In the back of the Strawberry Panic Complete Novel Collection there is a "Translation Notes" section explaining some of the terms like genpaku, mogi (Japanese) and financier (French), but it also talked about what the Taisho Era is, which, unlike the other 3 I mentioned, is a historic thing rather than something from another language.

I am wondering if this kind of translation notes can also be used for a story set in a fictional world. If so with these 3 examples is there any I should/shouldn't use?

Example 1: fictional term

Danse de l'Ange: a hit novel series set during Heaven's Fall following the tales of Aurica le'Divant, speculating on her own previously unknown involvement in it. It is french for The Angel's Dance1

Example 2: Real World term with retained meaning (though in-story origin is different)

Kosode (Real World): a basic japanese robe worn as either an overgarment or undergarment

Kosode (In Story): a basic robe worn as either an overgarment or undergarment originating from Nipon

Example 3: Real World Term with a different meaning

Okami (Real World): a Japanese term meaning Great God2

Okami (In-Story): A term in Shinto to refer to Izanami's 2 eldest daughters, Amaterasu-no-Mikoto and Tsukimara-no-Mikoto. The use of the term itself locally (Okami-sama) in Nipon or Ohana refers to that country's Okami (Amaterasu and Tsukimara respectively) while it can also used be used as an honorific for either of them (Amaterasu-okami, Tsukimara-okami).

NOTE: The (In Story) ones are what I would show. The (Real World) ones are just to compare to for the sake of this question.

1: according to google translate

2: according to this

  • 2
    The customary transliteration of the Japanese name for Japan is Nippon, not Nipon. This is to reflect that there are four syllables in the word as spoken in nihongo: ni-'-po-n (the second syllable is dropped but its duration is honored anyway).
    – Robusto
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 13:25

3 Answers 3


Of course it can. From memory Brandon Sanderson uses this a great deal in both the Mistborn (with his guide to the magic system as well as a glossary for other terms). Robert Jordan uses it in the Wheel of Time series. Steven Errikson uses it with the Malazan series, as well as a Dramatis Personae list at the start of the books. There are numerous other examples out there as well.

It's your story, in your world. Adding a 'translation guide' aids the reader in becoming immersed in your story. And if they don't want to read it, they don't have to.


I think this is an excellent idea if you have multiple invented terms which your readers might or might not remember. Books which depend heavily on constructed languages sometimes have a glossary in the back; stories with huge casts sometimes have an index or cast list. Maps are de rigueur for fantasy stories with sprawling geography. Anything which aids your reader in understanding and enjoying your story is going to be a plus.


CAN you do it? Of course. There's no law against it.

But I'd advise against this glossary being the only source of the included information. When I'm reading a novel, I don't want to flip to a glossary every time the author introduces some made-up word. It breaks the flow of the story. And I may not know what are made-up words for this story and what are real English (or whatever language) words that I just don't happen to know.

So I'd suggest that if you use a made-up word, that you explain it in the body of the story. Either have the narrator define it, or have a character explain it, or make it clear from context. If there are many made-up words, then having a glossary that the reader can refer to if he forgets might be a good idea.

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