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

  1. #41
    Guild Novice Facebook Connected Yorick Sofer's Avatar
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    I actually have this same problem.
    Trying to think of why your name would be called that.
    I'll see some maps with very strange names. Names that look like people names.
    Names come difficult to me, and naming the entire world is the hardest one.
    There being so many gods on some hands, it would be difficult to have one all encompassing god to name the world after.
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      Sular is offline
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    I've taken to the habit of "translating" many names out of whatever fictional language would make sense in the world and rendering it in English or in some borrowed word. So, rather than write out the invented word saiphele (which would be essentially meaningless to real people)and place it on one of my maps, I render that as "the Golden Bazaar" and use that instead as that is a fairly close rendering of that word. That said, I do prefer to leave proper names more or less alone to give things a bit of flavor. In that case I often work out a brief sketch of a sound system of the language or languages of the people and places I am mapping and run with that. This is why my city map I am working on has a number of things named after 'saints' with unreasonably cumbersome names like Teuthezol.

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      miinstrel is offline
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    I tend to use anagrams of whatever is around me at the time. Often i'll look at the books on my shelves for interesting combinations of letters and then rearrange them until they fit the feel for whatever region I'm working on. Whatever I'm currently obsessed with will be alluded to frequently if you can get inside my mind.

    My current world is called Illistera which comes from the word "Yliaster." This is a term for the primeval substance that begot all other substances and was coined by a 16th century alchemist named Paracelsus. Yliaster was also known as the Prima Materia (prime material), so i thought it fit nicely with D&D. I was really into Full Metal Alchemist when I came up with this.

    The continent the campaign focuses on is Sorradar. There is a heavy dragon influence in my game, so i went online and stumbled across a draconic translator. I think the continent looks like a fetal dragon, so I started plugging words in like child, baby, youth, dragon, etc. According to the translator, Suorra Darastrix means "dragon child." Names are frequently changed and simplified over time, so in the 4000 years it's been inhabited, this changed to Sorradar.

    I'm glad i'm not the only one that thinks about these things
    Last edited by miinstrel; 03-05-2012 at 01:14 PM.

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      Alex is offline
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    I use my conlangs to name my worlds, or cities or places. Sometimes though, I'll just randomly create words on my notepad or while I'm out and then when I get back home, I get on my PC and start creating a conlang for that one word I made up, or the list of words if that's the case.

    Its very fun, and makes my worlds feel a little more alive. xD
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    The fantasy world I'm working on has no name yet, but when I do name it, it will probably be something along the lines of 'earth'; just something pertaining to the very fundaments of nature on which human and humanlike cultures depend. Then I might translate this into the different tongues of the world.

    The nations, however, have names. Weird names just enter my head, and if I like the sound of them, I use them for whatever region they suit. A few of the languages in my world are under development and they are never based solely on one real world language, so pretty much everything sounds pretty 'foreign' and yet, at times, familiar (since I don't really try to invent new phonemes, haha). At any rate, most of these names popped up before any of the languages had been defined at all, so I retroactively give them meaning, using the names to 'activate' the vocabularies.
    Also, the larger or more important a region is, the more likely is it that I will try sticking to names that are easy to remember and to pronounce, while truly complex names still are viable for less 'central' locations.

    Apart from that, I'm highly 'simulationist' in that I really don't care whether English speakers or (as in the case with most of my friends) Swedish speakers find the names challenging.
    To illustrate my perspective: I have a hard time pronouncing (or merely grasping the fundamental ortography of) for example Romanian, even though it is an Indo-European language with a lot in common with, for example, Italian, French and Latin (all of which are languages we come across frequently for a number of reasons). On a completely different level we have the vast majority of languages that aren't even remotely related to English or Swedish.
    Thus, I believe that in a 'realistic' fantasy world it is nigh inconceivable that all of the place names would be easy to grasp for the average person.
    Personally, I feel that for example Al-Qahirah is much preferrable to Cairo (one and the same). I have names like this in my world (not Arabic, but distinctly non-European). The Q represents a phoneme in its own right and to replace this with something more 'Germanic-friendly' makes zero sense in a fantasy world, I think.

