Place Names in Fantasy
I've been doing a fair amount of worldbuilding recently as I get deeper into working on Claws of the Chimera. While making the map I needed to name some places - trickier than you'd think, in particular when it came to naming the country. Luckily there are quite a few resources out there to help, and I've summarised some of the best tips I found here.
- Google Translate may not sound like the most exciting thing, but it's probably the most important. If you've got a great name in mind, run it through the translator with it set to 'detect language'. That way, you'll quickly find out if your name means something, particularly if it's rude. I toyed with Setta for the country for a long time - badger-lords named it, after all. But Setta means 'sect' in Italian, which isn't the image I'm going for.
- Use actual landmarks. Tolkien was good at this - think the Shire, the Dead Marshes, Mirkwood, the Lonely Mountain. This ties in to the history of the place; if the first settlers there forded a river, they might well name it Riverford. The same applies to using real suffixes and prefixes, like bury, shire, weald. Here's a complete list of UK ones, courtesy of Wikipedia.
- Say it out loud! I ran into this with a Poisonroot map. One of the countries is Koru - great on paper, except the language is Koruan. Far too close to a real place for my liking. Even the continent was called Ehrian, which sounds way too much like Aryan.
- Use a real country and change the letters, or get something very close, which is exactly what Kevin Deegan-Krause in this article. By matching the most likely combinations, you get almost-real European sounding names like Neonia, Malistan and Sodor. The graphic he did to demonstrate this is really quite beautiful as well:
If all else fails, there are plenty of name generators out there. Some are better than others; some are certainly funnier than others:
- Serendipity Country Name generator
- Name Generator or Name Generator 2's Country setting
- Fantasy Name Generator is one that I use especially often in Dungeons and Dragons, as there are just so many options. If you fancy a laugh, though, try the Forests setting. It only took a few clicks before I had Fart Woods, and nothing was serious after that.