Gamma Quadrant is a term invented and used by the sentient beings of the Alpha Quadrant - yet, how do the "natives" of the Gamma Quadrant call the area of space they inhabit?

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    At the very least unless the "quadrant" designation is based on some unmistakable feature of the reason there is no reason to expect the local even to conceive of it as a unit of reference at all. That is to say if a "quadrant" is a set of map references then it's importance lies only in the map used by the Federation. Apr 21, 2013 at 16:36
  • @dmckee Stardates are based off of some sort of galactic reference, so there is a chance quadrants are as well
    – Izkata
    Apr 21, 2013 at 17:04
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    I always assumed it was something like how we call something "Western Hemisphere", after choosing an arbitrary line of longitude as zero. The other option is: universal translator magic will take care of the conversion...
    – Ash
    Apr 22, 2013 at 11:31
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    They call it "home". Apr 22, 2013 at 18:14
  • Formally, "Number One Best Quadrant in All of The Space". Informally, "Top Left". Sep 27, 2013 at 9:44

3 Answers 3


There is no canonical answer to this question. We always hear Dominion characters translated, with their cartographical references translated as well. Unfortunately, the writers never provide even a throw-away line suggesting how Dominion astrocartographers (or, for that matter, Klingon or Romulan ones) might view the galaxy.

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    Aside: Star Trek astrocartoraphy is an absurdity. To the degree that a galaxy has 'natural' boundaries, they're the spiral arms and the very large gaps between them. The Federation and all its allies and enemies probably only take up a very small portion of one spiral arm, which makes their tendency to act like they represent an entire quadrant kind of silly. Douglas Adams tells us, "Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is." Star Trek routinely fails to get this right. Apr 22, 2013 at 14:54
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    Technically, they take up a small chunk of the Alpha and Beta quadrants (small enough that they don't even get near the Delta and Gamma quadrants). The Federation's demarcation line is its capitol, Earth, which lies on the line between the Alpha and Beta quadrants. The constant usage of "Alpha Quadrant" seems to be a relic of TOS days (IIRC, that was where Earth was), when there were hundreds of "quadrants" splitting up the galaxy.
    – Izkata
    Apr 22, 2013 at 23:49
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    You may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's peanuts compared to space. Apr 24, 2013 at 2:57

In the Deep Space 9 episode "One Little Ship", there is tension between the old breed of Jem'Hadar and the new breed. The distinction between the breeds/generations is where they were born. Those born on the other side of the wormhole are referred to as Gammas, those born on the Federation side are referred to as Alphas. At least in this situation, they seem to have adopted the same terminology the races of the alpha quadrant use.

Why they do this is unexplained -- they may have picked up the terminology from alpha quadrant races, or it may be how the universal translator decides to translate whatever native terminology they have.

  • yet that could be the transculturation at work during the translation, e.g. they could be using words for "this side of the hole" and "that side of the hole" and we'd just get them translated in familiar terms.
    – riffraff
    Apr 23, 2013 at 16:06
  • Hm.. And their short lifespan would certainly amplify the learning rate as we see it..
    – Izkata
    Apr 23, 2013 at 23:03

This whole thing reminds me of a great xkcd strip:

xkcd 503 - Terminology

The word "West" speaks of a direction relative to one's own location, but in many parts of the world the phrase "the West" has come to be synonymous with a loose collection of nations in Europe and North America; a political entity, more than a geographical one.

So, I suspect, is the case with this talk of Alpha Quadrant vs. Gamma Quadrant: The Alpha Quadrant powers are actually a loose collection of political entities from various parts of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants ... and at least a few Alpha Quadrant governments actually decided to side with the Dominion.

It's quite possible that because their first and foremost contact was with people who referred to this side of the wormhole as "the Alpha Quadrant", the name - or some aspect of it - stuck. However, as riffraff mentions, we don't actually know how these alien species refer to the Alpha Quadrant powers in their own languages; all we know is that when they speak English, or are heard in English through a universal translator, they appear to say "Alpha Quadrant".

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    The subtle racism of the Mercator Projection. Still a problem in the 24th century. Sep 27, 2013 at 9:41

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