Climates and Biomes

In this post I will be talking about all the different climates you might want to include in your world and how they all fit together, some info on each and the kinds of animals and challenges faced to live there. Many people are happy to place climates as they like, but you might want to keep the world as realistic as possible, at least in terms of environment.

If you’ve followed my working out climates tutorial you’ll recognise this table.


  Temperature Precipitation Location
Name Summer Winter Summer Winter  
Desert Hot Hot Dry (Low) Dry (Low) 0 – 30
Semi- Arid Desert Hot Hot Wet (High) Dry (Low) 0 – 15


Surrounds Desert

Tropical Hot Hot Wet (High) Wet (High) 0-20
Savannah Hot Warm Wet (High) Long and Dry (Low) 15 – 30


Between Tropical and semi-Desert

Steppe Warm Cold Low Dry (Low) 30 – 60
Temperate Grassland Warm to Mild Cold Moderate (High) Low (Low) 20 – 65
Temperate Forest Warm to Mild Cold Moderate (High) Low (Low) 20 – 65
Taiga Cold Very Cold Moderate (High) Dry (Low) 50 – 70
Tundra Cold Very Cold Low Dry (Low) 60 – 80
Icecap Very Cold Very Cold Low Dry (Low) 75+


Of course there are variations within each climate but these are the main ones. It might seem obvious, but don’t place a hot climate next to a cold climate, consider the temperature changes.. Bridge a desert and temperate climate with savannah, for example.


Many rain forests experience more than 100 inches of rain every year. Precipitation may also come in the form of fog and mist, like the clouds surrounding this rain forest in Borneo.

Tropical climates are hot and wet with heavy rains and are found near the equator. Tropical climates usually only have two seasons, wet and dry, which can vary in length depending on location.. Temperature variation is often minimal with a high amount of sunlight. This level of sunlight and plentiful rainfall is ideal conditions for plant life, which can in turn support plentiful animal life. Tropical plants tend to be rich in natural resources.

Animals and humans living there have to be adapted to be able to deal with the heat. Many do this by sleeping all day and being active during twilight hours or at night to avoid peak heat. Some burrow underground as its much cooler, some are simply able to withstand higher temperatures, and if so you’ll be unlikely to see these elsewhere.


Not everything needs to be a forest

Savanna environments are dominated by grassland and scattered trees due to the low rainfall. They are usually warm all year round, but long and dry winters make life difficult. Water becomes scarce and wildfires are common, often caused by lightning striking the ground and igniting the dry grasses. Pockets of trees are often found near streams or ponds.

Many animals living in the savanna are herbivours due to the abundance of grasses. During the dry winter months, the lack of water often drives the herds to migrate to other areas in search of water.

Savannah animal are often fast, herbivores move in herds and packs of predators hunt in groups using speed, stealth and tactics. Endurance is a trait that is common here.

Arid Desert

Sahara | Location, History, Map, Countries, Animals, & Facts | Britannica

Anywhere where vegetation is scarce would be considered a desert, hot or cold. Rain is often light or infrequent and can evaporate quicker than it can fall. Sometimes even before it hits the ground!

Any plants have adapted to survive will be experts at finding and storing water, often with shallow, widely spread roots and thick leaves to store any water it does manage to find.

Many animals that live in the desert are cold blooded and any mammals are often small. It is very hard to survive in a hot desert and cold deserts can support even less animals. If possible many animals will live near the coast, or any other water source for access to fish and so on.

Hot and dry all year round, these environments can support little life and only the bravest would cross. Life will be concentrated around rivers and oasis.

Semi-Arid Desert

Semi-Arid Desert Environment in Environments - UE Marketplace

Semi-arid deserts are cooler than hot dry deserts and are often more humid. If they are near the coasts, fog could blow in. Rainfall would be more than a dry desert, but not enough to support widespread vegetation. They are generally found around the fringes of arid deserts, as the biomes merge from one to the other. Some might experience short rainy seasons, which support some vegetation, but not enough to become a savanna. Plants an animals are often quite similar to arid deserts.


Konza Prairie stretches out near Manhattan, Kansas. The American prairie is a steppe ecosystem. A steppe is a dry, grassy plain that occurs in temperate climates.

A steppe is a dry grassy plain, found in temperate climates, which are found between polar and tropical regions. Steppe’s are considered semi-arid as they have a low amount of rainfall, just enough to sustain short grasses, but not enough for tall grass or trees to grow.

Communities that live here are often heavily reliant on horses for travel, trade and conquest. The steppes themselves are ideal routes for travel and trade due to the flat open terrain.

Temperate Grassland

Life In A Temperate Grassland

Temperate grasslands are large open areas of grassland, similar to the Steppe, but with more rainfall. Charictarised by low growing vegetation on acidic soils, which leads to a lack of larger vegetation (ie would otherwise grow into a temperate forest).

Temperate Forest

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This biome receives a lot of rainfall all year round, with mild to warm summers and cold winters. Animals that live here are adapted to cope with warm summers and cold winters, some hibernate or migrate to avoid the cold, others have adaptions such as thick winter coats.


Taiga forests for kids - location, climate, plants and animals

Taiga lies between temperate forests and tundra and as such are the forests of the colder regions. The ground can often contain permafrost all year round. Along with rock, this can stop water from draining away and can create shallow bogs, which can look like solid ground but are actually wet and spongey.

The forests are thick and have adapted to survive long cold dark winters and short summers. A wide range of animals live in the taiga, all will have adapted to the cold. Birds will often migrate to warmer climates for winter, but other animals live here all year round.


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Tundra ia cold harsh enviroment with a distinct lack of trees due to permafrost and high winds. Combined with a lack of rainfall, this leads to low-level of vegetation. For much of the year the area is cold and frozen, with a short warmer growing season. Alpine tundra would be found at a very high elevation where nightime temperatures fall below freezing.

Any animals will be well adapted to make use of the short growing season and often build up large fat stores to sustain and insulate them throughout the long winters. They often have thick coats and many migrate or hibernate.

Icecap / Polar Region

The Arctic Vs. Antarctica: Choosing Your Polar Trip | Intrepid Travel Blog

(AKA cold deserts) These are the regions of the world covered in a sheet of ice for most of the year and are some of the harshes regions of them all, yet life still finds a way. Any plants and animals that live here will have adapted to the long, cold, dark winters and will take advantage of the short, productive summers. Many animals will be migratory. Most soil will be covered in ice most of the time and any soil that is exposed is often low in nutrients.


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Credited to u/darkblade273

The most common map guides I’ve found glance over coastlines as just “use a fractal generator” or “just make it really jagged and never use straight/curved lines”, which are only really suitable for some regions of the world. Coastlines are affected by elevation, underlying tectonic plates, and climate, which are never really touched upon, so I made this short guide as to different types of coastlines.

Here are pics of real world coastlines of varying sizes with parts outlined in black, to better help visualize what coastlines look like at various levels of zoom in.

Any Elevation, Temperate / Warm / Hot Regions


  • The most common coastal pattern, straight lines that sometimes bend into points or have very small inlets/estuaries for rivers or tiny islands at the coast
  • No recent glacial activity, so no fjords or inlets like in glacier affected regions

High Elevation, North/South Regions


  • Glaciers carve fjords and islands into the elevated areas of the coastline
  • Lots of tiny little bays and inlets, also lakes
  • In other areas coastlines are rigid, but fairly straight

Low Elevation, North/South Regions


  • Glacier activity still carvves lakes and islands, but not as dramatic and no real fjords
  • Mostly straight lines that curve or come to points at places
  • Lots of lakes still

Oceanic Island Chains


  • Oceanic island chains are where Oceanic plates converge with other places, they result in chains of many volcanic islands following the boundary of the plate
  • Glacial activity is possible if islands are close to poles, like in eastern Russia, which results in fjords and islands
  • Even without glacial activity, have large amounts of tiny islands surrounding big islands, all of them volcanic

Continental-Continental Mountainous Regions*


  • * In areas where continental plates converge with an open sea coast, like the Mediterranean Sea or the Persian Gulf, there’s an increase of islands around the main peninsulas and coastlines
  • Lots of islands with jagged coasts and inlets, closest to the typical fractal generation



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Using Natural Wonders as Holy Sites, Points of Conflict and Mystery in you World

