How to Find Original Town & Landmark Names

Naming MireYou’re writing, speeding through scenes in a gush of inspiration, when your characters reach the town, mountain, forest of _______ and your (metaphorical) feet suddenly sink into the time-sucking swamp of naming.

A quick tip for when this happens: do what I did above and put a dash where the name of the person/place should be and keep writing. Resist the rabbit hole and return to your blank spaces after you’ve finished the scene.

Now,

The Basic Formula

 Adjective/Noun + Geographic/Architectural Term = 90% of Place Names

If you don’t believe me, take a drive around your nearest suburb and take note of the neighborhood and street names; or if you want to stay inside, study the city names on a map.


Words to Mix & Match

This is a limited list, so please help flesh it out by commenting!

Adjective/Noun

Naming Town

Colors/Value

For more inspiration, see Crayola

  • Clear
  • White
  • Bright
  • Red
  • Vermillion
  • Pink
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Indigo
  • Violet
  • Purple
  • Gray
  • Dun
  • Russet
  • Brown
  • Black

Animals

Feel free to get specific with species

  • Badger
  • Bear
  • Bird
  • Bobcat
  • Deer
  • Elk
  • Fox
  • Lynx
  • Moose
  • Rabbit
  • Snake
  • Weasel
  • Wolf

Weather

  • Cloud
  • Rain
  • Snow
  • Storm
  • Wind

Plants

  • Aspen
  • Briar
  • Cedar
  • Clover
  • Flower
  • Holly
  • Ivy
  • Mint
  • Pine
  • Reed
  • Vine

Directions

  • Deep/Shallow(s)
  • High(er)/Low(er)
  • North/South/East/West
  • Outer/Inner
  • Side
  • Top/Bottom
  • Winding

 

Geographic

Place Names

  • Bank
  • Beach
  • Borough
  • Boulder
  • Breach
  • Canyon
  • Cave
  • Cavern
  • Chasm
  • Clearing
  • Cliff
  • Cove
  • Creek
  • Dell
  • Desert
  • Dune
  • Forest
  • Glacier
  • Glade
  • Glen
  • Gorge
  • Hill
  • Hole
  • Inlet
  • Lair
  • Lake
  • Ledge
  • Mount/Mountain
  • Pass
  • Peak
  • Pebble
  • Plain
  • Pond
  • Pool
  • Ravine
  • Rift
  • Rim
  • River
  • Rock
  • Sand
  • Shore
  • Slope
  • Stone
  • Stream
  • Swamp
  • Swell
  • Vale
  • Valley
  • Volcano
  • Water
  • Wood

Architectural

  • Bridge
  • Castle
  • City
  • Dun
  • Fort
  • Gate
  • Howe
  • Port
  • Rest

Endings

  • City
  • Town
  • Way
  • -(n)ia
  • -ton
  • -ville

A last tip…

My usual is to use this naming convention (adjective/noun + geographic/architectural term), but in a different language.

I choose a language that I will use to derive all of my names for the world or region and translate whatever name I chose into that language.

For instance…

Using Norse as my naming language, I want a place called Fox Pool. I can find an exact translation for Fox, foa, but I’m not finding pool, so I switch to Lake and find the word Vatn. I can keep these words separate, but I think it sounds better combined, so I end up with Foavatn.

Sometimes I switch the order of the words or Anglicize them by dropping a letter or two to make them seem a little more familiar to readers. In this case, I would drop the last n, leaving me with Foavat, a name that holds a good flavor but is somewhat pronounceable.

And other times, I cheat and just use the word for city or town in a different language and leave it at that.

How do you name places? Have any words or categories to add to the lists? Email me at thespinningpen@gmail.com or comment below!

-Abigail signing off-

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “How to Find Original Town & Landmark Names

  1. Love this! I use Icelandic and Norwegian all the time for naming my cities. The word bank is going to be really useful in the future. Bookmarked!

    Like

  2. I also think it’s useful to mention that when you’re naming things for a whole map that you need to keep your names consistent based on the language and culture of the area. For example, in one kingdom it doesn’t make sense to have the names “Oxbridge”, “Zandameir”, and “Fjalland”. Instead, keep them with similar sounds like “Festings”, “Norset”, and “Hafford”, which all sounds like typical English city names.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s