1. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    How do you come up with names for fantasy locations?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Mallory, Jan 10, 2012.

    I love coming up with names for my characters (my current MC is named Adalyn), and I'm pretty decent at coming up with names for fantasy monsters or creatures or unknown antagonists - I tend to stick with things that are cryptically descriptive, like the Harrowers or the Watchers or What's Out There or whatever.

    But I completely SUCK at naming territories. Keep in mind, my story is fantasy, but not the medieval variety. Rather, it's more of an urban fantasy and/or scifi fantasy that involves traveling to other dimensions, kind of like His Dark Materials or Narnia.

    I don't want to name it some unpronounceable Viking-sounding name that I get from a generator, but I also don't have much luck with the naming strategy I use for the creatures, because residents of a world wouldn't call their home something in relation to us. For example, surely there's life on other planets that might refer to Earth as "the others" or "elsewhere" or something, but we wouldn't call ourselves that. (Sorry if I make no sense - I'm typing my reasoning out very quickly and I have weird thought processes at times.)

    I'm not asking anyone to spoon-feed me names, obviously, but how do you come up with names for your fantasy towns, cities, and entire worlds? I'm working on a map and will try and come up with some names while I wait for some responses, but in the meantime, shall we discuss name-bestowing strategies?
     
  2. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like Adalyn. You can pretty much add "Lynne/Lyn" to anything and it makes a good name (My sister was almost going to name her daughter Jesslyn, which is a damn cool name when you say it out loud).

    I usually come up with something, pretty much on the spot, and then I name everything else around that as a theme. For a fantasy setting a while ago, I came up with the name Caercathosum for a city which was largely centred on being run by a church (hence the 'cath'). The other two cities in the same country were Caernothag and Caerothael. A neighbouring country had two cities: Floranthene and Floranthur.

    Then, of course, I have less fantasy-ish names. There was a city called Earthchild and a floating city near it called Skychild. I had a small country in the same setting with the oldest city, now a ruin, called Garland. Its newer counterpart was called Wreathe, and a nearby village was called Festoon.

    Really, though, I usually follow the first method. I come up with something that sounds good and has a somewhat logical spelling and pronunciation, then I use that as a theme. Failing that, I use the Serendipity/Frenchboys generators which generate about 90% usable content. I suggest you look them up, if you're sick of the stupid crap Seventh Sanctum spits out.

    For names, I admit that I usually use Frenchboys. They have an awesome French name generator, and names like Octavian or Isidore sound pretty fantasy-ish to me, even though they're mostly just normal names. I love names like that.
    I dislike most fantasy names, though. Too many fantasy authors are lazy with it. Look at Paolini: only the main characters have fantasy names. You've got Eragon (I mentally facepalm every time I say/write this name), and Galbatorix, and then you've got all the background characters like Christine and Karen and such. It's ridiculous.
     
  3. kablooblab
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    kablooblab Member

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    Oh hey mallory. you probably don't remember me but youre the only person that is familiar ever since I stopped posting last year. But anyway for the names. A tip I heard was to look at objects around the room youre in, or peoples names in your house. And take parts of the words and combine them. Like.. if you are anything like me there is bound to be soda and some food in your room. Colza. pizza and cola mixed together.
     
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  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    @ CF - Thanks dude! I'll look up those generators right now. I tried to rep you and it wouldn't let me. :(

    @ Kab - Thanks, nice to see you too. I also took a break and hadn't posted for a few months but I think I'm back to stay now. I'll try that method out and see if it works for me.
     
  5. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    The important thing (as with character names is to make them logical.) So in my fantasy series I've got a Kingdom and a city whose names are based around the first king of said kingdom. And a vatican themed city state is partially named after the founder of the religion it's based on. I've also got cities who's names derive from river names or just the location they're in. So really if you're good at making up people names you can change up the names of in-universe heroes for place names.
     
  6. Betrayal
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    Betrayal New Member

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    I pick out a few words that are related to the description and find synonyms, merge them together and add letters on.

    Here's an example description:
    A city that is on top of the tallest mountain that is flourished by culture, protected by gods and is the largest city of all and was there since the beginning of time.

    Words relating to the description:
    light, heaven, illumination, luminous, bright, holy, godly, sky, bright, aether, sanctuary, powerful, army, aero, eon, aeon etc...

    Result:
    luminous + aero = Luminaria/Aerolumia/Aerlumos sanctuary+aeon/eon= Sanctaer, Sancteon etc...