I was recently rewatching David Attenborough’s Planet Earth (which I highly recommend), and there’s a part where a waterfall is so high up that the water falls unbroken for so long that it blows away in a fine mist. This got me thinking that this would likely be a spiritual or sacred place for nearby settlements. Here are some examples. Angel Falls – Venezuela angel falls.jpg Angel Falls in Venezuela has a height of 979 m (3,212 ft) and a plunge of 807 m (2,648 ft)making it the highest waterfall in the world. So high up that much of the water evaporates before it reaches the ground and turns into a fine mist which is spread across the land, keening the surrounding lands lush and full of life even in the most dry of seasons. You can easily imagine local tribes honouring this place and its life giving properties. The Grand Canyon – Colorado, USA grand canyon.jpg The Grand Canyon 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (6,093 feet or 1,857 meters). The Canyon has, for thousands of years, been inhabited by Native Americans who build settlements within the Canyon and caves. At least one tribe, the Pueblo considered it a holy site and made pilgrimages to it. Perhaps in your world, a great canyon such as this may be viewed as the battlegrounds of the gods. Glow Worms & Fireflies glowworms.jpg fireflies.jpg Fireflies and Glow worms are pretty magical in the own right. Perhaps some legends will tell of a forest that lights up with flying lights when the gods are pleased, or the glow worm cave might be a sacred site. Mud Volcanos mud volcano.jpg These strange formations, found in Azerbaijan are where gasses and fine solids suspended in liquids (mud) are pushed up out of the ground causing volcanos and ravines. Kummakivi kummakivi.png.jpg Kummakivi, Finland is a giant rock, sat atop another in the middle of a forest. Legend has it, it was placed there by giants. Hoodoos hoodoo.jpg Found in Cappadocia, Turkey, these towers were created by erosion. They are so large buildings can be carved into the side of them. The fact that they are also known as Fairy Chimneys indicates that legends will have around these formations. The Giants Causeway A surreal collection of hexagonal rock formations stacked together like play pieces in Northern Ireland. Local legend has it was the site of a fight between the Northern Irish giant Finn McCool (yes thats his name!) and Scottish giant Brenandonner where McCool ripped off chunks of the coast and hurled it into the sea to make a walk way! The Northern Lights Imagine seeing this hundreds or thousands of years ago. The tribal elders would almost certainly claim the Gods are pleased with the tribe, or they are witnessing the birth of a new god or something like this. You can use this in your worldbuilding. This might be a sight that unites the tribes, or a point of contention with differing views. Salar de Uyuni The reflective salt sands of Bolivia; its easy to imagine some long lost traveller returning to his village telling stories where world ended and there was only the sky. You can use these to spice up your world and add character with interesting natural formations, as locations for sacred sites, inspiration for legends, points of conflict as different people fight over important holy locations. ——————
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Drawing Culture Maps and Using Them to Produce Plot Points

Today I’m going to be talking about a technique you can use to inject your world with conflicts, situations and drama, by drawing a new overlay for your map. This technique is inspired by the Paradox Games such as Crusader Kings 2 and Europa Universalis 4. You can think of Cultures as Ethnicities if it helps. (I imagine many worldbuilders have already played these games, but if you haven’t check them out. You’re in for a treat). What is a Culture Map and what does it do for me? The aim of the culture map is to give you material to work with when it comes to your history. It is a way of breathing life into your world. The tool directly creates situations which you can choose to develop. Rather than working through your countries one by one, it allows you to build up several at once by almost generating situations for you. For example you might have a country that is populated by a several different cultures, bordering a country with a culture of a different group. You as the worldbuilder can take this and develop it. This country might be a diverse land with different tribal ethnic groups squabbling for power, but prevented from civil war by the threat of the neighbouring barbarians bringing with them a completely different and alien way of life. Even though I had info on different countries, and a good idea of their culture, the political map can still look rather static. I found it hard to weave a nice history around the states. I felt like I was following a checklist, disputed succession here, ethnic minority rulers here, civil war there. I was getting caught up in how different cultures should be from their neighbours, whether there is a common religion across this region etc and a Culture Map can help overcome this. map.png We’re going to create something like this. You can use this on your current world or on a new world. If its your current world, I would suggest hiding the nation boundaries so you don’t follow them too much, then enabling them at the end and taking a look what has developed. How to do it This guide assumes you are using GIMP, PS, or program that has layers. Duplicate your map / terrain layer.  Hide the bottom one. On the top layer, erase the sea and water bodies. Follow the coast as close as you can. Right click the layer and hit Alpha to Selection. Make a new layer, lower the opacity to about 50%. Select the new layer. This allows you to paint on your cultures without painting in the sea, over lakes etc. Always remember to click Alpha to Selection on on the second layer and then draw on your top layer. This way you can show and hide your cultures and your coastlines will be nice and neat. Points to Consider Colour in different areas on the map to show the (dominant) cultures there. I prefer to do each separate culture and then group them after into different culture groups, or religions.
  • Use the terrain to guide you. People living in mountains are going to have cultural differences and traditions from those living in humid swamps, who would again have different cultures form those living on temperate plains or islands.
  • Use geographical features such as rivers, mountains and the coast act as natural boundaries for some culture, but also imagine a history of culture expansion and transition as people, ideas and empires spread across the land. Allow this to guide you to smudge your cultures around your mountains and across the river. Don’t worry about how the culture came to be over here, just know that at some point in your world’s history there’s a reason, which you can discover later on if you want.
  • Tough to handle terrain, where its harder to travel, tends to lead to more linguistic/cultural diversity.

Darker brown areas indicate higher mountains. Mountain ranges will form natural boundaries to cultures, such as those dividing Pink and Green. In this section of the map we have several cultures nestled around the mountain peaks .The Blue culture, in the centre, is localised in the higher regions of the mountains.

  • Don’t make them too blobby or follow your Political Map too much. Cultures won’t fit neatly into political borders. They aren’t spread evenly and don’t have even populations. They can take much longer to change that nation boundaries. They can be spread across nations and be of different sizes and shapes. one culture might be large, but but its people spread across four nations and be a minority in each. There might be three separate Kingdoms all belonging the same culture type.
  • Some cultures may pop up in unusual places, away from their main area. Perhaps relics of fallen Empires, or new expansion efforts?

In this section of the map, you see an area of Green culture cut off from the majority of their kin. They are separated by high mountains (brown) and the Purple culture in the lowlands. The people here are likely to want to reunite themselves with one another

  • Small or remote cultures. Some cultures might resist change in more remote areas from lack of contact, strong cultural identity or sheer stubbornness. Consider putting these in remote areas, peninsulas or islands on the back side of a larger Empire.

Here there have a number of small cultures on the islands. Brown culture hugging the coast where Blue dominates. In the East, Purple holds on in to two remote areas. Perhaps they are a fading culture, once dominating the lands between them too?

Culture Groups Many cultures have a similarities. Several may share a religion or the same cultural roots. They have more that binds them than separates them when they consider their similarities and differences.
  • Look to the terrain again. Try picture what regions might have more common ground.
  • Think about your history. Rising empires will spread their culture across a region or a collapsed empire’s culture might fracture into a number of successor cultures that share a group, and a history.
Process Use the Fuzzy Select Tool (select area of continuous colour). Holding shift, select all cultures of the same group. Select a new layer. Then Edit – > Stroke Selection. I used 3px as width. cultureMapWGroups Show Country Borders Drawing country borders using criteria such as those above will ensure your countries will broadly match your cultures. If you already have borders, simply re-enable them and take a look and see whats being going on. cultureMapWBorders.png Putting It All Together: Plot Points Using this technique, you can generate loads of plot points or areas of history for you to explore. Take this section of the map. plotPoint1
  • Are there any minorities?: In this country on the southern half of the land mass there are 4 cultures. Three cultures belonging to to the red culture group, and one to dark blue. These two regions are a different culture group to the majority of their country. Are they persecuted?
  • Who is in control? How is their relationship with the others?: The two large cultures are split pretty equally. They might be two large factions of the country vying for control, have a bit of a divide or a friendly rivalry.
  • Common Enemy: Most of the countries on this protruding landmass are in the red culture group, they might all share an animosity to the light blue culture group, or a defensive alliance to protect one another.
  • Separatist movements: In the central large country, there are a few orange cultures, and a blue region in the west. This region has a completely different culture to the majority of its country, it borders regions in other countries and borders a country where its culture is dominant. Any one of these might be cause for rebellion. All three means civil unrest is likely be very high here.
  • Claims to the Land: The orange country holds lands belonging to the culture of its neighbour. That neighbour is likely to declare war at some point to free and reunite their people.
  • Why is the culture spread like this?: Perhaps blue used to hold all these lands and wishes to reconquer them. Perhaps orange is a new radical religion that is sweeping from the mountains in the east and spreading across west as more and more people adapt to the new way of life.
  • Patchwork Countries: These mountain regions are a patchwork mess of interweaving nations and cultures. Borders here seem particularly fluid, short lived empires might be prone here. Maybe its a region of mountain warlords constantly subjugating one another, spreading their cultures around.
So you can see how much material and inspiration a culture map can give you to develop your world and its history. It can be a great way to breathe life into your world and be another way to look at it. Thanks for reading. ——————
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Advice For New Writers

It can be tempting to jump straight into writing and I admire and encourage your enthusiasm, but there are some things it would be good to know first. Writing is a well trodden path with many pitfalls which can knock an aspiring writer’s confidence and slow progress. It is always wise to learn from those who have gone before you if you do not wish to make the same mistakes. These are some key points of advice.

