I have a homebrew world for a TTRPG where I have generated languages for each of the cultures populating the planet. When referring to those places (on a map, in the player's guide, in-game, etc.), I've resorted to using a mishmash of names in local languages, in the dominant language (likely used by the hypothetical map-maker), or partial or full English translations of their meaning (especially when people's names are involved, e.g. "Ceb's Place"). But this approach feels unsatisfying and inconsistent, even though I'm not sure that it's necessarily wrong, given the potentially complicated histories of place names and languages in a given world.

As an example, I have a region called "The Peaks" (English), "Aeraeiom" (local language), or "Ashoraine" (dominant language). Which one goes on the map and in the introductory material given to players? How do you decide? Is it even important to be consistent, or is complexity okay?

Edit: I found the answers to this related question helpful: How to name places that have multiple names?

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    $\begingroup$ I am afraid this is fully up to you, and thus opinion based. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 26 '20 at 5:37
  • $\begingroup$ It sounds like you've built the world. This is a game design question. $\endgroup$
    – rek
    Aug 26 '20 at 5:49
  • $\begingroup$ There is a place called New York which was New Amsterdam which was named after a Amstelredamme which meant dam on the river Amstel. Next to that New York you have Morristown. Called after dude named Morris. And next to it you have Parsippany. Which I can assume is Dutch/English writing of local langauge name. $\endgroup$ Aug 26 '20 at 8:04
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    $\begingroup$ Generally, you would write on the map the names as used in the story. It's less than helpful to have a map with a set of names, and use another set of names in the story. But then, many places in this world have different names in different languages, sometimes different names in different languages spoken at the same time in the area. For example, in Romania we have a large city named "Cluj" on most maps, which is the Romanian name; but the same city is called "Klausenburg" in German and "Kolozsvár" in Hungarian; same for Oradea / Grosswardein / Nagyvárad, etc. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 26 '20 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to reopen. In England we have many names from different languages and cultures. Many such names have changed over the centuries. Note that there is often duplication, e.g. "River Avon" means "river river", where "avon" is a celtic word for river. The same is true for hills and mountains. I believe there is even the occasional triplication but I can't remember an example. Meanwhile have a look at this article owlcation.com/stem/The-Origins-of-English-Place-Names $\endgroup$ Aug 27 '20 at 17:22


  • Throw a dice and pick it at random.
  • Write the backstory of the area to explain why each name has it's meaning. Eg Groups of immigrants of a particular culture settle in an area and give it their names, a region is conquered in war so the names change, etc.

Place names on maps are a hodgepodge of misc names from various cultures. If you're creating a world from scratch, of course it looks unnatural at first glance to have two adjacent towns have greatly dis-similar names, (especially if those names suggest different pronunciation rules). However adjacent towns having wildly different language names is actually pretty common.

For example, take this random google maps map near my home (South Australia):

enter image description here

What crazy map maker did this peice of junk?

  • "Arthurton" next to "Weetulta"?
  • "Wauraltee" next to "Port Victoria"?
  • "South Kilkerran" next to "Point Pearce"? (And no "North Kilkerran"?)
  • "Curramulka" next to "Port Vincent"?

A quick wikipedia check gives me a random history of these names:

  • Maitland, corruption of local aboriginal word "Madu Waitu", meaning white flint. English speakers have converted it "Maaitu - land" then eventually "MaitLand" (So native history, English name)
  • Clinton, Named after the duke of Newcastle. (So English name)
  • Ardrossan, named after a port in Scotland which shared similar geography. (So, Scottish name)
  • Bluff beach and Sheaoak flat - "Long established names" that the reason seems to of been lost to the ages. Even the law document naming them is no longer available online. (Who knows?)
  • Balgowan - Scottish history again. (So, Scottish name)
  • Wardang Islang. Wardang means "crow" in the native language for the area. It's also known as Wauraltee, which means "bandicoot island" in a different native tounge.

TLDR: Real maps don't look "realistic". I think the "MishMash of names" you've talked about using reflects what happens in real life.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, Australia in general doesn't look realistic... If instead of South Australia you would look at map of Czechia and Slovakia, you will find mostly Czechoslovak-sounding names -- even when the Czech and Slovaks had to bend backwards to Czechoslovakize German names; for example, you won't find Budweis, because it is České Budějovice, won't find Reichenberg because it's Liberec, and won't find Pressburg because it's Bratislava. Same in Romania, where German and Hungarian names (while officially perfectly valid) are hidden on the map under Romanian names. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 26 '20 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP That's interesting backstory for an area that would definitely explain why names are all consistent in an area. South Australia also has examples of names which were De-Germanised because of war. Eg Hahndorf (~100km east of the map region) became Ambleside. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Aug 26 '20 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ North Kilkerran is elsewhere, in Ireland. $\endgroup$ Aug 26 '20 at 9:07

Imagine how they call it

For me the best way to call them right is simply to use either the name in the local language for the most. To add more realism try to mix the languages on the border for exemple between a place A where a tavern is called Tavorn et another place B where it is called Brever you can call the Eddy's bar : "Eddy Brevorn". As a point don't limit yourself on creating language, try to feel the possible mixing like for example in "The 100" where the Grounders have a language which is a mix between grammar errors and other pieces of languages.


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