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The world is based on the old norse and 13th century Europe culture (northern places, names and climate and Europian titles, castles and technology). In this world an organized group of people resists every-country-controlling realm.
The realm is huge. There are not many countries that stand on their own and none in which the realm has no influence. The whole known world is practically controlled by the realm's absolutistic sovereign. At first I adressed this sovereign as a king but then I thought: "Wait a minute, aren't kings in every bloody fantasy since Tolkien's LotR?" And so I told myself I need to use a fitting not-so-known title that would workingly replace a "king".

What should this sovereign's title be?

I wanted to go with "governor" (or something like "supreme governor") but I was told that a governor has to answer to someone above him.

Or would it be possibly for a "governor" to be an absolutistic monarch?

PS: I don't want to use any Middle Eastern titles like "sultan" or "shah".

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Aug 8 '16 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ An Emperor stands over Kings, so there is your answer. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Oct 20 '16 at 4:26
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    $\begingroup$ How about Pontifex? $\endgroup$ – fgysin reinstate Monica Oct 20 '16 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ In keeping with the rules, I'm voting to close this question as it is primarily opinion-based being only a request for a list of this-world names rather than a question about worldbuilding. (And note that an invented term would have been equally valid given the fantasy context.) $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 25 '17 at 0:02

15 Answers 15

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If all the land you rule over is incorporated as 1 state and you're a monarch then you hold one of several titles, King/Queen and Grand Prince/Princess all indicate hereditary lineage of ruling.

A Grand Duke or Archduke is a ruler that is a Military leader. This is not supposed to be a hereditary title, but often becomes one. Duke is also the title that a King's siblings fall under, because they are essentially peasants and are expected to do all the things that peasants do, such as go to war, but they also have connections which afford them armor and men to lead which naturally forces them down the path of a Military Leader.

A Caesar, Princeps, or "First Citizen" is a monarch for life by popular consent rather than primarily military or hereditary claims. That is the claim at least made by people who take this title, but are more often than not they are just another emperor or king under a different name.

Everything beneath this level are just lower divisions of management...

Above this level there is High King or King of Kings which is more along the lines of a head-of-the-family of the ruling family which has divided up their family holdings into kingdoms. They're not "a king" in the same way as a king is to a kingdom as the rulers over the sovereign state. Think of it more like what your dad can do - each of your siblings has their own car that in all rights is their car and as such he has no say over what you do with that car, but you will still likely listen to him and people will still go to him when you or your sibling messes up with the car. Now just change car for kingdoms, siblings for Kings, and Dad for High King and it's that idea, same extended down the family tree and passed in much the same way as kingship might be.

Another is President or Prime Minister, both of which are rulers of multi-sovereign states, but probably not what you're looking for and are more modern. The former isn't a ruler at all in theory and the title is derived from their job of presiding over a congress and is meant to not be prestigious at all. Prime Minister is exactly what the title says it is. A CEO would be the perfect comparison for what a Prime Minister is, they are the top level boss.

Emperor is the title for when you directly have the final word of multiple sovereign states without being related in such a way as a High King might be. The difference is mainly how those ruled recognize those who are ruling, either as foreigners or not, and whether they are incorporated into the body of the nation or not. Colonies and foreign territories are not incorporated into what is considered - the US for example which makes it not an empire, but if they did, while still maintaining they are separate sovereign nations, the US would become an Empire and the President would be an Emperor. Queen Elizabeth is an Empress, but because it is more or less just "technically" true, most ignore it.

Khan is on the same level as king, but Genghis Khan is combination of Emperor and High King due to the fact that everyone not of a given state, village, kingdom, was considered a foreigner to some degree, but they were all the same "culture".

Caliph is a religious absolute ruler, separate from the secular ruler, a Sultan, who rules over a religious "empire" which has Sultanates beneath it. This is pretty much the same things, but a more defined version of what happened during the middle ages with the Pope being the true absolute ruler from which all Kings derived their right to rule from.

Everything else is pretty much just different word for the same concept, and you should notice with "Caesar" that terms can derive from a person's name.


