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How do you name gods?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Queshire, Jan 21, 2015.

  1. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    I'm always bad at coming up with names. I'm working on a pantheon of gods-by-another-name (other name in this case being Archons) It's easy enough to come up with the domains for them, but I'm having trouble coming up with the actual names. SO! How do you guys come up with names for gods or really any similar thing?
  2. 2WayParadox

    2WayParadox Sage

    I mentioned this in another post, but this is the best name generator I've come across so far:

    Behind the Name: Random Name Generator

    It has so many options, and so many languages ot historical name sets to choose from. It's just a wonderful, free tool.

    As to naming gods, it's commong to name them after a characteristic (e.g. Hood is the god of death in the book of Malazan). So a god of nature could be Spring. A god of boogers or the unsanitary could be Booger. Go nuts with it.

    Another option is to name them like the Greek Pantheon, with actual person sounding names. To that effect you're probably better off using either an archaic version of your language, or an altogether different language (like Latin or Greek).

    Of course, you never have to use literal Latin names. Cupid can become Piduc, Dipuc, Capo etc. It's the original starting name that needs to fit your image and from there you can tinker. I would suggest to store the original name you've used, in case you need to refresh your image.
  3. Tom

    Tom Istar

    I name gods just like I name any character: I play with sounds and structures I like until I hit upon a name that sounds right. In the case of gods, if they're all from the same religion, I try to come up with several names that share phonetic and structural characteristics so they sound like they're related, like they share an origin.
    ArenRax likes this.
  4. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    I had a pantheon where all the gods had "subtle" puns for names. There was Hytyd the ocean goddess, Pike the war god, Arnor the god of justice, Manta Leil the insanity god and so forth.
    The pantheon I got going now is suppose to be kind of weird so the names are suppose to be weird, descriptive titles inspired by Lovecraft. There's the Bearer of Fire and Lightning, the Dripping Black Word, He Who Shouts Power and so forth.

    So, bottom-line is that it depends on what you're going for. Generally, I think "what's in a name?". I'm pretty sure Odin and Thor were literaly the Norse words for Wisdom and Thunder so it's not like you have to be super creative and dramatic to be memorable and effective.
  5. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I think that when naming gods you have a bit more leeway with making up names that have some kind of meaning. I think readers will accept that gods to have names that in some way hint at their power - more so than regular characters. It's almost expected.

    In my WIP the goddess of the Anfylk is named Anna. This has caused some issues in that it's a normal-ish name and people don't expect it to be the name of a god.
  6. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    In my works, the "goddess" has a name depending on the culture revering her/him. Her "true" name is Aeshir; which is little used and fleeting; similar to aether. To the cold northerners, she is referred to as Ushwar; the great protector, who looks like a cold northern man with a flawless and wondrous beard. What "she" looks like to the cultures of man is of little importance, her power derives from the same source whatever her/his name.
  7. 2WayParadox

    2WayParadox Sage

    I hadn't even thought about different cultures having the same god in a different pair of pants.
    Gods are annoying.
  8. Trick

    Trick Auror

    I've just read The Emperor's Blades and started the second book and Staveley has great names for his gods and different cultures call them by different names while also focusing on one in particular which affects their lifestyles. It's really well done.
  9. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

    I usually go with names and sounds that fit the what the god's portfolio of powers generally are. If it is a god of death I want the name to feel darker, perhaps morbid. It takes some time, but you get readers to understand rather quickly what this god does specifically. Also the names need to fit the cultures that worship them. Less primitive cultures might have easier to pronounce or harsher names depending, reflecting the culture it comes from.

  10. evanator66

    evanator66 Minstrel

    I name my gods based on their domain (mostly, there are a few exceptions) when I map out family trees, pantheons, etc. Then, I generally come up with a few things for each, combine/mutate them, and then ask my friends which they like best. I also occasionally slur the words and write down what I think the spelling would be, to simulate the evolution of the sound over time.
  11. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    I think about what kind of "feel" I want for the gods and then search a culture with the right pop-culture associations, find a dictionary for their language and get to work. I find a word meaning the main concept for the god, and then morph that word a bit to my liking and so I have a name.
  12. Ky2015

    Ky2015 Acolyte

    I choose a language other than my own, and then come up with nonsense syllables that may work in that language.

    Rahj, south asia.
    Hielah, germanic/sanskrit
    Pipr, germanic (from piper).
    Moriah, hebraic.
    Yämdril, germanic and tribal.

    So, I combined some traditions. Look up cool languages... Icelandic/Norwegian/South Asian/Sanskrit. You will find strange enough stuff there.

