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How do I come up with original names for my fantasy world?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Aeryn, Apr 9, 2017.

  1. Aeryn

    Aeryn Dreamer

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    Not sure if this question have been asked already, but how do you all find original (fantasy) names for your countries, cities, world, and so on?

    I've been trying to think of names for my own world (along with the cities/villages in it), but I don't seem to be able to think of any names. I would love to use a name generator as less as possible, but it's the only thing I'm able to use right now (and I actually only use name generators for naming my characters), but when it comes to my world, the cities and provinces within in it... I would love to think of my own original names, but how? How do you do it and how will I be able to come up with my original names for cities, countries and so in in the fantasy world?
     
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  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    If the names don't come to you, don't force the issue. They will in time. I have a number of characters and places called XXX or YZX until something clicks.
    When I start I usually have a feeling for what I want the names to sound like and then riff off that. Will the names be short and sound hard and guttural? Will they be long and tell a tale? Or Rhyming?
    I don't mind using generators but they are usually to give me what-not-to names. I look at the choices I'm given and think "but that wouldn't work... it need to be more like..." and then I'm off and going.
     
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  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    If you are basing your world on a historical setting, or just want the names to have the "flavor" of a historical setting, you could do a Google search of cities in that time period and then do what I sometimes do: Take the first half of one city and add it to the second half of another, or add first halves or second halves. Then maybe change a letter or two.

    Example. I just went to the Wikipedia page for Cities of the ancient Near East and found these two cities:

    Diniktum + Hadatu = Dinikdatu, Hadatum, Dinikhad, Tum Datu

    Sometime I have to try many out until I find something I like, but this has worked for me.

    So....Ancient Greek cities:

    Massalia + Tylissos = Masissos, Tylsalia, Salissos, Tylimas, Massatyli
     
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  4. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

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    I like to look for names of towns and villages no longer occupied (ghost towns). depending on the type of setting you're dealing with you can try ghost town in New Zealand, Canada, United States or other locations more recently colonized. Another option is to look for old names for places such as Mumbai used to be Bombay, Hồ ChÃ* Minh was Saigon and of course Constantinople is now Istanbul. A quick look can be done here List of city name changes - Wikipedia
    Hope this sparks a few ideas.
     
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  5. Lisselle

    Lisselle Minstrel

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    Hi, like CupofJoe I know the flavour of the languages I use. There are different dialects, and I also have to consider the 'ancient space'; was there a city/ town situated before the more recent city/ town was established, and if so, did the name stay the same or has it been adapted to reflect a more modern dialect or time.
    I have three languages, as well as an ancient language in my story, so names of all sort conform to the linguistic rules of each. I try to differentiate by having stronger words for towns and cities. To me there is a feel to place names, I cannot put a word or ideology to it, but I wouldn't call a town 'Silevos' or 'Elvihl' for these sound like character names to me, whilst Delenvorg and Argenven sound like town/ city names.

    I was in the car years ago writing while I waited to pick up my children from school, and I could not think of a name for one of my major cities; the number plate of the car in front gave it to me! Whenever I need to name anything I look around and find words on books, my computer, games boxes etc and mix them up according to the dialect or style needed.

    Have fun, I find no end of enjoyment in the 'World and it's characters' naming process.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
     
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  6. Aeryn

    Aeryn Dreamer

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    CupOfJoe: What if a name for a city/country etc never comes up in your mind (which is most of the time my case)? What will you do then?

    Fifthview: I LOVE your tip! Can it be used with generators as well? That you generate and that you mix the outcome (hopefully I'm clear in my explanation :D ). And is it alright if I use a few names you already have come up with in your post here? You've made a few combinations that I really like.

    K.s. Crooks: Thank you so much for your tips as well! I'll definitely give it a try !

    Lisselle: Your own languages? Wow! How do you come up with your own language? I always find it truly amazing when someone can think of their own language for their own book :) . And a huge thank you for your tips as well! I'll definitely give them a try too :D !

    Thank you all for your lovely tips! They all really help me out :D !
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2017
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  7. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Sure, if you want to use them, go ahead! I was just creating those on-the-fly for the post.

    I've sometimes done this with name generators for characters, also.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2017
  8. Lisselle

    Lisselle Minstrel

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    Aeryn, I started the main language for the people in my Books when I was seventeen; only a few words, but when I picked up the old manuscript eight years ago I saw there were phonetic similarities to each word. I used these words as the foundation of my first and largest language.

    In writing my three books I have been gratuitously indulgent when creating the languages; they flavour my work with their saturation in the World my story is set in, yet I have not used them overly, because it would be too confusing! The three languages all sound different, and have different written styles and spoken sounds, and some letters are not used in one, whilst another has heavier consonants. The ancient language is a bastardization of Latin, because I love Latin. But it is rarely used.

    When I'm in situations where I cannot write, but am bored, or stuck (meetings!) I create words for my languages.

    Like a lot of my research, I know they there, and it adds to the frame I use to weave my tapestry upon.

    Have fun!
     
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  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Another tip for place names is to find alternate names at Wikipedia. For example, the Swiss town of Chur has these alternatives: Coire, Cuira, Coira, Coire. And don't overlook the phonetic spellings, which for this town adds Kur, Kwar, and Xur, among others--taking liberties with the phonetic alphabet, of course.

    Then there are the historical names. So, Mainz, for example, is also Mogontiacum, and Augsburg is Augusta Vindelicorum.
     
