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Naming your worlds

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Ireth, Apr 19, 2014.

  1. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I'm having trouble with this, so I thought I'd ask for advice. How do you come up with names for your worlds? The planet as a whole, not just the parts your characters inhabit. Do you borrow other languages' words for "earth", or make up your own languages, or string random letters together to see what sounds/looks good? Or do you bother with it at all?

    Given that the story I'm asking about is about sapient wolves, I'm not sure they'd even have a name for their planet, or the continents, or much of anything beyond their own hunting territory. But that would make keeping track of their journey pretty difficult, with no names for the places they pass through. Thoughts on this?
  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver


    Current main fantasy world - CHAR. Because, when first conceived, I envisioned it as a sort of giant burned out wasteland.

    Second fantasy world - AQUAS. Because, well, its an ocean world, with only a few large landmasses, and the most prominent of these is downright weird.

    To the inhabitants of these planets, though, they are simply 'the world', save for a few academic sorts.

    I came up with those names decades ago.

    Have some SF worlds as well, though they've been barely more than notes for ages:

    GAIA - first of the colony worlds, closest to earth,not really an appealing place, as native life never made it past the single cell stage, causing all sorts of soil/agricultural problems.

    NEW EDEN - second of the colony worlds, much more distant from earth, appealing, with forests and simple insect type life. The colonists also terraformed other planets in this (wide) multiple star system.

    MORNINGSIDE - colony world founded during the second wave of expansion. Severely tilted axis, meaning effectively permanent daylight in the north polar regions and near perpetual darkness in the south polar regions.
  3. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    I have never named a world in a fantasy story, and I'm not really sure why you would need to unless you have more than one. I mean, if you've only got one, there's nothing to distinguish it from.
    Scribble likes this.
  4. TheokinsJ

    TheokinsJ Troubadour

    I find both history and language to be sources of inspiration for naming my worlds. Tolkien himself basically took the Anglo-Saxon name 'Middle-Earth' from an old Norse Legend, as the name of his world. I myself follow similar habits, I look up names and words in Old English, German and Russian, some Icelandic as well (Depending on the 'cultural context' of your world, eg. If your fantasy world was leaning more towards resembling eastern/asian, you'd look up something in Chinese or Indonesian). Other ways to find names are through old legends and folktales, in ancient mythology, that's where I've found most of my inspiration. Creating names from thin-air is fine, but it's hard to make them convincing when you have a word that sounds like a bunch of sounds put-together. There is a structure to names, once you understand that structure, you can create authentic, aesthetically sounding ones.
  5. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    I think it's useful to have a name that readers and fans can use when referring to your world. It doesn't have to be a name for the whole world. Middle-earth, for instance, isn't the name of the whole world in Tolkien's works. It's the name of the land mass where all the action takes place. Having a name for the area of the world where your story takes place makes it easier for people to talk about and thus facilitates word of mouth.

    If it wouldn't be natural for your characters to name parts of the world or talk about names that other types of people might have for the world then you could try to include it in your exposition. That works particularly well if you have a strong narrative voice. Or if that doesn't work in your story then you could try to name drop it in places that aren't directly connected to the narrative.

    In my fantasy world, the indigenous race of gods or "kami" has full knowledge about the shape of the world and do have a name for it. I borrowed the Basque language word "Erresuma" which means "kingdom", but in my world it would be defined more as "this physical realm". It had just the right sound taste that I was looking for.
  6. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

    If there is a name people use to refer to "the world", the name would likely fall from the cosmology of the dominant culture (current or previous).

    If the inhabitants of the world have telescopes and some measure of science, they may name other planets and consider the one they are on to be one of that kind. Otherwise, if we look at the cultures we know about, they will probably think about the world as they did as all there is, the universe, surrounded by sky and sea.

    There is a wealth of cosmologies to borrow ideas from out there. What people call the world is a very important name, and bad names can break the immersion.

    I would think about:

    Who named it?
    Why they named it that?
    Why does that name persist?

  7. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Ireth, how about just naming the area in the story where your pack hunts/inhabits? As a reader, that would be sufficient for me so I wouldn't stress out about it too much. Mirovinia is the name of my story world. Because the setting is Russian inspired, I spent some time looking up names of principalities etc (pre-modern) and found the name of an area I liked, and butchered it for my own tastes. ;) Its not a planet. Its a section of land that most likely belongs to a larger world (hinted at by some of the materials/merchandise used in the story). Its a small country with principalities that have Russian themed names. I didn't go too crazy because world building isn't necessarily fun for me.
  8. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I need names for more than that, because the MC and his friends go on a journey far beyond their hunting range in search of their fallen moon goddess, and they'll meet other wolves in other territories. I'm not sure yet exactly how far they'll need to go, but it would be nice to have a name for the world as a whole whether I end up needing it or not, as well as smaller areas of land.
  9. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    @Scribble: Most of the planets in the solar system were named before the invention of the telescope or the birth of what we commonly think of as science.

    Personally I take inspiration from legends and mythology then abuse it until it pops out a name that sounds right to me.
  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Hmmm...so your wolves are either aware or become aware that the world encompasses many different types of terrain: forests, mountains, deserts, large bodies of water. Presumably, they are also aware they cannot leap to the moon or stars. Despite that, they are highly unlikely to realize that the world is a giant sphere (if that is the case here), or even have a notion as to the worlds true size.