Don’t Let Doubt Kill Your Excitement

There will be times when you look at your writing and think “This is terrible” or worse, “I’m not good enough”. At their worst, these thoughts can weigh you down untill you stop writing all together. But don’t worry, all writers have these thoughts from to time, especially the less experienced. All you have to do, is ignore those thoughts and the self doubt, and keep writing. Recognise what is good in your work and build on that. Maybe there’s elements that need changing, but if you keep writing, you will get better. If you are having doubts, tell yourself “This is good, but I know it can be better”. This leads into the next piece of advice.

Your First Draft Will Be Terrible

When you write, you will naturally compare it to works you have read. But you will be comparing your first draft with someone else’s final product which is the result of any number of redrafts. It might take several rewites of a paragraph before you are happy with it, this is fine. The first draft is for you and only you. You don’t show it to anyone, it is just to get the ideas out. It is to let the creativity flow freely from you on to the page. Don’t stem this flow by worrying about each sentence and paragraph, just write and worry about making it readable later. I think this Terry Pratchett quote sums it up nicely. “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” So don’t worry about your first draft being terrible, many writers say theirs hardly even make sense, just get it written. “Great books aren’t written, they’re rewritten”.

Characters Are More Important Than Worlds

This is something I struggle with especially coming at the hobby from the worldbuilding angle. Vast complex worlds with rich history and developed cultures mean nothing if the characters populating them don’t engage the reader. If your characters aren’t up to scratch, you’ll find you are not all that invested in them, and if you are not, how can your reader be? And then you’ll struggle to finish your story. If the characters are complex, well developed with rich personalities then it will be much easier to write, as the characters will show you where they need to go and you will have a much easier time finishing. Think of it like this. If you have a rich setting, but an undeveloped character you’ll struggle to guide them through, because you’ll have to stop and think a lot, but if the character is well developed, not the setting, the character will keep moving as if they were real and you will naturally create the setting to hold the character. “Believable, larger a life characters will save a well-worn plot but a unique world with unempathetic characters will always be doomed.” ~ u/novelconcepts (Think how successfull Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray are).

Any Rule Can Be Broken Is Not The Same As There Are No Rules

Rules are there for a reason. Sure you can mess around them, subvert them, and even outright ignore them. However if you do this with every rule you’ll find that your story structure has collapsed and you’ll be left with a mess. Many of the rules are well established and are the result of many years of work. Break the right rules for your story, but don’t ignore the rest of them. Some example rules
  • A beginning puts an interesting character in an interesting world with an interesting problem to solve.
  • Your character should be empathetic.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Murder your darlings.
  • Great books aren’t written, they’re rewritten

Write What You Know, And Write What You Believe

If you know a lot about mythology, use mythology for inspiration, involve myths in your story, or even go ahead and write a myth itself! Presumably the reason you know so much about mythology is because you’re interested in it. If you’re interested, you’ll keep writing, which is always the main thing, to keep writing. If you write about something you hardly know anything about you’ll most likely spend a lot of time researching your topic.

Write Everyday

A lot of people say write 1000 words a day. If you can’t manage that, no worries, write 500 a day, or 300. The point is to keep writing every day. This gets you into a good habit, a good rhythm and keeps everything fresh on your mind. If you smash out 8000 words in a weekend and then do nothing for two weeks, you’ll most likely struggle to get back into it and you won’t have as many great ideas of a new character arcs, subplots or stellar desciption strike you as when the story is on the forfront of your mind. Write Short Stories First Yes I know, its not the advice you wanted to hear. I ignored it too when I started out, got 8000 words into my story and lost my way with it as many of the core concepts and my skills weren’t developed enough. Leave your big idea on the back burner, by all means keep planning and developing it while you practice and hone your craft on short stories. Then by the time you come to write your big novel, you’ll have all the skills ready to tackle it from the start, rather than learning as you go and burning out. Also a lot of publishers nowadays want you to have published a few short stories and to have put your name on the map before they take the time to read your manuscript. This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. It is also great to practice your skills on stories that don’t require a huge time commitment. Short stories teach you to be economical with your words. A good way to do this is to join a writing forum and get involved in the short story competitions (something we may have here one day ;)).

Plan Properly

“Fail to plan? Plan to Fail.” Slightly controvertial as some writers can just sit down with an idea and write and see where it takes them, but most need to plan it out a bit. Especially less experienced writers. If you’ve planned properly then you know where you are going, who your characters are, what you are trying to achieve in each scene, what the character arcs are. Its much easier to figure this out before you start writing, than to get part way through, realise you overlooked something then have to redo everything. This is likely to be a big motivation killer for new writers, so avoid this by planning and outlining.

Read More

The more you read, the better your writing will be. Its that simple. Your understanding of the craft will improve, you will feel more inspired and its always good to remember what got you into the hobby in the first place. Reading lots will help build up your repertoire of styles, sentence structure, character arcs, conflicts. Reading widely in your genre will help you know the genre, its tropes, which are overplayed, which are growing in popularity. Join A Writing Group Writing can be a lonely pursuit, but it doesn’t have to be. A writing group can help keep you motivated, provide a place for you to learn, bounce ideas, discuss the craft, critique and receive feedback. It is a good place for you to grow as a writer.

Don’t Give Up

If you keep writing, you’ll keep getting better. You’ll get there. If you aim is to be famous or make lots of money, reevaluate yourself. Your aim should be to tell the stories you have to tell in the best way you are able. The money and fame may come if you’re very lucky, but if you have done your story justice then you can be proud. Hopefully you’ve found these useful and let me know in the comments what I’ve missed and I’ll add it in. ——————
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Naming Languages Part 4/4: Bringing it Together and Putting it to Use

Now it’s time for us to bring our little naming language together, ironing out some details, making some revisions, and writing up a little mini-grammar on the language. We’ll also be putting it to practice to see how well it functions.

First of all will be the changes to the phonology. The original list of phonemes I had chosen was as follows:

Consonants: /p b t d k g m n ɲ f s ʃ x h ɾ w j/

Vowels:        /i y e a o ɯ u/

We also had a syllable structure of (C)V(C) We’re going to change this up a bit by adding some sounds and removing others, as well as writing them up in a more organized way. The following is a little mini-grammar on this naming language.

Language Name: Fteki

PHONOLOGY (IPA values in slashes, Orthography/Romanization in angled brackets)


Stops:           /p t c k q/ <p t c k q>

Nasals:          /m n ɲ ŋ/ <m n ñ ng>

Fricatives:     /f v s z ʃ ʒ x ɣ/ <f v s z š ž kh gh>

Tap:              /ɾ/ <r>

Approximant:  /w j/ <w y>

Vowels:        /i y e ø a o u/ <i ü e ö a o u>

Syllable Structure


1 is any consonant

F is a voiceless fricative (f, s, ʃ, x) if C1 is an obstruent (p t c k q f v s z ʃ ʒ x ɣ)

V is any vowel

C2 is any consonant except /w/ or /j/


Word order is VSO

Determiners and numbers come before their nouns

Adjectives come after their nouns.


