On creating place names for your world

I find that, throughout the whole worldbuilding process, creating the names is the hardest step of all. Some might say that this is the very first step – but to that, I would protest most vigorously.

Naturally, you can’t write your first draft having your characters refer to Place A or B throughout the whole thing (or perhaps you can? you do you and all that). I just went with something basic that I knew I would change eventually, like Westvillage for the city in the west and so on. I have renamed my cities twice already, and now I’m working on a third attempt.

It’s really difficult.

These are my criteria when creating a place name:

  • It needs to sound great (obviously), and be easily pronounced.
  • It should be easy to remember.
  • It should give that special feeling when saying it out loud – like you can see the place in your head simply by saying its name. Well, at least it should once the reader has become properly acquainted with it. Like Hogwarts, for example. You don’t picture a pig with warts when you hear it. You picture a magical-gothic-castle-wizard-school (as well as some painful memories of broken childhood dreams due to the absence of an owl delivering a letter with emerald green writing, but let’s not get too deep into the details).

I feel like the first two are mandatory for all world builders, but the third one should happen on its own once the world is fully established. However, I want to take it one step further, by using authentic language to create original names. I know, I just can’t stop myself sometimes, I just have to make it even harder. I chose old irish for this, as my world is loosely based on the tuatha de danann and the old irish stories. I feel like I’m halfway there with some of the names, while others are still clouded in mystery.

I suppose that’s just part of the fun, though, isn’t it? That it’s difficult, I mean. That way, the satisfaction and enjoyment of coming up with the perfect name must be all the greater. Not going to lie – I’m really looking forward to that part.

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