How did the writers come up with the name "Gallifrey"? Every name means something or is related to something. Most of the names in Doctor Who are related to mythology, history, religion, or classic SF literature. Gallifrey is not, at least to my knowledge.

  • 3
    I was thinking “gallimaufry.” No proof, though.
    – Adamant
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 20:16
  • 6
    “Any name means something, or is related to something.” Really? Meet my invisible friend, Felliquarlus, whose name I just made up with the first sounds that came into my head. Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 20:16
  • 8
    "'I was loyal to the Time Lords. To my people. But they prognosticated. They pondered. They observed. Do you know the literal translation of the word "Gallifrey" is 'they that walk in the shadows". That's their problem. They know everything and yet they know nothing. I left Gallifrey because I was bored, and because of something that happened, a long time ago...'" - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pit_(Penswick_novel)
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 20:17
  • 9
    @PaulD.Waite - Your word translates in latin as felli(bright)quarlus(brought forth). Since he's invisible, I'd expect that his name has something to do with his power set.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 20:21
  • 4
    @Valorum you're demonstrating exactly the problem of trying to assign deeper meaning to fiction.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 8:44

3 Answers 3


I heard somebody ask about the name "Gallifrey" at a Doctor Who convention in the 1980s. John Nathan-Turner answered something to the effect that it was supposed to be suggestive of "gallimaufry," which was originally a word for a kind of hash dish, now normally used in the sense "a heterogeneous mixture, a confused jumble, a ridiculous medley" (per the Oxford English Dictionary).

There may have been more to Nathan-Turner's answer, but I don't remember. Now, one of my first thoughts as I thought back to this event was that the name of the Time Lords' world probably predated Nathan-Turner's work on the show, so he would not have been speaking from first-hand knowledge; but rather, it must have been something he himself had heard some years later. However, I then remembered that Nathan-Turner had actually worked on the show (as a low-level production assistant) all the way back during Patrick Troughton's tenure, and (as the show was always a favorite of his) stayed in close touch with the production staff of Doctor Who during the years he was working on other shows. So he may have had relatively contemporaneous knowledge of where the name came from, although he would not have been part of the naming process.

  • 7
    gallimaufry: a hodgepodge; jumble; confused medley. (dictionary.com)
    – amalgamate
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 15:22
  • 1
    In my lifetime, I have only ever encountered the word through wordplay, where the references to Doctor Who was clearly intended.
    – Buzz
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 20:22

Although I cannot find proof of it anywhere, I had an idea that it could be a play/twist on the term "Galfridian", which is an adjective relating to Geoffrey of Monmouth, who is considered the founder of English historiography (the study of historical writing). Being that the show was founded on an idea to push science and history, this would make sense (to me, at least).


The word gallifrey might be taken from something or other to do with english public school terminology. I spoke to JNT at a dr who convention (80's) and he told me that the timelords are teachers (hartnell classics troughton physics pertwee poetry baker romance davison p.e.), the companions are the students and the daleks are..... MOM! Complete with skirt, bath plungers and air fresheners!

  • 1
    ... which would perhaps well demonstrate why there are a number of long-term Doctor Who fans who think none too kindly of JNT.
    – RDFozz
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 16:29

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.