Naming a place, whether it’s a mountain, a town, city, or even an ancient temple can really set the mood regardless of what you’re going for. Names often allude to events of the past or extraordinary deeds and serve as an introduction to future lore.
Sometimes the name isn’t even the original one but one that got repeated by people over time, slowly but surely pushing the real name away, or perhaps the old name is forbidden by the new rulers and any mention gets you in trouble with the law.
While names serve an obvious purpose, we can make them also act as covers of a book, gates to the rich lore behind it, and the names that usually stick with us are the ones that immediately raise questions that make us thirsty for more information.
Good Fantasy Place Names
A good name depends on the location itself, the purpose behind it, and the target audience in real life. A good way to start is to think about the world the location is set in, the region in which it exists, the history behind it, and the creatures living there, and see if there’s a connection that might offer more stories once discovered.
- Grimpass Keep
- Shadow Bay
One sunny day, a small green rock-like object fell from the sky. The first people who found it built a house nearby, marveling at the strange rock, especially as it glowed in night. More people came, and more houses were built until a village was born. The village soon went from becoming a town to now a major trading hub on the very crossroads of the realm, where hundreds of people flock to see the relic.
- Silk Valley
- Living Vale
In a vicious war, several human generations ago, this keep was the last point of defense for the kingdom, before the capital itself. While the people were victorious, and ultimately won the war and their freedom, many found the keep to be their last place to see, a place where they made their last stand.
- Stoney Shore
Located in the northern regions where the snow never melts, there is a large cave at the bottom of a frozen mountain. Stories say one can find another exit, on the other side, one that leads into a beautiful paradise. Others will tell you it is only a myth and even if you find the cave you won’t make it out alive as monsters dwell inside.
Weird Place Names
Calling a name weird is in the eyes of the beholder, as they say, and while someone will recognize the name and the implication immediately, others will simply lack the knowledge and find it strange or peculiar at the very least.
- Air Mountain
- Spine of Goron
- Broken Wind
- Dry Lake
- Khorgal’s Pride
- Strange Islands
- Funny Forest
While the locals will simply tell you it has always been like that and that the town must have gotten its name due to how popular the term “good night” was, the real reason behind why it was long forgotten even if anyone actually knew it at the time.
- Ice Paradise
- Moonless River
- Maggot Bay
- Hungry Valley
- Hellgate Pass
Norse Place Names
Many Norse location names derive from landscape features, such as rocks, trees, plants, and animals, and once properly introduced to them we can start to recognize the pattern.
Located on the shore of a shallow bay of an island, this city began its humble beginning hundreds of years ago. The bay was used by whale hunters back in the day and the original name was Hvalvík, Bay of Whales, but has been changed after this all ended later on.
Elven Place Names
Elven locations names, whether it’s a forest, a city, or an ancient sacred ground are usually equally exotic in nature as their language, at least when it comes to other races.
- Thva Aethel
- Thili Alari
Having gotten its name after a famous sorceress who was also the first dragon rider in the last three thousand years, this monument was built at the bottom of a mountain, fairly close to today’s main road. Many travelers make sure to find the time to visit and pay their respects as it is also said lady luck will follow them if they do so.
- Naana Ancalen
Medieval Place Names
Many medieval places exist in today’s time although many have new names by now. While some structures exist to this very day, mostly walls, stone towers, and castles, they all provide a neverending source of rich history and lore, something that continues to be researched as time goes on.
The city stood for hundreds of years and one of the towers there is said to have housed the Catholic Inquisition sometime in the 13th century. The whole citadel was also reconstructed in the 19th century to become a famous tourist attraction, where 3 million of them visit each year.
Whether we’re thinking of a common location, such as a town, city, or a mountain, or we’re trying to come up with a more exotic location such as an ancient tomb, a forgotten temple, or a secret underground cave, a name can serve us to set the tone, the mood, and perhaps even a bit of expectation. The world it is in, who lives there, what kind of technology is available, the purpose behind it, all of these, and more, can serve as guidelines for the naming process. Feel free to get inspired by names from both real and made-up locations, and see how you can modify them to your needs. If you can incorporate a bit of the world’s lore into the name itself, it’ll act as a secret door that others will want to open and with that, the real story begins.