Developing Placenames


Developing unique names for locations in your world can be a daunting task sometimes. You have a whole world of unnamed areas, seas, villages, mountains, and roads to name. It's so much! Well, never fear, because I've got a cool waay to take some of the whelm out, so you're not overwhelmed by this task. Just regular whelmed.


First, A Language

You can use whatever your native language is, or a real language, but I like to use conlangs. My very favorite conlang generator is Vulgar, so let's head on over there and whip ourselves up a brand new fantasy language.

As you can see in the image right here, getting a conlang can be as easy as just hitting that "Generate New Language" button. You can customize your conlang if you want; for example, if you want a conlang with the same phonemes as French, you can specify that with the selections under "More Options." But for now, we're keeping things simple, so we'll just hit Generate!


Cool, a new language! Mine is called Trachnan, but yours is probably called something different, and will have different rules and grammar. If you absolutely hate your first generated language, that's okay! Just make another one.

Some important things to take note of for your new language can be found if you scroll down. Under the "Grammar" heading, take note of your adjective order. This is whether your adjectives come before or after a noun. Do you say "blue dog" or "dog blue"?

Keep scrolling until you're almost to the glossary, and stop at a section titled "Derivational Morphology." This section tells you how to turn one part of speech into another. It's the difference between the color green (adjective) and greenery (noun) and greening up a space (verb). How do you turn a noun into an adverb? The derivational morphology section will tell you!


For example, in Trachnan, if I want to turn a noun into a verb, I will add the prefix kse-. So the noun garden is turned into the verb ksegarden. In English, this would be accomplished by adding the word "to" to the front of the noun for the infinitive form of the verb: to garden.

If I wanted to name someone who performs the action of gardening, in English I would add the suffix -er, for gardener. In Trachnan, I would add the prefix dne-: dnegarden.

Take note of these morphological strategies. They're going to come in handy later when we're smashing words together to create descriptive placenames!



Add It To WorldAnvil!

Now that you've created your language, what do you do with it? Import it into WorldAnvil, of course!

Head over to your articles and open up the languages type. You can see all my conlangs for Imperia Triplica in here! I'm going to create a new one for Trachnan. Create your new language article, and then head back over to Vulgar.


In Vulgar, scroll all the way back to the top of your language's page. Under "More Options" you'll click on the "Saving Options" button. They have HTML and stuff, but more importantly, they have a specific WorldAnvil BBCode for you! You can (and should!) also download a CSV version of the dictionary, for your own use and also to upload into WorldAnvil.

Select the radio button to "Show the Code." This will open up the BBCode of the language. Highlight all of it and copy it, then hop back over to your new language article and paste the whole thing into your main Content section.

Nice! You have a new conlang attached to your world!

Head back over to Vulgar and open the CSV, then copy it just like you did the BBCode. When you go back to your article, refresh the page, then open up "Show Template Specific Prompts and Connections," then select the "Dictionary" tab.


Copying the BBCode

Dictionary upload screen





Scroll down on that dictionary upload screen and select the button "Import VulgarLang Dictionary." This will open up a text box, where you should paste the CSV file you just copied from Vulgar. Hit the "Import" button and wait for the dictionary to populate!

Once you do that, if you go to your published article and refresh the page, you'll have an option to search your dictionary of new words. This will come in handy later! Leave your article editing page open to the Dictionary tab so as you create names for places, you can add them to your dictionary!


Next, the Words

Okay, so you've created this language, imported it to WorldAnvil, and made the dictionary. Nice! What do you do now?

Now it's time to do some word searching. Earlier, I recommended not only copying the CSV code, but actually downloading the CSV as a file (I use Excel, but you can use whatever spreadsheet program you fancy). Open up that file and sort your spreadsheet by "Part of Speech." Now you're going to go hunting for words. I've listed out some examples that I like to have below, but choose whatever words are important to your world!

