I watched Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope for the first time in a while a few days ago (the first step in taking my Daughter through the Machete Order). One thing that stood out was the pre-duel smack talk between Vader and Obi-Wan:

Vader: When I left you, I was but the learner; now, I am the master.
Obi-Wan: Only a master of evil, Darth.

From memory, this is the only example I can think of where 'Darth' is used as if is was Vader's first name, as opposed to the title that we (eventually) learn that it is, once we meet other Darths.

I wonder when Lucas decided that Darth would be a title for dark side Jedi (not called 'Sith' until the prequel trilogy)? In Empire and Jedi, Darth Sidious is referred to only as 'The Emperor', but 'Darth Vader' ceases to be called Darth if only one word is used; e.g. Yoda's "Vader, you must face Vader".

Is this just an example of Lucas making stuff up as he went along, rather than having it all planned out from the start (not actually all that unreasonable)? Or is there some reason that Obi-Wan used 'Darth' instead of 'Vader'? On previous viewings (i.e. before the prequels existed) I'd interpreted this as Obi-Wan being informal with his old student by using his first name, rather than his last. However, the reverse interpretation could be true once you know that Darth is a title, i.e. that Obi-Wan is using his title rather than his name in order to be as cold and impersonal as possible (i.e. replace 'Darth' with 'Sir' and put Bastard swords in their hands instead of light sabers).

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    I've wondered about this as well, but Lucas has so completely retconned his own memories, some of these things are hard to track down. But Lucas did have the prequel trilogy planned out from the start (much evidence to support that) and he was called "Dark Lord of Sith" from the start - but also note not "Dark Lord of THE Sith," which may indicate Sith was a planet instead of an order before the changes were made.
    – Tango
    May 31, 2013 at 4:59
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    Who's to say that was used as a name, and not a title? He could just as easily have said "Only a master of evil, Colonel/Master/Sensei."
    – Flimzy
    May 31, 2013 at 5:43
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    @Flimzy The last paragraph, read you must. May 31, 2013 at 5:45
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    He is also called "Lord Vader" all up and down the block, so to speak. If Darth were a title...
    – horatio
    May 31, 2013 at 13:44
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    It does make it sort of funnier in hindsight that Obi-Wan tells Luke about "a young Jedi named Darth Vader"--it's like admitting someone to the Jedi Academy named "Evil McDeathington" or "General Grievous" and being surprised when they turn out to be a bad guy.
    – Milo P
    Dec 17, 2015 at 16:46

9 Answers 9


I previously posted a short possible answer, but as it was deleted, I have now found a reference: Star Wars Glossary: Darth (About.com)

From the explanation:

Definition: The title "Darth," indicating a Sith, first appeared with Darth Vader in Episode IV: A New Hope. At first it was treated almost like a first name; Obi-Wan Kenobi calls Vader simply "Darth" in the film, and Splinter of the Mind's Eye refers to him as "Lord Darth Vader." As the Star Wars universe grew, "Darth" became a title used by Dark Lords of the Sith.

In-universe: The etymological origins of the title Darth are unclear and disputed. It may be as simple as a contraction of "Dark Lord of the Sith." Alternatively, it may be derived from Daritha, the word for "Emperor" in the language of the Rakata, a humanoid species who controlled a powerful empire thousands of years before the Galactic Republic. It may also come from the Rakatan darr tah, meaning "triumph over death" (i.e., immortality, the ultimate goal of the Sith) or "conquest through death" (i.e., the destruction of one's enemies).

This in-universe information is found in the book Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force, which says the following in the section "The Darth Title":

Many of the Dark Lords of the Sith chose to add the Darth honorific to their name. The very word has become synonymous with the wondrous power of the dark side. However, the origins of the word are unclear. While many see Darth as nothing more than a contraction of Dark Lord of the Sith, there is some evidence for a deeper interpretation of the term.

Darth Revan and Darth Malak are generally believed to be the first Dark Lords to have used the title. Given that much of their power was derived from the Star Forge, a creation of the extinct Rakata species, some historians see Darth as a corruption of Daritha, the Rakatan word for "emperor." Similarly, others note that the word for "triumph" or "conquest" in Rakatan is darr, and the word for "death" is tah. This has led to theories that Darth is derived from darr tah and means "triumph over death" or "immortal." A competing theory asserts that the true meaning of darr tah is "conquest through death"...of one's enemies.