    So, what you need is a very simple term for the world under the sky.

    Hmmm...perhaps 'Great Range'? The 'Vastness'? 'Expanse'?

    In any of these cases, the wolves understanding would be these terms cover a wide range of terrains over a very large distance.
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I named my world Altearth because it's an alternate earth. That's not what any of the characters call it, of course. If they should have occasion to name it, it would just be "the world". I do agree that there is a good marketing reason to name your world. I have no better suggestion than ones made here by other posters.

    As for naming regions, you have to make them up of course. Your characters can learn the names by speaking to locals, or they could name them themselves based on some salient characteristic as they pass through. But I doubt they would name regions. It would be more like "the land where skip.knox died" or "the river where we lost our supplies" or "the forest of magic bunnies". You might consider going with the circumlocutions if it's a place that gets referenced only a couple of times. If it gets mentioned often, then resort to the "ask the locals" tactic and use an actual name.
  12. Malik

    Malik Archmage

    My world had a name for a while, but I took it out several edits ago when I realized that the inhabitants of my world haven't ever figured out that it's a world.

    They're on a continent, the seas are impassable, and the continent is broken up into three kingdoms and a handful of territories. They don't have a name for the larger, cohesive planet; I'm confident that they don't know that it exists. The concept of all their kingdoms being a small part of a larger world strikes me as a larger idea that doesn't jibe with what they "know" about the world they live in.

    I realized, too, that I need them to not know that their world is larger and/or interconnected or even could be with a little work, because their inability to think in an overarching, global scale is the main reason that my MC and his nemesis (who's also from Earth) can make major strategic moves and think in terms that the rulers and advisers could never come up with on their own. It gives the MC the ear of warlords and military leaders who recognize him as a genius, and makes his nemesis a very dangerous -- and successful -- ruler.

    The most powerful, world-shattering thing the hero brings to the fantasy world isn't a handgun, a flashlight, or a sword made from marquenched and differentially tempered low-chromium alloy spring steel; it's having minored in history during a war.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2014
  13. Addison

    Addison Auror

    When I'm writing a story in a different world I don't stress about the world's name until it's really relevant. By that time the story has told me the name. As the characters travel to the different countries or meet characters from the different areas, each bit gives me a new letter or sound of the world's name.

    If I can already see a world is more Greek or Arabic like overall then I read fables, fairy tales and read th enames of this world's city's and people so I can get some ideas to sounds and such.

    Hope this helps. :)
    Malik likes this.
  14. Inglorion

    Inglorion Dreamer

    Peoples' are unlikely to develop a formal name for "the world" if they don't have a concept of worlds' beyond. So I chose the magical species in my world, the Samësoi (the loose equivalent of elves, faeries, etc.) and then just gave it a name that fit with their scheme (Duloësa). The common people have no reason to call their world anything but "the world"; religious leaders might have various names denoting their world if they believe in different realms or something.
  15. adampjr

    adampjr Scribe

    When I need names I often don't need to have any obvious meaning. You can always give it a meaning in some language in your story's world if you need to. There are a few decent fantasy name generators out there. I'm a bit of a coder, so I've written my own name generators in Python for different languages in my world. Sometimes it gives me garbage and I just edit it to something that makes more sense. If you don't know what to name it, I'd give the online generators a chance to give you something good.
  16. Edankyn

    Edankyn Minstrel

    I think of wolves being associated with druidic and Norwegian culture/language. Earth as a concept would be something like Mother-earth. The Norwegian word for mother is Mor, so I'd name it Mor or something derived from that.
  17. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    For me, the issue of world names is more likely to pop up when I'm drawing setting maps than when actually writing a story. In the story itself, I can simply call the world, well, "the world". It's when I have to name a map I'm uploading onto the Internet that I need to consider giving that map a name at all.
  18. Addison

    Addison Auror

    Hey Inglorion, how do you get those accents above the 'e' and such?

    In some stories I've found some world names to be easier. In one fantasy there's a separate dimension where Old magics and customs like cowboys, kingdoms, the Silk Road and such are still alive. That world is simply called Old World. Some call it the Root. Those in the Old World call the Modern World different things, not everyone in that world know of the other world. Most who do speak of it like a strange, scary urban legend.

    But what about a Science Fantasy world? In a separate novella its a world with laser guns, flying cars, anti-gravity technology and other tech. But much of it is fueled by magic, which is grown and harvested. Often times used as energy and the like for weapons and technologies. To wield it by hand is rare, even unheard of. Those who can wield it are hunted as the government sees them as threats. So the name of the world helps to set the mood of the story, gives a taste for it. How does one create a multi-genre name?
  19. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

    If you have a PC with a number pad, you can use Alt codes. The codes you need start at 128. So if you want ë, press and hold an Alt key while you type 137.

    Et voilà! There's an ë!
    Addison likes this.
  20. Inglorion

    Inglorion Dreamer

    I really just googled "e with umlaut". I've only ever typed the names here; generally I write them by hand so it is easy. The dots aren't really necessary, I was just doing it so I could remember how they were pronounced, and I did it for so long that they now look wrong to me without the dots.

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