Cardinal Directions

  • north
  • south
  • east
  • west

Emotion

  • peace
  • tragedy
  • victory
  • disaster
  • lamentation
  • joy
  • resignation
  • pride
  • despair
  • shame
  • love
  • hate
  • anger
  • fear
  • bravery

Modifiers

  • great
  • small
  • high
  • low
  • major
  • minor
  • leeward/sheltered
  • windward/exposed
  • fore/front
  • back/rear
  • dry
  • wet
  • first/primary
  • second(ary)
  • dark
  • light/bright
  • old
  • new
  • bitter
  • sweet
  • wide
  • narrow
  • angry
  • happy

Natural Geography

  • forest
  • river
  • hill
  • mountain
  • peak
  • volcano
  • valley
  • lake
  • canyon
  • desert
  • fire/flame
  • bay
  • harbor
  • sea
  • island
  • prairie
  • grass
  • swamp
  • land
  • beach
  • shore
  • cliff
  • glacier
  • snow

Manmade Geography

  • farm
  • castle
  • town
  • city
  • port
  • prison
  • dam
  • bridge
  • reservoir
  • ford
  • railroad
  • road
  • highway
  • pass
  • church
  • temple
  • market
  • grave(yard)
  • sanctuary
  • mill

Event

  • founding/creation
  • arrival
  • exodus
  • war
  • famine
  • battle
  • birth
  • death
  • treaty
  • surrender
  • invasion
  • coronation
  • abdication
  • race
  • defeat
  • revolution
  • uprising
  • festival
  • earthquake
  • volcanic eruption
  • hurricane
  • tornado
  • flood
  • asteroid
  • eclipse (lunar/solar)

Figures

  • deity/god
  • founder
  • destroyer
  • enemy
  • king/queen
  • emperor/empress
  • prince/princess
  • warrior
  • peacemaker
  • priest
  • chieftain
  • traitor
  • invader
  • president
  • mayor
  • lover
  • celebrity
  • one who (verbs)


Using Your Words

Let's say you have a town you want to name "the Bloodmaker's Promise." Let's gather our words from our dictionary. There's no word for "peacemaker" so we're going to pick up its different parts.

BLOODY: gwnumlu

TO MAKE: blo

TO PROMISE: ůnggu

"Bloody" is an adjective, and we need to turn it into a noun. We do this by adding the prefix li- to the adjective, which becomes li- + gwnumlu = ligwnumlu

"To make" needs to be turned into a noun, specifically "one who makes." We do this by adding the prefix dne- to a verb. So "maker" is formed by adding dne- + blo = dneblo.

Then we combine these words to make "Bloodmaker": ligwnumludneblo

Wow, that's a long word. It's okay. We'll leave it for now.

"To promise" is a verb that needs to be made a noun. We add the prefix bri-, which becomes bri- + ůnggu = briůnggu

To make something possessive, we add the prefix tyi- for masculine and ru- for feminine. Let's say this bloodmaker was a lady. ^_^

All together, "(Lady) Bloodmaker's Promise" translates into Ruligwnumludneblo Briůnggu.

Now, that's a really long name. But that's okay. In real life, there are plenty of cities that stared out with super long names that became simplified over time, either officially or collquially. We could shorten this whole huge name down to just Briůnggu if we wanted to. Or to retain the possessive modifier, we might call it Rubriůnggu, "Her Promise". Her who? Oh, nobody. Just the Bloodmaker. She has a museum in town. You should check it out if you have time.

       



More Examples

If you gathered up words for those examples I gave up there, you should be able to string together some words for placenames. You can call a town "By The River," Mlamibri, or "Under the Mountain," Tyůḍuyla. The next town over might be the best place to cross said river, so it's called that: Brigranggli. Maybe at that town, a famous warrior crossed that river to go win a war, so it's called "Warrior's Crossing," Granggliůyeme. Or it's got amazing trade due to the riches it gets from mining the mountain, Liyonmo Loḍuyla. But everyone just calls it Liyonmo, to keep things simple.

     

A very cool thing about developing names like this is that you end up with built-in story seeds. A warrior crossed this river to win a war. What warrior? What war? When was this? Was this guy on our side, or was he an enemy? Does one set of people call it the "Hero's Crossing," whereas another group calls it the "Usurper's Crossing?" Who's correct? Everyone? No one? With just a couple simple naming patterns, you start to naturally develop stories and history.



I hope you enjoyed this primer on using conlangs to name stuff in your world! Please leave a comment if you liked this, and let me know other world building stuff you'd like to see me cover. Thanks, and have a great day!


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