For my Fantasy world i Keep the World Name Short as Possible , the Kingdom's and And Cities i give a name That Captures the feel i am trying to get , So for instance i have a Region Called Spargos , It has a Greek Feel and is Inhabited by Minotaurs and Humans, i also have a Region Called Jarlgarr that has a Nordic Feel. When i am doing my future World i Usually name things after current or historical places or Events as in New Scotland, Camelot and Fort Apache.
When doing a lot of places i find that this site http://donjon.bin.sh/name/ helps alot
This one can come in handy at times. http://www.seventhsanctum.com/
I've spent far to much time randomly pressing generate Sci-fi map on donjon by now, so be careful you dont waste the entire evenin
I tend to recycle names I liked but didn't use in older aborted stories I have written in the past, usually with a slight change to keep it fresh.
The main city in my story, Demazon, is modified from another city I had called Del Mason, and a smaller but as important placename is Port Thafirton, which is a leftover from an RPG I used to play (which came from frequent discussions about what to call that first town, before we abrdiged it to Thafirton).
With naming conventions, and usually for the more important places, I take into account the possible history of the place, who originally founded it, what language they spoke might have sounded like, all that sort of stuff. Nothing specific, unless specifics are strictly required for the sake of the story, but enough so that the place name might tell a little part of it's own story in itself.
For unimportant, uninteresting or anywhere else, I usually just look in a phone-directory and bastardise the names that seem in keeping with the region at hand.
Hmmm... I could probably write a novel or two on my naming habits, really. But I`ll try and keep it short!
When I first name a place, be it for a story or a map (one usually follows the other!), I tend to just create something that has some kind of theme to it or definite meaning or a certain sound. `Certain sound` is the least common, I think, at least lately, for generating place names - people names are a different matter. But here are a couple examples of my naming habits:
`City of Blades`: a rather straightfoward name, no? It was a city that spawned a world, as it were, because I created this rather psychedelic, assassin-ridden (yay! tropes!) city that sort of needed a world. The name of the island it is on (and the name of the people who inhabit island & city) came later, and was `Naxis`and `Naxians`. Normally, especially for cities, I would translate the name into the local language or what-have-you, but the City of Blades of literally called that, in its language and by outsiders (with good reason, too).
Thir, Arcuu, Guil, Nuk, Agnu, Lung, Itimus (or Ytimus, or Itymus), Lindorm (Lyndorm), Phoen (or Fen), Wyvern (or Wivern): If you think some of those names sound like types of dragons, you`re right. They are all names of kingdoms (well, they aren`t all actual technical kingdoms, but be that as it may) for a world that I created because I wanted dragons. So, since I couldn`t come up with a naming scheme world-wide, I flipped through a dragon book and took names of types of dragons. That was over a year ago, and the names have morphed since then. Thir (which should technically have a double-dot on the i) was originally Theer, which came from `there` at the end of Amphithere. Arcuu comes from Arsupia which came from Marsupial. Guil (again, should have a double dot) was originally Gouille from Gargouille. Nuk was Nuck from Knucker. Lung hasn`t changed at all. Lindorm comes from Lindworm. Phoen comes from Phoenix. Wyvern hasn`t really changed either. But Agnu and Itimus... I`ll be damned if I can remember what they originally were! Something draconic, anyhow. (One thing should be noted about these names - these are all the `Thirianized`versions, because that is the culture I am writing or viewing the story or world from).
Anyway, wherever I get inspiration, I always edit and modify for regional and world names, and play around with spelling and pronunciation and take language into consideration once the original names are settled.
But sometimes my names are just laziness. Here are the cities&towns of Thir: Riverport, Port, Northtown, Crossings, The Royal City...
Crossings is the only one that has really changed - it was originally The Crossings or The Three Crossings, because it lies at... a crossroads. Yeah. xD
I name my fantasy world just "World" in different languages. As I'm not a philologist or linguist, I just use existing languages in the Middle Ages to represent translations of the actual languages they use.
So my world is "The World", which is logic and you'll find it in every existing culture. The "World", "Large World" or "Wide World".
About nations and cities, I make ethimologies. For example:
The town of Caracador is in an Occitan-speaking region, but the first inhabitants of the area were Celts, forefathers of the Welshmen. So the town was originally called "Stone cut", in middle Welsh being the root for "stone", careg, and for "to cut", which is dor, because it was the first town built on stone in the area. When the Cautans, Romanesque-speakers, conquered the area, they named it Caracador (Carecadorum in Latin), adapting the phonetics. Nevertheless, the Welshmen who live in the north still call the town Careggtor.
The same with another example: the "Clear Town", which in Cataresque (Occitan) is Ameloder, but in Audrian (Welsh) is Amlymadref.
I did this with most of my towns. I don't like making up names which mean nothing just because they're fancy.
For in case someone is interested, here's a brief scheme of how toponimy evolves usually:
1) the name means something in the tongue of their first inhabitants/builders, and this something evolves as the inhabitants language changes.