Synthetic typology


Plural:           -(a)n         -akh                 -iž

Infinitive:     -tir

3pl.pres:        -em


Actor:           c(e)-

Location:      hr(o)-

Nominalizer: -vek

Adjectivizer:   -ri

Diminutive: -(a)f

Augmentative: -oz



Human Terms

Qasi – City

Net – Town

Netaf – Village

Skola – Gate

Mikhtü – Crossroad

Tönvek – Ship


Kura – Hill

Stiri – Pass

Pušra – Forest

Süfna – Sea

Mösin – Beach

Celüs – Peninsula  

Qero – Spring,Well

Isti – Tree

Štam – Rock, boulder

Ñasa – River


Khte – all

Skimri – Blessed

Wirü – New

Ñöfqi – Great


Khdir – White

Aste – Red

Manga – Silver

Rin – Blue

Rinoz – Bright blue, Azure


Fužtir – to be able

Žetir – To see

Skimtir – To bless

Töntir – To Sail


O/E – The

Qoña – God

You don’t really need verbs if you’re only naming places/people/things. And this tiny lexicon is just to give you an idea of how you could structure your mini grammar. You might find that you need less, or even more than the words that are in the sections above. It’s all dependent on the world that you’re building. But, now that we have our mini-grammar all laid out, let’s put this language to practice and see how well it functions. Here’s a little map of the nation in which this language is spoken, with various settlements and features named.

Fteki Nation

As for people’s names, I like the idea of verbal nominaliztions being common, such that you get people like Cetön – Sailor, and Ceže – Seer/Guide, and Ceskim – Priest (literally Blesser).



Here are two more mini-grammars for some naming languages with different characteristics than the one above, just to show some of the variety you can get.

Tal Kan Wuç

Tal Kan Wuç is spoken in the archipelago nation of Tal Kan Sig. There are two dialects. The southern dialect is considered the standard version of the language, spoken in the capital and by the queen. However, the northern dialect is seen as a bastardization by traders and fishermen living on those islands.

I’ve decided to incorporate a little mini-lesson into this one – making dialects. You don’t have to include them, but like all other things, it’s just another layer of depth to the world. You also don’t have to get too crazy with them either. Just changing a few sounds here and there is often enough for the purposes of a naming language. Here are some of the places dialects can arise:

  • Across natural boundaries such as large rivers, mountain ranges, or on different islands
  • Rural vs. Urban areas
  • In different social classes such as rich vs. poor.
  • Basically anywhere people are separated from each other for whatever reasons.

So what’s the best way to make some dialects? The simplest and most effective way for the purposes of a naming language is to just change the first sound (specifically consonants) in systematic ways. These will have the most pronounced effect. Here are some things to consider changing between the dialects:

  • Where one has voiceless stops, the other can have the voiced ones – Para, Tina, Kole vs. Bara, Dina, Gole.
  • Stops vs. Fricatives – Pilir, Daska, Kom vs. Filir, Zaska (Dhaska/ðaska/ and /ʒaska/ also being a possibility), Xom
  • Voiced stops vs. Nasals – Bosur, Dimet, Gariz vs. Mosur, Nimet, Ngariz (/ŋariz/)
  • Stops vs. Affricates – Pasa, Taiko, Kyyler vs. Pfasa, Tsaiko/Chaiko(/tʃaiko/), Kxyyler
  • Fricatives vs. Affticates – Fomo, Sana, Xemi vs. Pfomo, Tsana, Kxemi
  • Affricates vs. other Affricates – this really words best with the coronal (made with the front of the tongue) sounds – Tsara vs. Chara
  • /w/ vs. /v/ – Wakari vs. Vakari
  • R’s vs. l’s – Rözun vs. Lözun
  • /l/ vs. w/j – Lana vs. Wana vs. Yana (as a note, for phonological reasons this can work a lot better at the ends of words – Kaasal vs. Kaasaw vs. Kaasay))
  • R’s vs. R’s – /rezu/ /ɾezu/ /ʀezu/ /ʁezu/ /ɹezu/ /ɻezu/ etc.
  • Interdentals (θ ð) vs. t/d, s/z, f/v – Theeso vs. Teeso vs. Seeso vs. Feeso
  • Aspirates vs. Plain – Phaka, Thekto, Khama vs. Fako, Sekto, Xama
  • Ejectives vs. Plain – P’iros, T’awis, K’ulam vs. Piros, Tawis, Kulam

Also note that most of these differences could occur at the ends of words or medially (between vowels) instead. So that’s something to keep in mind when making your dialects as well.

Changing up the vowels between dialects can be a bit messier, and to avoid going beyond the scope of this guide, I’m going to stick with one very common difference – vowel mergers. That is, what may be two (or more) separate vowels in one dialect have merged into just one in another. Here are some ideas:

  • In a five vowel system /i e a o u/, the middle vowels (e o) merge with the high ones to give a three vowel system /i a u/ – Kena, sorim, Areto vs. kina, surim, aritu
  • In a seven vowel system /i e ɛ a ɔ o u/, the low middle vowels (ɛ ɔ) merge with the two above to give a five vowel system /i e a o u/
  • Similarly, the high middles (e o) can merge with the high vowels giving /i ɛ a ɔ u/
  • Where one dialect has /ɛ/ and /æ/, the other has only one of them.
  • Where one dialect has long vowels, the other does not.

Essentially what you want to do is take vowels which are relatively close together in the vowel space and merge them together. So, merging /æ/ and /u/ doesn’t make much sense since they’re so different. But merging /y/ and /u/ does, since they’re both high round vowels.

So now let’s get into Tal Kan Wuç!

Tal Kan Sig Map

PHONOLOGY (values are given in IPA)


Stops:           /p b t d k g/   <p b t d k g>

Nasals:          /m n/             <m n>

Fricatives:     /f s h/            <f s h>

Affricates:    /ts dz tʃ dʒ/   <c z ç j>

Trill:              /r/                  <r>

Approximant:  /w l j/            <w l y>

Vowels (South Dialect):      /i e ɛ a ɔ o u/    <i ei e a o ou u>

Vowels (North Dialect):      /i ɛ a ɔ u/       <i/ei e a o ou/u>

Syllable Structure


C1 is any consonant

V is any vowel

W is /w/ after /a e/ and /j/ after /a o/

C2 is any consonant except glides (w j)


Word order is SVO

Adjectives before nouns

Numbers before nouns

Determiners not marked


Isolating morphology




Island – Lay

Archipelago – Kan

Ocean – Wal

Reef – Jan

Cliff – Ray

Bay – Ko

Mountain – Rez

Point/Peninsula – Im

Beach – Sin

River – Wos

Harbor – Ju

Flora & Fauna

Fish – Mi

Crab – Cei

Turtle – Tal

Egg – Tei

Ray – Kar

Seagull – Gaw

Oyster – Hay

Tree – Nos

Nut – Pek

Prey – Zer

Human Terms

Temple – Han

Capital – Nak

Town – Tei

Port – Mec

Nation – Sig


Language – Wuç

North – Gou

South – Pay

Knife – Bay

Sun – Maw

Pearl – Sein


Big – War

Small – Çed

Many – Çou

Long – Eij

Beautiful – Nay

Safe – Fi


The – Ci  

Who/Which – May

Sleep – Ik

One – Sa

Two – Mei

Three – Ga

Four – Ço

Five – Fer

From – an

Of, belonging to – Ke


Tal Kan names are structured as follows:

Personal name – clan name – an/ke island

Personal names are usually a positive adjective, whereas clan names are based on animals. The use of “an” before the island name is restricted to the southern islands (War Lay, Eij Lay, and Mei Ray), while the northern islands (Çou Hay Lay, Tei ke Tal, Pek Nos Lay, War Cei, and Çed Cei) prefer to use “ke + island name”. Some common names being Nay Kar an War Lay or Sein Cei ke Çed Cei (Yes, Pearl is also a common name for both men and women).


Xihopa is the native language spoken on the desert moon Rewa, which serves as a communications outpost and trading hub for the Joakan Federation of Planets.