    If you want you can also add a suffix to follow after the name, saying this place is one a really high up and on a mountain you could have:

    Reach of Luminaria, Aerolumia's Peak, Aerolumia's Divide etc...

    Anyway, have fun :D
     
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  7. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    I get this problem often - it's a well-known enemy in the genre, equal only to its twin - naming families or "houses"

    I have a couple of ways to get around it. The simplest solutions are latin/french/etc words related to the theme of your city/family because the resemblance to words that mirror their intent convey meaning. Alternatively you can anagramise existing words or both. Finally, I like to experiment with syllables that sound "right" for the feel I'm trying to accomplish. Speaking gibberish occasionally can do wonders.

    I'll pull some examples from a fantasy piece I've got on the boil.
    Caroman: Protagonist, life sucks for him. Caro = corpse.
    Ishlin: Musician, bard and assassin for hire. Ishlin = Norse loremasters
    Faye: Daughter of a devout house, novice witch. Self explanatory.
    Acris: Proud and arrogant lord. Acris sounds like Acrid = bitter, acidic.
    House of Excallion: Rich and poweful. Excel + regal sounding suffix.
    House of Lucanis: Vassal house, loyal and dependable. Lyca + Canis = wolf + dog
    House of Precahri: Religious and devout. Precari = prayer.
    Altakeron: Devourer of worlds. Quadrisyllabic, opens with staccato consonants, ends on deep vowels. Alternative: Seldakheros.

    Don't stress to much over them, of course. Get your story out first, then worry about the names. Ultimately, go with what sounds cool.

    EDIT: Oh, and don't forget that simple human settlements rarely get special names. They're basic little towns populated by basic little people, so their names will usually be based on the location, the local flora or fauna or maybe the circumstances of its founding. Examples include farlight (remote), silvercrest (overlooking white cliffs) and ravenward (religious, plagued by carrion birds).

    Fancier examples would be Fideria (Fidelity = Faith), Altaris (altar = religious) and the Emerite Woods (emerald + geological suffix).
     
  8. J.W.Exeter
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    J.W.Exeter Member

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    I try to employ different tactics according to each story.

    For one of my tales, I attempted to use names which described each faction/nation. For example, Raven Sword: The faction of swordplay, dark steel, honor and combat. Iron Cross: a faction of religious zeal but brutal enforcement of religion and conversion. Known for their heavy infantry. Verdant Aegis: The democratic, philanthropist kingdom who favor architecture of stone and mortar, mixed with naturally occurring flora.

    If you read D. M. Cornish' Monster Blood Tattoo, you'll learn that creating fictional names is a difficult skill. The man has an astounding amount of knowledge concerning etymology and proper name syntax.
     
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  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Thanks, guys! :) All your methods make a lot of sense and have yielded some pretty cool names. I've picked some names for the wilderness areas on the map, but am still working on some city names. You guys have helped a lot.
     
  10. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    If you want names with meaning; but still sound new and awesome:

    Merge different real world names until an awesome combination of meaning and phonetic sound comes together.

    Like:

    -Latin
    -Greek
    -Japanese
    -Every other language on Earth

    The combinations are limitless.
     
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  11. Dragon Boy
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    Dragon Boy Member

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    That is an excellent idea Jhunter ! Latin words in particular are pretty powerful when used right.
     
  12. CidTheKid
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    CidTheKid New Member

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    To add to the good advice given here:

    One thing to in account is how sophisticated the populace is. For instance, A small, run-down desert shantytown that mines for Silver, might be called a simple name, like "Silvermore". A rich and prosperous land that mines for silver on the other hand, might be called something fancy like "Agnimlot"

    Titles are also a nice thing to add, and are kind of useful to give off a little information about the territory. His Holy land of Auringad," is enough to indicate religious significance of some sort, and sounds differently from "His Imperial Oppression's land of Auringad," which sounds like it's under the ownership of some cartoonishly evil empire. As long as it fits the story, they should be fine.
     
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  13. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    This is the part where you click the reputation button. :p
     
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  14. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    What I'm working on is a mix of sci-fi and fantasy. The fantasy areas are named after landmarks and people, such as Heatherfield, which is a town surrounded by fields of heather, go figure. lol
    The science fiction areas are a little cheesy, but I could care less. One of the towns is called Cordel City, stemming from the name of the founder of the town, whose last name is Cordellus (which is cheesy in itself, a play off of cordless lol). Anyway, certain things in the the town are named after elements on the periodic table, such as renowned schools and whatnot. As for names, half of the people have bizarre names, whereas the other half have heard-of names that are uncommon now but are common in the story.
     
