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A world that I work on has a number of different traditional fantasy species (or races) and we're getting a bit stuck with gender terminology for females.

I've searched high and low on the web for specific terms for female dwarves, female elves and female goblins but have come up with nothing.

Humans are a species, so elven women or dwarven women can get a little confusing, while at the same time, female elves or female dwarves can get a bit repetitive.

Such words should exist somewhere, because we do have a recognised female form for dragons; dragoness.

Can anyone shed some light on the right terminology to use?

Much appreciated.

P.S. for the curious types out there, the world can be found at Caladria

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    $\begingroup$ Are you multilingual? I'm not sure I understand what your looking for but I think it's a problem of language. You see, French and Spanish (and probably other languages too) uses determinants before the noun to identify the gender and often and/change some letters in the word depending on the gender. Therefore, in French it becomes for males: le nain/un nain, and female: la naine/une naine. There is no equivalent in English since we would always be using: the dwarf. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Jul 14, 2015 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you need different terminology? A female elf is an elf and a woman. If you want to emphasize or make clear her species, use the former noun. If you want to emphasize her gender (and the pronouns don't make it clear enough) use the latter noun. There's no need to have a special word for "elf woman," or to always use a gender-specific term. $\endgroup$
    – zeta
    Jul 14, 2015 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ I think a female elf would be a elvis. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2015 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is kind and of a nonissue. After all cats, beavers, and rabbits all give birth to kittens, and humans as well as goats have kids. $\endgroup$ Mar 18, 2016 at 3:31

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I don't think there is a recognised term like with dragons that I'm aware of. I'd suggest creating a naming convention and following it. Follow existing naming conventions (Dwarvess ("Dworvess"), for example sounds quite obvious. Not so sure about Elvess - sounds a bit Gollum to me!)

Are dwarves and elves "not too different" folk? Or could you benefit from completely different naming conventions - like Cow vs Bull, Hen vs Cockrell, mare vs stallion...

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you. Yes I did an extensive search for the elf/dwarf equivalents of 'dragoness' and came up with nothing. Tolkien uses 'she-elf' at one point, perhaps that is the recognised term. $\endgroup$
    – Allerion
    Jul 15, 2015 at 11:35
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If it were real life situation it would depend on question if the English is native language of elves. But if it were it would either have words to name them or to name humans in similar non-human (well, "non-elvish", "not one of us") way (so that only elves are man and woman and humans are just male/female human). Assuming English names do not name elves but just humans of appropriate gender the English language is not native to elves. So we are dealing either with translation or scientific description of alien culture. If the later is true we could either end with "(fe)male elf" or invent custom scientific-like names (or medieval-alchemist-like). If we are dealing with translation we have three choices. Primo, we can just assume that elves do see themselves as the people and the humans as alien species and call them just "man" and "woman" using different word for humans. Secundo, we can introduce word from elvish language into English and use it to name them (explaining it at the first use). And tertio, we can ad footnote in "editors comment" stylization, to explain the problem of English language.

Or you can write the story in Russian (inflecitve), German (gender indicating proverbs) or Hungarian (no genders at all).

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    $\begingroup$ great answer thanks very much. To sum up, in essence you're talking about the perspective of the writer to determine which words would be used? $\endgroup$
    – Allerion
    Jul 15, 2015 at 11:33
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You could just borrow the good old Anglo-Saxon solution.

You have a race of men, which you can gender as wermen (male) and wifmen (female). The latter is, of course, the ancestor of modern English “women”.

Then you have werdwarf and wifdwarf, wergoblin and wifgoblin, werelf and wifelf, and so on.

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The easiest way to do that is Latin gendering, with some caveats when it makes the world hard to pronounce. Simply have the male gender be identical to race (example Race of Man - Gender of Man, where some of the Men are men, and some of the Men are women), then ad "-a" for females. Yes, it is sexist, which should fit nicely in the general vibe of a medieval-ish fantyasy

Male-female:

Elf -elva

Dwarf - dwarva

Orc - orcia (not orca to avoid confusion with killer whales)

troll - trolla

dragon - draca

You can continue the pattern for all races, but I think making creative exceptions and then building cultural tension over them would be cool. Like maybe some species prefer to call their women "females" to indicate lower status. Or maybe some lycanthrope species think "bitch" is not only the proper term for their women, but a sign of status and respect (ie: imagine a werewolf calling their human woman liege "huge bitch" as a sign of admiration, only to be misunderstood.)

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