Game of Thrones languages
17th July 2017
With Game of Thrones back on our screens, we thought it might be useful to have a brief look at some of the commons terms and phrases used in the series. Especially those in other languages which you may not be familiar with.
The book series on which the TV series is based, A Song of Ice and Fire written by George R. R. Martin, includes many invented languages with extended portions of speech spoken in these languages, however, in the books these passages are written in English. Therefore, HBO and the Language Creation Society had to come up with their own adaptations, full of complex rules about pronunciation and grammar, and all with an extensive range of dialects and accents.
So, which languages are we talking about and what are some examples of phrases used in the show?
Languages on Westeros
The fictional continent of Westeros is where most of the action in the TV series occurs. It is separated from a second continent in the Game of Thrones universe, Essos, by a strip of water referred to as the Narrow Sea.
The Common Tongue
The Common Tongue of the Andals, who were the first settlers in Westeros, is represented in both the books and TV show by the real-life language of English. It is relatively uniform throughout Westeros, and is the first language of many of the characters from this continent, with different accents depicting their class and geographical location just like in real life. The Common Tongue is also well known as a second language and often used as a lingua franca between characters from different locations and backgrounds. Some common phrases popularlised by the show in the Common Tongue include “winter is coming”, “you know nothing, Jon Snow” and “shame, shame”.
The Old Tongue
The Old Tongue of the First Men was the language used by the first settlers on the continent and is now only spoken by a handful of Wildings – the name given to those who live north of The Wall. In the books, the Old Tongue is described as having several sub-dialects. In the series however, we are only introduced very briefly to one of these, spoken by the giants in season 5. Nonetheless, some terms in Old Tongue include:
Magnar – Lord
Skagos – Stone
Sygerrik – Deceiver
Woh dak nag gram – Little squirrel people (the name for the Children of the Forest as used by the giants)
Languages on Essos
The enormous landmass of Essos is so vast that some parts of the area have not even been mapped. Having said this, we do know a certain amount about the languages spoken there. Unlike Westeros, in Essos the languages spoken are numerous and diverse.
One of the former powerful families, House Targaryen, once dominated the continent with their native language of High Valyrian. However, after the Doom of Valyria, the language fell out of use and is now considered a dead language. This gave way to may offshoots of the original language and morphed into many different dialects of Low Valyrian drawing many parallels with Latin. Examples of High Valyrian in the series include:
Kessa – Yes
Daor – No
Kirimvose – Thank you
Zaldrizes – Dragons
Dracarys – Dragonfire
Valar Morghulis – All men must die. (When this is used to greet someone, the phrase valar dohaeris – all men must serve, is used to reply).
Skorī Skordēmalȳti tymptir tymis, ērinis iā morghūlis – when you play the game of thrones, you win or die.
As previously mentioned, Low Valyrian encompasses many different dialects that all derive from High Valyrian. This could be likened to different Romance languages that are all rooted in Latin. In the books, the dialects are said to be mutually intelligible. We are treated to two of these in particular in the TV series; Astapori and Meereenese. Examples of Low Valyrian include:
Dovoghedhy/ Thowoá – Unsullied (Astapori/Meereenese)
Ivaf kiófa w’omvale shiv tówish fílva tosh? Do you want to live the rest of your life in chains? (Meereenese)
The Dothraki are a nomadic tribe who live in the central plains of Essos. The language’s creator, David J. Peterson, said that the language is relatively similar to Russian with nods to the “breathy sounds” of Arabic. The vocabulary is based on the experiences of Mongolians from the Genghis Khan era and includes roughly 500 created words or phrases. Some of these include:
Hash yer dothrae check? – How are you? (Literally means ‘do you ride well?’)
Hash yer ray tih hrazef anni? Have you seen my horse?
Hash me laz adakha jin zhoris? – Are these hearts edible?
Che dothras che drivos – Ride or die
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading some useful phrases and will now be able to speak all of the languages as fluently as Missandei, the interpreter in the series!
Whilst we don’t offer translations in Game of Thrones languages, we can help you with more common languages. Visit our translation page for more information,