Since I had to change the name of a fantasy species to be more readable and meaningful, I thought I’d share this with you so you can see how I sometimes come up with a fantasy species name.
Sometimes I just sound out the name or look up a word in different languages (like Phoenicopteri was just Latin for flamingo), and sometimes I want the name to carry a certain meaning or two.
Depending on what I’m looking for, my method to creating a new name will change. I will only be talking about one instance and how I resolved it.
Reason for Changing the Name
Before we get into this, let me just say that the steps you will see also apply to names I want up come up with from scratch.
This time, I do have a base (that is, what the species are).
The old name for the species was, Zækphym. They are a humanoid creature that use gems to make magic happen. They also transform into animal-like creatures depending on their ancestry.
No one can pronounce “Zækphym“. I came up with this name on a whim for a Creative Writing class and tried to be super fantasy about it, but then like all names, it stuck. Yet, it has no meaning and it is unnecessarily fantasy, but just as stories need to be revised, so do made-up names.
This is how I created a fantasy species name for this case, yet this method applies to many cases of creating a fantasy name from scratch (for me, and maybe also for you).
Step 1: What do I want?
The first thing I think about is what I want. I want it to be epic, but not too crazy (like Zækphym). I want it to be powerful, but not too aggressive (not a lot of hard sounds like “z”, “g”, “x”, etc.). I want people to be able to pronounce it without struggling. I want it to represent the species.
Step 2: Establishing the keywords
The species originates from enlightened monks, they use gems to perform magic, and they worship celestial bodies. So what are the keywords here? “enlighten”, “gem”, “magic”, and “celestial”. I can’t use “gem” however, because “gemma” is the type of magic they use, so that’s gone.
Step 3: Turn to dictionaries
Now I have established the keywords, I can turn to the dictionary to give me something to build on. I usually go for the thesaurus or the etymology of the words to give me other words which I might then further search synonyms and etymology.
For synonyms, “enlighten” only gave me “illuminate” and the only thing I could think of was the Illuminati, so I ditched that. Then I tried to think of what else means something similar to “enlighten”. So, I changed “enlighten” to “awaken” because their powers were also awakened when the species first came out.
I found wacan.
Wacan = “to awake, arise, originate, to be born” from Proto-Germanic
Then, I tried “magic” and found Old English ” galdorcræft ” which already sounds awesome. From there I found “galdor” which coincidentally points to both spells and the magic itself and, I love the way it sounds – powerful, but not too aggressive.
The “g” sound is powerful but it is softened out with “al”. The “d” is powerful, yet a soft sound and further, the word “galdor” is softened by “or”. (Does all this go through my mind? Pretty much.)
Galdor = song, incantation; enchantment, spell, divination
charm; magic; sorcery, Proto-Germanic
Step 4: Mash Up
Let’s put it all together! (Rosanna Pansino reference)
Now that we have our two words (sometimes it could be three at maximum), we can play around with the order and try to find something nice. It’s good to type it out or write it out so you can see the two words mashed together and go from there. You stop once you like what you see and what you hear. After all, you’re the creator.
Galdorwacan. Basically means, “magic awaken”.
Knowing how words evolve as people slur them together, I tried to imagine how it would have slurred overtime. “wacan” is hard to say so maybe “Galdorwaken”.
I found myself wanting to say “der” instead of “dor” so that would change it to “Galderwaken”. But what a mouthful!
Probably the “wa” would eventually drop: “Galderken”. “Galderken, Galderken…” At this point my mouth wanted to say “kin”.
The final form then is “Galderkin”.
Galderkin, Galderkin, Galderkin…yup, looks and sounds pretty good to me! 😉
That’s how I do it. Of course, like I said, this is only one way I do it out of many. It’s good to have various methods in case one method doesn’t give you want you’re looking for. Anyway, I hope that gave you an idea of how you can make up a fantasy name yourself especially if the meaning of the name is important to you.