• Andorians come from Andoria (or Andor)
  • Vulcans come from Vulcan
  • Romulans come from Romulus
  • Breen come from Breen
  • Betazoids from Betazed
  • Cardassians from Cardassia

The list goes on and on (with a few exceptions, like Kronos).

And then you have humans (terrans) which come from third planet in the Sol system called Humania, err Terra, err Earth.

Why the lack of creativity in planet names for other species?

  • 17
    "Hello my fellow Earthicans!" Commented Nov 4, 2011 at 14:46
  • 7
    Shouldn't the question be the other way around? Why is the human planet (our planet) so unimaginatively named? Who calls their planet earth, aka dirt/land? (especially when most of the surface is covered in water)
    – Xantec
    Commented Nov 4, 2011 at 14:49
  • 2
    Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/4670/1109 Commented Nov 4, 2011 at 14:49
  • 6
    @Xantec As someone who doesn't speak non-Earth languages, I don't think we can say for certain that 'Vulcan' or 'Cardassia' don't mean dirt/land in their native tongues.
    – user1027
    Commented Nov 4, 2011 at 15:36
  • 3
    Human is our species. Earthling is our planet-focused moniker.
    – Robert S.
    Commented Nov 4, 2011 at 16:04

5 Answers 5


Nearly every species that controls their entire home world/system is named after said home world/home system with the notable exception of two: the Klingons and the Humans.

So it's natural to ask, "okay, if they were going to make an exception for two, why not all of them?" However, it's much easier to explain if we ask the converse first: why are Klingons and Humans treated differently?

Qo'noS wasn't established as the Klingon home world until Star Trek VI. Before that, the only canonical mention of the Klingon homeworld was in "Heart of Glory" when it was actually called Kling. Klingons from Kling: follows the same convention as all the other species.

The Star Trek Encyclopedia explains why it was changed:

At the time the episode was written, Kling was intended as the name of the Klingon Homeworld. Once the episode was filmed, it was realized that the name sounded pretty silly, so later scripts simply referred to "the Homeworld." The only time the Homeworld was given a name was in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, when it was called Qo'noS, pronounced "kronos."

So that just leaves us Humans on Earth: calling us anything other than Humans or Earth anything other than Earth would be too foreign and confusing for the audience. We're humans, so that's what we're called. In Human languages, the use of the word predates First Contact and moreso the convention of calling species by their origin planet/world.

You might ask, "why do the species all call themselves by their planet name instead of by a local name like the Humans do?" Well, they do use localized names: for example, "Klingon" in Klingonese is "tlhIngan". But due to the magic of the universal translator, whatever localized name species use to call themselves gets translated to follow the Human convention.

That is, Klingons could call themselves "tlhIngan" or "Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo" in Klingonese, but the word would automatically be translated to "Klingon" by the Human universal translators. In the same manner, the word "Human" would be translated to the localized word used by Klingons for Humans by their translators.

So to answer the question, the reason why species aren't given more exotic names is because, given the universal translator, it'd be entirely unnecessary. Humans (and by extension, the audience) wouldn't need to use the localized name in everyday situations.

  • 3
    "Jimmy Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo?" That's the worst name I ever heard. Commented Nov 4, 2011 at 15:22

Those are their names in English. In Vulcan, perhaps Earth is called the equivalent of human-world and English is called human-speak.

Keep in mind the country we call Germany calls itself Deutschland. And many tribal peoples have words for their tribes that also mean all humans.

  • 1
    The Romans called the area Germania, which is where "Germany" derives. Deutschland comes from the Old High German "diutisc land" which means "land of the people". I think the majority of European and Asian country names translate into something like "land of the people".
    – Tangurena
    Commented Nov 5, 2011 at 20:46
  • I don't know about the majority, but China's native name (Zhong Ghuo) translates to "middle country", and Japan's (Nihon/Nippon) translates to "sun-origin" or "land of the rising sun". Taiwan, on the other hand, is derived from a native Siraya word used to refer to Chinese settlers. Britain is also derived from an ethnonym. Commented Nov 12, 2011 at 23:56

I'm guessing the main reason is lazy writing. However, there are some in-universe explanations for some notable cases:

  • Some races are given English names that are very different from their native names.
    • For example, the Orions call themselves Kolari (though they also call their homeworld Kolar, so I guess that's a bad example).
    • Conversely, Klingons normally refer to humans as tera'ngan, meaning "inhabitant of Terra".
    • This also happens on Earth. The term "Native American" wasn't made up by Native Americans, nor is the word "Aboriginal" derived from an Aboriginal Australian language.
  • Some have made a conscious choice.
    • For example, it appears that when the Romulans left Vulcan, they called themselves Rihannsu, meaning "the Declared". When they found a homeworld, they chose to call it ch'Rihan, meaning "of the declared".
    • Notice, by the way, that they don't call themselves Romulans; in one very influential Trek novel ("My Enemy, My Ally" by Diane Duane), the main character expresses surprise that humans would use such a strange name for them.
    • To complicate matters further, in "Klingon for the Galactic Traveler", it's explained that the Klingon words romuluS and romuluSngan (for the planet and species respectively) is based on the word "Romulus", rather than on the native Rihannsu. So now we have former Vulcans referred to by Klingons with a word presumably made up by Humans.

It's also possible that as the peoples of a world unite, the words they use to describe themselves and their planet will grow to reflect this. U.S. Americans haven't always called themselves Americans. Swedes haven't always called themselves Swedes. Christians haven't always called themselves Christians.

...and before the great unification, the Federation Standard Dialect was called "English", apparently named after some obscure tribe native to some Federation planet.


I would expect other aliens call their planet Earth too (land/ground/dirt/soil/etc in their language). Maybe "Breen" means ground and "Betazed" means Dirtlands and "Vulcan" actually mean rock in vulcanese. :D Who knows?


English: Earth - Earthlin Latin: Terra - Terran and possibly "human" is also related to an ancient word for Earth which appears in the term humus, from the Latin word for soil.

So folks from the third planet circling Sol (the sun) are named for their home world, just like all the others.

  • Human is also derived from latin -> humanus. However humans from Germany are called Germans (even in our own language we from Deutschland call ourselves Deutsche). So calling a human from a certain nation by that nation's name is common. Now if you translate that, the Klingon Empire would have Klingons as their inhabitants like the British Empire had British as their citizens... Likewise in Germany for example, someone from Bavaria is called a Bavarian, so each member state's inhabitants are referred to by their state's name. The only problem remains - how do you call someone from the UFP?
    – Adwaenyth
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 15:00
  • An interesting perspective. I would suggest that, when the people of a self-defined nation or language group name themselves, they normally use the name of the nation/land/language group. If they are indigenous to a planet, that term is likely to be cognate with the term for "people" and the term for "this planet." Members of the United Federation of Planets are a different category in two ways. Formally, they are "citizens of the UFP." However, their primary identity is with their homeworld or society. Early US citizens were Virginians or Bostonians, UFP members are humans or Andorans, etc.
    – Sid Kemp
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 14:51

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