In our own language we have the term alien, which we also use in sci-fi settings. In Warhammer 40K humans use the term Xenos to describe a group of intelligent beings that contain none of our own species.

Are there such terms that exist in fantasy settings?

Example: A dwarf enters a tavern and sees a tiefling and an elf sitting together at a table. This is a pair of... what?

If these terms exist, what are they?

  • 2
    Well, a human would refer to a mixed group (hah!) of Eldar, Orks, Necrons, T'au as "xenos" but I don't know if that's the term an Eldar would use in return. Further, in most non-grimdark scenarios, the term would be "people."
    – DavidW
    Jan 19, 2022 at 15:43
  • 1
    I can't see how there'd be a single term, only group negation. A human would say "non-humans", a dwarf would say "non-dwarves" (or "non-dwarfs"), etc.
    – Harabeck
    Jan 19, 2022 at 16:10
  • 2
    'ragtag' would be a general example not specifically limited to fantasy settings. IMO, do a little world building a create a brand new pergorative (or non-pergorative) word for it, specific to the species seeing the scene. "This pair of steely-eyed and shifty kVartchlas...etc"
    – NKCampbell
    Jan 19, 2022 at 16:24
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    Jan 20, 2022 at 9:00

1 Answer 1


Mortals is quite common when spoken from someone with a longer than normal lifepsan, who doesn't die from old age or when speaking down on a group they believe is beneath them.

For some examples this is seen in The Lord of the Rings:

‘It is not easy for us to tell the difference between two mortals,’ said the Elf.

‘Nonsense, Lindir,’ snorted Bilbo. ‘If you can’t distinguish between a Man and a Hobbit, your judgement is poorer than I imagined. They’re as different as peas and apples.’

‘Maybe. To sheep other sheep no doubt appear different,’ laughed Lindir. ‘Or to shepherds. But Mortals have not been our study. We have other business.’

The Fellowship of the Ring

This is also seen in The Witcher series a few times, generally when talking about groups in relation to sorcerers.

Geralt had reason to suspect – and had long suspected – that sorcerers’ banquets differed from the feasts of ordinary mortals. He never suspected, however, that the differences could be so great or so fundamental.

Time of Contempt

People/Peoples are more generic terms used for groups containing humanoid races. usually. Generally used like "the people of the land" or "the peoples of X".

This is also something used in The Lord of the Rings a few times. This work also has a more specific example of "Free Peoples" which is a bit more constrained.

‘Welcome Gimli son of Glo´in! It is long indeed since we saw one of Durin’s folk in Caras Galadhon. But today we have broken our long law. May it be a sign that though the world is now dark better days are at hand, and that friendship shall be renewed between our peoples.’ Gimli bowed low.

The Fellowship of the Ring

‘For the rest, they shall represent the other Free Peoples of the World: Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Legolas shall be for the Elves; and Gimli son of Glo´in for the Dwarves. They are willing to go at least to the passes of the Mountains, and maybe beyond. For men you shall have Aragorn son of Arathorn, for the Ring of Isildur concerns him closely.’

The Fellowship of the Ring

Lastly, something that is even more generic is folk. Used to describe pretty much anyone in a somewhat informal way. To keep with my theme this is used a lot in The Lord of the Rings.

And certainly it was from Bree that the art of smoking the genuine weed spread in the recent centuries among Dwarves and such other folk, Rangers, Wizards, or wanderers, as still passed to and fro through that ancient road-meeting.

The Fellowship of the Ring

Another example is again used in The Witcher series. Here we get a lot of examples of its usage from folk referring to pretty much anyone, common folk for the "common people" and more qualified examples like Elder Folk.

‘That there bridge,’ Sheepbagger said, ‘was built by trolls in the olden days, and whoever came this way had to pay them a pretty penny. But since folk seldom came this way the trolls were reduced to beggary. But the bridge remains.’

Sword of Destiny

Those are pretty much the main three I've seen used across works before you start getting more specific to certain situations or groups. They are also words commonly in English anyway (mortals being a bit of an exception excluding maybe mere mortals!) which is probably why they've carried over into fantasy works because there isn't really a need to come up with a new fantasy word here.

  • There's a good reference page on TV Tropes here: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OfThePeople it's not just fantasy races, but it's easy to spot patterns
    – AncientSwordRage
    Jan 19, 2022 at 17:12
  • Out of universe(s), I wonder if “fae” might be considered generic enough to mean any and all non-human bipeds. It does have a magical connotation, I think, so maybe not. Jan 19, 2022 at 22:37
  • Would you be able to edit in why these works are representative of the fantast genre?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Jan 20, 2022 at 15:30

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