    I didn't mean for this devolve into a linguistic discussion but there you have the basis of my perspective.
    If I want a name to convey a 'cold' feel, I don't have to look to ancient Norse or Greenlandic, because the very sounds of a name (that I can make up instead of assembling from real world names) can convey it. If, on the other hand, I specifically wanted to convey an unmistakably ancient Norse feel, well... I wouldn't.

  6. #46
      MTGEmperor is offline
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    I do think that naming is part of the appeal when making maps or writing books. After all, some of the names I create are either based off words I hear in my head or based off of known locations in fantasy fiction.

    In one of my biggest story projects, I had to name the world I was making Midgard, primarily it is the most prominent world name in history.
    When it came to towns and regions, it wasn't as hard. One method is the most common I have seen in this forum; using real locations and reworking them. However, one method I use more prominently is that I try to base my regions off of known words in the language I am fluent in; English.

    On the other hand, one word I am having a hard time on how I created; Taerak. A village that lies at the base of the Sapphire Mount and contains one of the world's Marids (something based on Arabic word of genie).

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      Scipio is offline
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    As much easier (or maybe not) as it might be, I find that I just cannot allow myself to choose a random series of letters that sound nice as a name for a location. I guess I just have this insurmountable instinct that such names are meaningless; at best one can design a language around existing names to give them meaning after using such an arbitrary approach. While I have taken a linguistics course or two, I don't feel that I have the know how (and likely as much the inspiration) to create my own language from scratch, so I guess I tend to use culturally or geographically relevant names. This may not be a good thing however, as it means I end up borrowing a bunch of (albeit lesser-known) region/settlement names from Earth history/latin phrases (ex. Lusitania, Solis Orientalis), and for examples of the latter, Bogwatch, Glenwood, Montfort, the like... though all of those of course would only appear in a distinctly medieval European setting. I don't know... I guess in all honesty despite my self-satisfaction in having a "meaningful" name, I still end up with something generic-sounding for that. There's definitely a balance to be struck; with random letter combinations you run the risk of "Yeah, let's go to 'fantasy name that I predictably cannot pronounce'", whereas with a more pragmatic approach you may end up a bit too mundane. Of course, with regard to this trade-off, a lot has to do with the character of your world- historical or high fantasy?
    Last edited by Scipio; 03-14-2012 at 10:39 PM.

  8. #48
    Guild Novice Heinrich Zweihänder's Avatar
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    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by lukc
    this actually replicates the way we use names in the real-world. Referring to the nearby big city as "the City", the big river becomes "the river" and so on.
    You're definitively right guys. I believe Earth, Terra, ... are lately names from Galileo's times when people realized "earth" or "the world" was actually a planet like any other and they decided to name that planet somehow. In Japanese it is even more clear this is a late concept: they call it 地球, which means "earth ball".

    I believe in ancient times "the world" was named "the world". Why would someone needs to find another name ? There's only one world in the mind of people then. It's obvious which one it is.

    Similarly, "the moon" refers to earth's moon. "Satellite" came also later, when people observed satellites and realized the moon was a satellite like the other.

  9. #49
      Zirojtan is offline
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    The fantasy world I'm working on has no name yet, but when I do name it, it will probably be something along the lines of 'earth'; just something pertaining to the very fundaments of nature on which human and humanlike cultures depend. Then I might translate this into the different tongues of the world.

    The nations, however, have names. Weird names just enter my head, and if I like the sound of them, I use them for whatever region they suit. A few of the languages in my world are under development and they are never based solely on one real world language, so pretty much everything sounds pretty 'foreign' and yet, at times, familiar (since I don't really try to invent new phonemes, haha). At any rate, most of these names popped up before any of the languages had been defined at all, so I retroactively give them meaning, using the names to 'activate' the vocabularies.
    Also, the larger or more important a region is, the more likely is it that I will try sticking to names that are easy to remember and to pronounce, while truly complex names still are viable for less 'central' locations.

