So I was reading this article on Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ozymandias, wondering how the author came up with the name.

It basically says that "Ozymandias" is a rendering in Greek of Ramesses II's throne name.

I thought it would be cool if I could translate a rendering in Greek of a name like "Set" into English, or a name like "Pestilence of livestock", which refers to one of the Biblical plagues that happened in Egypt into English, so I can write a poem about it maybe.

How do you do that? I couldn't find any tool on the Internet that would allow me to do that. I am assuming there's a sort of reference book for these sorts of things.

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    There is no specialised tool for translating names, especially not ancient ones. You just do your research, case by case. There's plenty of resources for doing that, starting with Wikipedia. Mar 14, 2019 at 23:30
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    This question is off-topic because it doesn't fit on Writing.SE and is better suited for a SE about language or translation (not sure which as I'm not familiar with them all).
    – Cyn
    Mar 15, 2019 at 14:23

1 Answer 1


It Depends

The first question, in my view, is whether a translation is a good idea. It would seem that "Ozymandias" is more of a transliteration into English of the Greek name, which in turn seems to be a transliteration and Hellenization of the Egyptian "User-maat-re", which if I am not mistaken indicates a devotion to the god Re (a variant of the sun-god Ra), a concept which is surely not expressed in the English word "Ozymandias". A translation might be "Chosen of Re" or some such.

In any given case, was the name in its original usage understood as a description or rather as a pure name. For example "Fletcher" once meant a parson who attached feathers to arrows, and by extension, one who made arrows. Similarly, "Smith" once meant a metal-worker, particularly a worker of Iron. But if, for example, some novel about modern Americans of 2019 written in another language were to translate a man named "Fletcher" into "arrow-makeer" or "Smith" into "iron-worker" it would seriously distort how those names are understood in context. Few people meeting a person with one of those names think much on the occupational origins of the names. Many may not even know them. In such a case, translation runs the serious risk of giving a flase impression.

Of course if it is merely a case of wanting an effect, then a name like "One-stone" may be preferable to "Einstein".

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