How do you name things in your fantasy worlds?

Forums Fiction Research and Worldbuilding How do you name things in your fantasy worlds?

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    Mrs. Skywalker

    How do you writer beings come up with names for everything in your fantasy worlds? I really do admire you people. Specifically, names for things like cities, relams, lands, and countries and such? I am not good with naming things but yet using name generators seems cheesy and has no feeling or special story. (is this just me?)

    Can you please help and poor writer worm and her inability to name things? XD

    "I never made a deal with Kanjiklub."

    Aislinn Mollisong

    Hi! I hope I can answer your questions a bit.

    The way I usually name things depends on what it is. For places, I kind of use whatever I want, but with my current WIP I’ve been using words in other languages that match the place. like I have one kingdom called Magnus, after the Latin word for great. It’s the biggest kingdom on my continent (plus it has a VOLCANO!) so the name goes pretty well with it. Another is called Ehren, which is a slight misspelling of a name for Ireland. As you could probably guess, Ehren is very reminiscent of Celtic and Irish culture.

    For people, I pick random names I like, or try to find one that means something in a different language. (I have an entire list of names that mean ‘fire’ in Irish)

    But I do have a rule of sorts for myself, which is pretty much ‘keep it simple’. I use ‘normal’ names as much as I can, and don’t just smush letters together to make something sound cool. I’ve seen a lot of really good stories have their coolness a bit ruined by having really complicated crazy names.

    Hero with an overactive imagination

    Princess Foo

    @padawanpadme *laughs because of despair* Figuring out names is really hard. I usually do one of two things.

    1) I go to google translate, stick whatever placeholder name I have been using so far in, (River city, tall people, magic trinket) and try and bunch of languages until I get a word I kind of like, then I mess around with the spelling a little bit more until I am mostly satified-ish. Then I stick it into Google search to make sure it doesn’t mean anything already that I don’t want.

    2) Fantasy name generator. I know that you said you didn’t like it, but you don’t have to stick with exactly the name it comes up with. You can fiddle with it, or only use the first or last name. The website has SO MANY specific settings that you can really narrow down the feel that you are going for on your search.

    These things are mostly a starting point. I actually am not great at naming things, to the point where I had to ask for brainstorming help in my guild chat to come up with villain names. Go Erekdale! But I did have some thoughts on the subject so… here you are.

    The cake is a lie. acaylor.com

    Hope McClellan


    I agree with you. I do not like Fantasy Name generator. I’ve tried it, and I still try it in hopes that it will work one day, but it never really does.

    Name inspiration is EVERYWHERE. Make lists. Lots of them.

    Some places to get inspiration:

    • Nametags of cashiers, waiters, employees everywhere, etc.
    • Street signs
    • Pinterest
    • Unusual spelling of common names
    • Google Maps

    Let me go into these a little more.

    For characters, nametags are fantastic inspiration. Keep your eyes out, because it’s everywhere.

    For places, I enjoy using names of street signs and Google Maps. Honestly, Google Maps is my absolute favorite resources for place names. The other day I used a neighborhood in Denver and found some cool street names. I’ve collected lists of places in Taiwan, Africa, Jamaica, and Scotland. Different countries will give you different flavors of names.

    Someone else mentioned this already, but I have to say it again because it’s a wonderful idea. Take a word that describes your place, and use it in a different language. My current WIP uses a lot of Hebrew. I have one village that is incredibly secluded, and they like it that way. I used the Hebrew word “Satham”, which means hidden, secret, etc. I needed a unusual fruit crop, so I named the fruit “periy”, which is literally Hebrew for “fruit”.

    I also LOVE finding new ways to spell names. The possibilities are endless. A while ago I asked my sister for help naming a character, and she suggested Karen. I am super visual, so when I hear a name, I visualize it. But I didn’t see “Karen”, in my mind I saw “Carin”.  Said the same way. Spelled differently.

    I hope that these methods are helpful!


    "Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it."
    Habakkuk 2:2

    Hope McClellan

    Also there’s one other method that I read from somewhere, but I only use sometimes because it can take awhile.

    The basic idea is that you describe whatever it is in a few words, then you take out and add in letters to make your name. Here’s a few examples.

    city on a hill, <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>C</span>ity <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>O</span>n <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>A H</span>ill, Coah(taking the first letters), C<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>it</span>oah (adding in “it”). Now I have Citoah.

    It is easiest to start with the first letters of each word, then add in or take away letters from there. You can scramble the letters, whatever you like. Just another method for consideration.

    "Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it."
    Habakkuk 2:2

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