Countries and Villages and Worlds (oh my)

Hello there!
So, I’ve been creating and destroying and renewing my own little (huge) world for over a year now (about)! It’s a fun process, as I’ve mentioned before when I desperately asked how to cover all of my creation. Moving on…

Names. Naming is getting hard. I won’t ask for any excessive help here, just in one matter of all this naming chaos—does anyone have any suggestions or tips for names of villages? I’m running out of random words to smash together. The world is fantasy/medieval.

While on the topic of worlds…what about naming states world? My placeholder name is Vittefoeld (some mess of Norse or something that I threw together, I can’t even remember what it means, feel free to steal it if you like it), but it doesn’t fit my world’s language…

Basically, if anyone has some cool words I could smash together, I’d be grateful to take them and translate them into my world’s language (another…process).

One last tidbit, so I don’t make more than one thread and clutter everything: I only have two countries in my world (three, if you count the rarely-mentioned, joked-about dwarven Island). Everything else is a vast ocean at the moment. Should I maybe add more? Would that be more interesting, or is a vast ocean surrounding a land of dragons and mystical creatures mysterious enough to be good?

Thank you, and I apologise for this cluster of mostly meaningless information and queries.

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Some people make conlangs, but while there’s plenty of places in the world with names like “South Marsh” and “Oak Ridge” or names that translate into those from whatever the local language is, a lot of names have undergone centuries of transformation after one invasion or shift in common usage. (And as that song goes, Istanbul was Constaninople…) You probably aren’t going to want to go into the history of the name of every single minor place that ever gets mentioned.

The important bit is phonological consistency. Every name with a common origin ought to sound like it belongs with the others, or have some good in-universe reason why it shouldn’t. This doesn’t require building a full conlang, just in deciding what sounds commonly appear in a language and how its syllables are put together even if you never bother to figure out just what it’s supposed to mean. Like for instance, say one country doesn’t use the sounds “th” (either voiced or unvoiced) and “sh” and only uses consonant clusters that include R, N, and L.

As a programmer, one of my (mostly pointless) hobbies is random name generators. I have probably written a name generator in every new language I have learned and wasted more time on it than I care to think about. Like building Lego models made of letters.

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Don’t forget you can repeat names! Oakridge doesn’t know there’s another Oakridge three thousand miles east, and they probably wouldn’t care if they did!

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For naming things.
I live in a city that translates to ‘River mouth’(founded 1848) in English. And the neighboring town is called ‘Weird mound’(was known as ‘Fir lake’ until 1986, founded 1865). And the one next to that is ‘Knee lake’(founded 1876). Or ‘Bear cove’ where I lived my childhood(now that I think about it, it sounds kind of a cool place to have grown up).
There are many that can’t be translated directly, but most likely there would be similar meaning behind then, it’s just that the language/words has been forgotten as time has passed.

So basically the easiest route to naming towns and villages would be looking at the geography of the village/town and wondering what the villagers thought about the place when they first moved there.

Edit: Had to add an example of an old name, that I stumbled into a few years back. There is a place called Kalmankaltio in the northern wilderness of Finland(in Lapland).
Kalma means death, though in modern day the word is associated with the stench of death. -n after it marks ownership, so the the word is Kalman = Deaths.
Kaltio, is either a really old word or dialect that I was not familiar with(as I live over 800km away). The modern day word would be lähde, and it could be translated to mean well, spring or fountain. The same word lähde is also a word that could mean origin or source.
So the name Kalmankaltio could be translated into either the Spring of Death or the Origin of Death as a name.
So if you have your own language, the names of natural forces(like death, thunder etc.) could be incorporated into names of places as well.

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You can also look at the map of your region and see what names are used - esp village/small towns names. Sometimes you can be surprised what weird things places are named after. Like, one of the biggest city in Poland is called Boat. Not Boatcity or anything fancier, just straight out Boat and we don’t find it weird bc we heard the name of the city from earliest childhood. Though i don’t recommend that way of creating names, bc readers will have cognitive dissonance even if in world people won’t.

