You’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.
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!
For more inspiration, see Crayola
Feel free to get specific with species
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below!
-Abigail signing off-
5 thoughts on “How to Name Your Towns & Landmarks”
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!
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.
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