Name Your Character: Orcs and Trolls

In a few short days—on Monday, August 12 at 3:00 pm PT (6:00 ET)—World of Warcraft players can create up to three characters per account in WoW Classic. It’s an opportunity to reserve names for three of your Classic characters: one main and two bank alts, amirite?

With decades of gaming behind us, many players have established go-to names for their characters in any game. The best opportunity to secure those names is when a game is new, which will be the case with WoW Classic. However, the more creative and rare your names are, the easier it is to use them at any point in a game’s life span.

My post on naming the prolific Elven races breaks down the method to my madness in coming up with unique names for my characters—check it out if you haven’t already. The methods described there serve as a foundation for my “name your character” posts.

Before We Begin

If you share my love of language, I highly recommend watching the Tolkien movie. While I don’t know how true it is, the movie is simply lovely. It helped me better understand my fascination with language when Tolkien discussed with his professor how language is the lifeblood of a culture. You can learn a lot about a people from the words they use to describe their way of living. I clearly missed my calling in linguistic anthropology!

One More Thing to Get Out of the Way

Aside from nostalgia and hoping for a reemergence of the player community prior to the introduction of cross realm technology, I’m playing WoW Classic because I want to return to an Azeroth where Vol’jin is alive and well. His death haunts me to this day and—this just occurred to me—could have played a part in my waning desire to play. I wanted him to be Warchief forever. Killing off a well-loved character in a living breathing virtual world will make that world a sadder place.

I miss you, man.

Ok then, my goodness, let’s get on with the purpose of this post.

Tolkien’s Black Speech

My inspiration for naming Orcs and Trolls came from learning that the Black Speech invented by Tolkien is similar to Hurrian. There aren’t many online resources or dictionaries for Black Speech as Tolkien didn’t care for it as much as the Elven tongues he created. And there aren’t many Hurrian resources or dictionaries either, likely because it’s considered to be extinct.

I use languages similar to Hurrian—Hittite, Akkadian, and Urdu—to create names for my Orcs and Trolls. I also use Greenlandic and Yoruba.

Dictionaries

Keyword searches.

Lexicons

Read through these lists or ctrl+F your way around using keywords.

Name Generators

I’m not a fan of name generators as I prefer to know what the name means. That said, the two linked here produce results that feel authentic to me.

Gods, Goddesses, Mythological Characters

If you don’t have time for diving deep into rabbit holes, finding a name from a culture’s pantheons and mythologies can be quicker and educational. These links are all to Wikipedia pages with name lists—super easy to ctrl+F for keywords.

Godchecker.com is a great site to add to your reference materials.

A little side note about Yoruba. I haven’t used it as much because, at this point, I have a healthy list of go-to names. I fell in love with it a few years ago when I first heard the French-Cuban twin sister duo Ibeyi in an interview on the radio. Ibeyi is the Orisha of divine twins.

If you never get a chance to see their amazing live performance, take a moment and enjoy them here and now. I hope you like them as much as I do!

Naming Conventions

For thorough character naming research, don’t forget to check the naming conventions for your character’s race and/or language. You might find a gem of a name like I did for my Troll Balance Druid in WoW: Zen’Nattari. Zennattari means “it is the new moon” in Hittite and Zen is a Zandali prefix for druids. At the time of this post, I have the only character in the WoW Armory with that name. I suppose a few more won’t hurt!

While naming conventions can be exclusive to the IP—like the gra/gro prefix for Orsimer surnames in Elder Scrolls—you can certainly mix and match between games and lore as you please.

You can use the naming conventions to further customize a name for your Orc or Troll. It seems to me that the Orc languages in both ESO and WoW frequently use the letter g while the letter z is used more frequently in the Troll’s Zandali language.

