Having linguistics as one of my major hobbies and being an altoholic myself, I’ve come up with certain guidelines for racial name conventions in World of Warcraft.
The intention of the guide is to help with creating a name which you could proudly wear along your adventures, and which will look natural in the world of Azeroth and beyond.
References to IRL and other worlds, jokes and whatnot could and will exist, but here we will focus on the character nicknames that will help you and fellow players with immersement and avoid facepalms, Aaarthases, Bestwarriors and other “cool” options :)
Let’s do so race-by-race and focus on how your World of Warcraft nickname could actually sound.
HUMANS / WORGEN / KUL TIRAN / UNDEAD
These races are closest to us, and naturally require common human names of Western/European origin, granted we’re in a high fantasy medieval setting.
Of course, all combinations of Alice/Alyssa/Alisa and all other common names will be taken, but here we may try a different approach: using a surname rather than a name. This provides you with a much wider variety of options! Moreover, you can keep in mind that your character may now wear any common first name you like, be it Julia, Bob or Alice.
For example, several of my female alts shared the name Backston (it’s kind of turned into generic for my trial toons). My warrior was Julia Backston, hunter – Katarina Backston, and death knight – Alice Backston. You may also be inspired with Italian, Spanish, French options – make it Western European, of the Roman language family. But leave alone German and Scandinavian languages – we’ll make use of them later.
Note: you may want to pick a version that sounds British for your Worgen or Kul Tiran – like Bracksdale or Alderton. They fit best!
DWARVES / DARK IRONS
This is where you put in use you German/Scandinavian languages inspiration.
Most common rule is throwing in as many consonants as you can and arranging them in clusters, especially g, r, p, k, t, f, n, d, m, h. You like when they combine hard-pronounced groups – nd, hr, gr, ndt, mn, gd, etc. And make sure your nickname ends with a consonant!
Considering vowels, use i, e, a, y, u to dilute these clusters a bit. I do not advise using specific umlaut-vowels, like å, ö, or ä. First, they make the name sound rather tender than brutal if you pronounce them right, and second, there will be troubles in sending mail or dealing with you in chat.
Also this is a good time to double the consonants! Kk, ll, dd, tt – whatever you wish.
The general rule for a dwarf name is making it sound like you are trying to cough, and at the same time afraid to open your mouth too wide not to get a cold in the mountain air :)
Examples of dwarven nicknames could be Grimnir, Gulldra, Jagda, Geddo, Hrapnir, Fredda, Hyggard, Brandt. Note that if you’re using the letter j, it will read as [j] rather than [dʒ]!
Note: you can also seek inspiration in Celtic, i.e. Scottish and Irish origins, but all in all they sound and look less dwarfish and less brutal. Besides, dwarves are rather a viking than a highlander archetype, despite their accent.
You can also go with family name – make sure it comes together from two words and refers to blacksmithing, mining, guns, ale or beard. Darkhammer, Blackstout, Redshot, Bronzeshield, Mottlebeard are the examples.
GNOMES / MECHAGNOMES / GOBLINS
I would combine these two, as they are very much alike.
One of the obvious options is using a surname/nickname – as with humans. Unlike humans, pick a couple of meaningful words rather than a real surname and put them together. Gnomes tend to love electricity and sparks, goblins love explosions, but this is not obligatory. Sparkfizzle, Bombsprocket, Greasebolt, Fizzfusion – anything that is quirky and/or reminds of tinkering (or magic, in case you’re a caster) fits.
If you go with the first name, make it two simple and jumpy syllables. Girls like their names to end with y/ie and in general look like pet names: Izzy, Moxie, Trixxy. Gnome boys would thank you for ending their name with an o (Ponzo, Gwido, Weirdo), and goblin boys prefer k (Grizzek, Krixxik, Radek).
And 100+ points if you fit z or x in the first name and double it!
In general, your gnome or goblin name should sound jumpy, like a sparkling gadget on a tinkering table which is ready to go off!
DRAENEI / LIGHTFORGED
These outworldly beings are probably the simplest to name.
The names are about vowels, doubled vowels, and soft consonants. Don’t travel too far beyond k, l, m, n, r, th, h, and make them but drops between round vowels – a, o, u (can and should be doubled aa, oo, uu) and i (shall never be doubled).