With regards to the term Governor. The title literally means "One who Governs" and is a perfectly adequate term for what you're looking for. A Governor in modern days governs a state in the US and has a Congressman, Senator, and President above them and Mayors beneath them, but the title is more or less the generic word for all the other titles. A King is a Hereditary Monarchy Governor, for example. And usually we use Governor as the title for a lot of translations rather than trying to figure out the right grand sounding title or the original word. The only titles that get used more or as frequently are King and Emperor, because King has come to mean "the guy in charge" and Emperor has come to mean "the guy in charge with lots and lots of land" rather than what they mean. The fact is that while we think of ruling/running/governing a city is no big deal, in the past the person we call a Mayor today would be an absolute Sovereign ruler. A King is just the title we came up with when one of those guys started beating the others into becoming loyal followers of theirs. And Emperor is just the title for when one of those guys did the same at the newer, higher level. So any title is fine as an "Absolute", but you gotta consider the reader too and how they're going to take and understand it. In which case Mayor or Governor may not be the right choice in terms of getting the desired picture across.

Part of the reason to use a known title is shorthand for telling the type of civilization this is and who's in charge. A Grand Duke sounds like he's in charge but just holding the seat for someone while an Archduke sounds like he lead a coup. And both of these, for some reason, sound more oppressive and evil than a King. It doesn't have to be that way, but it does "feel" that way so if you're going to use these terms I would suggest thinking on what they evoke in your mind about the civilization and how you might use that in your story. For example, the Archduke might give off the vibe he's a villain throughout the story and then he ends up being a hero, or he might act like a hero the entire story and then at the final moment reveal he's the villain. The first is a surprise to the reader while the latter makes the reader more suspicious and lets them feel vindicated when it turns out they're right.

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    $\begingroup$ I really started to like Grand Duke as a military leader and I am probably going to use him. But because Grand Duke is something more than a duke but something less than a king, I am going to make his backstory which will explain why he is just Grand Duke and not anything more. $\endgroup$ – noarri Aug 5 '16 at 7:32
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    $\begingroup$ If the Grand Duchy isn't part of a Kingdom/Principality/Empire/etc., then there is no higher title available. $\endgroup$ – Stop Harming Monica Aug 5 '16 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ A historical example would be the Grand Duchy of Moscow (which later developed into modern Russia): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Duchy_of_Moscow $\endgroup$ – Royal Canadian Bandit Aug 5 '16 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ @RoyalCanadianBandit Also the Habsburgs who rule over duchy which is sovereign, but members of the family also rule over other countries as Kings. They're equal levels, because a Duke is only inferior to a King when the Dukedom is part of a Kingdom in the same way a King is inferior to an Emperor only when the Kingdom is part of an Empire. Otherwise they are on the same level as long you're not regardling land and power. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Aug 5 '16 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ @RoyalCanadianBandit I always thought of it as a Grand Principality, like Lithuania (which was even more massive). The same principle applies, however. Historically, independent rulers of sufficient powers sometimes upgraded their titles unilaterally (Prussia, France, Russia). $\endgroup$ – Chieron Aug 5 '16 at 15:56
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Here are some root words and evolutions from various European languages that have been used for king equivalents:

  • Latin Imperator (meaning one who commands) → Emperor
  • Latin Caesar (from the name) → Kaiser (German), Czar/Tsar (Russian/Slavic)
  • Latin Augustus (from the name). Became the senior title to Caesar when referring to the multiple Emperors of the Roman Empire of late Antiquity.
  • Greek Basileus (originally meaning Chieftain). Used by some kings of Greek colonies in classical times, and the Persian king was Megas Basileus (great king) or Basileus Basileōn (king of kings, a direct translation of Persian Shahanshah). Later used by the Roman emperors of the Byzantine period after Justinian ~650-1450.
  • Proto-Indo-European HregRex (Latin), Ri (Gaelic, also Ard Ri for High King), Raja (Indic). This word probably first refered to PIE chieftains back before pre-history and was carried down as king by many langauages
  • Old-English Bretwalda (many alternate spellings, possibly means 'wide ruler'). Refers to the High King among the petty kings of England pre-Norman invasion.
  • Greek Autokrat or Autokrator (meaning self-power). A medieval Greek word used for an absolute monarch, referring to the Emperor who was also Basileus at the time. Later Russian Tsars used the term Autocrat to distinguish their absolute authority from the limited constitutional authority of monarchs in Europe.
  • Greek Despot (meaning master of a household). Originally referred to the emperor, this title migrated down to court officials. Became the title for the prince-like rulers of bits of the former empire after the Latin Empire c.1200 CE. E.g. Despotate of Morea.
  • King itself came from Old-English 'cyning' with equivalents in German (König), Old Slavonic (Konegu), Finnish (Kuningas), etc.
  • Gothic þiudans with the 'thorn' letter probably pronounced as a 'th' sound. Etymylogically similar to the Old-English term 'þeoden' which was a title of a chief. Theoden...where have I heard that name before...
  • Latin Princeps was Augustus's preferred term for himself, and means 'first' as in first citizen in Latin. Another equivalent would be Fürst in German, which referred to a soveriegn prince of the Holy Roman Empire. This isn't really equivalent for you because the HRE implied an Emperor senior to the Furst.