    That's just one way. If you aren't a lingual scholar, then you can do it another way. It's generally good to know a little about the languages so you can make sure you don't misuse it.
  13. Anna Smith-Spark

    Anna Smith-Spark New Member

    This has been really bothering me for a while now. I also really enjoy historical novels, and there's a horrible moment in them where somebody says 'By Jupiter' and everything gets far too Carry on Cleo. I'm really trying to avoid this....

    I like the basic term 'god' or 'gods', as actually, most people don't tend to talk too much about their gods in much deeper terms. Classical paganism, for example, had a very fluid pantheon and people probably didn't concern themselves with the minuteia of their religion. But my next book has to get more involved with the theology of my world, so I need to think about this more. I think gods' names have to sound different to character names to stand out bit - and I am rather inclined to the Lovecraftian 'random apostrophy and stick in a fewe Ys and Xs because it sounds cool' school of thought. It's almost like an in-joke, I guess - which sums up religion rather well all round....

    Sorry, this may not be entirely helpful.
  14. Bluesboy

    Bluesboy Dreamer

    What I use for my gods is that I have a world inspired by some long gone cultures and then use their languages to come up with names. Specifically, all gods in my pantheon have human and animal form. For example, I have a god called Werhráfn, "wer" standing for "man" and "hráfn" standing for "raven" (the the god's name in modern English means "Manraven"). This is the Old English form of the name, the Old Norse would be Maðravn, meaning the same thing. Or a god named Werwulf and Maðulf (Manwolf in modern English).

    I admit that it's a very Tolkien-ish style, because in Rohan, you have a character named Eowyn ("eoh" meaning "horse", "wyn" or "wynn" meaning joy, so her name means "horse-joy"), or Gandalf in Old Norse literally means "Wand elf", Frodo is derived from Old Norse "Froðr" which means "learned", etc etc.

    In the end, it's all up to you, but it's easier to get inspired by somthing that already exists rather than coming up with names that sound like you made them up on a whim in order to sound exotic or something.
  15. ArenRax

    ArenRax Sage

    same except for the origin thing.
  16. Creed

    Creed Sage

    I come up with a handful of words that describe the deity in terms of function, character, and mood, and then I translate them into a language I created or existing languages. I've posted about this before, but I find Bad Translator to be very helpful.
    I put in the words lost, moon, sorrow and lonely into Bad Translator and let it pump out ten random translations. I pick and choose ones that I like, words that are appropriate for the deity, morph them if I want to, and then put them into a word mixer and look at what new combinations it gives me. Of course I can change them too.
    Some examples I got for this moon spirit were Hirsi, Henireen, and Hir'vi'enwur. I kept them all because I think they portray the culture and tragic myth of the spirit. (She's known by different names by different people, Henireen being the less Nordic sounding one.)
    Svrtnsse and CupofJoe like this.
  17. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

    Before I just used to come up with random words for names, fantasy-esque style. Now I just go to google translate and write the word in English and then run it through a few languages until some words sounds like a name. Then I tweak it, change some letters, add some an voila. In that way I create Easter eggs for future readers who might be from the country whose language I used. For example I used the word 'wood' and in Welsh it is 'pren' so I chose Prenna as the name of the goddess of woods and earth.
  18. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    Depends on the situation. In general I build them by syllables. I look for any emerging patterns in the names within the society that worships the god, then I use that and try to come up with a combination of syllables that has the right look and sound to evoke a feeling that matches the nature of the god. Sometimes I'll even include etymological easter eggs by basing the name on an existing name. But I think the most important thing about any name is that it has to "feel right". I realize that's subjective and maybe not too helpful, so let me try to concretize it. First, ask yourself what the essential nature of your god is. What is their temperament, their attitude towards humans, and their sphere of influence. Once you know that, find a name that sounds like it matches. E.g.: If your god is more gentle and has power over things like morning dew and sunshine, you probably want a softer name. Syllables including soft consonants like L, S, R, and H, along with vowels and TH's are probably where you want to start looking. But if you're naming a vengeful god of death and thunderstorms, you probably want a harsher sound. Letters like V, K, M, and D will probably be your best friends. And don't forget that some syllables have useful connotations. For example, the syllable "mor-" is almost always sinister: Mordor, Morgoth, Mordred, Morgan le Fay. Probably because of the latin word "mors", meaning death.
  19. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I don't know about helpful, but I am going to have hours of fun with this!
    Creed likes this.
  20. Creed

    Creed Sage

    Yeah. Every once in a while I'll put an excerpt I've written into it just to see what nonsense comes out.
    (Sounds like a fun idea for a thread...)

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