Fording, Holy Mountain, Goat's Fall, Vietnam Beach (ok, not so fantasy, but still), the Dry Marches, Bloody Peak, the Wedge, Three-heads, Bad Lunch (a village, really), Maple Church, Thorns by the River, Sickle Place, the Saw, Mill Place, Little Edge

... and of course, one of my favourites, Ass-crack Valley behind Three-heads mountain :D

(I guess it partly explains why all my D&D campaigns tend to be slightly (completely) tongue-in-cheek)

BlueMoon
10-30-2011, 12:15 PM
Historically, heavy forest was frightening to humans. And in no small part on account of their darkness. Germany's "Black Forest" is named not for the cake, but on account of the darkness under its thick trees, not so far from "Dark Forest".

There's a desert in my state called Death Valley -- I'm not sure how much more scary place names are supposed to get.

Watching some Animal Planet show, it told the tale of a tourist in Australia who was killed by a crocodile. I was sympathetic at first, but my sympathy dissolved into laughter when I learned where it happened -- Crocodile Creek. I'm not sure how much more of a warning a place name can get.

As for sinister place names, it is hard to beat Sinister Peak in Skagit County, Washington, USA.

How about Bloody Island, Bloody Point, Bloody Rock, Bloody Canyon, Broken Rib Mountain, Wounded Knee Mountain?
Deadman Crossing, Ohio? Skullbone, Tennessee? Tombstone, Arizona? Slaughter - be it the one in Delaware, Louisiana, or Tennessee? The many, many names with "Devil" in them?

Virginia has both a Black Swamp and a Black Marsh, not to mention part of the Great Dismal Swamp.

They may not be as common as in some fantasy settings, but gloomy, scary, morbid, or warning-giving names are not absent from the real world.



Death valley is awesome, ever been there?

rdanhenry
11-04-2011, 02:37 AM
With reasonable care, Death Valley is actually much safer than the City of Angels.

jbgibson
11-04-2011, 11:54 AM
In a day & age of difficult transportation and poor knowledge outside one's area, there were a lot more duplicated names. If the closest "Bethel" was forty miles in either direction, who cared? Who even knew? If ten percent of the men were named John or Smith, then no surprise there were a bajillion Johnstowns and Smithvilles. It wouldn't hurt our maps to have a few non-unique towns. Natives, if they had to distinguish among them, might say Prentess-by-the-sea, Prentess-on-the-Thames, and Prentess-castle, but the map might just have three Prentesses alike.

At some point in the USA, to get a town a named post office, you had to petition the Postmaster in the capital. That worthy official would (sometimes) force a little restraint, in more ways than one. Close after the US Civil War, a spot near my home wanted to be named Jefferson Davis, after the president of the Confederacy. That name being extremely not politically correct in Washington DC just then, the Post Office's answer was NO. So they settled for a shortened and generic-ized "Jeff". Contrariwise, popular names got freely repeated - probably every US state has at least one Washington or Madison, popular founding fathers, or Lincoln (in the North :-) ).

Looking at a set of Civil War maps of Tennessee, I noticed some places that formerly I assumed to end in -s just because that was someone's name, or a plural, really were shortened versions of a possessive - 's. There were a Whole Bunch of Jackson's and Wilson's and Merritt's right next to little mill symbols and buildings at crossroads - no doubt fully-named Jackson's Mill and Merritt's Store and Wilson's Farm.

Surveyors literally emplacing new features (railroad stations, for instance) had a lot of freedom in naming them. Colorado for instance has or had a series of little towns named after the big Eastern universities the surveyors and civil engineers graduated from.

You can make a really pungent commentary on a fantasy nation's politics if you copy the one-time South American practice of General Whatizname's City and even the Generalissimo Somebody Railroad. I assume some of that was just labeling whose military command had responsibility for the area or enterprise, but some had to be grandstanding by ego-enhanced politicos.

Feadel
12-21-2011, 01:01 AM
Another way to do things (for a more futuristic setting) is changing meanings of common slang to show linguistic drift.
My wife and I have done this with a campaign set on the Moon about 300 years in the future. I created a slang dictionary for common Lunarian phrases which seemed similar to current slang (for example a "California Girl" on Luna is usually not a female at all.)
While this was only vaguely extended to naming (We're just now getting around to making the map), some things referred to places. For example a "pink dome" or "pink zone" had certain connotations. A Lunarian would know what to expect, but a Terran wouldn't.
We decided the Moon had been colonized by a joint Russian/Japanese/American group and so the primary names are from those languages. 250 years after Luna gained it's independence from Earth, their naming conventions are still mired in the original languages. New domes built near a Japanese dome often have the suffix -ko (child) added to the name of the primary dome (Sakura Dome has Sakurako Dome near by.)
The Russian domes are named after composers; American domes after people (usually astronauts). The Orbital culture is loosely based on Gypsys (the stereotypical movie gypsys, no relation to real Romany Gypsys), with appropriate names for their habitats.

My other sci-fi space opera setting has a race descended from a lost colony ship of Militant Neo-Nazis. Their naming conventions are a mix of German and Latin/Greek (from their scientists) with a few slang terms left over from the aboriginal race they encountered and absorbed. They tend toward descriptive names based on battles or where the battles took place. Seven Winds is a desert planet with lots of breezy weather. A major battle over it's system gave the name a place in fleet names, the Emperor's title (Master of Seven Winds is one of them), and other places.

In fantasy settings I shamelessly use my copy of the Silmarillion for elvish names. We wasted half a gaming session one night when we wondered why all dwarves seem to have Scottish accents. This descended into hilarity and ended with Barrio Trolls (with bad Cheech Marin accents).

Language (and by extension accents) can be fun.

