The first names of Westerosi people are quite similar to the names in the real world. However this seems to be contradictory to the in-world history of the continent. The language of Andals called Common Tongue, which is rendered as the real world English is mutually intelligible throughout all Westeros. The names however sound quite alien.

Now in the real-world Europe due to religious factors Europeans adopted a lot of names of Hebrew, Greek and Latin origin. This is not however the fact in Westeros, where the Faith of Seven is a native faith of Andal. We should expect that a large portion of the names (at least these popular south of the Neck) would have English etymology.

Is there some explanation for this given by GRRM? Or any theory to explain that?

  • 3
    Why should we assume that the names have English etymology?
    – Adamant
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 7:50
  • Because Andals (which speak the language that sounds like real-world English) didn't have as big motivation to accept names from other cultures as Europeans had. They didn't venerate valyrian people like Western European Christians did with Semitic and Greek saints.
    – zefciu
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 7:55
  • 4
    Sure, but I guess I'm saying that English might be a translation convention from Westerosi, a convention not being used for names.
    – Adamant
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 7:55
  • There are however puns and other word plays in Common Tongue that make perfect sense in English. This would mean that Common Tongue has the same grammar as English, that the words that are similar in English are also similar in Common Tongue etc.
    – zefciu
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 9:54
  • 2
    @zefciu English <> Common Tongue, rather the Common Tongue is portrayed as English to avoid having to subtitle everything. This is a fantasy world, not Europe and so I don't think there's any reason to argue that southron names should be English names.
    – kuhl
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 17:44

2 Answers 2


Martin based a lot of the names on Medieval English names (Henry, Edward, occasional Richard) and said he would borrow them and give them a twist (Edward becomes Eddard), and these simpler names like Stark he would give to descendents of the First Men. He would take inspiration for these twists from the historical phenomena of people being, seemingly, unable to correctly spell their names (6 variations of Shakespeare etc.).

It was the Valyrians whom he would don with more exotic names that included a lot of 'y' and 'ae' constructions (e.g. Daenerys, Aegon etc.).

Most importantly, Martin's primary rule for inventing names is "What sounds right".

The names of Dornish families and settlements do not sound alien, at all, and easily could pass off as Medieval English names (e.g. Martell). The reason why some of the names (especially first names) later on in the history started sounding "alien" (e.g. Oberyn, Nymeros etc.) was because of an alliance between the Dornish Martells and the Rhoynarian (Essos) warrior-queen Nymeria, which united the two houses, and influenced the naming.

The way Dorne is presently (TV show era) is a product of millennia of wars and influences that include the First Men and the Andals, but later includes much more of a Essosi influence (e.g. Rhoynarian Wars).


This question has actually been raised once in an interview with GRRM, he gave an answer

  • 2
    This answer could be improved by typing out the relevant quote in case the video gets taken down, so the answer can stand by itself. (And for people who can't or don't want to watch a video.)
    – Sabre
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 19:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.