Numerous other cultures or species can—and do—make similar claims to the etymology of the Darth title. In the end, however, there is no definitive answer.

  • 22
    FYI: About.com isn't a reference. It's just an article with someone's opinion (unless it quotes some canon licensed work explicitly). May 31, 2013 at 20:58
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    @DVK-in-exile - I added a source for the in-universe stuff.
    – Hypnosifl
    Feb 24, 2016 at 17:03

We see at their last meeting, that Obi-Wan finally accepts and accuses Anakin of becoming a sith.

Obi-Wan calling Anakin "Darth", the title of a sith lord, is merely Obi-Wan continuing the accusation and reminding Anakin of why the two remain at odds with each other. It's a short way of saying, "You chose the dark side, and thus have chosen to become my enemy" when once the were more than friends - Anakin looked up to Obi-Wan.

So the conversation could be viewed this way,

Anakin: I have surpassed you.

Obi-Wan: You are nothing more than a child of the Dark Side.

Even then, Anakin's pride leads him to believe that his old mentor would be easy to beat - and at first he believes it to be true. But as Obi-Wan's body disappears, he is yet again put in his place - he knows so little of the force.

  • Obi-wan has more respect for him than thinking he's a child, after all he does allow Vader to end his life. What you say does sound close though. It's like he's taunting him, in a way that he wants to connect, but knows he can't.
    – user100501
    May 23, 2018 at 4:00

From my answer here:

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

  • There are reasons to believe that the "father" angle was developed way after 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.

  • WHat's the downvote for? May 31, 2013 at 14:30
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    I would assume because this doesn't answer the question of why Obi Wan said "Darth" like a first name. But I wasn't the downvoter.
    – DampeS8N
    May 31, 2013 at 15:02
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    The second bullet point still doesn't address whether "Darth" was (originally or at the point of filming that scene) intended as a name or title.
    – Kevin
    May 31, 2013 at 18:57
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    @DVK at that point in the script development it could have been a more general (NPI) title.
    – Kevin
    May 31, 2013 at 20:35
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    Also: vader = father in a few languages. It's more plausible it comes from there
    – Sir Ksilem
    Jun 7, 2013 at 12:46

It was a name. Remember when Obi Wan said "A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father."?

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    Obi-Wan knew that Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker (the name appears in Empire Strikes Back). So that was a story for Luke and not an argument to support the "first name" theory. Darth Vader was already a name given/accepted by Anakin when he turned to the Dark SIde. .
    – TimSparrow
    Apr 4, 2018 at 1:06
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    @TimSparrow It seems pretty clear that in the original 1977 movie Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker are different people. That changed three years later between drafts of Empire Strikes back. They idea that Obi-Wan is speaking metaphorically is a later attempt to explain away a glaring inconsistency created by a plot change. All indications are that at this point the script writers considered Darth to be his given name. In early drafts he is General Darth Vader.
    – David42
    Jan 8, 2023 at 2:48

I always interpreted this the way that the OP kinda did (and which many people on here agree with) - that Darth was originally Lucas' intended first name for the character, but he eventually morphed it into a title instead. As Charles Kaiser pointed out, Obi-Wan even referred to him as being "Darth Vader" when describing him as a "young Jedi", as if it were the young Jedi's proper name and not title+name. Context and inflection make it hard to imagine that he meant it any other way. And we all know that Lucas doesn't have the slightest bit of hesitation in retconning his own work.

I might be showing my age a bit here, but I did see Star Wars in the theater as a kid in 1977, and remember the three-year anticipation for each of the subsequent movies - and at no point did any of us have the idea or impression that Darth was anything but the character's first name. I don't think it was ever meant to be anything other than a first name until well after the original trilogy was made - although whether the change originated in from Lucas' revisionistic head or from somewhere in the EU, I don't honestly know.

  • We've come a long way, buddy. Remember how you felt when you heard there was another related movie? A SEE-KWEL?
    – chiggsy
    Apr 20, 2021 at 20:29
  • Stole the words right out of my mouth. Definitely think that Anakin's name originally was "Darth Vader" and then Lucas retconned it. May 5, 2021 at 13:08

Any explanation towards the canon interpretation of Obi-Wan Kenobi's reason to call him Darth is futile as if there was any reason for him to call him "Darth", why didn't he call Dooku as Darth? Or even Tyranus for that matter? We all know that the council knew he fell to the dark side after Season 6 Ep 10 of Clone Wars. Even at the beginning of SW:RotS, the following exchange happens with Palpatine :

PALPATINE: Get help! You’re no match for him. He’s a Sith Lord.