Ok thats all I got. Obviously many more if you want to go to Semitic/Turkic/Indic/further afield sources.

Edit: Okay one more:

  • Hungarian Nagyfejedelem. Translated as 'Grand Prince' but refered to the 'Khan of Khans' equivalent for the 7 Magyar tribes that invaded the Honfoglalás (the Carpathian basin) and raided Europe for a century. Then they settled down and took the boring old title Király which is just another variant on king.
  • Also important (to me), Hungarian, Finnish, and Basque are non-Indo-European but written in the Latin alphabet, so they have the excellent combination of sounding exotic and awesome yet being pronouncable/spellable.
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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget "King of kings", like former persians. $\endgroup$ – Santiago Aug 4 '16 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't all of this a language issue, as in, how the meaning "king" is represented in languages all around the world? In this sense, if you have a fantasy culture where in their language their main leaders are called "xyzzit", then when speaking (or writing a novel) about them in English you'd still just use "king" instead. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Aug 4 '16 at 18:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Peteris What I was trying to capture is the differing etymology. Then OP can then go back and make up a backstory for his chosen title. Maybe instead of Caesar, he could name the title after an important person from his fictional history. If English is his world's language, maybe he could derive a name from the English word 'master', 'chief', or 'commander'. Example, Marvel comics, lol. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 4 '16 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ @SteveJessop USSR is a fine example - everyone acknowledged that the general secretary of the communist party (literally, the position initially nominally charged with taking minutes of the core council meetings) was the actual leader despite constitutionally having no power at all, while the nominal heads of state e.g. the president of the supreme soviet, the prime minister, etc were not. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Aug 5 '16 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't call "Nagyfejedelem" pronounceable. $\endgroup$ – tox123 Aug 6 '16 at 2:47
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I'll just give a list of some possibilities and I'll assume (you mentioned the word 'king') that this ruler is male:

Emperor: I don't think I need to explain this one. Realistically, this is the one you should be using. Would be more important than a King.

Caesar/Kaiser/Tsar: Historical terms from European countries also meaning emperor

Basileus/Porphyrogennētos/Autokratōr/Despotēs/Sebastos: Byzantine terms for emperor found here. Basileus was a Greek term for Emperor; Porphyrogennētos was the son of an emperor (born after the emperor became Emperor and born in a specific room). Used by Constantine VII; Autokratōr is the direct translation of the latin imperator, often used for a military commander-in-chief; Despotēs is a more generic court title or a term of respect (now means Bishop); Sebastos translated to Augustus. See kingledion's answer for other European names.

[Megas/Grand] Archon: archon was used by the Byzantines to mean something similar to governor. Megas (meaning 'Grand') Archon is the highest ranking official of the emperor's company. This would have been used in the 13th Century.

Grand Duke: Self explanatory

Really, what you want for the time period and area you've specified would be Emperor (or Basileus or other historical equivalent). His aide could be a Megas/Grand Archon and if you have a religion, then a Patriarch could be in charge of it. This would give you a Byzantine-type empire that matches the dates you want.

Other, more remote possibilities:

Samrāṭ/Chakravarti: Sanskrit. Also sārvabhaumā or Maharajah (Indian)

Morubixaba/Sha-quan/ariki/Qhapaq[Sapa]/k'uhul Ajaw/Tlatoani/Cacique: Various titles for Kings of various different colonies in America and Oceania/Australasia. Probably not important enough for your liking.