For example, let’s say you are creating a shaman. Performing a keyword search for lightning in the Akkadian dictionary gives us a good result:

ṣaraḫu (2) [Sky → Astronomy → Stars]  to light up , to flare up / to ignite quickly and suddenly (after having died down) ; Š : (demon) to make lightning flash , to make a firebrand flash

  • Orc shaman: Garahu
  • Troll shaman: Zarahu

Checking the WoW Armory for these names shows very few results for all three—Sarahu has 0 results. It’s a good bet that these names could be rare and unique in other games.

In Closing

I hope this is helpful. If not, hit me up in the comments or on Twitter. I just might have the name you are looking for in one of my many lists or spreadsheets. Or give me some keywords and I can give you a few options!

—–

I realized as I was putting this post together that this series could benefit from a better-organized presentation. In fact, a one-stop page of links to resources may be useful. I’m sure I’ll get around to it eventually.

More importantly, I hope you don’t mind the diversions of the movie trailer and tiny desk concert. They are part of how I experience language and culture, how it all connects for me and comes together as part of humanity. Art is its own language of expression and communication rooted in culture and human experience.

So. See you in WoW Classic?

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Name Your Character: Elves

I spend a lot of time coming up with character names. I have an 11-page Google doc of lists, ideas, and links to favorite resources. I have spreadsheets with multiple tabs; one spreadsheet is entirely dedicated to anagrams for a single name!

There is a method to my madness and the ultimate goal is to come up with a unique name that is rarely used. Regardless what game you are playing, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft (WoW) Armory app/website is a great way to determine a name’s rarity. WoW has been around for more than 10 years and the Armory is essentially big data for character names.

I use a sliding scale to determine a name’s rarity. If there are 50 results, but only 5 of them are above level 80, I consider the name to be rare. My rarity threshold can depend on various factors and isn’t 100% consistent. Generally, more than 50 results means try again. Zero results is the ultimate win!

And yes, I suppose finding a unique name is its own game for me. Wanna play?

Let’s start with Elves. They are prevalent in most fantasy role-playing games. And you just may need an elvish name for the demon hunter you plan to play in August, or at some point in WoW’s Legion expansion. Sure, a plethora of name generators are readily available. But what fun is that when you can generate your own, and possibly with some meaning behind it?

Tolkien’s Elvish languages are a great source of inspiration. There is a vast amount of information, dictionaries, name lists, even scholarly linguistic studies influenced by Tolkien’s invented languages. All of them very long rabbit holes, so I decided on a single rabbit hole—the Tolkien Gateway—and used it to search for word and feminine name suffixes (sorry fellas!). The suffixes included here do not represent all possibilities, just the ones that I might like to use. If you geek about this stuff as much as I do, you might have more fun searching for suffixes on your own!

Time to Play

Using the first two initials of my first (al) and middle name (da) to create my very own name element—alda—I was pleased to discover that it is a Tengwar letter that also means “tree” in Quenya. Tree! Can you believe it? How fitting for someone who loves druids! A search for “alda” on the Tolkien Gateway also returns the following names:

In the Armory, there are currently 108 Aldamirs and 154 Aldarions and about 10-12 of each are max level. If I were in love with either name and either were available on my server, I may go ahead and use it in WoW or any other game.

I always take it one step further to see if I can get that win. Adding “a” to the end of each name returns 3 Aldamiras and 1 Aldariona. I may try appending some different letters to see if I can get zero results on the Armory and, more importantly, a name I like.

That’s pretty much how I play my naming game!

Applying a Name Element to Suffixes

Let’s say I’m not happy with any of the results so far. I’ll pull up my Google doc listing the suffixes I like from the Tolkien Gateway—yes, that’s a different Google doc than the 11-page one I mentioned earlier—and begin combining my name element with suffixes. If it sounds good and has few Armory results, it will become a final contender. If it sounds good and adds meaning for the character I’m creating, then it becomes an ultimate final contender.

