Who came up with the name Darth Vader? According to Wiktionary (apparently Darth Vader now warrants a dictionary entry meaning "a malevolent, dominating and threatening force" :o):

Derived from the fictional character, Darth Vader, itself derived from either Dark Lord of the Sith or a blend of dark and death + Dutch vader (“father”).

How true is the vader = father contention? As the Vader Wikipedia page states, wasn't the father plot twist squeezed in much later? Has Lucas ever acknowledged this connection? Was he perhaps manipulated by the force?

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    Heh. In the Dutch translation of the book, he is called Darth Veder. Which means "feather".
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 9:05
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    My reading - and it's only a personal interpretation so hence it remains a comment - is that "Darth Vader" was originally just a proper name; first name "Darth", surname "Vader". This seems supported by Ben's "only a master of evil, Darth" answer, although one could argue that Ben may have been addressing him by a title (which - to me - seems odd for a Jedi to do to a Sith).
    – user8719
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 9:06
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    "(You're) Only a master of evil, Sith". I like it. Very sarcastic, very insulting use of the title.
    – Morgan
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 4:53
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    @DarthSatan - Anakin addresses to Dooku by his title in Ep.III - My powers have doubled since the last time we met, Count
    – LcSalazar
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 20:48
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    An afterward explanation could be that Vader comes from Waders, referring to his iconic clothing. Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 10:27

5 Answers 5


According to George Lucas' retcon Rolling Stone interview in 2005:

How did you get the name Darth Vader?

"Darth" is a variation of dark. And "Vader" is a variation of father. So it's basically Dark Father. All the names have history, but sometimes I make mistakes -- Luke was originally going to be called Luke Starkiller, but then I realized that wasn't appropriate for the character. It was appropriate for Anakin, but not his son. I said, "Wait, we can't weigh this down too much -- he's the one that redeems him."

Now, there are reasons to suspect that wasn't necessarily the case originally:

  • In A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi addresses Darth Vader simply as "Darth". That sounds like a proper name, not a title.

  • There are persistent rumors that Vader was from "invader". I was never able to find a firm proof of the link, but sounds plausible. Lucas DID the same thing with Sidious, after all.

  • There are reasons to believe that the "father" angle was developed way after the name. From "The Visual Development of Darth Vader"

    In the first draft, Darth Vader is fairly inconsequential, and is merely an Imperial General; most of his later traits are exhibited instead by Prince Valorum, a Sith Lord who dresses in black robes and who speaks in terse, no-nonesense phrases. Both of these characters are human and generally unremarkable in the visual sense; no artwork was ever done. In draft two, however, the two characters were combined, and this is where the Darth Vader that we are familiar with first becomes recognizable in prototype form.

  • 42
    We have always been at war with Oceania.... Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 10:51
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    Take "General Kenobi", for example. It would be perfectly normal for one to address him as "General". The Imperials refer to each other just by their titles/ranks throughout the movies.
    – phantom42
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 12:01
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    @phantom42 - Imperials. Not Obi-Wan :) Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 12:15
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    Anakin addresses to Dooku by his title in Ep.III - My powers have doubled since the last time we met, Count
    – LcSalazar
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 20:50
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    @LcSalazar Yeah, very retconical.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 16:38

George Lucas

According to a piece by the New York Times printed in The Spokesman-Review of May 25, 1980s (the same article also tells of a trilogy of trilogies; see this question):

The deliberately mythic names of the Star Wars characters took months to evolve. "Skywalker" was originally "Darklighter" and then "Starkill." "Darth Vader" was Lucas's careful blend of Deathwater and Darkfather. "Jedi" was chosen for its knightish echo of "Samurai," while "Obi-wan Kenobi" seems to Lucas both ancient and hypnotically phonetic.

The article is mostly an interview with George Lucas, so this information could have come directly from him. This is confirmed in Researching American Culture: A Guide for Student Anthropologists Edited (1982) by Conrad Phillip Kottak (this also appears to have been published elsewhere in 1980):

It is easy to note the phonetic resemblance of Darth Vader to "dark father." In a New York Times interview (May 18, 1980), just before the opening of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas claimed that he chose "Darth Vader" because it sounded like both "dark father" and "deathwater".

Earlier speculation

An article in New Scientist (Dec 22-29, 1977) titled Science in folklore? Folklore in science? by Dr Alan Dundes says:

It may or may not be relevant that the archvillain's name is Darth Vader which strongly suggests death and father.

Literary Onomastics Studies, Volumes 5-7 (New York (State) State University College, Brockport, State University of New York College at Brockport, Conference on Literary Onomastics) (1978) says:

Darth Vader's name combines elements which reach to the very wellsprings of human emotion, for if I am not mistaken, Darth is a portmanteau or condensation of the words "dark," "earth," and "death." Its resonance with the word "dearth" is also notable.

Cinefantastique (Volumes 9-10) by Frederick S Clarke (1979) claims:

Darth Vader's name is a cross between the symbols "dark" and "death," and the German word vater [?], meaning father.

Science-fiction studies - Issues 21-24 by Indiana State University. Dept. of English (1980):

We realize now that Luke has been battling all along to kill his own father. The deliberate suggestion of "Death Father" in the name "Darth Vader" becomes transparently clear.


You can see the origin of Darth Vader's name in this handwritten note from George Lucas' own archives. The names rattled around a bit, but you can see the main outlines immediately.

Dark Invader     -       Dark Water
Death Water      -       Death Invader

enter image description here

Star Wars: The Making of The Empire Strikes Back

and finally settling up on Darth Vader in the draft script.

Interestingly you can also see the "R2-D2 uses his snorkle in the swamp" scene that ultimately ended up being used in the sequel.


I believe Darth Vader was originally intended to be the character's name. In the Star Wars scene where Obi-Wan explains Luke's father's death, he refers to Vader as "A Jedi by the name of Darth Vader", and then later uses the name Darth to address Vader at least once in the original film.

The father plot twist wasn't conceived until after Star Wars was released, so the Vader / father connection is just a coincidence. I think Vader is derived from invader, as Vader himself is essentially a destructive and evil being in the original Star Wars.

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    Good point. In the novelisation, his full title is Dark Lord of the Sith and he's often referred to as "Lord Vader". So Darth is not his title. Unfortunately, Star Wars is always a work in progress; everything keeps changing, even after publication. So the word "originally" can mean a lot of things. At one point during the writing process; during the time the first film came out etc.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 7:22

Other answers all seem right, but his name is not German or Dutch. Although I can see why there is confusion, I have 4 examples to validate my point:

  1. Father in German is Vater not Vader.
  2. Lucas his names origin is derived from invader: just remove the "in" and you get Vader. This play on words was intended because he lead many invasions and conquered many planets - he's an invader.
  3. Darth Sidious his name is derived from the word insidious: remove the "in" from insidious and you get his name. The reasoning behind it was because he is the pinnacle of manipulation, terror and cruelty; in one word: insidious.
  4. Darth Maul was a Sith assassin; his name is derived from the literal word "maul": he mauls people. A pet in essence for Sidious, nothing more.

There are other example like Darth Bane: his name means he is the bane of the Jedi, or Darth Tyrannus: he's a tyrant, or Darth Desolous: he left world lifeless and desolate.

  • Dooku: remove "in" from "in doo doo" ... (Sorry, just couldn't help it!)
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 23:09
  • @GreenMatt i think count dooku was never quite full sith. He still used his birth name. If only cause they always refer to him as that.
    – user64742
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 4:07
  • Father in German is Vater, but in Dutch it is Vader. As it is in Middle English (German influenced), as well as Afrikaans (Dutch influenced).
    – TVann
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 16:07

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