OBI-WAN: Chancellor Palpatine, Sith Lords are our specialty.

And yet, a few seconds later he would say :

OBI-WAN: You won't get away this time, Dooku.

Not Tyranus, not Darth.

The real reason he used Darth as a name is because, in 1976[1], Lucas wrote the script that way. I know how frustrating it is for us, hardcore lore fans, not being able to tie this loose end but there is no way in Mustafar (See what I did there?) that we can find a good reason for that annoying fact.

[1] Star Wars A New Hope, fourth revision script

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    This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review
    – RDFozz
    Dec 31, 2018 at 19:39
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    I would like to have clarification on this action. I did answer the question. I even explained why my answer was relevant and I also added a few things to debate on to further the discussion. Why is my reputation have to do with anything? Dec 31, 2018 at 20:14
  • Well, first, this isn't a discussion site - so, anything adding to a potential debate would tend to not be appropriate in an answer.
    – RDFozz
    Dec 31, 2018 at 20:25
  • I understand. I removed that part from the answer. Is there any other issue that i can correct? Dec 31, 2018 at 20:32
  • Much better. I was editing this to try to make a cleaner answer when you made your change. I went ahead and posted my edit, but rolled it back (so as not to be putting words into your mouth. I think my edit is better, but I freely admit that I may well be biased :-). As you can see, your changes and mine are similar. I did make a couple of grammatical corrections (and a factual one - the original movie was in theaters in 1977, so Lucas didn't write that into the script in 1978 :-) ).
    – RDFozz
    Dec 31, 2018 at 20:38

I don't think we will ever get a concrete answer. Even Lucas himself does not know apparently. While I don't have the articles in front of me, I do remember reading one interview where Lucas had said that "Darth" was originally created by him as a sort of title or rank, and in a different interview he said that he just thought "Darth" sounded neat and that it was not decided until later that it was a title and not a name.

  • 1
    Could you maybe find these articles and add them to your post here? Mar 9, 2014 at 8:00
  • Sure, give ma a day or two to dig around and see if I still have them. If not I will have to search the net to see if I can find them.
    – Danyael
    Mar 10, 2014 at 1:26

Possible explanation (even if it is retconning) for Obi Wan referring to the “young Jedi” as “Darth Vader” (as pointed out by Charles Kaiser and PhoenixM) — it’s a deliberate white lie, or withholding of the truth. To say “Anakin Skywalker” would have been to reveal Darth Vader’s true identity to Luke, which he was avoiding. It’s a little awkward, but I think that can add to it’s plausibility.

  • But why would that influence the fact that Darth was his "first name" instead of is title.
    – Edlothiad
    Dec 16, 2017 at 9:21
  • Sorry I wasn’t clear—but that line is being given as evidence that Darth Vader was the young Jedi’s name, so can’t be title+name, and all I’m saying is that it could still make narrative sense for Obi Wan to refer to the young Jedi with the name he is known by later, to disguise who he really was. Leaving open the possibility Darth is a title.
    – SDM
    Dec 18, 2017 at 0:06
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    It seems clear from what some are saying that Lucas did change the meaning of Darth after the fact. Just saying that this line isn’t necessarily an issue because of it.
    – SDM
    Dec 18, 2017 at 0:07

Darth Vader sounds and looks very much like Dearth Veda (or Vaeda) In this case the meaning of Dearth is 'a scarcity or lack of something'. And Veda or Vaeda which has rooting in Sanskrit, Avestan (Iranian) and Proto-Indo-European (PIE) in the form of *weid-(pronounced -veid "to know, to see") So in this case Darth Vader would mean 'A lack of knowingness and sight' or in better context, 'he who lacks knowingness or sight' or even perhaps 'The blind one'. Given that Obi-Wan was the first to use Darth in front of Veda's name I see this as a subtle and clever addition on the part of the Obi-Wan's character and of course the writers to reverse the meaning of Veda or Vaeda (to know). Get it!? Quite witty and smart really.

  • 2
    Do you have any concrete evidence that this was the intent of the producers, screenwriters, or directors?
    – Adamant
    Mar 19, 2017 at 7:21

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