I always found naming villages easier, bc there can be so many thing you can use. You can use job names (like smith or miner, but also fantasy ones, just think what that place could be known for), nature (a really characteristic tree or hill or riverside), common animal (like bears or mosquitoes), annual events like market, something of religious significance etc. Just think about either what people of this place hold important or what is the first thing a traveler see when they enter this place.

City names are a bit harder for me, bc they are more likely to evolve over time and are influenced by words and cultures from far away. But then, you have Boat. Or places named after the ruler or founder (though that might be tricky, like Petersburg was named in a western manner, in Russian it would be Petrograd, but since tsar Peter was really into western culture it ended like this and people get used to this).

I hope that helps. :slight_smile:

Edit: I was so preoccupied with cities that i forgot about other questions. As for naming a world - you need a in world name or a name for your use? People don’t usually have a separate word for the world, bc that just it, the world. (Well, you can argue that our world is called the Earth, but that still only one example). For people in world could have the term not for the entire world, but for the big chunk of land they are living at (in your case maybe a continent?) - like Middle-Earth is not the name of the whole Tolkien’s world, even not the biggest, but both the readers and characters treated it more or less as a global name. Actually Tolkien’s world is called Arda, that translates for sth like the Place, so yeah, we’re back at the beginning. Middle-Earth or Earthsea are nice, clean names for the world and you can experiment with sth like this or you can look at origin of our world, but like, we’re not sure what is the origin of the name Europe, and we know very well the origin of the name America, but just forget about this one…

For the last question - if you’re going for more mystical or fairy tale vibe i think that you have just enough. Or from the other side - do you need other places in you world? If not then you don’t need to think abt them now. You can also add them later when you’re writing, or even when you finish. People in those two countries can simply not know about these, esp if it’s far away in the ocean, or they have some religious reasons to believe there is nothing on the other side - think how long Europeans didn’t know about America. Also, it may just not be a common knowledge. So don’t go to deep into worldbuilding, maybe you’ll never even need to know if there are other places in your world.

Wow, that ended up long. :sweat_smile:

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Name generators! I love those, though I try not to use them as much…but it could be useful if I were to throw one together. Thank you!!
Also, thanks for the information overall! Very useful :slight_smile: I didn’t think about pronunciations in different countries, even though I’ve thought about dialects and such before.
(Also, that song will be stuck in my head, now…)

@Rueve Thank you so much! That was very informative. Natural forces…that could sound cool…

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I’ll take a slightly different route.

In English at least, there are a couple of suffixes that are pretty common in place names, particularly for towns and cities. To grab a few off the top of my head, -burg (Edinburg, Scotland; Charlesburg, WI), -ton (Kingston, Jamaica; Edmonton, Alberta), -bridge (Cambridge, MA), -mouth (Dartmouth, NH; Portsmouth, VA), -shire (Gloucestershire, England; the state of New Hampshire), -ing (Reading, England), -ham (Nottingham, etc), and a few others but this list is getting long. Some of these have obvious meanings. “Ton” has the same root as “town” and “burg” is the word for city the Anglo-Saxons brought along. “Bridge” indicates a river crossing, “mouth” the mouth of a river, etc. -Ham and -ing are a little more obscure, but the first has the same root as “home” and “ing” used to indicate this place was named for somebody.

English has a lot of these, both because they indicate different geographical features and honestly because English is a Frankenstein language, but most languages have some. Some may even be prefixes, rather than suffixes, depending on the language (I can’t think of one off the top of my head, but it’s certainly a valid way to do things).

You don’t have to conlang, but if you can think of a couple of endings you like that sound like they might be places? Use them repeatedly. The reader will pick it up. If every port city we run across ends in -nor and you mention the city of Garrinor I’m going to assume it’s somewhere on the water, especially if most of your other place names are Erimon and Trimon.