Theo R Cwithin
01-17-2012, 02:38 PM
Like others, I tend to pick a real-world language to provide the base of an imaginary-world country/locale/era/whatever. Even with just a cheesy dictionary and couple off-the-cuff "grammar" and/or pronunciation rules, it becomes pretty straightforward to djinn up consistent sounding names by roughly translating a place description. Online translators make this almost trivial nowadays.

Bonus points if a "false friend" can be exploited, whereby two languages ascribe different meanings to a name that happens to sound like a real word in both languages. Lots of fun can be had when a place name means "Hills of Glittering Gold" in one language, but also means "The Pit of Gruesome Death" in another.

Icialan
01-18-2012, 11:46 PM
What I'm going to do for my campaign, is actually ues the name of the band "Queens" and the names of their songs to come up with names for places. For instance, the game takes place on the Bohemian Peninsula (Like Bohemian Rhapsody). I'm sure someone could do something similar with other bands, or maybe painters, actors, and the like.

Lukc
01-19-2012, 03:13 AM
Actually, the band famous for Bohemian Rhapsody is "Queen" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_(band)), singular, though I understand how Freddy's flamboyant stage appearance might cause a mix-up ;). A good band and good music too.

lostatsea
02-25-2012, 11:11 AM
Old thread but really quite thought provoking. Helps out quite a bit on my own difficulties of keeping naming in a certain "FLAVOUR" to different areas of my world map.

TristanGregory
07-12-2012, 11:54 AM
There's a funny passage in Steven Brust's The Phoenix Guards where he talks about the town of Bengloarafurd. Each part of the town's name, "Benglo," "Ara," and "Furd," means "ford" or "crossing" in another language. As different cultures got ahold of the place they would keep the town name and append their word for "ford" because it was an important river crossing.

Thennn
08-02-2012, 04:34 PM
I like to either just make stuff up randomly, fiddle with a word till it sounds about right. Or i'll find existing place names, from the past or present, and change them around somehow. Or let half the name inspire the rest of the name.

Avalanche
01-25-2013, 07:20 AM
Though I don't usually do maps (maps, not even once?), I do need to come up with names for geographical locations in my short stories. I actually find it harder to come up with names for modern non-fantasy fiction names (think more Lovecraftian geographical locations), than with fantasy ones.

For the fantasy ones, I usually go with the standard naming conventions that the OP discusses. However, I do consider the fact that usually a location has several different names for different cultural groups. I also like to give the names a twist by using historical forms of the words, or even other languages, to craft the toponyms.

For example, one of my settings includes the names "Abeenben", "Cambuscoile" and "Smirrhaughs", derived from Scots or Scottish English; it includes "Midsburns" - middle stream, and "Corbie River" - Crow River. There is also a settlement "Corbietràigh" - Mouth of the Crow. However, all of these names are given by the newly settled population, and there is a name that sticks out - "Guruk", clearly a non-Germanic name, that actually comes from Turkis, and in-universe is borrowed by the native tribes.

Also for such a setting I see no reason not to name your locations in an unpleasant way, given that it is a place generally avoided by the population. For example, in the same setting I used "The Droch Bog" for the swamps where the natives live. "Peak Doomy Doom" might be too cheeky, but with a general linguistic twist - like Dømmetopp (Norwegian), Vegzetart (derived from Hungarian), or Gibelpik (derived from Russian), is good, and provides a good genius bonus.

Socks
02-03-2013, 05:57 PM
Its much the same for Japanese names. The town of Matsue, literally means Pine Tree. Kyoto means "capital", while Tokyo, is taking the "kyo" from the front of the word and moving it to the back, to mean capital on the opposite side - this is the literal translation.

I'm sorry to do this but that's just not correct. The Tokyo and Kyoto kanji are not the same. The To for Tokyo is East whereas the To and Kyo for Kyoto both mean capital. So, for Tokyo, the literal translation is Eastern Capital, while Kyoto is Capital Capital. They don't use the same word.

Josey Wales
04-01-2013, 01:32 PM
About strange name, in Rome (Italy) we have places called:
torre spaccata = broken tower
torre gaia = cheerful tower
tor de cenci = rags' tower
tor tre teste = three heads tower
tor de schiavi = slaves' tower
tor bella monaca = beautiful nun's tower
tor carbone = coal tower
torrino = small tower
tor di quinto = quinto's tower
torre in pietra = stone tower
tor pagnotta = loaf tower

Look: none of these places has a tower

jturner
04-16-2013, 03:32 PM
I'm with Avalanche - why waste time being creative when the real world has so much fantastic inspiration?

When I create a fantasy or sci-fi world, I make a list of prefixes and suffixes along a theme. For example, my current project has a country whose language and culture is inspired by Welsh. So, looking at a map of Wales, I make a list of prefixes that sound nice, like...

Caer
Aber
Llan
Rhad
Ystal

...and some suffixes...

ymney
avenny
aron
leth
wy

...and maybe a few extra syllables to throw in the middle...

yn
ein
drin

...then I put them into Excel and use that as the basis for a random name generator. So, you get Aberymney, Llandrinaron, Rhadynleth, Caeravenny, and so on. I've noticed that, in general, big cities tend to have shorter names than small villages, so I might cut some down to Ravenny or Andrinon or Rhynleth. They're probably nonsense in the Welsh language, but if your intended audience doesn't know, then who cares, right?

You don't need too many word-pieces before you get a name generator with hundreds of permutations, but which have a kind of cohesion. And don't forget multi-word names, with the equivalent of "Port X" or "X's Landing" or "Mos X" (of Star Wars infamy).

My first language is English, and to my ears countries like Armenia, Pakistan and Finland have beautiful place names. I think you just need to open an atlas and be shameless in your exploitation.