  15. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Thanks! :) Tristan, it's been forever, nice to see you again.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't have much advice on how to create names, but I do know what I do not like to see in names. Apostrophes, for instance. I think you should stay away from names like Am'tha'gris'mal or Mach'niph'ron. Or R'lyeh, for that matter (Lovecraft was bad at names).

    And PLEASE make names easy to pronounce and spell! Names like Xnoggyfoel and Hgthranz and Cxyaiexc make the readers eyes glaze over.

    Tolkien had some great names. Rivendell. Moria. Helm's Deep. Gondor. And so on. Easy to spell and pronounce, no apostrophes or other dumb punctuation, and they sound good. Follow Tolkien's example.
     
  17. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I'm with you there! :D I hate, HATE unpronounceable stuff full of useless apostrophes. Haha.
     
  18. Pea
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    Pea super pea!

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    I usually take inspiration from other books, games, and also look up on wikipedia some words which have a similar meaning/connotation to the place I'm trying to name. I also like looking up on old empires and other countries, particularly middle-eastern and ancient cultures like the Sumerians and Aztecs... even Native Americans. They all seem to have great-sounding names that I can either tweak a bit or play around with until I have something usable. My world probably makes no sense in the linguistic sense (Tolkien would probably laugh then spin in his grave if he saw my book) but, eh, sounds good to me. I don't like complicated names full of apostrophe's either, neither names like 'Yraaathlythi'.
     
  19. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Looking at these suggestions (because I'm in need of help as well) made my place names feel even more boring. It's basically a small desert land divided into five sectors all containing a large city each. And they are named simply Sector 1 (the capital), Sector 2, Sector 3, etc. Other than that, since I like to base my fantasy stories on “real” folklore and ancient gods, I base a lot of my naming from the language of the country I base the stories on.
     
  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Speaking of which, and no offense meant to any Australians here, but Australia has some darned uncreative place names. "Northern Territory". "South Australia". "Western Australia". "New South Wales". C'mon, guys! Who chose these names?

    I have to admit, though, as a transplanted Canadian, Canada has some of the same problem. "Northwest Territories". "Newfoundland". "New Brunswick." "British Columbia". At least we also have "Saskatchewan" and "Nunavut".
     
  21. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    I wouldn't be surprised if Britain was responsible for many of the most boring names around the world :)
     
  22. B.S-H
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    B.S-H New Member

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    I have never had to explain my process for fantasy names before so bare with me and I hope this makes sense.

    A lot of factors go into what I name a city or an area. Generally when I am making a fantastic world to unleash my shenanigans on I tend not to worry about naming places to start with. Instead I like to focus on the climate and go from there. For instance I work out where is hot, where is cold, where is humid, where is dry and so on. From there I build up what is likely to live there and what the natural habitat would be like.

    I don't mean to spoonfeed names, but I will give some examples. I might end up with an Oak Forest somewhere in a Frozen wasteland. So obviously any human inhabitants would build shelter from Oak, and depending on the size or significance of the settlement I would name it accordingly. "Oakrest, Oakhall, Oakwatch, Oakguard, Frozenoak" and so on. Its a cold climate, so maybe the inhabitants are loosely based on vikings so I might even call it "Oakgard", make it look the part too.

    Its a time consuming process at first but I find I usually love the names that come out of it, and in the long run I think it even saves time, especially if its a massive project.

    My process for naming characters is nowhere near elaborate. I use those baby name websites that list traditional names of different countries and cultures and pick the ones that look cool.

    The British!
     
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  23. Toriea
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    Toriea New Member

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    Hi Mallory. What I am doing is taking the names of places that I know and noticing the way they sound as I speak them, i.e. in my idiolect. I then, using a set of base parameters, corrupt the name slightly till it looks and sounds a tad different. A few examples would be:-

    London = Lunder
    Ealing (my home town) = Ílyn
    Greenford = Grínferte
    Birmingham = Bermynam
    England = Angelan

    This method also works for personal names, etc...
     
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  24. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Thanks! :)
     
  25. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I love making names up and I makes they are grealy pronuncable.
    I wrote a short story where the names of the two characters and all the towns and places names are all made up.
    I tend to make up names for my characters to make them stand out.
    I just take letters and put them together like scrabble, and see what effect they have visually and sound wise too.
    Rysina and Vatria are the type of example I mean.
    There is equal vowels and consonants for a balanced word.
     

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