Orbital Map of Rewa

PHONOLOGY (values are given in IPA)


Stops:           /p t k ʔ/         <p t k ‘>

Nasals:          /m n ŋ/          <m n g>

Fricatives:     /ɸ s ʃ ɬ h/       <f s x l h>

Trill:              /r/                  <r>

Approximant:  /w/                <w>

Vowels:        /i e a o/          <i e a o>

Syllable Structure



Word order is SOV

Adjectives before nouns

Numbers before nouns

Determiners as suffix on noun


Agglutinative morphology


Plural: -mi

Definite: -a

Accusative: -xo

Genitive: -iho

Locative: -lo

3s: – pe


Place of: -siki

Place with lots of: -xamo

Adj > Noun: -sa

Noun > Adj: -lana

Diminutive – gi

Augmentative – tu



Planet – Xiana

Mountain – Sagiga  

Cliff – Pala

Canyon – Palaxamo

Plain – Ka’o

Saltflat – Lekisiki

River – Fiwe

Forest – Koaxamo

Ocean, Sea – Po’a

Village/town/city – Rasi

Salt – Leki

Snow – Wotowa

Tree – Koa

Tower – Tohi

Captain – Kapitana


Long – Kele

Southern – Wawaxi

Red – Koli

Blue/Green – Laxe

Black – Kigo


To run – ana

To climb – Ixima

To fight – ese

To watch – Oro

Xihopa names can vary from town to town, but the most common type of name is one which is essentially a small sentence:

Lekilo Anape – Runs on Salt

Sagigaxo Iximape – Climbs Mountains

Kapitanaxo Esepe – Fights the Captain

Tohimi Orope – Watches Towers


And so we can see that with a little bit of effort, you can create a great deal of depth and flavour for your world. I hope that this guide has been useful to everyone and will inspire you all to get creative with naming in your worlds.


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Morphology, Character Names & Typology (3/4)


The section is going to be about creating some basic morphology for your naming language.

Morphology deals with the morphemes that exist in your language and how your words are built up. Morphemes are the smallest units in a language that have any sort of grammatical meaning. These are things like roots (book, man, tree) and affixes (un-, -s, -ly, dis-). There are two types of morphology you should know about, inflectional morphology and derivational morphology.

Inflectional Morpohology

Inflectional morphology deals with the addition of morphemes to a root (such as affixes) or the changing of the root itself to show grammatical information. These are things like the –ed in “talked” that shows past tense, the –s in “dogs” to show plurality, or the way that “I” changes to “me” to show that the speaker is the object of the verb. For the purposes of a naming language the most useful will be some way of marking plurals. There are of course several ways to do this. One is to just use an affix like English does. Affixes can come in various places. There are prefixes and suffixes which attach before and after their base word respectively. Then there are infixes, which are inserted inside of their base word. A great example of this that is taught to every student of linguistics is the infix which occurs in English. For the sake of being polite, I’m going to use its lesser form “freaking” as in abso-freaking-lutely. There are also circumfixes, which go around their base word. Another possible way to mark your plural is to use a process called apophony, which is the changing of sounds within a root. An example of this from English is “foot” becoming “feet” in the plural. Of course you don’t have to change the vowels. You could change the consonants instead. This could give something like “foot” becoming “voot” or “foon”. Reduplication involves duplicating part or all of the root. So if “sata” is “mountain in your language, “sasata”or “satasata” would be “mountains”. Lastly, you could just not mark the plurals in any way. This is something that Japanese does. I could easily say “I have three book” and you would know that I have more than one book because I said a number with it.

Derivational Morphology

Derivational morphology is far more useful for a naming language. Derivational morphemes are used to either change the part of speech of a word, change its meaning altogether, or even both. With these sorts of morphemes you can

         Turn adjectives into nouns (happy > happiness)

         nouns into adjectives (swamp > swampy)

         verbs into nouns (write > writer)

         Verbs into adjectives (burn > burnt/burned)

         Turn nouns into other nouns (Father > fatherhood)

Being able to change nouns and adjectives into the other is especially useful for map labeling. Some other useful ones are ways of denoting “person who does X” as in the writer example above and “place/land of X”. As an example, these are some of the words that could be derived from a root meaning “horse”:

Actor/person: Knight, Cavalryman, Jockey, Cowboy

Place of:       Plain, Stables, Paddock

Tool:             Whip, Bridle, Saddle, Reins, Sword, Pike, Lance, Bow

Adjective:    Fast, Skittish, Noble

Diminutive: Colt, Foal, Filly

Collection:    Herd, Cavalry, Army



Another form of derivation is compounding, that is, smushing two or more root words together to form a new one. Examples include doghouse, Oxford (a ford is a shallow place where water can be crossed), and Neuchâtel (literally “new castle”). When coming up with a new word for your language, think about whether you want that word to be its own word with a unique root, some derivative of another word, or a compound of two other words. For instance, while English has separate words for “king” and “queen”, another language might just use the same word for both, have “queen” as the feminine form of “king”, or in a matriarchal society “king” might be the masculine form of “queen”. All languages have their own preferences for how they form words and as always there is no real right or wrong answer.

Naming Conventions

A good use for morphology, derivational morphology in particular, is in your naming conventions. Here are some ideas for where names can come from:

         Plants – Rose, Daisy, Violet, Orchid, Petunia, etc.

         Gemstones – Ruby, Pearl, Opal, Jade

         Animals are also popular – Leo (lion in Latin), Raven.

         Important people – King, Lord, Lady,

         Positive attributes and virtues – Grace, Joy, Hope, Bravery, Wisdom, Faith, Light, Night, Dawn, Beauty

         Any other objects that your culture values – There was once a great Mayan king named Pakal, which literally just means “shield”. Similarly you could name your characters Sword, Ocean, or Mountain. A sea faring people living on an archipelago might name their children after different kinds of fish or marine life such as Coral, Turtle, Stingray, Sunfish, and Eel.

         Where they come from – Scott (as in Scotsman), Francis (Frenchman)

         Children may be named after what their parents hope or think they’ll grow up to be – King, Sailor, Hunter, Winner (Victor from Latin).

         Having a way to turn adjectives into nouns allows for names that embody the positive attributes of the person. Names that translate to things like “the swift one” “the strong one” “the holy one” come to mind.

         Of course, you could just use adjectives themselves for names – Lucky, Bold, Strong, Beautiful. Some cultures may even name children after objects themselves.

A diminutive is a morpheme that marks a root word as being small or little. They are also often used to show familiarity or endearment as with nicknames. Having a diminutive would allow for names like “little oak”, “little hunter”, or “Darling king”.


On the opposite side are augmentatives, which mark something as being big or large. Using these can give some of your people important titles, like Great Warrior.

Compounds that make use of a verb are also a good source for names. Timothy comes from the Greek “Timotheos” meaning “honouring God”. Michael comes from Hebrew and translates to “who is like God?”. Here, it might be good to have a way to nominalize/adjectivize your verbs (if you have them). But you could also use noun/noun or noun/adjective pairs such as “Fireraven” or “Redbear”.

Lastly, if you’re having some trouble coming up with a meaningful name that’s to your liking, don’t sweat it. You can just make up a word that fits your language’s syllable structure, and leave the meaning as lost to history. This is how most names in English and a lot of the western world are now. No one thinks of the name Timothy above as meaning “honoring God”, it’s just a name. Same deal with Rachel, which comes from Biblical Hebrew for “ewe” (a female sheep). And if you think of a good one later, you can always come back and add it in.



Last names or family/clan names are also something you may want, though not everyone has them. But these other names have just as many and varied sources as given names

         They sometimes can come from professions, such as Smith, Baker, Carpenter, Knight, etc.

         Another place to get your family names from is where that particular family is from; Di Napoli, London, or even something that translates to “of/from the forest”.

         Of course it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Last names can also just be nouns or adjectives such as Jack White, John Snow, Ragnar the Bold, Mary the Great, etc.

         Names can also come from the father’s name as in Peterson. In Icelandic naming, this is how last names come about. Using a rough Anglicized example Jon Peterson’s son might be named Erik Jonsson, while his daughter would be Erika Jonsdaughter.  

         Patronyms are also common throughout the world. These translate to something like “son of”. You could use a morpheme on the father’s name to mark this, as in Russian; Mikhail Ivanovich – Mikhail son of Ivan. You could also have it as a separate word as in Arabic; Ali ibn Muhammad – Ali son of Muhammad. Or you could just leave the father’s name alone, giving you something like Paul Brian. If you have a matriarchal society perhaps family names might come from the mother such as Janesdaughter. Matronyms are also quite common.