Diphtongs are not advised in the draenei names – make them simple and straightforward.
Examples of the names could be Samaara, Kalaari, Oluu, Akaru, Theruu. If you pronounce a name and picture yourself a sheet waving in the wind by the sound of it, you did everything right!
NIGHT ELVES / BLOOD ELVES / NIGHTBORNE ELVES / VOID ELVES
The general approach to an elven name is to make it sound like forest tree leaves rustling in the breeze: tender and soft.
Here we will take the softest consonants again – l, r, m, v, n, but for the first time we’re adding the hissing ones: s, sh, th. For vowels, we better limit ourselves to a, e, i. You will get many bonus points if you use y instead of i, and elves simply love their diphtongs: ae, ie, aie, ye, ei and whatever combinations you might come up with.
Roll r and l sounds tenderly in your mouth, bind them with weirdest diphtongs and add some hissing s, sh, th – you’ll be there.
Male names tend to end in a consonant, and female names in a vowel, although it is not required. Good endings are -el, -enne, -ir.
Elven name examples could be Venthir, Aelinne, Rethiel, Shaymayne, Lyleth, Thessyra.
For a Pandaren name, serve yourself and go for any oriental inspiration – especially Chinese and Japanese (although Japanese inspired mogu culture more than pandaren culture). A nice Chinese perk is using -xi- anywhere you like, especially in the beginning of the name, and also ending the name with –ng.
Pang, Xiang, Zhao, Chitsuro, Kenji, Orinawa – are the few examples.
If you’re naming an orc, use your throat to speak! Make heavy use of the throat consonants: k, g, r, throw in t and d. From hissing camp, we will take sh and th. And use only round vowels: o, u, a. We don’t need dweebs like i, e, y here!
You can cautiously use b, l or m in the middle, but with care and precision. Make sure you know they are there: chew your lips and hum for m, spew out b, or roll your tongue for l – then you’re doing it right.
Imagine you are eating dust and stones of Durotar, and try to cough it out, rolling pebbles in your mouth and making them crack. You like it when consonants make pairs like rk, rg, rsh, dr, gr – in fact, you’d like to pair every r with a consonant. Doubled kk and gg won’t hurt too.
The next rule for the orc name is making it one or two syllables. First syllable better end with a consonant, and even if an apostrophe is not there, it is meant to be!
Following these rules we will get a supreme round of orcish names like Gorgul, Sarlash, Kargash, Gurthak, Drakka, Gorbak and everything else.
TAUREN / HIGHMOUNTAIN
Two keywords when naming a tauren: humming and breath. You don’t break your tongue over complex diphtongs or clusters of consonants: Shu’halo speech is as close to natural breathing as possible.
Therefore, limit yourself to breath consonants sh, h, k, t and simple humming m and n. Don’t double them! You can use r, but don’t roll it. Absolutely no pressure or effort when talking. Love your simple round vowels – o, u, a.
Tauren name examples can be Shammu, Hurm, Halu, Laku, Oro.
TROLLS / ZANDALARI
Of course it is possible to be inspired by African or Native American cultures here, but if you want a true-Warcraft style troll, you go with this.
How do I put it best? Well, you need to make it zinngggg! For this ringing, your best friends are sounds z, n and ng. Add a bit power with nd before breaking into a vowel in the middle of the name. As of vowels, go for i, e and a. And finish the name with a vowel too (or n, in case of a male troll).
Here’s a simple test: imagine a musical ruler or a feather pressed against a table and try to pinch it as a cat, making it sound. Anything like your new troll name? It’s a win!
Examples: Zindari, Senjin, Kanjin, Senjul.
For this unique allied race I would push forward their middle eastern, desert fantasy and go with Arabian and Indian names. J, r, k, t, tt, kt, sh, n – make a dry desert sound in your name, with vowels like a, i, u. The overall idea is that the name must sound dry, rolling and rattling, but with enough vowels to take a breath.
Examples could be Jarmush, Kushi, Jakti, Jarakti, Rakatta, Jianna, Shanti.
Hopefully this guide was helpful, and I tributed my share into reducing the number of Grasstomouths, Iiilliidans, Topwarlocks and Xhighuthsdys in Azeroth!