    Apart from that, I'm highly 'simulationist' in that I really don't care whether English speakers or (as in the case with most of my friends) Swedish speakers find the names challenging.
    To illustrate my perspective: I have a hard time pronouncing (or merely grasping the fundamental ortography of) for example Romanian, even though it is an Indo-European language with a lot in common with, for example, Italian, French and Latin (all of which are languages we come across frequently for a number of reasons). On a completely different level we have the vast majority of languages that aren't even remotely related to English or Swedish.
    Thus, I believe that in a 'realistic' fantasy world it is nigh inconceivable that all of the place names would be easy to grasp for the average person.
    Personally, I feel that for example Al-Qahirah is much preferrable to Cairo (one and the same). I have names like this in my world (not Arabic, but distinctly non-European). The Q represents a phoneme in its own right and to replace this with something more 'Germanic-friendly' makes zero sense in a fantasy world, I think.

    I didn't mean for this devolve into a linguistic discussion but there you have the basis of my perspective.
    If I want a name to convey a 'cold' feel, I don't have to look to ancient Norse or Greenlandic, because the very sounds of a name (that I can make up instead of assembling from real world names) can convey it. If, on the other hand, I specifically wanted to convey an unmistakably ancient Norse feel, well... I wouldn't.

    I am in complete agreement with this post.


    My fantasy book series involves someone from Earth traveling to the world of Eurydice, and so I have gone to great lengths to describe the biology, the anthropology, and the philology of the world.


    For obvious reasons, it would definitely be a little difficult for the protagonist if nobody spoke English, and there would be an entire first part of the book that would be spent in confusion trying to learn the local language where he's at. I mean, it's possible to learn a language through immersion this way, it's how I learned Scottish Gaelic, but it's difficult and time consuming and it would take away from the story. For this reason, I have come up with an elaborate justification as to why English is spoken at all on Eurydice, even if it is done so in a different form (no Latin words or morphemes).


    The languages in the world sometimes descend from languages spoken on Earth (as my protagonist certainly isn't the only person to have traveled to Eurydice), such as the Parnaslo languages and the Polavian languages (descended from Proto-Dravidian and Pre-Proto-Celtic, respectively), but by and large are not affiliated with languages from Earth, and are not going to be easy to pronounce for my readers or for the characters. For example Ha'axli'misiniuxn (pronounced: χəʔaɬɪʔmɪsɪɲʊχn) was the first Prassian dictator to have his entire country bought out from under him by Klaliś Tolororþin (pronounced: klɑlɪʃ tɔlɔɾɔɾθɪn) during the Prassian Unification.


    Obviously these names, especially the first one, aren't going to be all that easy for readers to pronounce, and neither will the names of important characters in the first book, like Karáxos (karáɕɔs), Ackpräd (ʌ́tɕkpʰɾæd), Óroxek (ɔ́rɔɕɛkʰ), Xexyre (ɕɪɕýre), and Cyris (tɕýɾɪs). But that's just the natrue of the beast, in my opinion. In order to make my world as believable as possible, especially in the context of someone from Earth visiting it, I think it's the best way.


    Now, how I come by these names is actually really random. In the past few days since I joined this forum, I've found one of the fantasy name generators to be particularly useful, and actually three out of the five aforementioned character names in the first book come from it. In the past though, I've done a lot of things. Sometimes I'll go to Mark Rosenfelder's Metaverse and look at random numbers from different languages and compound different parts of them or change the vowels/consonants up a bit or even use them backwards. One name for my book series at least was made in this way - Irunjik, who is the Turanese conqueror of what used to be Greater Parnasla (a historical figure in the books). I want to say that it's based off of a number in a South American language? I'm not really sure. Multiple names for characters that will appear later in my alternate history timeline 'The Fox and the Ptarmigan' were made this way as well, such as the royal title 'Haroapo', which will be used in the Patpatarangi Empire on the Pacific Coast of North America, and Patpatarangi names like Namwan, Nenjepar, Morambo, Drijare, and Upoirarai.


