If I was living on a planet somewhere in the galaxy and decided to divide that galaxy into some named parts, I would probably name my own region the 'Alpha' part, and chances are that not all species divide it in exactly 4 parts.

In several Voyager episodes, Delta Quadrant aliens either call the region the 'Delta quadrant' themselves (I think this was in VOY5x10 Counterpoint)or seem to naturally understand what it means when some of our Voyager heroes say it. Is that the Universal Translator doing a very good job? But if so, how could it know if those aliens divided the galaxy into 4, 7 or 29 parts?

Or are we to assume that the Voyager crew (offscreen) explained the Federation way of quadrants to the aliens?

Or (out of universe) didn't the writers think this through?

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    Probably just the universal translator interpreting whatever region they're talking about, and giving us our name for it.
    – Molag Bal
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 1:47
  • To expand on that a bit, you're probably right that lots of alien civilizations don't divide the galaxy into quadrants. But if they're talking about a region of space that's halfway close to their current location, all of those regions are probably in the Delta Quadrant. I don't know how the universal translator would handle a name for a more complicated, wider region if translating as "Delta Quadrant" wouldn't be good enough.
    – Molag Bal
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 3:02
  • 3
    I think it was an out-of-universe writing convention. The show was already asking viewers to remember a lot of information, and probably didn't want to burden people with having to remember multiple names for things. Logically, most species would have different names for their own chunk of the universe, so it's either a catch-all title, or you've got to come up with a new one every week. Commented May 1, 2016 at 4:30

3 Answers 3


Out-of-universe, I'd say that it's just easier for the viewers to have one name for a place no matter who is speaking.

But I'd give them this one. You might as well ask why Germans on TV shows call their country "Germany" and not, say, "Deutschland". The obvious answer is because their speech is translated into English for the English-language audience, and so the place name is translated also.

The tougher part of your question is the implicit assumption that the aliens also divide the galaxy into quadrants and that these quadrants have the same axes as those used by the Federation. That's a huge and unlikely assumption. Some "geography" is natural and some isn't. Like on Earth, it would be fair to assume that any culture that has an accurate map of the Earth would have a name for "Australia" and that we could translate between languages. But if these cultures had not previously been in contact with each other, there is no assurance that they would both divide the world into Eastern and Western Hemispheres, and draw the dividing line at exactly the same place. Galactic quadrants would be way more arbitrary than that.

If I was a screen-writer I'd probably say, well, yeah, but they have a name for this same general volume of space, the exact boundaries aren't exactly the same but it's fairly close, so for most purposes it's fair to translate their word to "Delta Quadrant".

  • 5
    Yes, it's entirely reasonable because the alien saying Delta Quadrant doesn't mean literally the 90° pieslice of the galaxy with the same borders at the Federation uses. They just mean the general region of space they are in as opposed to the one Voyager came from. If you run into an American in Italy and ask "How long have you been in Europe?" it really doesn't matter whether you both include Iceland or Britain or which parts of Turkey and Russia you each include in that, The detail isn't important. Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 15:37
  • @ThePopMachine Not until you ask that same question to that same American in the Ukraine, of course. Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 16:47
  • @can-ned_food Sure. There would be cases where the exact borders matter, and cases where they wouldn't. This sort of thing comes up fairly often when there are disputed borders. Like maps produced by Argentina routinely include the Islas Malvinas as part of Argentina, while maps produced in Britain call them the Falkland Islands and show them as a British possession. I just saw a screen shot of a Russian weather report where the weather mapt shows the Crimea as part of Russia. Etc.
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 16:58
  • The Federation division of the galaxy into quadrants puts Earth right on the border of the Alpha and Beta quadrants. Even if the Delta Quadrant aliens divide the galaxy into quadrants, they won't be the same quadrants.
    – Micah
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 20:44
  • @Micah The question would be, how closely does the space described by whatever alien word that is supposedly being translated match the space described by the federation word, and is the difference relevant? Like when you read a history book, they often say things like "this happened in Dacia -- modern Romania -- and blah blah". Of course the borders of ancient Dacia and modern Romania are not the same, but there's a large overlap. It seems unlikely to me that an interstellar empire's borders would exactly match a neat quadrant of the galaxy. I took the references to "Delta Quadrant" to ...
    – Jay
    Commented Apr 21, 2018 at 4:23

A possibility is that the universal translator recognized this dilemma, and might not bother to translate this term. "Delta Quadrant" might be kept as-is and treated as a proper name in the other language, similar to "Federation", "Janeway", "Voyager", and "Borg"*. As long as it comes across that the weird word "Delta Quadrant" means "this quadrant of the Milky Way", then the UT has already accomplished its task.

*: Questionable for this one. In-universe, since it's an abbreviation of the English word "Cyborg", it might be the product of either the Borg's or of the Federation UTs.


I wouldn't think that species in the Delta quadrant would call it the "Delta" quadrant as that is a word in old Earth Greek, which I doubt they spoke.

Star Trek assumes that every species speaks English, regardless of the presence or absence of Starfleet crew and their translating comm badges. When a crewman loses his badge, how does he communicate with aliens?

Based on the inconsistencies in Star Trek, it is safe to say that alien species can call their space whatever they want and we will understand it to mean whatever we want it to mean, which is what the translator is meant to do.

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