In the WH40K universe, a lot of High Gothic is depicted as Latin. E.g. the different branches of government: Adeptus Administratum (administro, latin for minister), Adeptus Munitorum (munitio, latin for fortification), Adeptus Ministorum (ministro, latin for serve), Adeptus Sororitas (soror, latin for sister), Adeptus Astartes:

"Aster" meaning "Star" or "The Stars", as in "Asteroid" (resembling a star), "Theaster" (God star), etc. and also found as "Astro-" in many instances. "Astar" is a peculiarity of spelling, but that's High Gothic for you.

"-tes" as a suffix is probably an irregular spelling of the suffix "-tas" which refers to a state of being, where "liber" (free) and "-tas" (being) combine to libertas (freedom, liberty), or "difficultas" (difficulty) from difficulis (difficult) + tas.

Inasmuch to our low gothic, there isn't an exact translation of "Astartes" but it functionally is the state of being among the stars; "stellar" is maybe the closest word I can think of. Though to be honest, "Space Marine" maybe makes sense- "Marine" could be said to be the state of being of the sea, related to the sea. "Astartes" is to the stars as "Marine" is to the sea.

From this Reddit response.

So, English is used to represent Low Gothic, while Latin (and AFAIK sometimes Greek) is used to represent High Gothic. Looking at the Names of the Legions:

  1. Dark Angels
  2. Records have been purged of this Legion
  3. Emperor's Children
  4. Iron Warriors
  5. White Scars
  6. Space Wolves
  7. Imperial Fists
  8. Night Lords
  9. Blood Angels
  10. Iron Hands
  11. Records have been purged of this Legion
  12. World Eaters
  13. Ultramarines
  14. Death Guard
  15. Thousand Sons
  16. Luna Wolves
  17. Word Bearers
  18. Salamanders
  19. Raven Guard
  20. Alpha Legion

So, there is the Alpha Legion and the Luna Wolves but no other Latin or Greek words. This made me wonder if these are the Low Gothic names of the Legion and if there's a High Gothic name for them?

Back when the Legions where active, there was no Low Gothic as the 40k High Gothic was the common tongue back then:

High Gothic is also known as "Tech" as it is a version of the language in which technical rituals and ancient works are recorded. This developed during the Dark Age of Technology. It derives from the common tongue of the time, in the Merican/Pan-Pacific region. This was the universal medium of written record until the Age of Strife, and was spoken as a first language by many and as a second language by almost everyone.

From the Lexicanum article on High Gothic

Just makes me wonder why every official name has a High Gothic representation (in Latin) but the Space Marine Legions.

  • I think the official names are "I Legion", "II Legion", etc. The chapters, on the other hand, may have High Gothic names.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


Because your List is their Cognomen

The Legiones Astartes formal names are their numeric designation, "The VI Legiones Astartes" for instance. Which presumably is spoken in High Gothic "Sextus Legiones Astartes" rather than "Sixth Legiones Astartes". All the other names are essentially "nicknames" given to the legions for various reasons by various people. For example the VI "Space Wolves" appears to be based on a bad translation of the Fenrisian "Vlka Fenryka" meaning "People of Fenris". "Vlka" being a very clever move by Dan as it's halfway between the german "Volk" (people) and the russian "valk" (wolf) and it's hinted that the Imperium mistranslated it and nobody bothered to correct them. The Legion also uses the name "The Rout" which was given to it as something of a slur pre-unification with Leman Russ. "The Rout" was dropped by the Imperium when Russ "civilized" them but the Legion kept is as an "informal" nickname. (all of this may be found in either Book VII: Inferno and Prospero Burns)

Meanwhile the XII Legiones Astartes were the "War Hounds" informally before Angron, and the "World Eaters" informally afterwards based (presumably) on Angron's/Kharne's (I forget which actually said it) saying the XII would be "eaters of worlds" under Angron. (From Tales of Heresy iirc)

Neither the VI nor XII (or indeed any) Legion would have been referred to formally as anything other than, "Whatever Legiones Astartes" although by late crusade you sometimes might see "Whatever Legiones Astartes, cognomen" in documents. (you can see this trend in the various Black Books "in universe" documents if you look closely)

  • I'm sure it was Angron's quote. Maybe in the novella where Khan persuades him to accept the legion and Angron says something like "we were known as the eaters of cities, but now we'll be the eaters of worlds!"
    – Liath
    Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 14:54
  • I couldn't recall if it was Angron saying something like that, or Kharne saying something like "with them you could eat cities, with us we could eat worlds." Been a few years since I picked up that story, which is a shame because it's one of the best short stories in the heresy imo. Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 15:40
  • 1
    You can see the same thing in modern militaries. The 101st Airborne Division is not officially the Screaming Eagles. The US Army's antiterrorism unit is 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, not "Delta Force". It's the 1st Infantry Division, not "The Big Red One". And while people might know them better as The Old Guard, officially it's still the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment. The Regiment is often used instead of the Special Air Service, and so on. Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 20:46

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.