Who likes to spurt out blubberings and then exclaim, "There! That's a new word!" I'll admit I've done that several times, just to be silly. But how silly is it?
As I'm sure many of you know, the English language has taken on many changes over the centuries. Most of our words come from other origins including Latin, French, German, ect. ect.; a lot of our words are a mix of other languages.
So speaking of mixing words, let's briefly take for example the German word Schnadenfreude. Schnaden meaning damage, freude meaning joy. So, joy in the misfortunes of others. Probably the English word most similar to this word is "gloating." Shakespeare even used the method of combining words to make his own for use in his plays.
Kinda cool, huh? Well, I think so. Maybe you're just wondering why I'm giving you a language origins lesson (if you're interest isn't even the slightest bit peaked, you should go ahead and get that MRI your friends have been telling you to get for the past couple years).
Okay, okay, here's where I'm going with this. Today I want to share with you how I come up with unique names in my fantasy story :)
When I first started looking for some character names, I decided to use a mix of known names, such as Marta and Ellen and Ivanya, and I changed the name Ellen to Ellyn to make it a bit more unique. But then I wanted something even more special. For the character Aelwyn and my "non-existent" character Azrae, I began looking elsewhere. I'm sorry to say I was careless with these and I don't remember specifically what I used. I'm thinking with the suffix "wyn" I looked up Elvish names and made a favorite combination - I'll have to look into that later and see if I can find what it is. With Azrae, I looked up a site where I could type in several words and it would produce a few words combining the words I had entered. I chose to use the names of jewels since she was my "beautiful" character. ...I ended up combining a combination to make Azrae ;)
So that was pretty vague, but now I'll get into the real stuff. I've decided to use a mix of Latin and Welsh names (occasionally Native American if it has something to do with Marta)to create my unique names. Latin would have been a common language in Medieval Ages, and I did some research on Welsh origins and people and decided they fit my characters well. Plus, Welsh just looks cool, haha! Now for examples:
In my book, my main dragon's name is Gerrac (pronounced JHAIR-rock - completely my own pronunciation.) You must be thinking that's pretty random. Well, not really! Gerrac is Ellyn's mentor, seeing as she is a dragon rider, and he is extremely old and wise. Gerrac is a green dragon. The name Gerrac is the Welsh name for jade (a green gem stone meaning wisdom and prosperity), "carreg," spelled backwards. Oh ho ho.
Now, for my kingdom names. Drasia (Dray-shjuh, but if you say dray-shjee-uh no big deal. Sometimes I go back and forth too, I just picked the first one because I had been saying it like that earlier because it is simpler, lol.) The word "draig" is dragon in Welsh. The word "teyrnasiad" is reign in Welsh. By mixing things around, cutting out letters, ect., Drasia eventually came about, and I stretched the word meanings for Drasia to mean Reign of the Dragons. I had many combination words in the running for the kingdom, but I decided on that one because the meaning is a bit ironic for how the kingdom is at the beginning of the book yet foreshadows what is to come.
For Ellyn's village, Cindreth, I used a mix of the Welsh word "cwnsel," which means magic, and the Welsh word "lledrith," meaning magic. So, secret magic. Makes ya curious, eh? Plus the sound of "Cindreth" fits the small, poor village perfect. Makes me think of cinder and dust.
One last one. (And this is a possible name, I haven't settled on it officially.) The Mountains of Minaeth (min, like miniature, ayth). Minaeth is a combination of the Welsh word "Mynydd," meaning mountain, and the Welsh word "Hiraeth" meaning longing. So, longing for the mountains. This is significant because innocent Ellyn's only feelings of discontentment are aroused when she thinks of the mountains on the border of Drasia.
Those are only a few examples. I have an exxxxtttreeeemmmeeelllyyy long sticky note FULL of word combinations using these Welsh, Latin, and Native American words.
For some people, making up their own words like this is easy. Some find it to be a real challenge. I'm not sure where I fall - somewhere in between. The thing you have to remember with this is that everything is acceptable when you first start. Don't nix a word combo you've JUST created because you think it sounds dumb - write it down. Not only does writing it down get your creative juices flowing, but after you've made a decent list of word combos and have the feel of it, you may go back to your first word and say, "Hey...that's not so bad." Or you will see that if you change just one letter the word becomes so much better. (That happened with Minaeth. It was originally spelled Mynaeth, but a friend pointed out that the "My" looked and sounded very odd. Once I changed the My to Mi however, the word took on a whole different look. Well, I think so at least ;) )
I'm not sure how I can give any other tips on creating new words. I really don't know what my thought process is! Basically, I choose two words I want to use, and I start making combos. Here's a little example, and hopefully this will come across clearly:
I'm trying to create a name for the great forest in Drasia. The forest is thick and dark, and it is where my fire breather, Marta, dwells. I'll spare you all of the examples, but what I started with was writing down some words in English that I would want to have included in the meaning. I thought of fire, forest, woods, shadow, dark, black, tree, ect. Basic words. Then, I looked up each word in Welsh, Latin, and Native American.
Fire: Latin - ignis // Welsh - fuel
Darkness: Latin - tenebris // Welsh - tywyll, caddug
Shadow: Latin - umbra // Welsh - cysgod
Then I chose two words, say ignis and tenebris, and started trying to combine then. Igbri, Igten, Igbris...not really working for me. I threw in the word fuel and came up with Felbris. Seeing as how I have a bit of a theme changing i's or e's into y's, I then changed the word to Felbrys. (fire darkness.)
Another: Take ufel and tywyll and you fel Felwyll. (fire darkness.)
A third: take cysgod and ignis and you have Cysig (fire shadow or shadow fire)
I'm not sure about these combinations, I feel like there can be better (my main problem - I come up with words and think they all sound dumb), but I wrote them down. I stared at them. I rearranged. The key is to not get frustrated and not stop. If you let yourself go and just relax, this exercise can become SO much fun as you try and make your own unique word that has special meaning.
Hopefully this wasn't too boring or confusing, but a little fun :) If you have any questions about it feel free to ask and I will answer them to the best of my ability.
(Some sites I used for the Welsh and Latin words (I realize these might not be 100% accurate as far as forms of the words, but to me that doesn't matter a great deal seeing as how everything is made up anyways. I simply go by what the translations tell me, seeing as I'm not an expert in these languages.) geiriadur.net, freedict.com (which barely contained anything, horrible..), translate.google.com.)
"Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them."