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I'm creating continents for my fantasy world but I need help creating names. I still haven't decided how many continents there will be, but I'm already having trouble coming up with names. Does anyone know of good suffixes and prefixes for continent names? The only continent I can name is called Mesogea (middle land or central land if my research doesn't betray me). However, I don't want all continents to have the same "cake recipe" to name (that is, always using the same suffix), I want the names to be more diverse and that's what holds me back. To make matters worse I don't know other good suffixes or even prefixes that can be used to name continents, something more cunning than just using "land".

If necessary, some brief details of the continents of my world: one of them will have dinosaurs; the other will be equivalent to Africa; one of the continents will have fauna like dodos, mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, terror birds, etc. (even the weather will be favorable for them); also one that will be equivalent to South America; and the last equivalent to Asia. Mesogea is already equivalent to Europe.

Warning in case of misunderstanding: I only speak Portuguese so I'm using Google to translate my question, I apologize if something I said above is not understandable.If there's something you can't understand, please let me know so I can rephrase it so you can understand.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding, please take a good read at our help center to understand what makes a good worldbuilding question. Sadly, picking names is not in that category, since it's basically whatever floats your boat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Sep 21 at 6:45
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    $\begingroup$ Apart from the good answers below, you can search for "name generator" online. Here's one example, allegedly for continents. $\endgroup$
    – Pablo H
    Sep 21 at 16:31
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It depends on the Culture drawing the Map

Have a look at the method of names for continents/regions we have on Earth now.

Keep in mind that names are very much in the eye of the beholder.

In other words, the map is crafted by someone, and generally he/she would use names they are familiar with which are often shaped by their own culture, and even perception through the eyes of their own culture.

For instance 'Australia' means 'Southern Land', from the point of view only coined by an Englishman, who thought 'Terra Australis' was a bit of a mouthful. But even then it was called 'Nouvelle Hollande', obviously by the Dutch, for a long time by many until Australia slowly caught on.

So in other words, it depends who's looking. Only after a long time does a name start to creep into general parlance, and for the sake often of convenience does the name slowly become consistently used.

So for your names:

  • Consider the cultural sensitivities or biases of the person drawing the map
  • Consider the history of the continent in question, and the name given by those who first found it
  • Consider that multiple people might have different names for the same continent

This may actually make your story more interesting, as it also reveals the biases of the culture drafting the map, being a story into of itself.

As an example, you mentioned 'suffixes' shouldn't be the same. But keep in mind that a culture might find suffixes important. So perhaps your culture has a naming convention that is consistent (such as Terra for land, '-alia') and that is important to be structured. Or alternatively, a culture that is more accommodating of local naming could name it native language name, such as 'Uthuru' 'barna' or 'biik' (local indigenous names in this case of Australia). This could be quite a good way in your story to highlight cultural difference.

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    $\begingroup$ Get your languages straight. Nouvelle Hollande is French. We Dutchies called it Nieuw Holland. New Zealand is Dutch too. From Nieuw Zeeland. (Both Holland and Zeeland are provinces of the Netherlands. "Nieuw" simply means "new".) $\endgroup$
    – Tonny
    Sep 21 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ Good point. Ceylon, Sri Lanka, and even Taprobane are all names that have been applied to the same land. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 21 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ Help your readers/users by making your names sound as if they are the names of continents (not, say, the names of villages or of people). It happens that most of our earthly continents have names in the form A****A, so respect that convention. But also reflect the linguistic conventions of your world (that's where Tolkein was so skillful). Have some fun if you want: Astrozenica. $\endgroup$ Sep 21 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ And note that this applies even to countries in Europe in European languages. Germany is a great example, it’s ‘Deutschland’ in German, ‘Tyskland’ in the Nordic languages, something similar to ‘Alemania’ in some of the Italic languages and something similar to ‘Germania’ in the others (as well as in Russian and Greek), and ‘Nimecy’ in Polish (and something similar in Slovak and Czech). $\endgroup$ Sep 22 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, most place name are "shockingly arbitrary" because most place names are derived (directly or indirectly) from the name of a person or a people, often in an ancient or lost language, sometimes with adjectives thrown in. Add a couple hundred/thousand years and their origins are no long part of the common popular conception. Asia is the modern name of the Roman (Latin) name of the Greek name of the ancient Anatolian name of some random person or tribe living somewhere in Turkey (probably). Most modern places names have this kind of long, arbitrary backstory. $\endgroup$ Sep 22 at 14:26
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You need to decide what point of view you are using in you worldbuildning. Is it a name given to empty lands by people from the orbit? Or is it naming system derived from names of the peoples who were first to travel the world and spread their names to other people.

For example our name for Asia is based on the Greek name of modern Turkey that was extended east when Greeks discovered that the land continues there while Africa is Latin name for lands to the south of Mediterranean possibly derived from the name of some tribe or phoenician word for dust (bdw. Greek name for Africa was Libia). America is name based on the name of one of the explorers. Europe is also Greek word of unknown origin.

People living on a single continuous land would most probably not have a name for it before they start exploring and discover there are other continets so they would name their land the same name they use for the land as a whole or earth. They would later devise the names for new lands they discover.

