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Thread: How do you name your World? (Or nations, etc., for that matter...)

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    Post How do you name your World? (Or nations, etc., for that matter...)

    So... I've been thinking the past few days, since I posted the latest update to my "unnamed" project, about how you name a world.

    I've been trying to consider, as my touchstone, how we come up with names for our world, and what different people throughout history have called our planet.

    Earth, for instance, is from germanic roots, meaning "dry ground" or "soil", and anciently seems to have been considered a synonym for middangeard (i.e. midgard) or "Middle Earth" or the "Middle World", which is what ancient norse people called our world. Here our world is named after what it's made of, or the part that we can live on, anyway. This has become the predominant name for our planet simply because English has become some predominant.

    The word "World" is from other germanic roots, and means "Age of Man", and basically names our world after ourselves, since we consider ourselves the principal actors in it.

    In ancient Greece, it was called Gaia, after the greek cthonic, primordial diety whose body forms our world. The Latin cognate was Terra Mater ("Mother Terra" or "Mother Earth"). In most latin countries, some variant of "terra" is still the name for our world.

    And that's about the limits of my knowledge for the names of our world, but I know there must be other names for it out there.

    Which made me wonder what people in my own world would call it, and why. I'd mulled over the name "Skein of the Seven", which refers to the world as the raw materials from which the primary pantheon worshipped in a certain part of the world weave the threads that become the lives of men. This name is culturally specifc and has an in-world meaning, but is pretty geographically narrow (most other cultures don't worship this same pantheon). So... should I consider multiple names, as filtered through multiple cultures.

    It also got me thinking about the story of the name itself. I've given the above-name a story, and I think most names do have such stories behind them. And I think there's two sides to that story: there's the part that's the real true history of the name, and there's the part that's passed down through cultural exchanges as the "learned" history of the name. Sometimes those are the same, sometimes they're not, and sometimes the second one - the cultural story of the name - actually fails to get passed down at all.

    So... with that opening salvo of my thoughts, what are your thoughts? How do you come up with the names for your worlds, nations, whatever? Why? Do those names mean anything to you, or to the people who populate your world? What does it mean, and why?
    Last edited by Karro; 08-07-2009 at 04:23 PM.
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    Community Leader Gandwarf's Avatar
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    Well, the current world I am working on is covered in ice and snow. Only a very small part of it is inhabitable. The people there don't really see the big picture. Their world is just this valley they live in and it ends once the eternal snow plains start. I like to think people mostly use names that are practical or logical. So my world is simply called The Valley

    Nations are non-existant, but there are city states in the valley. Most of my cities have practical names again. A city founded in a large forest: Greenwood.

    I certainly believe names mean something to people. Why do we name stuff otherwise? Depending on the world you are creating names could be very practical (like mine), inspired by religion or maybe even a lost empire.
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    I'm impressed at how much thought you're putting into this. I myself tend to put a bit of thought into the names, but not as much as I might put into some other aspects. I go with the trends (more or less in order of frequency) of most places being named after a local geographic feature, many are named after people, some are named after industry, a few are named after royalty, etc.

    And different regions could get different language/dialects to add more flavour, of course.
    Prairie View (town on a hill near a large plain)
    Crystal Falls (village near a waterfall)
    Redriver (city along a river gorge cutting through an iron deposit making the water go reddish)
    Johan's Gap (town in a mountain pass)
    Port Edward (seaport)
    Prince George (some random town somewhere)
    Sawyerville (town in the woods with a dependance on logging)

    Etc.

    Then for fun, run the names in one of your regions through an online translator to give a local feel:

    Opinião da pradaria
    Quedas de cristal
    Rio vermelho
    Johan's passa
    Edward portuário
    Príncipe George
    Cidade da serração

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    Community Leader NeonKnight's Avatar
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    Well, my previous world was named Auren, with the main campaign area being the continent of Euros. As to what it meant....at this point in time nothing. I could make something up with Auren being the root of an Orlien word for Land/Earth (Orliens being the primary human racial group.).

    But if you want to know how I go about naming places themselves, see this thread here:

    http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=5959
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    Quote Originally Posted by NeonKnight View Post
    Well, my previous world was named Auren, with the main campaign area being the continent of Euros. As to what it meant....at this point in time nothing. I could make something up with Auren being the root of an Orlien word for Land/Earth (Orliens being the primary human racial group.).

    But if you want to know how I go about naming places themselves, see this thread here:

    http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=5959
    Well, I'm mostly interested in large-scale naming, like worlds, continents, and nations. I've read the various other threads here, and there's a lot of good stuff there, but I'm not at that level as yet. Besides which, there wasn't really an existing thread, yet, on this topic, and since I was thinking about it, I thought I'd post one.
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    Community Leader Facebook Connected Steel General's Avatar
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    My homebrew world has changed name's several times in it existence, I finally settled on a name, "Ghoraja Juun", mostly because it sounded pretty cool and I felt it had a nice fantasy 'flavor'.
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    Professional Artist Facebook Connected Coyotemax's Avatar
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    Erm yeah, looks like i misinterpreted/missed the actual point of the thread. Sorry, my bad

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coyotemax View Post
    Erm yeah, looks like i misinterpreted/missed the actual point of the thread. Sorry, my bad

    We are a hedge, nothing to see here, move along...
    No worries! Your thoughts are still valid and useful, just under a slightly different context.
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    Cogito, ergo sum nerdem.

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    I don't put a lot of thought into naming things, mainly because I'm not making my own personal world or anything like that. It's not personal. I do, however, put a lot of ear into names...they have to sound right. If I say it out loud and it sounds dumb then I change a letter here n there and see what it sounds like. I like my random places to have a musical flow to them. When I'm in a creative mood I try to evoke the other senses and when I'm feeling whimsical I like to tickle a rib. So I guess that you could say I like for things to sounds right and I rely on my current emotional state to evoke the names. The metanames (countries, continents, worlds) just pop into my head after I have done all of the other naming...that way it sort of grows or evolves and feels more natural. Oftentimes I'll say to myself that I want this place to sound Russian or Persian or whatever so I make up stuff that sounds that way.

    When I do plan things out down to the tiniest detail I know exactly what the people dress like and think like, what they manufacture, what they import/export, what their religion is like, etc. so this makes things easier. For me, when I get stuck or feel non-creative then I'll hit a generator but I never take a word straight from the generator because of the above criteria. Gleitneklsd might come out of a generator but I play with it until I get something like Gleiten or Glettenskold, or if they be hobbits then it's something like Gibbenbotty, orcs would be Nightskull, English would be Glencurry. For me, it's all in the sound.
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    Well in my case i name the places of my world "Divero" mostly straight forward, there is a continent with the shape of a dragon so it is called Nogardrios wich is something like "Im a Dragon" in spanish and spelled backwards. There is a continent which has the shape of a dagger and is called Agad, again dagger in spanish and spelled backwards. XD

    When the names dont like me i just add some "t", "r"; "th", so they sound a little more mysterious.

    For natural features, towns and the like i just take the logical approach, if its in a pine forest its called evergreen and the like.

    Of course, many cultures have their own languages so the places still have names like that but in their native language, or with the names of their heroes or gods.

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