I read a book of this series probably around 2000. I think the series was quite new then but not sure.
The main thing I remember about it is that magic is based on words of power. If you knew one word you got some extra ability, knowing two words gave you yet some other ability, and if you knew three words you became a very powerful wizard. Only one person at a time could know each word, and telling someone your word meant you died.
The main protagonist somehow gets hold of one word and then for some reason strives to learn more.
I think that I accidentally picked up the second book of the series and never read the first one. From what I remember, the protagonist learned one word of power and got some kind of supernatural ability (cannot remember what though). He then ends up in some kind of challenge where he has to cooperate with another person who knows another word that gives super-strength.
Not very coherent memories, but I hope someone knows what series it is. It has been bugging me for years. (Not even sure if the series is good at all, but still would like to know the name.)
I remember the world as being medieval-ish. I do not think there were dragons, but there may have been other humanoid races (I have a very weak recollection that there may have been an orc or similar in the story, but this could be completely wrong). The protagonist was male.