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  • $\begingroup$ "People living on a single continuous land most probably not have a name for it before they start exploring and discover there are other continents so they would name their land the same name they use for the land as a whole or earth" - has this happened in human history? When discovering other continents, I might expect people to come up with a name for their own continent (possibly derived from "home"), rather than naming it how they name the whole world. If they're not aware of continents, it means theirs doesn't have a name yet, and they need to choose one (that ideally isn't confusing). $\endgroup$
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 21 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ @NotThatGuy Well... we're still calling our little mostly-blue ball "Earth". Or "Terra" when we're feeling Latin-y. Or even "Gaia" when looking for something more mythological, but it still means "earth" when translated to English. And we already know of other less-blue balls in the universe, that we gave proper names to. If all alien species also do things like that, we'll sure have some trouble telling our own little colorful balls apart when we get to talking... $\endgroup$
    – thkala
    Sep 21 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ Europe is not of unknown origin. It's named after Europa, a Phoenician princess and consort of Zeus in Greek mythology. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_(consort_of_Zeus) The name Europa was used by other women, namely Europa of Macedon, wife of Philip II, who was the father of Alexander the Great. Lastly, I don't know if the continent got its name first, but Turkey used to be a Roman province in Thrace, called, yep, Europa. :) $\endgroup$ Sep 22 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ @thkala I suppose that might be a decent argument that some may name their continent that way. But my thinking would be that you need to come up with a name for the thing / planet you're standing on, even if you don't know whether any other such things exist. There wouldn't be much need or reason to come up with a name for the continent you're standing on, if you don't know continents or other landmasses exist. "What is a continent even?" If you know islands exist, you might name your continent something like "mainland". We could probably check how people named their own continent in history $\endgroup$
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 22 at 10:19
  • $\begingroup$ @JoãoMendes I meant we do not know what is the initial source for the name "Europa". The mythological explanation is obviously widely known. There are theories though that is is derived from Assyrian word meaning "West". $\endgroup$
    – Archelaos
    Sep 23 at 11:17
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If you take in account the names of two of our continents, they come from names of people.

  • Europa was a princess rapted by Zeus in the greek mithology.

  • America comes from the name of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who claimed that Brazil was part of an unexplored continent and he called it New world. A German cartographer decided to call this New World America, in honor of Amerigo.

The names of another two continents come from how a great ancient empire called its provinces:

  • Africa was how the Roman Empire called one of the southern provinces of the Empire: Egipt, Cirenaica, Africa Proconsular, Mauritania Cesariense and Mauritania Tingitana.

  • Asia I think I remember that the Roman Empire called it's Eastern provinces Asia, and the name has stuck.

Oceania comes from Ocean. It's mostly like saying Land of the Ocean, like Atlantida is saying Land of the Atlantic. You may use local names or local landscapes to name a continent. Maybe you could call a place full of volcanoes Volcania.

Antartica descends from the contrary to the Artic, the lands of the North: Anti-Artica.

For inventing names of continents try using the names that the greatest empires of your realm used to indicate directions or lands, using the names of people from mithology or discoverers, or try to alude to the position of the continent on the world, comparing it with something you know or the most usual sight within that continent.

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    $\begingroup$ Europa was a Phoenician princess; while descended from a Greek lineage, she was nevertheless a princess of Tyre. Africa Proconsularis, Mauretania Caesariensis. And Arctica means "land of bears", not land of the north; comes from Greek arctos, bear. Asia is a very ancient name, attested from the middle of the 2nd millennium BCE, albeit of course referring to a much smaller area. By the 5th century BCE, Herodotus uses the name Asia roughly in the modern sense -- and wonders why "three women's names" (Europa, Libya and Asia) are used for three parts of the same landmass. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 21 at 11:24
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Does "Arctica" come from "hey, there are a bunch of white bears up north" or does it come from "Hey, the pole star is in the constellation called the Little Bear"? $\endgroup$ Sep 21 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ @RossPresser: There was no polar star in the Antiquity; see Precession of Equinoxes. Our current North Star, i.e., α Ursae Minoris, was about 10° away from the pole in the classical antiquity -- the famous Greek explorer Pytheas is reported lamenting that the celestial pole was devoid of stars. By the 5th century CE (when the Western Roman Empire fell) is got close enough to be considered useful for navigation. It is currently at its minimum distance from the pole (about 40 minutes); from the 22nd century onwards it will gradually move away. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 21 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Interesting -- but see this that claims that the antecedents of "arctic" only date from Medieval Latin, and that the constellation gave it the name. Maybe the ancient Greeks did not associate bears with north? $\endgroup$ Sep 21 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ @RossPresser: Ancient Greeks did not have a name for the lands in the far north. (They knew very little about those lands.) They did have a name for the people supposed to live in the far north: Hyperboreans, literally "beyond the north wind". On the other hand, arcticos (which could be taken as "bearish") does mean "northern" in ancient Greek; and yes this meaning comes from the constellation we call the Greater She-Bear, Ursa Major. (Our Lesser She-Bear, Ursa Minor, was called the Dog's Tail, Cynosura.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 21 at 22:22
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Run a random fake word generator until you find enough that you like. Try this one: https://randomwordgenerator.com/fake-word.php for instance. It makes up realistic-seeming words, probably from a latin-biased list of syllables. I ran it for seven, and got: incons, aristorant, tingform, somesquence, tragul, frizzonaire, pulappli. I like most of those as place names.

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You prolly want to name the continents in your built world from the lives of the inhabitants.

How many different races or ethnicities do you have, with how many cultures, languages or religions and particularly, creation myths?

On the other hand, you might just stick a pin in a dictionary and take what comes up… unless that feels wrong, in which case stick in another pin!

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