2) Conquerors or new settlers arrive. They name the place with a phoneic adaptation of the original name (Lugdunon in Gaulish -> Lugdunum in Latin, today's Lyon in French) or with a new name (Legio Gemina for today's León, in Spain; Caesarea Augusta for today's Saragossa)
3) New conquerors may adapt the city name to their language phonetics (Iznik, Turkish for the Greek form Nikaia; Estives, Catalan for Greek Thebai) or adapt the meaning of the city to their own language because there's some word with similar phonetics but no meaning relation. Example: Brugge in Flandres was called Brujas (which means "witches") during Spanish occupation (and still today is called that way in Spanish). Legio in northern Hispania derivated his original meaning "Legion" to Spanish "Lion". And now, the coat of arms of the city is a purple lion on silver field.
4) Foreing peoples can name existing places whatever they like (exonyms). Miklagard was the Scandinavian name for Constantinople, today's Istanbul, for a long time. It meant "Great City". Istanbul iself is the Turkish deformation of Greek "Eis tin Polis", meaning "to the City". Constantinople was The City (the biggest city in Europe during most of the Middle Ages). Wales is the Germanic way to say "the Others", because in Welsh it's Cymru. This "walhla-" Germanic root is usual, even for non-Germanic countries. Wallachia would be an exonym meaning also "the others". You'll find it in Wales, Cornwall (the -wall part), Wallonia, Włochy (Polish for Italy), the Gauls (the Romans got the name from a German tribe) even in the word "walnut" (literally Foreigh Nut).
I hope it helps someone with interest in constructing a senseful ethimology for his fantasies.
I have no idea WHERE most of my odd names come from for these maps and lands that I've done. I did a map of a valley called "Lake Ononir". Ononir was the last name of my current character in Oblivion. God knows where I came up with it, though. Lately, I've taken to using words that will give it a feel. My major map I recently completed was called Revile (and the lands in it were the Isle of Rhoss (corruption of Ross), Isle of Breach, Cartham (the only fantasy-esque name), Ransolme (corruption of Ransom/-Holme), Ravine, and Reproach. In this setting, it's slightly different to everything else because none of these lands know of the other's existence.
My largest map to date, that I've near completed (and just uploaded here) is called Desolate. Where Revile was a floating continent in an atmosphere, Desolate is a planet that is covered in ocean, but for this one continent and the mass of isles surrounding it.
If it sounds Maraxxian Enough for me it will do. XD
I know I'm jumping in late but my world has many different names, a different name for each different race/culture/country so I try to come with a name that just feels appropiate or true to the flavour of that group. For the most part I don't have a name for the whole world as a lot of the races/etc don't seem to think of a world beyond their own. For example the Dal People are isolated from the rest of the world, unable to expand they have no word for world as their world as they know it isn't all that big, so they would just use the word Aia which means earth. My world does have a true name, Drigau, which was past down to the Elder Races from their gods. A friend and I came up with this name, we were somewhat slack with its creation and decided just to take the first 3 letters of each of our surnames and make a word out of it; so Dri (from Driver, me) and Gau (from Gaunt, my friend) came together to make Drigau.
My current WIP is a sci-fi planet. It is inhabited by some humans, but humans are by no means the dominant species. There are several other sapient species, several who have languages humans can't begin to pronounce, and some whose languages aren't even based on sound. So i'm going with transliteration whenever possible. Names like "Tha'*p~*p'iikz#llrn" while they look exotic IMHO get old pretty fast.
The planet is generally referred to as "this orb". The phrase is similar to the english use of "the world", except since all the sapient inhabitants are from elsewhere, they know that it is not the world, it's this world, the one they happen to be on. An "orb" is simply a round thing, but sounds better than transliterating it as "this round thing."
Provisionally i've named the continents with the phonetic alphabet from west to east: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, etc. Though i probably won't keep those names, but give places geographic or historical names. I like making up cool sounding names too, but i'm not interested in making up several alien languages many of which don't use our phonemes.
I am lucky enough to be Norwegian, so I can just steal the name from local areas and it will still sound Tolkienish. :p
There are a lot of different sources I can draw inspiration from, but there is fine line to balance between boring and outlandish. If I take a name from a local area or a Germanic language, I usually try to spiff it up a little, like rearrange the spelling and such to see if I can make something interesting out of it. If I on the other hand take a name from a distant culture, like Native American or Chinese, then I try to tone it down, westernize it so to say, in order to make it sound more like something in line with my own established view of fantasy names.
But it is all very subjective, what I find boring or weird might be brilliant for other's.
When I made the world of Thule, I took the name from the distant frozen land of the north described by Pytheas in around 250 BC (i can't recall correctly the year). The islands of Vega are named from the Norwegian island of Vega. The -thuk names are inspired from the extinct Native American tribe of Beothuk, previously found on Newfoundland and believed to have been in contact with Norse explorers.