How you choose to structure these names is up to you, and may say a lot about your culture and their society. Some groups just have  a first – last name system. Others bring larger encompassing clan names into the mix. And as I said above, don’t have the concept of a family/clan name. Though people in plenty of groups in North America will have several names, ranging from a given name, nicknames, special titles, and even personal names so secret no one knows them


Experiment with your language’s morphology and be creative with your names! They’ll say a lot about your culture. And even if you don’t want to create a naming language, hopefully these past two sections will give you some inspiration for names anyway, such as Garnet the Great, Empress of the Holy Isles – Captain “Old” Joe Tinsmith from Six Mine City – or Emma “Tankrider” Leatherman from Wheelport.


So for this supplement, I’d like to bring up a topic which doesn’t get talked about a lot with naming languages – morphological typology. I know what some of you may be thinking, that you didn’t sign up for any hardcore conlanging. Well there’s no need to worry. We’re not going to get into any theoretical implications or weird quirks of grammar here. I’m going to keep definitions broad and simple.

While it sounds complicated, morphological typology just refers to how your words are structured. I’m only going to reference three basic ones here as I feel they’re the most useful for making naming languages.

         Isolating/analytic – Only one morpheme per word. That is, everything is its own separate word. So rather than “dog-s” you have “many dog”, “walk earlier/yesterday” instead of “walked”. Analytic just means that the language allows some compounding and derivational morphemes, but still no inflections. Examples of this would be Vietnamese and Mandarin.

         Agglutinative – Here, each morpheme has only one meaning and they remain distinct from each other. This means that in order to build up larger meanings (derivationally and inflectionally) they stack together. This can sometimes result in rather long words Turkish and Finnish are good examples of this kind of language.

         Fusional – These languages have multiple meanings per morpheme – such as Latin or Russian. This results in somewhat smaller and more “compact” words. For example the Latin suffix “-os” tells us that the noun is second declension, plural, and the direct object of the verb (accusative case).  

The point of all this is, that typology is just another variable which can influence the names of your places and characters. Shin Ral Wis from Dok Sen Te is very different from Kualahimi from Ammilagiga.

Credit to Jafiki91


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Constructing Languages: Word Orders (2a/4)


Now it’s time to start thinking about basic syntax, or word order. Because we’re only making a naming language, sentence level word order isn’t all that necessary unless you have a few phrases or bits of text from your culture, such as a spell, prayer, or greeting.

Word Order

There are six main types of word order for languages, based on the placement of Subjects, Verbs, and Objects. Some orders are more common than others, while some are so rare that only one or two real languages use them. The following is a list of the major word orders, from most common to least, coupled with some languages that use that order, as well as an example sentence:

SOV (Turkish, Japanese) “John dogs sees.”

SVO (English, Mandarin) “John sees dogs.”

VSO (Irish, Hebrew) “Sees John dogs.”

VOS (Malagasy) “Sees dogs John.”

OVS (Hixkaryana) “Dogs sees John.”

OSV (Warao) “Dogs John sees.”

However, just because a certain word order is less common than others doesn’t mean you shouldn’t choose it. All of them are perfectly valid. Furthermore, you can use word order to give a certain spice to your language. For instance Marc Okrand, the creator of Klingon chose the word order OVS to make the language seem more alien. For the naming language we’re making here, I’m going to choose the word order VSO. My first reason for picking this is because it’s my favorite word order. My second reason is because this order while not very common, but isn’t super rare either. It will give the language a way of doing things that most speakers of English aren’t too familiar with, which I feel will make my world a bit more interesting.

Something more important to think about for a naming language is the placement of adjectives and determiners (words like “the” “a” “this” “that” –  numbers can often be lumped into this category, which is what I’ll be doing here for simplicity, but you can tinker with their placement as well if you’d like). This will be much more important when you start naming the various locations around your world. For each of these two types of words there are two spots to put them in; either in front of their noun, or after it. Here we end up with four possible combinations:

The Red Hills

The Hills Red

Red Hills The

Hills Red The

All of them are perfectly valid, and whichever one you choose is up to you. There are some issues that can come into play with the determiners based on what verbal word order you have, but that’s a topic for a later discussion. For a naming language you don’t need to worry too much about it. For my demo language, I’m going to have determiners come before their noun, and adjectives come after. Making up some words for the above example I get: E Kuran Aste which has a rather nice ring to it.

Naming Geographical Features

        The next step, if you haven’t already done so, will be to make start making some words for various geographical features. You should also create some adjectives that will pair well with them. After that, start playing around with some word orders. See which ones fit best, which ones sound just right to you. Maybe you’ll find that while a certain word order seems to fit, it causes the words to sound a bit off, or vice versa. It’s completely ok to refine your language whenever you see fit. You could even completely overhaul it. It might take a few iterations but eventually you’ll have the perfect naming language for your world.

        Now comes the first step in applying your naming language, naming your places. Place names can come from all sorts of paradigms:

  •         The simplest solution is to just name your geographical features or cities after their surroundings – The Red Hills, East Lake, High Peak(s), Ocean Grove, The Straight, Atlantic City.
  •         You could name it after an existing place –  New York, New Hampshire, New England, New France, New Spain, New Mexico, Paris (Texas), London (Ontario)
  •         You’d be surprised at how many places just get called New Town – Neustadt, Naples (Napoli), Yenişehir, Xincheng, Villanova, Novgorod, Nyborg, Neuveville
  •         Expressions of gratitude, thanksgiving, or hope – (New) Haven, (New) Hope.  
  •         Positive nouns and adjectives are common as well – Perfection, La Paz, Concord, Pleasantville, Safe Harbor.
  •         Of course any adjective + noun combo will work for a quick town name, though you may have to create any words you don’t already have.
  •         How far you are from some point of interest – Half Day Point
  •         It could be named after the people that were there originally. Paris is named for the Parisii tribe.
  •         It could be a name from some other culture, most likely one that was there first. This is very common across the United States with names of Native American origins – Massachusetts, Mississippi, Miami. Others such as Detroit (The Straights), Vermont,  Colorado, Florida, California, and many others come to us from the French and Spanish who once occupied large portions of North America. So a key here is that older settlements may have these sorts of names.

·         Cities and locations may also get their name from the person who founded, discovered, or conquered them – Alexandria, Jacksonville, Charleston. A name may also come from a mythological hero or god/spirit. This would be a good place to think about how your language marks possession such that you could have John’s Cove, or The Port of Gerax.


A List of Words (2b/4): This links to a list of words which will be very useful in naming places and figuring out your language and is a supplement to this part.


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Place Naming: Word List (2b/4)


The following is a list of some words which may come in handy for your naming language. I’m sure some will look at this list and think “how am I going to come up with all of these words? This just got way too complicated”. The good news is, you don’t need all of these words. This list is merely here to get you thinking about what sorts of words you may need. For example, if you have a desert setting, you may not need words for “ocean”, “forest” and “Meadow”. You might also find that you need different terms than those listed, such as different animals, geography, etc.

Even if you are not creating a language, this can be useful for you to come up with names of locations in English.

Next Time (In case you want to skip the list)

Morphology, Character Names & Typology (3/4):This part is about creating some basic morphology for your naming language, naming conventions for surnames, and a supplement on typology.

Geography Terms:


  • Plain
  • Savannah
  • Meadow
  • Field
  • Prairie
  • Steppe


  • Forest
  • Woods
  • Grove
  • Copse
  • Stand

Hills & mountains

  • Hill
  • Down
  • Mountain
  • Peak
  • Range
  • Plateau
  • Crest
  • Mesa


  • Valley
  • Canyon
  • Cliff

Harsh terrain

  • Marsh
  • Swamp
  • Desert
  • Wilderness
  • Jungle


  • River
  • Stream
  • Brook
  • Estuary
  • Channel
  • Rapids
  • Portage
  • Source
  • Confluence
  • Delta
  • Bank
  • Waterfall
  • Spring

Seas & Lakes

  • Ocean
  • Sea
  • Bay
  • Harbor
  • Lagoon
  • Gulf
  • Straight
  • Lake
  • Pond


  • Coast
  • Beach
  • Peninsula
  • Cape
  • Point


  • Island
  • Archipelago
  • Atoll

Local features

  • Rock
  • Tree
  • Bridge
  • Ford
  • Dam
  • Park
  • Oasis

Human terms


  • City
  • Town
  • Village
  • Hamlet
  • Colony
  • Port
  • Market
  • Capital
  • Kingdom
  • Empire
  • Nation


  • Fort
  • Castle
  • Wall
  • Camp
  • Tower


  • Shrine
  • Oracle
  • Temple
  • Church
  • Chapel
  • Monastary


  • Mine
  • Inn
  • Stopping point
  • Post
  • Lodge
  • Mill
  • House
  • Manor
  • Estate
  • Crossing
  • Farm
  • Orchard


