A Draconic Primer

You may have noticed that my books are sprinkled with Draconic, the language of (wait for it) dragons in D&D. The core of it comes from a Dragon (the magazine, not the creature) article by Sean K. Reynolds (who is not a dragon…I think)–reproduced here. Fun stuff!

But not enough for my purposes. So I started making up more words and phrases. By now I have quite a few. And sometimes, people ask me what these lines mean. So here they are! (If I missed one, you can post it in the comments and I’ll add it). If you want to add some Draconic to your game, or if you’re just really curious what all those nonsense words are, here you go!

I’m not a linguist–although I own several linguistics textbooks that I love–but I try to keep the notion that these words have roots and connections in mind. I scour that glossary, and then I scour various dictionaries. And then I make shit up. If it looks like another word, I probably did that on purpose.

Unless I didn’t, in which case, oops!

Words from The God Catcher
These words are all “Classical” Draconic. They are spoken by true dragons.

  • dokaal:  A catchall term for humanoids. “Two-leggers.”
  • taaldarax: This is a dragon who plays xorvintaal–the “Great Game” depicted in The God Catcher. Taken from a combination of xorvintaal and darastrix, the word for “dragon.”
  • lovac: taaldarax’s empowered minion. The lovac has a level of power and understanding in the game the other minions don’t. In Monster Manual V where xorvintaal is first described this is called an “exarch.” But then they started calling demigodish things “exarchs” and that would have been super confusing. Confession: I straight swiped this one. It’s the word for the bishop piece in chess in Serbo-Croatian (it means “hunter”).
  • henich: Practically, this means “bastard.” But since I don’t get the impression dragons have a lot of issues with out-of-wedlock births, it doesn’t mean bastard. I think it means something like “unhatched, rotten egg.” Like “You’re the one they should have kicked out of the clutch.” Add an m’ and make a mild expletive (m’henich). Kick it up a teensy notch and say “Tiamat m’henich.”
  • strixiki: A kind of nasty way to say dragonborn. The “strix” is from darastrix. The only words that this syllable appears in are darastrix and vorastrix (“sorcerer”). Since sorcerers are sometimes held to be descended from dragon-human matings. I figure this is an acknowledgement of that. But the diminuative sounding ending? I think it means “little imposters.”
  • achuakosj: “Baby green.” Not a nice thing to call Andareunarthex!

Words from the Brimstone Angels series
These words are all “Tymantheran” dialect. Tymanther is a country that was left in Abeir when Abeir-Toril firs separated, and thousands of years later, dropped back into Faerun. While Draconic is handled in D&D as a language which doesn’t change or develop much at all, I cannot deal with the idea that the dragons of Abeir–a place totally alien compared to Faerun–had absolutely no effect on their language. Moreover, the dragonborn who actually live in Tymanther are not dragons and therefore would have their own effects. A biped living in a slave caste that can populate its own country has a different worldview than a flying quadroped who’s basically solo. Fact. (Look it up.)

Generally, I make Tymantheran words softer, a little more nasal, and when appropriate, elongate syllables–very subtly. But mostly I make up cursing.

  • karshoj: Practically, this is an “f-bomb.” Serious cursing. But literally, it wouldn’t be “fuck.” Dragons don’t seem to have taboos about sex. Dragonborn don’t really either, aside from being serious about making sure you get married and have eggs. I’ve never really sussed out an appropriate translation, to be honest. The closest I can get is something about crapping on someone’s hoard. Add a suffix to get the adjectival form, karshoji. 
  • tiamash: Practically, this is “asshole.” Although I think it translates more to be “like Tiamat” the evil dragon goddess. So it’s more of a “backstabber” kind of thing. Not necessarily only applied to females, even though I think has been so far…
  • henish: Tymantheran form of henich above. I told you it was mostly subtle. I suspect this means the same sort of thing too–but it’s pretty mild. Also makes an expletive as m’henish. 
  • pothac: Stupid. Variant of pothoc. I was going to say it was pothach, but it looked like potlatch. Oh well.
  • aithyas: Practically this is “shit.” But it’s not really used as an expletive.
  • thrik: Means “no,” but is used to mean “zip it!” as a shortened from of “thrik ukris” [no][talk]. I spelled this differently from the article. Because Tymanther hates the letter C. (“Liar” in Draconic is erin.)
  • akison: “Yes.” Where “Classical” is axun, here I added a syllable. Like if you said “ye-ess” enough, in a few dozen generations it would totally be a two syllable word. And your English teacher would say “Say ‘ye-ess,’ don’t say ‘ye-eah’!”
  • kosjmyrni: “Mother’s child.” Dragonborn end up tied to one parent’s clan. A kosjmyrni is someone who’s raised by their mother’s clan. Mehen says this to Tam when he admits he didn’t exactly raise his own daughter, a reminder that he can’t really claim her in Mehen’s mind.
  • Verthisathurgiesh: This is the name of Mehen’s former clan. It translates to “mountain” (verthisa, from the classical verthicha+ “crippled” (thurgiesh, from the classical thurgix)
  • Arush Vayem: The name of Farideh and Havilar’s home village. Arush means “valley” (from the classical arux) and Vayem is somehow “ash” (from the classical vignar…I think it must mean a specific type. Probably volcanic.)

Here are some lines that might have made you say “huh?” Sometimes a character’s gotta speak the mother tongue…and sometimes that happens when the point-of-view character’s not fluent.

  • “Mehen wux bensvenk?”: This one’s Tymantheran. [Mehen][you][good]? Bensvenk is a nasal half-step from the classical bensvelk. Or I made a typo. 50-50.
  • “Karshoj ardahlominak”: So, you’re thinking karshoj alone just isn’t enough to convey your fury. I mean, you’re really pissed off. This is what you need. The structure is a little confusing, but essentially it’s [“Nasty idiomatic curse”] [prefix=”not me”]+(Name of person)+[“name”]. Functionally, what you have is the classic, ear-blistering “Fuck your mother.” Or rather “Karshoj your entire line of ancestors.” Draconic does this funny thing were there’s no possessive pronouns. To indicate something is “yours” you add the prefix that indicates you’re talking about something that’s not “mine” and not “my friend or relative’s” and then you integrate the person’s name. Weird, yes. Hey, I don’t make the rules! (Except when I do.)
  • “Tuor aripotvych, darastrix wux thric? Vivex axun?” : I won’t tell you who says this and spoil things, but it’s “classical” all the way. [Want] [prefix=”not me”]+[“forgiveness”] [“dragons”] [“you”] [“no”]? [“Victory”][“yes”]? Or, more clearly, “Beg your pardon, but you’re not dragons? Have I got that right?” The only word in there I added was aripotvych, which probably doesn’t mean “forgiveness” exactly. Maybe more of a “ignore me when you rampage.” 🙂

A Final Note
Sometimes people wonder why the dragon names are so long and unwieldly in The God Catcher. Clytemorrenestrix, Andareunarthex, Karshinevin–these names are bulky. So bulky when they start hanging with humans, they get nicknames. NO ONE HAS TIME FOR SIX SYLLABLES, YOU GUYS!The short answer is “That’s how it is!” That’s how dragon names in D&D have long been. But also I like it. WTF does a dragon care how long its name is? They’re not in any rush. The idea that humans and humanish people shorten them is perfect.

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One Response to A Draconic Primer

  1. Johnny says:

    Yes! I have been waiting so long for this one! (Since you PROMISED it so long ago…pressure! PRESSURE! >.> ) But it pleased me greatly! I quite enjoyed the language things ^.^