  10. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    It has never happened.
    The trick [if trick it is] is not to fixate on what isn't working for you. Relax and defocus and it will come.
    The nearest I've had to a complete blank is a mildly heated debate with a friend about what a character's name couldn't be. After about [well... far too long] we narrowed it down and came up with an answer, that was nothing like what I thought it would be. And then I apologised for being such a pain...
     
  11. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    I built languages and dialects and then Romanized them, but mostly I translate to English since the MC's speak the local language.

    As my MC points out, "These guys suck at naming stuff."

    Once you translate these awesome-sounding words, they get pretty boring. "Blue River." "Big River." "Red Mountains." "High Lake."

    "Did you know 'Chicago' means 'the smell of wild onions?'"
    "Did you know 'New York' just means 'New York?'"

    - Burt Reynolds and Christopher Reeve in Switching Channels, 1988​

    The primary country where everything happens in my series is called Gateskeep, because it is ringed by mountains and has exactly two ways in, the "Gates." Next to it is a high, mountainous principality, called Falconsrealm. Because falcons and mountains and everything being way up in the sky and stuff.

    A wide plain on the south side of those two is called The Shieldlands; it's not only relatively flat like a shield, but it's a buffer between these two countries and their nemesis, a country called Gavria. I gave Gavria a non-English name because I wanted to set it aside as an "alien" nation. They speak a different language, the people look different, etc.

    Gavria takes the Gavrian word for "Strength" (gav), and then I did what we do with our countries and states in English a lot of the time, and add an "ia" as a suffix basically delineating "land of." They're a strong, martial people. Land of strength. "Gavia" doesn't have much consonant weight to it, so throw in a r before the suffix (because, artistic license; my language, my rules) and now it's Gavria. Rolls off the tongue. Too easy.

    Of course, developing the languages took years, so it's easy now, but getting here was a real bitch.

    As for the individual town names, it comes down to a judgment call each time. Case in point, a town in a chapter I'm editing right now is Forflaarlic. Just kill me, already. I could call it "Easternmost Border Town," which is what "Forflaarlic" means: (For - "border" / fla - "east" / ar-superlative modifier / lic - "town"). I hated both of these ideas -- both "Easternmost Border Town" and "Forflaarlic" are really long and unwieldy -- so the locals call it "For."
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2017
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  12. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    I'm with Cup of Joe, Sometimes those names are tricky and they don't come right away. Sometimes I use a place holder, and sometimes I just try to force something in there. Sometimes they grow on me and become permanent, but always I name will pop in at some time and it will stick. Just need to let the process run its course.
     
  13. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Minstrel

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    Google Translating random words is always fun too :)

    "Forest" -> Vietnamese -> "trồng cây"

    "Fire" -> Vietnamese -> "Ngọn lửa"

    Trongengon Lucaylua

    "River" -> German -> "Fluss"

    "Rainbow" -> German -> "Regenbogen"

    Fluraigan Boguss
     
  14. RedAngel

    RedAngel Minstrel

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    I used to have tons of trouble naming things myself in terms of locations.

    For a time I would just brainstorm while I was working and just write hundreds of names down per night while I was working in a warehouse. Then I would blow them all in later. Some were ok others were awful lol but I still kept them.

    I wouldn't recommend it, but I went and built a spreadsheet with every possible combination of letters (Ex: A-a, a-b, a-c) up to a string of five letters. While utterly tedious it truely helped to find some strange sequences of letters and words which I use heavily now.

    And in many ancient cultures many cities are named after gods, demi-gods, and heroes.
     
  15. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    The things I do is that I generally try to use a real world culture as my main inspiration and then make names that sounds similar to that culture. For example if you're having a feudal society with knights and stuff, use English or French names. If its a Roman-inspired world the use Latin-sounding names and so on.

    Coming up with things out the blue like Tolkien is great if you can pull it off well, but otherwise these names may well end up sounding nothing but cheesy and so better be avoided if you don't feel confident. Or at least that's what I think of it.
     
  16. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Even Tolkien didn't come up with things out of the blue. For instance, Tolkien took the names of Gandalf and 12 of the Dwarves of The Hobbit from the Poetic Edda (Norse mythology). The names and language of the Rohirrim correspond to a dialect of Old English. The languages of the Elves are directly inspired by various real world languages, such as Latin and Finnish. Tolkien was a philologist and professor of Anglo-Saxon. He didn't snatch names out of the air. He used his knowledge and expertise in the study of languages and their history as his tools to develop his own languages.

    Technically, anyone else could do the same. Tolkien simply had the advantage that his passion for languages led him an academic and professional life revolving around them.
     
  17. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    I can't tell you how to do it because I just rely on whatever pops up in my head after doing some research on the subjects related to the world. Perhaps you could use Related Words - Find Words Related to Another Word . Just throw in some of the main concepts of your world/city/story/etcetera and read through everything related to it. After some googling you will probably have enough newly obtained knowledge to fuel your creative thinking.
     
  18. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    Forgive me, I should have been more precise. What I meant was that Tolkien was a linguistic and so when he put together names and languages he knew what he was doing and so didn't have to take 100% real names for his world, as he could put together good and "realistic" names himself. I didn't mean that he invented everything from scratch although I see that's the impression one gets from my post.
     
  19. RedAngel

    RedAngel Minstrel

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    There are also many resources if you search google for random location generators. Many of them are somewhat basic but you can easily use them as a base to retrofit anything you have in mind on top of them.
     
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