    Sometimes I also use compounded, chopped, and/or metathesized phrases from languages that I speak. The placename Ś’oqlarínathś (ʃʔɔqɬəɾí:nəθʃ) is actually from the Scottish Gaelic phrase "seolta ri sionnach" which means "sly as a fox". The name Óroxek, who is the grandfather of my protagonist's love interest interest in the first book actually gets his name from the Spanish word 'tesoro' spelled backwards. It was originally Óroxet (the /x/ corresponding to the fricative sound in the Drucpel language), but I only recently changed the /t/ to a /k/ when speaking the language to myself on the toilet when I decided that final /t/'s become /k/'s in Central Drucpel dialects because I liked the sound better. That came from the name of the gas station. Then of course the art of rsesu (pronounced: ʂɛ́su: ), or traditional Prassian tattooing, comes from "users" spelled backwards with the /s/ and the /r/ reversed according to Prassian spelling of the retroflex fricative. I got it off a sign somewhere.


    The name of the region of Pras comes from Prussia, and the city of Zraice (dzɾɔɪtʃ), in the region of Polavia in the Province of Lesser Svipur comes from the Thracian word Zrayka. I'm not quite sure where Svipur came from, but Polavia is based off of Colovia, as these books were originally being written for the Elder Scrolls series until somebody beat me to writing a book for them... now it's my own thing.


    I'm kind of all over the place with my naming, as you can see, but it's gotten me pretty far in the process. I say don't be picky about where you draw your inspiration. It could be from a street sign, an instructional sign, something you misheard, baby talk, etc. Just let it come to you.

  10. #50
      Jalyha is offline
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    Hi everyone

    This one topic I should be fairly good at.

    How I name my worlds... well, I usually don't. Not at first. If you think about it, all the words for "Earth", in almost every language, mean "dirt" or "men" or .... something along those lines. No one gets creative with naming until there's *something else to name*.

    OUR world is "dirt", but other worlds are GODS. Mercury, Mars, Saturn...

    We got a tiny bit more creative with those.

    There's a little more variety with Nation names, since we discovered other peoples before other planets. And the smallest things have the greatest variety in naming.

    What most people don't consider is that no one person names everything in a world. (Or the world itself). Naming things is easier once you know *who* is really naming it. Is it a group of settlers in an unclaimed territory? They will probably name their new home after someone famous, or themselves, or the landscape. So you get names like "Golden Valley" or "Oakdale" (In their own language, of course). Is it a conquering army? They'll name the place after themselves, or their ruler, or their home. "New Amsterdam".

    Usually, though, in young worlds/societies, places don't have names at all. The farmers call the nearest village "the village", the villagers call the next village, "the village down the road". Names are for distinguishing one place from another. When there aren't many places, there's no need for names.

    After a few generations, people start using surnames and titles for themselves but those surnames are derived from descriptions, Like "Michael John's Son" or "Bill the Smith". After a few places crop up, they describe them, or nearby landmarks. "The church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio's of the red cave" (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysilio gogogoch = a real place) Usually the actual names are shortened, or mangled, versions of the description. (Llanfair PG for the above).

    And when a land is conquered, the conquerors may/may not change the names. Even visitors will muddy the naming waters.

    So... I follow the trail. I don't go all out and invent an entire language for my people. I do invent some basic rules for their language, and a few words/phrases within those rules.

    When I start a new character, I think about who he/she is, and what mom would have called him/her. When the character goes to a new place, he doesn't always know its' name. So I let him observe the people there, and I think what *they* would call the place. Once I know that, I can go back and fill in the name.

    Nations and Worlds- that's all a matter of who is the dominant culture, or who is in power in the realm I'm fixated on. It doesn't matter what another culture calls their country if no one where I live knows what that is. I'm in the USA. I have to speak English here to be understood. So...


    That's how I name things in my writing. I follow the bread crumbs. The same should be true in any medium. Even mapping.

    If your map is commisioned by the Mayor of Mozzerelli, in the land of Cheesy'Bread, you have to name *most* things in Cheesish. Not everything. Some of the cities in Anchovi will be known by their anchovian names. But not the BIG stuff. Not the oceans, continents, the planet. Those are Cheesish, because your map is Cheesish. If the Emperor of Anchovi commissions the map, it will be in Anchovian.

    I guess that makes Maps a bit more lenient... once you name your world in a novel, you're kind of stuck with it.

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