Using a few suffixes listed below, some options may be:

Aldael (64), Aldaenca (0), Aldaeth (3), Aldaiel (0), Aldandil (0), Aldanwe (0), Aldanya (4), Aldasse (2), Aldaya (12)

The number of characters with these names on the Armory are in parenthesis. With 64 Armory results, Aldael, is out. I like Aldaeth, which would mean “woman of the trees.” I also like Aldanwe, which would mean “treeness.” Both are perfect druid and nature loving character names. They are made even more perfect by winning at my naming game—three results for Aldaeth and zero for Aldanwe!!

This can also be a great way to go about establishing a set of common names for multiple characters.

My Elf Hates Trees

If your elf would rather chop down a tree than hug it, clearly you need your own name element to play this naming game. If you don’t already have one in mind, you can try combining the first two letters of  your first/middle, first/last, middle/last, etc. If you want to remain “elvish,” some links are included in the suffix list below to get you started on exploring the Tolkien Gateway. You can also try any of the other Tengwar letters, explore the Quenya words or Sindarin words, or search this Quenya word list (going for the obvious with demon hunters, you can find “demon” here).

If you want something non-elvish, another option is to explore two of my favorite rabbit holes for name elements that are meaningful to you, the Nordic Names wiki and the Online Etymology dictionary. I’ve spent many evenings past my bed time on these sites!

Help Me!

My elf doesn’t live in Azeroth! If your elf is a mer or drow, look to their racial naming conventions for guidance and toss in an extra vowel or consonant or two (or three). The UESP wiki is a great source for mer (and other racial) names. The Forgotten Realms wiki has a brief drow language dictionary that can get you started.

I hope this has helped! If not, hit me up in the comments or on Twitter. I just might have the name you are looking for in one of my many lists or spreadsheets.

The Suffixes

dil: see -ndil

duinë: rare Quenya suffix used for rivers (of large volume)

el: feminine suffix

  • Ailenil = “lake”, ailin, and the feminine suffix -el

enca: meaning “without, -less”

eth: feminine suffix (Sindarin?)

  • Núneth is Sindarin and means “Woman of the West” (from annûn, ‘West’, and -eth, a feminine suffix)

iel: feminine patronymic suffix in Elvish languages. “Daughter of ____”

  • Uinéniel = “Daughter of Uinen”

ielde: feminine suffix in Quenya

  • Elerondielde = “Daughter of Elrond,” which is another name for Arwen.

ien: meaning “daughter”

iën: see -ien

ima: meaning “-able”

indë: feminine agental suffix. The masculine counterpart is –indo

issë: feminine agental suffix in Quenya

  • melissë = “lover” (“mel-” = “to love”; MEL)

mar: pl. -mardi, means dwelling. Although Angmar is a Sindarin name, the Quenya suffix -mar and the Sindarin suffix -bar come from the same root, MBAR.

ndil: added to names to indicate friendship, love, or devotion to an object, idea, grouping, course, occupation or spirit (Ainur) to which one is devoted for its own sake

ndur: is a Quenya suffix added to names to indicate faithful service or servitude.

: denotes a set of something

  • carcanë = “row of teeth” (carca = “tooth”|KARAK)

nil: see -ndil

nur: see -ndur

nwe: has two meanings:

  1. It is equivalent to the English suffix -ness. This can be seen in Manwe (“blessedness”) and Voronwe (“steadfastness”)
  2. It is a dual exclusive pronoun suffix meaning “we, both of us”

nya: pronominal Quenya suffix, 1st person singular possessive, “my” (e.g. tatanya = “my father”)

ssë: denotes abstract or locality

  • Vala = “angelic power, god” (valassë = “divinity”|BAL)
  • laiqua = “green” (laiquassë = “greenness”)
  • hande = “intelligent” (handessë = “intelligence”|KHAN)

vëa: an adjentival ending with the specific meaning “-like” in Quenya. The plural is –vië.

  • elvëa = “starlike” (él = “star”; the long é in él becomes short before the cluster lv)

wen: shows feminine derivation, usually as “maiden”

ya: Quenya suffix of endearment.

  • Anardilya = “dear Anardil”