  • Road
  • Highway
  • Trail
  • Way
  • Path
  • Causeway
  • Bridge



  • New
  • Old
  • Ancient

Size & Shape

  • Round
  • Flat
  • Wide
  • Narrow
  • Small
  • Large
  • Split
  • Vast
  • Greater
  • Lesser


  • High
  • Low
  • Central
  • Upper
  • Lower
  • Near
  • Far


  • North
  • South
  • East
  • West


  • Great
  • Grand
  • Glorious
  • Noble
  • Holy
  • Royal


  • Windy
  • Sandy
  • Cloudy
  • Foggy
  • Rainy
  • Snowy
  • Dry
  • Wet
  • Good
  • Twisted/Twisting/Winding
  • Fertile
  • Beautiful
  • Pleasant
  • Quiet
  • Gold(en)
  • Silver
  • Jewel(ed)


  • White
  • Black
  • Red
  • Brown
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Grey
  • Pink
  • Tan
  • Etc etc


  • Full
  • Half
  • Quarter
  • One
  • Two
  • Three
  • Four
  • Five
  • Six
  • Etc etc

Water quality

  • Fast
  • Slow
  • Clear
  • Muddy

Common Nouns


  • Horse
  • Ox
  • Chicken
  • Sheep
  • Goat
  • Lion
  • Fox
  • Deer
  • Hawk
  • Eagle
  • Dragon
  • Fist
  • Turtle


  • Earth
  • Water
  • Ice
  • Stone
  • Fire
  • Ashes
  • Smoke
  • Dust
  • Salt
  • Sand


  • King / Emperor / Lord
  • Knight / Warrior / Soldier
  • Priest / Holy Man
  • Hunter
  • Fisherman
  • Sailor
  • Baker
  • Forager

Types of trees

  • Aspen
  • Birch
  • Cedar
  • Elm
  • Oak
  • Palm
  • Pine
  • Willow


  • Rose
  • Lily
  • Tulip
  • Sunflower
  • Lilac
  • Lavender
  • Petunia


  • Diamond
  • Emerald
  • Ruby
  • Sapphire
  • Topaz
  • Opal
  • Amethyst
  • Agate
  • Lapis Lazuli
  • Amber
  • Quartz
  • Onyx
  • Pearl
  • Garnet

Positive Attributes

  • Grace
  • Hope
  • Beauty
  • Strength
  • Courage

Space Terms

  • Planet
  • Moon
  • Star/Sun
  • Asteroid
  • Asteroid belt/field
  • Comet
  • System
  • Galaxy
  • Nebula
  • Ship
  • Station

Credit to Jafiki91


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Posted in Guide, Languages | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Constructing Languages: Creating the Sounds (Naming Language)(1/4)



This post is all about naming languages, and will be geared more toward those that are new to the art, and have little to no experience creating languages. Whether you just want to add a little flair to your world, or want to add a fully fleshed out language with original stories and texts, constructed languages, or conlangs as they are more commonly called, add all manner of depth to a world.

Before we get into the actual language creation, it’s important to note that there’s no denying that culture and language are tied together and the addition of linguistic details to a world, regardless of how small they are, can add a shade of depth and a level of complexity to your cultures, stories, and characters. And even if you decide not to add any actual languages to your world, a mere mention of one or two can bring details of your world that can show the complexity of its cultures. The following is just a little blurb to give you an idea of what I mean.

“The people of the mainland, and especially the capital, loath the people from the islands just off shore. It is not only because of their uncivilized ways, but also their uncivilized tongue, which sounds ‘guttural and horribly uneducated’.”

Even with just that little bit we can see who the dominant group is, and how they see a more marginalized group. And of course you could talk about it from the other perspective. Maybe the islanders view the mainlanders as very proper and uptight because of how they speak. It’s all up to you.



We’re going to start things off simple by creating a bare bones naming language. A naming language is one which isn’t really all that fleshed out. It doesn’t have all the complex grammar or syntax of a full language. What it does have at the very least is a system of sounds, ways of putting them together to form words, and a way of writing them down. These are known as a phoneme inventory, phonotactics, and romanization respectively. The advantage to having a language such as this is that it keeps all of the names for your locations and people within a regular framework, rather than just having them be random syllables that were thrown together. The other advantage is that you have control over what the names are like, as opposed to using real world languages, which come with their own cultural connotations.

The first step in creating our naming language is working out its phonology, that is, what sounds it has in it.  In order to choose some sounds for your language, you may want to familiarize yourself with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). This is the system used by linguists to describe all the possible speech sounds used by humans for language. At first glance it can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert on it. For now, just know that there are a lot of sounds to choose from and play around with. An overview of consonant and vowel features can be found in the section Understanding the IPA Chart.  

What Kind of Sound?

So how do you choose? Well there are a couple of ways to go about it. One method is to think of some languages that you are either familiar with or just know a little bit about. Do you want your language to sound a bit like Spanish? Or maybe even a cross between Korean and Zulu? You can look up these languages and see what sounds they use, then use some, all, or more in your language. Another method is to just pick out some sounds that you like, ones that you feel will fit the language that you’re making. Ask yourself what sort of “flavor” you want.

A harsh guttural language might be very consonant heavy, specifically with lots of stops and consonants made in the back of the mouth such as /k/, /q/, and /x/. It might also use lots of clusters not found in English like in the word “kazg” and vowels made in the back of the mouth such as /o/ and /u/. A light, flowing language will have lots of vowels (specifically front ones like /i/ and /e/), sonorant consonants like nasals and liquids (l’s and r’s), as well as fricatives (sounds like /f/, /s/, and /h/).


Here are some examples that will give you an idea of how language can help shape how others view your cultures. The first set adheres to the stereotypical Tolkien races with a light flowing Elvish and a harsh gutteral Orcish. The second switches them up a bit to show that things don’t have to be so black and white.

“The Orcish tongue is very harsh and guttural, as can be seen by the general Qordazhg’s famed battle cry: «Qrot ga zhuvd terkodz!»”

“As one enters the great Elvish city of Thiliem it’s hard to miss the royal seal inscribed just above the gates: Nirem Alshia Laisuron”

“The orcs strike fear into the hearts of men with swift words which flow like poison. Most notable is the phrase they leave marked on every city and town they decimate: Sirgeth khrets ki jorlen sekadh.”

“Elvish rulers, such as Kutitsa Tarek, Cesta Sotoq, and Kraqta Turats are some of the fiercest politicians in the land. Their tongues are as sharp and piercing as their arrows.”

Picking the Sounds

So now let’s start picking out some sounds for our example naming language. We don’t want it to sound too English-like, so we’re going to make sure to pick several sounds not found in English. During this I’m going to be using characters from the IPA, which will be enclosed in slashes (e.g. /s/), so you may need to reference the chart if you aren’t familiar with a particular sound. I like to start with vowels because there are far fewer of those than there are consonants. We’ll go with something simple, the five standard vowels common to Spanish and Italian: /i/, /e/, /a/, /o/. and /u/. However, I also want to throw in a little curveball, /y/ and /ɯ/. The first is the rounded counterpart to /i/. It’s the sound of German ü, and French u. The second is the unrounded version of /u/, and is found in Turkish. Now that that’s set up, it’s time to think of some consonants. I’ll start with the least English like sounds. /ɲ/ /ɾ/ /x/ seem like some good choices to me.. I’ll want some more consonants than that though. So we’ll add: /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/, /m/, /n/, /f/, /s/, /h/ /w/, and /j/. As a general rule of thumb, try to keep your phoneme inventory relatively balanced. That is, don’t just use sounds from one end of the chart and not the other. Spread them out a bit. Of course every natural language has irregularities, so one or two oddballs won’t hurt anything.