Shahanshah Modern Iranian meaning King of King's. You don't want Shah, so maybe not... There's also Padishah (with variations on spelling, thanks to @inappropriateCode)

Dangun May/may not be a royal title

Taewang/Geoseogan/Chachaung/Isageum/Maripgan: Asian titles about a millennium before your era

bìxià ('bottom of the steps', meaning 'imperial majesty')/shèngshàng ('Holy Highness')/wànsuì ('You of 10 000 years)/Huangdi ('emperor'): Chinese

ōkimi: Japanese meaning 'Grand King'

Hwangje/Taewang: Korean

Khagan: Mongolian

Malik: Middle Eastern. Equivalent to Emperor.

nəgusä nägäst: Ethiopian meaning King of Kings

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    $\begingroup$ You mentioned Shahanshah and yet not Padishah?! $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Aug 4 '16 at 17:07
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First off, see Wikipedia's List of titles for various examples.

There's two general approaches that you can take.

The first is to use a "translated" title. This is what people who use "king" are doing. "King" is the English word for a hereditary monarch. Given the varying nature of governments, there's various titles that have been applied. For example, "Emperor" (e.g. Japan), "Prince" (e.g. Liechtenstein), "Duke" (e.g. Luxembourg). As there's a limited number of such titles in English, these types of titles tend to be used rather frequently. There are, however, various native English terms that are more rarely used. For example "Despot", or "Dictator".

The other approach is to just use an "untranslated" term. This is what happens with things like "sultan", "shah", "emir", "tsar/csar, or "maharaja" . For whatever reason, people felt that native English words like "king" or "prince" didn't quite fit, so just took the native word as a loan word.

This second approach may be a reasonable one. The important thing here is that the title matches the tone of your setting. So, yes, "sultan" is right out for a old Norse setting. Instead, I'd look to the (untranslated) titles which were actually used by Norsemen. For example, "Druhtinaz" was supposedly a Proto-Germanic term meaning a military leader or warlord. Or "Fraujaz", a common honorific. A little research into the cultural background (you are doing research about old Norse, right?) should give you some options.

Also keep in mind that if you pick relatively obscure titles, few people will complain that your usage is not exactly the historical one, unlike the common English titles.

If you are making a constructed language for your world, you can simply make up a title and use it untranslated. Take a look at the (purported) etymology of current titles for suggestions on construction. For example "King" shares roots with "kin", and probably derives from a term meaning something like "leader of people/family". "Lord" comes from "master of bread". Take the translated phrase, condense and twist it, and you have your title.


Regarding using "Governor" as an absolutistic monarch, that may be possible, given a suitable backstory. For example, why is the monarch of Liechtenstein a "Prince" and not a "King", despite not being beholden to any other sovereign? It's because of history. Liechtenstein started out as a principality beholden to a bigger entity (the Holy Roman Empire). The larger entity collapsed, leaving Liechtenstein on its own. There's no reason to change the title, so the monarch remains a "Prince". (Similar events play out in The Unwilling Warlord by Lawrence Watt-Evans: a new government is created by a powerful magic user who disappears by the end of the book, leaving his "Regent" as the head of the government "waiting for his return", despite no one actually believing he's coming back.)

You can certainly set up the absolutistic monarch as a "Governor" with a suitable backstory. For example, have the realm start off as a small region with a "true" governor, but have it grow to a world-spanning titan without giving up the traditional title. ("I may be absolutist, but I'm humble.") Alternatively, you can set up the backstory such that the monarch is a "governor" for some non-temporal power (e.g. gods, demons, or parallel universe governments - either real or imagined).

Or you could just ignore others' objections about what a "governor" can or cannot do. After all, how can you be a Queen if you're elected with term limits? George Lucas made it work.

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  • $\begingroup$ I must say that I am not doing a research about old Norse (well, I know some basics of course) because my world is only supposed to have a slight northern feel (which I only provide by using kind of northern names and scandinavian landscapes), the culture is pretty much only medieval central europian. After a long thinking I ended up balancing between "governor" (maybe "supreme governor") and "grand duke". Now I can't decide which one to use. (The backstory will be provided in all cases.) $\endgroup$ – noarri Aug 4 '16 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer. Welcome to the site. $\endgroup$ – James Aug 4 '16 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think your explanation of why Liechtenstein is a principality instead of a kingdom is correct. States under the Holy Roman Empire were of various ranks: Kingdoms, Duchies, Grand Duchies, Baronies, Counties, Principalities, etc. The rank related to the importance of the state and the Holy Roman Emperor could elevate a state as a reward (E.g Duchy of Bohemia became a kingdom) $\endgroup$ – eques Aug 5 '16 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ There's also the fictional case in the Lord of the Rings where the Steward acts in place of the King, but there hasn't been an actual King for centuries so the Stewardship became hereditary. $\endgroup$ – eques Aug 5 '16 at 14:34
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A made-up word with presumed etemology of a historical root was used in Science Fiction by Isaac Asimov (and others?): The Autarch of Lingane featured in The Stars, Like Dust.