There are lots of real place names that don’t use that pattern, but it’s an easy way to look consistent. What comes before the suffix can be anything — a person, a geographical feature, something lost to history? And neither you nor your characters have to know?

Worlds are harder? A lot of universes are referred to be fans in an out-of-universe way, or by the place most of the action takes place (Rowling’s Potterverse vs Tolkein’s Middle-earth). Universes with in-universe names happen, but they’re less common (the Discworld is the only one coming immediately to mind). It may be something to play with, or to leave to see what makes the most sense for you?

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@Niofomune Wow, thank you!! That was a beautifully long post, with so many things I hadn’t thought about before…I suppose my characters wouldn’t really know the name of the world…I’ll name their continent instead :smiley: And I must also thank you for mentioning Tolkien. It seems he did everything perfectly, really.
And…hm…maybe there IS a country on the other side of the world that no one knows about :thinking:…thank you again!!!

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@Loki_Mischief-Maker Many thanks!!! Another thing I hadn’t thought of much, though I’ve done that with names of characters (-ien is common for an ending to a girls’ name, in example).

Generally people in-universe name things only when they’re aware of something that isn’t those things and have to distinguish it from those. Our own planet got called “the earth” only to in contrast to “the heavens” and “the seas”. The earth became Earth and the seas became part of it only when we started to become aware of other planets. Our galaxy was called the Milky Way because that was the name a part of the night sky was given, when people were still unaware that we, and all the stars we could see with the naked eye, were all a part of it. We still don’t have, or really need, a name for the entire universe beyond just “the universe”.

This is spectacularly unhelpful when naming fictional worlds to distinguish them from other fictional worlds. The people in-universe don’t know that they’re in a book (usually) or that other books exist, after all. People often refer to fictional universes by the names of major characters (Harry Potter), the location where most of the action takes place (Middle-Earth wasn’t actually the name of Tolkien’s world, just a part of it.), or simply after the name of the series, one of the books, or the name of the author.

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I mainly only use name generators for names that are vanishingly unimportant but still need a name. No need to spend an hour agonizing over an offhanded mention of an unimportant village that has become even more unimportant because the villain just wiped it out while the protagonists were screwing around somewhere else, or that bold, brave captain who boldly, bravely gets killed two pages after being introduced. Most recently I used a namegen to name a teacher who is teaching some young children reading and writing and is only expected to be seen in half of a chapter. It helps me to focus on my writing when I know I can just click a button and get a name that’s phonologically consistent with the language and culture from which it originated.

Some of my major characters and important places have been named with namegens. Usually because they were not major characters to begin with. Suzcecoz originated from a character in a roguelike-type game I played like twenty years ago in which most characters died in five minutes. Some places originated as names of random places people were from, some characters were from lists of students or competitors in a magical contest, etc.

The video game Morrowind makes a good argument against conlanging poorly. There are places named Balmora, Sadrith Mora, Molag Mar, Molag Amur, and Bal Ur, an evil godlike entity named Molag Bal, and by the time someone gets around to telling me about a group called the “Bal Molagmer” I just have to groan. If you do a naming conlang… it needs more than five words in it.

I don’t disagree… but on the flipside, having a limited number of common morphemes can immediately give a reader (or player) a hint about the location or group. Molag Amur and Molag Mar are located in the same area, a depressing hellscape, and Molag Bal is closely associated with horrible things. All the settlements starting with “Tel” are controlled by the Telvanni. And it’s real easy to tell the difference between Dunmer names (just look for tel/mora/bal/molag…), Imperial names (Ebonheart/Pelagiad/Caldera), Daedric shrines (keysmashing, but make it pronounceable), and Dwemer ruins (keysmashing, but with fourteen consonants in a row).

So: yes, I agree that you should have a little more variance than Morrowind. :stuck_out_tongue: But I also think common name parts can lend a lot of flavor to a world and, when picked carefully, can give readers an impression of a place without stopping to explain it.

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