Now’s a good time to bring up Romanization, that is, how you write your language in the Latin script. You can of course make up your own orthography or use a different transcription scheme, such as one based in Greek, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, or any other script you like. For this example, I’m going to represent the sound /y/ with the character ü and and /ɯ/ with ı. The other vowels will be written normally Most of the consonants will be represented as they are in Engish, with the exception of /j/, which I’ll write as “y” as English does. To represent /ɲ/ /ɾ/ /x/, I’ll use ñ, r, and kh respectively. Some people like to make use of diacritics when making a language. And that’s perfectly fine, plenty of natural languages use them in their writing systems. For the purposes of a naming language though, you may want to keep them to a minimum, especially if it’s for a novel. You don’t want your readers getting caught up everytime they have to read a name like “Ăşŕeȕṭ”. Apostrophes are another thing to watch out for. Don’t just throw them in to make things look exotic. In real writing systems they serve a purpose, such as in contractions, to represent ejective consonants, to show a glottal stop, or even for a long vowel. The main point is, if you want apostrophes in your language, make sure they serve a consistent purpose.


Now that we have our sounds laid out, it’s time to work on syllables. How your syllables are formed will determine what words will and won’t be possible in your language. For instance the word “bnick” (IPA /bnɪk/) is impossible in English because it doesn’t allow the consonant cluster ‘bn’ at the start of a syllable. At the heart of every syllable is the nucleus. This is the most prominent point of sonority, and 9 times out of 10, the nucleus will be a vowel (there are some exceptions to this, but we’ll talk about that at another time). Consonants that form the beginning of the syllable are called onsets, while those that end the syllable are called codas.

Some languages have very simple syllable structures such as (C)V, where C is a consonant and V is a vowel. The parentheses show that an element is optional. So if we make our little naming language like this we could have words like ferado, tuna, and arakha. However, I’d like to go a bit more complex than that. Let’s add codas to the mix, giving us a syllable structure like (C)V(C). This would give words like radkon, fensi, and ürkhet. That’s more like it! You could of course create more complex structures with more restrictions. For instance, in English, the sound /h/ can only be at the start of a syllable, whereas the sound /ŋ/ (the sound made by ‘ng’) can only be at the end of a syllable. Other languages allow these sounds to go in either spot. We could also make a very complex structure such as (C(C(C)))V((C)C), which could give a word like Ksrant. Try playing around with a bunch of different structures to see which one best fits the language that you want to make. And once you’ve done all this, you’ll have a basic naming language perfectly suited for labeling various places in your world, as well as naming the people who inhabit it.




Here we get a little in depth with the actual sounds of the IPA chart. All consonants have a Place of Articulation, that is, where they are made in the mouth, and a Manner of Articulation, which is how they are made. There is also a distinction between voiced and voiceless consonants. Voiced ones are made with the vocal cords vibrating, and voiceless without. To get a feel for this place your hand on your throat and pronounce the sound /s/ (like in English “sit” and hold it for a while: sssssssssssssss. Now do the same for a /z/ sound (like in “zoo”) zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. /s/ is a voiceless consonant, and /z/ is its voiced counterpart. Start with /s/ and transition into /z/: ssssssssssssszzzzzzzzzzzzz. You should feel your vocal cords “turn on” when you transition to the /z/ sound, but you’ll also notice that your tongue and mouth position don’t change. Whereever you see pairs of consonants in the chart, the left is the voiceless and the right the voiced (e.g. s z).

Now we’ll take a look as the various Places of Articulation, which can be divided up into four major areas:

Labial: Made with the lips

Bilabial: These are consonants made with both lips. Examples include /p/, /b/, and /m/.

Labiodental: These are made with the lower lip touching the upper teeth such as in the sounds /f/ and /v/.

Coronal: Made with the front of the tongue.

Dental: These sounds are made with the tongue tip touching the back of the teeth. The “th” sounds of English “thick” and “that” (IPA θ and ð respectively), are considered dental. Though do note that these two sounds are often made with the tongue between the teeth in English, and would therefore be called “interdental”.

Alveolar: These sounds are produced with the tongue near or on the alveolar ridge, which is just behind the teeth. Some alveolar sounds from English include /t/, /d/, /n/, /l/, /s/, and /z/.

Post-Alveolar: Sounds like English ‘sh’ /ʃ/, are made with the tongue positioned just behind the alveolar ridge.

Retroflex: These are consonants made with the tongue curled back toward the roof of the mouth. For some speakers of English, this is how ‘r’ sounds are pronounced.

Dorsal: Made with the back of the tongue.

Palatal: These are sounds made at the hard palate, which is more commonly known as the roof of your mouth. The only palatal sound found in English is /j/, which is the y sound in “yard”. However, a full range of sounds can be made here, from stops, to fricatives, to nasals.

Velar: These sounds are made with the tongue touching the velum, or as it’s more commonly known, the soft palate. Some examples would be /k/, /g/, /ŋ/ (ng in “sing”), and /x/ (like in Scottish “loch”).

Uvular: The uvula is that little dangly thing at the back of your throat that looks like a punching bag and there are plenty of consonants that can be made there. Some examples include the /q/ sound found in Arabic and Inuit languages, as well as the French ‘r’ sound /ʁ/.

Radical: Made with the tongue root.

Pharyngeal: These are sounds that are made in the throat. A great example is the Arabic letter ع which in IPA is /ʕ/. For speakers of English, and other European languages, these consonants can be a bit difficult and strange.

Glottal: These consonants are made at the glottis, which is the where the vocal cords are. The most notable sounds here are /h/, and the glottal stop /ʔ/, which is the sound separating the syllables of “uh-oh”.

Next we’re going to move on to Manner of Articulation. This is the way in which a consonant is produced and is related to the degree of constriction of the vocal tract.

Stop: Stops are just that, a full stop in the airflow. Examples include /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, and /g/.

Nasal: Nasals are also technically stops, in that a full closure is made at some point of articulation. However, the air is allowed to escape through the nasal cavity. English nasals include /m/, /n/, and /ŋ/.

Fricative: These consonants allow a little air to pass through, which creates a turbulent sound. Examples from English are /f/, /v/, /θ/ /ð/ /s/ /z/ /ʃ/ /ʒ/ /x/ (Scottish “loch”) /h/.

Lateral Fricative: These are like normal fricatives, with one major difference, the air passes around the sides of the tongue. A lot of books might describe them as a breathy ‘l’ sound.

Affricate: Affricates are consonants that begin as stops, and are released as fricatives. An example from English is the ‘ch’ in “church” (IPA [tʃ]).

Tap/Flap: These terms are often used interchangeably to refer to a sound which has a quick closing and then opening of the vocal tract. The American English word “latter” has this tapped sound in it. It’s the ‘tt’ in the middle (coincidentally, the ‘dd’ in “middle” is the same sound).

Trill: Ah the famous (or infamous) trill. Trills are made my rapidly opening and closing off the vocal tract over and over. The one most familiar to English speakers would be the one used in Spanish, /r/. There are other trills though, some French speakers have a trill made at the uvula, /ʀ/, and there even exists a bilabial trill /ʙ/, which is like a quick fluttering of the lips.

Approximant: Of all the consonants, approximants are sounds made with the least obstruction of airflow. These are sounds like /w/, /j/ (English ‘y’ like in yard), and /ɹ/ (English ‘r’).

Lateral Approximant: Just as with the lateral fricatives, these are approximants made by letting the airflow pass around the sides of the tongue. The /l/ sound of English is a great example, but they can occur at other places of articulation as well.


For the final part of this post, we’ll talk about the all-important vowels. Vowels fall along three main gradients, height, backness, and roundness (as a disclaimer, vowels can be pretty wishy-washy, and there are a lot of complexities we won’t get into here. For the purposes of a naming language, we’ll stick with basic definitions).

Roundness simply refers to whether or not the lips are rounded when a vowel is made. Where vowels appear in pairs, the left is unrounded, while the right is rounded (e.g. i y)

Height (or openness) is how high in the mouth your tongue is. Typical high vowels are /i/ and /u/, while /æ/ (like in hat) and /ɑ/ (like in father) are low.  

Frontness refers to how far forward the tongue is in the mouth. Vowels like /i e ɛ æ/ are front, while ones like /u o ɔ ɑ/ are back.


This is a good site for listening to the various sounds in the IPA which can help with choosing a consonant inventory.

This is a list of some of the most common vowel systems found in natural languages and again, can help with choosing which ones you want.

Lastly Zompist’s Gen and Awkwords are both word generators. You put the sound and syllable rules of your language and it can spit out a whole bunch of words at once. I personally prefer Awkwords simply because you can add weights to the various sounds to make them more or less common. They’re really useful to get a feel for the language before you start naming things.

Next Time

In the next part we’ll be looking at Word Order.


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We also have a poll open on setting up a forum to build a community here. Let us know your thoughts.

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