Others may have used the same idea as an homage and generally good idea, so you might want to do the same.

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    $\begingroup$ Hardly "made-up": my OED traces its use back to the 1640s as a straightforward Anglicization of the Greek "αύτορχοζ", the same root as the more-common "autocrat". $\endgroup$ – Mark Aug 4 '16 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark I believe your chi and your rho are backwards. Otherwise that transliterates as 'autorchoz' $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 4 '16 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion, if they're backwards, it's because the OED has them backwards. $\endgroup$ – Mark Aug 5 '16 at 6:32
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    $\begingroup$ Even though English "autocrat" and "autarch" mean essentially the same thing, they are derived from two different Greek terms "αὔταρχος" (a noun) and "αὐτοκρατής" (an adjective), respectively. Both start with the prefix "αύτο", but the former combines it with "ἀρχός" (ruler) while the latter with "-κρατής", the combining form "κράτος" (bodily strength, mastery). $\endgroup$ – chepner Aug 5 '16 at 19:46
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Matilda ruled the English as merely "Lady of the English". Hitler styled himself "Fuehrer" (leader) rather then the more formal "Kanzler" (which in turn translates merely as "Foreign Minister" in many languages). The tyrant in 1984 was the Big Brother. Gaddafy ruled while pretending to have no title, and no formal role in government. So I guess it can be anything, from Idi Amin's Lord of All Beasts and King of Scotland to Stalin's Secretary General. Your ruler can be anything, from "Conqueror of the Known World, and Heir Apparent to the Unknown" to "Sub-Director of the Administrative Department" or "Best Friend of People".

It would depend on whether your ruler plays a traditional role (being the son, grandson, great grandson, etc., up to the 27th generation, of a dinasty of rulers), in which case titles like King or Lord would be of choice; a bureaucratic appointment by a governing clique (which would match more a pedestrian title, like Great Secretary, Chairman, Deputy Chief of the Third Section, Plenipotentiary Delegate of the Higher Political Committee); a military commander turned ruler (Generalíssimo, Admiral of the People, Feldmarshall, Commander Supreme); a religious figure invested in power (Deacon, Father, Monseigneur, Spiritual Director, Hand of God); an adventurer who came into power in times of crisis but intends to be the first of a dinasty (Emperor, Supreme Leader, Light of the World, President Eternal and Hereditary, First Citizen, Head Supreme of the Coalition of the Willing).

And of course, it depends on the flavour you intend. From your description, Jarl or Ealdorman, Herr, Freiherr, Koenig, Hertog, Konger.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, "Kanzler" originally meant the secretary of the king in medieval times (as the king himself couldn't write). $\endgroup$ – Paŭlo Ebermann Aug 6 '16 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer best. Standard titles do not cover this role. It's likely a world ruler would not get to pick their title, but rather would have a title that indicated what their role was before the scope of that role was expanded, just converted from "a" to "the", and capitalized. So, "The Secretary of Defense", "The General of France", "The Lottery Winner". Multiword titles and context would likely be lost through familiarity: So, "The Secretary", "The General", "The Winner". $\endgroup$ – Dewi Morgan Aug 6 '16 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Often, the choice of title depends on the message the ruler wants to convey. "I'm Dad's natural successor" => use same title as Dad. "I'm just the first among equals" => princeps, or similar. "I'm the greatest" => King of kings. $\endgroup$ – Patricia Shanahan Aug 7 '16 at 15:48
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Konungr is the old Norse term for a king.

You could add some flourishes like "Blessed of the All Father", "Defender of the North" or other similar additions based on the history of the empire.

Notably most monarch usually had many many titles.

