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So there is a magic system in my novel, and I'm struggling to give each power its own name.

Each power is paired with another, and the names must sound similar, only with a twist.

Criteria for a good naming system: Names should be confined to real words (but the meanings can be twisted), or very nearly real words, all being relatively uncommon (preferably with double meanings). What I'd really likeis for each word of a particular magic power should have a name similar to its pair, but distorted in some way.

For example: Locksmiths might perform Locking and Blocking.

Some examples of pairs of powers:

  • The act of creating a portal, which either increases the distance, or decreases it, and the act of creating a barrier. (Currently called Locksmiths, Locking and Blocking)
  • The act of transmuting materials, and the act of changing the shape of materials, provided that it is all made of roughly the same material. (Currently called Reformancers, Defining and Refining)
  • The act of changing your sight so you see physical objects as they are, without needing light (eliminates glare and shadows), and the act of changing your sight so you can see a person's inner qualities.
  • The act of turning into an animal, and the act of making one's body take on characteristics of certain materials.

How do I go about coming up with all these names?

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  • You might also look at Mark Rosenfelder's Planet Construction Kit. I can't find my copy to verify, but he is a linguist by hobby in the area of conlangs, and there is a chapter on magic, so I wouldn't be surprised if he covers naming. – FuzzyBoots Feb 11 '17 at 19:45
  • I've tried worldbuilding, and they said something very similar. – Piomicron Feb 11 '17 at 19:48
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    I would also recommend looking at "what you want the words to sound like" before anything else. For example, should the words sound more like French or Arabic. That could shape the basis of your naming system. Then try to create similar word types of your own. Hope that helps... – Odin1806 Feb 11 '17 at 20:43
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    A great point. However, I wouldn't try and create a similar word type. It'd be easier to steal a little portion of that word and edit it a bit, in my opinion. @Odin1806 – Daniel Cann Feb 11 '17 at 20:46
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    English Language and Usage Stack Exchange, aka English SE. Not to be confused with ELL SE, English Language Learners. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Feb 12 '17 at 17:38
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Let the characters in the story decide what to name magical things. Here's a process that I've used for naming magical things. Maybe you will find it useful too.

  1. Consider word origin.

    • Research the etymology of normal words that could be used to describe the magic. I've used Wiktionary for this.
    • Create new terms or hybrid terms based on different components in the origin of those normal words. Consider having some terms that are technical and others that are slang.
  2. Apply environmental aspects.

    • Use the new terms or hybrid terms from step 1, and then think about the world and time era that the magic is used within. Is it futuristic outer space, fantasy realm, medieval castles, present day suburbs? Look for terms that are more appropriate for the place and time.
    • Create new terms that add in elements of the place and time. I've written down word-pairs for this to see how things may come together.
  3. Listen to how it's used in conversation.

    • Write a few situational paragraphs where the people or creatures in the story are talking about the magic, using the magic, and being affected by the magic.
    • Consider its legacy. Maybe the magic has been around for a long time and there are faerie tales that were told to the children about the magic. As your characters start to talk about the magic, they'll probably use some colloquial terms for the magic. Those terms may be something from step 1 or step 2, but maybe they'll call it something else so their child will relate to it during the bedtime story.
    • Consider context. How may one character secretly talk about the magic to another character? Is the magic common or rare? Maybe a regular word like "lift" would be the term that everyone uses for magical levitation, because the it's used in context so it's clear what is implied. Many normal words are used to imply a similar action based on context, such as using the term drive in the context of vehicles or in the context of pc hardware or in the context of getting tasks done.

In my experience, the characters know what to call it based on the magic's history and usage --so everyone is familiar with what they're talking about.

I think that a scientific method to come up with magic terminology can only take you so far --maybe providing good inspiration --but in the end, it seems that testing new terminology through contextual writing may work the best for me.

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To me, this question is relatively unclear, but I think I can answer it.

If you're trying to name a thing in that way, there's two simple steps:

  • Think of words related to your concept.

For example, let's think of blood. Let's say that the ability is having blood and being able to do things with blood. I'm going to think of a few words relating to blood:

Red, crimson, claret, life, vitals, lifeblood, heart, vein, ichor, liquid

So I've got that selection of words. Now we need to move onto the next step.

  • Think of a word to combine it with.

This is a bit like how you came up with 'Locksmith'. I'm going to now brainstorm some words that can well describe the manipulation, movement and POWER of blood!

Sorcerer, magus, mage, manipulator, twister, brain, flow, telepathy, telekinesis

Okay so I think I've thought of something I like. I've thought of 'tell' which I think sounds nice with 'blood'.

Bloodtell, Bloodtold, Bloodteller, Bloodtenel

Out of all of those, I personally like "Bloodteller" the most because it uses an ~er ending showing that a Bloodteller is someone who does the act of blood-telling.


That's the process I would use to achieve what you are trying to do. It's all to do with brainstorming words that are related to what you are trying to base it off.

There is one golden rule when it comes to naming:

  • Do not be afraid to use trial and error.

This is the only way you'll find an amazing name. Try different combinations of things, and see what you like.

I hope this helped.

  • Thanks, the trouble is I'm limiting myself so that two similar powers have to have similar-sounding names. For instance, a Locksmith has two powers: The power to Lock, and the power to Block. – Piomicron Feb 11 '17 at 20:56
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    @Piomicron I think Daniel has the right of it. Beat up the thesaurus and try a lot of combinations. You may also have to change the actual power if you can't make a combination work. And don't restrict yourself to rhymes. You might use Transmancy and Necromancy for a set, or Cuts and Cures. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Feb 11 '17 at 21:36

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