Queen Elizabeth II has a whole Wikipedia page just for her titles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_titles_and_honours_of_Queen_Elizabeth_II

I found a pretty exhaustive list of noble titles in various languages/cultures from the Society for Creative Anachronism:

http://heraldry.sca.org/titles.html

A good point I found there is that the addition of place names is often used in titles, they are not just the King, but the King of something, Earl of Someplace, etc.

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As an alternative to some of the truly excellent list answers posted here, it is worth mentioning that a lot of the listed titles, as well as many unlisted ones, are originally derived on whatever the holder based its claim to power on.

E.g.:

  • "President" derives his power from presiding over something (like "President of the European Council")
  • "Emperor" (orig. "Imperator") from being the supreme commander of the army
  • "Prince" from being "first among equals" (princeps inter pares, a designation of the de facto emperor coined by Augustus)
  • "Messiah", a title sometimes used to denote the kings of ancient Israel means "anointed one" and refers to the appropriate ceremony and consequentially the ruler having been divinely chosen
  • Emperors of China claimed the title of "Son of Heaven", referring to their heavenly mandate, which some scholars today translate as "therarch"

So if you really want to be original, think about the realm's history and/or religion; think back to a significant event that the first ruler participated in and that was crucial to the formation of the realm, and establish its "official" historical or religious interpretation.

For a fictional example of something like that, the Septim dynasty of The Elder Scrolls universe claimed the title of "Dragonborn", on account of Tiber Septim having been, well, Dragonborn, speaking the dragon tonuge, etc. If you want to make this more exotic to English-speaking readers, you can pass this through Greek or Latin or any other foreign language of your choice, real or fictional.

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When a smaller state is nominally autonomous but practically under the thumb of a hegemon, the hegemon sometimes calls himself the smaller state's Protector.

If there's a formal feudal hierarchy, anyone from whom you depend in the ‘org chart’ is your overlord.


Tangent: The word king is related to kin. I don't know if this is scholarly consensus, but I've read assertions that (in at least Germanic tradition) a king had to be of a sacred family, because his role was partly priestly – and therefore someone not of such a family who held sovereign worldly power could at most be a duke. This may be why there were Grand Dukes but no subordinate Kings in the Holy Roman Empire until rather late in its life.

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Here are some that I think are cool

ALL-FATHER

POPE

EMPEROR

since it is fiction you could go with something never used but which has significant meaning (latin forms of all words work)

eg:

king of LIGHT - REXLUCEM

king of REALM - REXIMPERIUM

power - POTESTATEM

destroyer - EXTERMINATORE

you get the idea...

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  • $\begingroup$ Why the accusative lucem and imperium rather than the more obvious genitive lucis and imperii? $\endgroup$ – Anton Sherwood Aug 7 '16 at 8:07
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"Keisari" is the Icelandic (thus very close to Old Norse) word for "Emperor", cognate with Kaiser, Tsar, and Caesar but not obviously so.

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    $\begingroup$ "Keisari" is pretty obviously cognate with "Kaiser", which is actually pretty close to the Classical Latin pronunciation of Caesar. $\endgroup$ – chepner Aug 5 '16 at 19:50
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One more to add to your list:

Potentate - a person who possesses great power, as a sovereign, monarch, or ruler. - 1350-1400; Middle English

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/potentate?s=t

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  • $\begingroup$ Has ‘potentate’ ever been used as a title? $\endgroup$ – Anton Sherwood Nov 19 '16 at 8:44
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There are a lot of good suggestions, but I don't see the one I first thought of:

Hegemon - (from the Ancient Greek for "leader")

  • A dominating leader, or force.

Hegemony -

  • (formal) Domination, influence, or authority over another, especially by one political group over a society or by one nation over others.
  • Dominance of one social group over another, such that the ruling group or hegemon acquires some degree of consent from the subordinate, as opposed to dominance purely by force.

Hegemon has been used by Orson Scott Card in the Ender books.

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Some suggestions:

the Inca empire - the word inca means lord. The monarch was the Sapa Inca or "only lord".

in the Jack Vance novel the Languages of Pao the monarch of the planet Pao was the Panarch, which was meaningless to me until I separated it into Pan and Arch - all highest.

The Greek title of Pantokrator for Jesus Christ - all ruler.

Cosmocrator - ruler of the Cosmos.

Padishah - Lord king or Master King. Translate from Persian into your language. Note that during the Mughal empire the highest title that the Padishah granted to Hindus - either vassal rulers of regions or landless officials and courtiers - was Maharajadhiraja bahader. Maharajadhiraja means great king of kings, bahader makes a title one step higher.

Perhaps in your world people may call their monarch "the King" but when they talk about the monarch of the realm they call him "THE KING".

Depending on how pagan Norse or how Christian western European the society is, the people may use titles in both their native languages and in Latin. Just as eastern European medieval rulers used titles in both their native languages and Greek, the language of the "Byzantine" empire.

As a matter of fact it is possible to claim to be the rightful ruler of everywhere and also to be a governor. Some Popes claimed to be the rightful rulers of the world, and yet used the title Vicarius Christi "Vicar of Christ", claiming to be the representative or governor on Earth of Jesus Christ.

Similarly the Roman emperors are considered to be (almost) absolute monarchs, and yet the title of emperor is derived from the Latin word Imperator, which has many shades of meaning. Imperator is connected with Jupiter, the main Roman god, according to some sources, and thus makes someone sort of Jupiter like.

Imperium was power and authority in general, and the military, political, and judicial power of Roman magistrates who were granted imperium in particular. So imperator might be a generic term for magistrates and promagistrates who were granted imperium to rule over their province.

In the later Roman republic victorious generals - who would be magistrates and promagistrates and thus be granted imperium during their terms of office, would be hailed as imperator by their troops, thus becoming more or less entitled to a triumph at Rome. A Magistrate's imperium was limited in time by his term of office, and in space by the border of his province.

Augustus the first emperor was granted the power of imperium proconsulare maius "greater proconsular authority" or imperium proconsulare maius et infinitum "greater and infinite proconsular authority". This made him superior in authority to proconsuls governing senatorial provinces as well as governor of most of the provinces - the imperial provinces. In most provinces the Emperor was the governor and the highest authority in such a province would be the Emperor's legate acting in the Emperor's name.

Thus the Roman Emperor was sort of the governor of everywhere, and his imperium or governorship was not limited to a single province but included all the provinces.

And don't forget that a true emperor claims to be the rightful ruler of everywhere. And in real life we know the universe is incredibly vast. Suppose that every solar system is ruled by a someone with the comparatively lowly title of King. A ruler of 10 solar systems might be a king to the second power, or a king of kings. The ruler of 100 solar systems might be a king of kings of kings or a king to the third power. The ruler of our galaxy might be a king to the eleventh power. The ruler or emperor of the whole universe would be at least a king to the twenty first power. And of course the physical universe might be gazillions of times larger than the known universe.

So don't be afraid to have a ruler with kings of kings and kings of kings of kings among his vassals, or who claims to be infinitely higher than a mere king.

I kind of like the idea of people addressing a powerful leader as "Master of All". Of course that is a form of address and not a title.

After the assassinated Julius Caesar was defied, declared a god, his adoptive son Octavius, the future first emperor Augustus, used "son of the divine Caesar" as part of his name, to great political advantage. Caesar had been decreed Dictator for Life, or actually Perpetual Dictator, shortly before being assassinated. I can imagine that some ambitious Roman might have claimed that since Caesar was the Perpetual Dictator his appointment was still valid and the spirit of the Divine Caesar was giving the government orders though the ambitious Roman. Thus someone might try to become ruler of Rome while claiming to be the mere mouthpiece or vicar of Caesar.

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Chief (anthropology) or Chief Poobah (colloquial 1950s) or Chief Executive

Honcho (Japanese for boss) or Head Honcho (colloquial 1950s)

Chairman (corporate or communist)

Grand Master (Masonic) or Master or other masonic titles.

Facilitator or Liason (Oberlin student government)

Speaker (House of Representative) or Listener

Minister or First Minister or Prime Minister or Premier or Secretary

Captain (nautical) or Admiral (naval) or General (military)

Director

Crown (English law) or Scepter Bearer

Muad'Dib or God or Goddess or Messiah or Christ

Ayatollah or Iman or Rabbi or Sensei or Sempai

Big Brother or Uncle Sam

Don (Mafia)

Archangel (Biblical) or Dali Lama (Buddhism)

Jinn

Lucifer (literally, "Morning Star").

Judge (Biblical; Judge Dredd).

Warlord

Grand Wizard or The Great Oz

Supreme Leader

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