Creating Original Dwarf Character Names
I believe that making something original is far more rewarding than simply copying and pasting someone else’s idea or creation. Sure, let things inspire you to give you ideas and then build upon them. That is the creative process whether we do it consciously or subconsciously but that is a topic that is further explained in our Inspiration VS Recreation podcast.
Examples of Dwarves In DnD, Lord of the Rings and Mythology
Dwarves are a playable character race in the ever-popular Dungeons and Dragons as well as other Tabletop Roleplaying Games (TTRPG) but their origin in myths and stories far predates our hobby. Many of the example names that are provided in the 5e Player’s Handbook such as Fargrim and Ulfgar can be traced to Scandinavian origin and considering that Dwarves are a major aspect of Norse Mytholgy, it would make sense to have these names possess a Nordic etymology.
DND Beyond provides more well-known Dwarf Names such as Dain and Thorin which will be easily recognizable to fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. In Tolkien’s world, Dain Ironfoot inherited the reclaimed kingdom of Erebor from the slain Thorin Oakenshield, King under the Mountain.
In Norse mythology, Dáinn is sometimes a Dwarf with impressive skill in smithing. In other tales, he is described as a lord of Elves who could carve the Runes. The name Thorin is a Germanic Scandinavian name with ties to the Norse God Thor. Tolkien gave Thorin the name Oakenshield not so much as a surname or even a Clan Name but more so as a title of honor. Thorin had earned that name in combat and it was witnessed by his allies and enemies alike. Thorin’s cousin and ultimate successor, Dain was known as Ironfoot, likely as Tolkien wrote that the Dwarves of the Iron Hills wore shoes made of iron.
Dungeons and Dragons follows a similar naming convention but in regards to the name of the particular Dwarven Clan. Examples of Clan Names as listed on DND Beyond tend to fall into one of two categories. The first are those names that combine words together, such as Battlehammer, Frostbeard, or Ironfist.
Tolkien used a similar approach when naming the descendants of the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves, which named their people: Broadbeams, Blacklocks, Firebeards, Ironfists, Longbeards, Stiffbeards, and Stonefoots. The second category is those Clan Names which, at least in Dungeons and Dragons 5e, have Germanic or Norse origin – or at least they attempted to do that. Examples of such names are Lutgehr, Torunn, and Utgart.
In Dungeons and Dragons, a name is given to a Dwarf by the Elders of their particular Clan. The name is a symbol of ancestral power, as it is a name that will be shared by generations of Dwarves before and after the current possessor of the name. These names also are a symbol of not only the honor of the individual but also the honor of the entire family; past present and future. Another interesting aspect is the ownership of the Dwarven name, which belongs to the Clan as a whole.
If a member of Clan should commit some sort of transgression, say perhaps a murder based upon greed, said member would likely be stripped of their name and then exiled from the Clan. In my own world of Tolaraxia, not only are they stripped of names and titles but they are branded and tattooed before being exiled. This is done so that all Dwarves who look upon the exile, will know their crimes. Keeping in theme with Scandinavian roots, I based this on the tradition of branding outlaws as Skogarmaor and exiling them from society. These outlaws lost all rights and property, they were not protected by law and thus could be executed without raising much of a fuss.
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How To Make A Dwarf Name For Your Character
So while it is not mandatory to name your Dwarf something that sounds Norse, it is clear to see that many of the most popular Dwarves in various mediums were named using that technique. Taking the names or words of different languages and blending them into your own world or story is an easy method for creating names.
For some added flavor I chose to name the pantheon of gods in Tolaraxia in the Bosnian language. I decided upon a word that summarized the individual deity and translated it into Bosnian. Boom, instantly cool name. The God of death in that world is called Prazina which means Dust. I also incorporated Celtic names in the Dwarven culture of Tolaraxia. Examples of Dwarf NPCs in my current campaign that use this naming convention are Callum Embereyes and Kerran Blackblade.
As a writer and a long-time player of Tabletop Roleplaying Games, I often try to think of a few words to describe the character or to personify them in some way. The name Grymbold could potentially describe a Dwarf who is courageous and dark-humored; taking the adjectives Grim and Bold and adding in a little flair by swapping the I for a Y. The substitution of letters that can be similarly pronounced, is something author George R. R. Martin does consistently throughout his A Song of Ice and Fire series of books. An example of this naming tactic would be transforming Catherine into Katheryn. This is a simple tip that helps add a little flavor to your names.
Consider A Character’s Origin
When naming your Dwarf, you can also consider the roots of the character. Similar to how Dain Ironfoot may have been named from the footwear commonly worn by his people, regional influences can also be a factor when creating a name. For example, a group of Dwarves that live in a desolate desert wasteland and scavenge for their existence in a series of abandoned mines might bear the surname Gravegulch, Hollowblack or Thirstwind. Their far northern cousins live in a shifting mass of sea ice and heavily forested islands; bearing surnames such as Frozentoe, Snowspear and Wintersheart.
The origin story of the character can also be an influence in naming your Dwarf; Consider, Borz is the newly born prince to the king and queen of his people. Borz’s arrival spurred the enemies of his father to revolt with Borz’s uncle as their leader. The kingdom erupted into civil war and the first few years of Borz’s life were recorded in the histories as a period of tragedy.
Though the Clan Name of the king is Thunderskull, Borz became known as The Doomborn. Perhaps another Dwarf named Darjya was raised outside of Dwarven society and culture. When she reached adulthood, she was able to reconnect with distant relatives and learned the name of her Clan; Anvilsong. However, Darjya still feels more connected to the family that raised her and she wishes to honor them. Despite now having members of her blood family, Darjya chooses to keep the surname of Jadueax.
Consider a Character’s Future and Purpose
Another tactic I use is taking a moment to plot out what I might like to accomplish with the particular character. Considering the role of the character or their purpose in the story. Daenerys Targaryen serves many roles but wherever she goes, she flips the societal norm on its head. Her tale of conquest through Essos is also one of tearing down the establishment and abolishing horrid practices like slavery. For this, she is often stylized as Daenerys, Breaker of Chains. You could do something similar, where the character adopts a monicker that sums up what they are all about. A Dwarven Fighter turned revolutionary and insurrectionist, becomes known as Forvan Kingkiller.
Another is a Cleric named Vyktorr who worships the deity Helm and has gained a reputation for his selfless acts. Despite Vyktorr coming from the well-known Keenchisel Clan, he is known far and wide as simply The Hand of Helm. Now many of these examples might be a little too on the nose for your refined taste. You can accomplish the same goal with subtlety, by playing with the root of a word. For example, the origin of the word ‘German’ is said to be ‘spearman’ or a ‘man with spear’ with GER meaning Spear.
Alex decides he wants his Dwarf Fighter to become a master of polearms and fight primarily with the ancestral spear passed down to him from his forebears. Alex talks to the Dungeon Master and learns that the Dwarves of this world are known to keep large dire wolves as pets. Alex searches for the words Spear and Wolf in different languages and ultimately decides to name his Fighter Gerolff, with the literal meaning of Spear Wolf.
Another point one might consider is the future of the Character, meaning what do you foresee the individual becoming or accomplishing? This doesn’t have to be a literal timeline, determining the fate of the individual but rather, it could hint towards something in their future. Another player at the table, Roux, decides that they want their Rogue to have a hidden lineage to the ruling family of a major city. Roux thinks that their Rogue was an illegitimate child that was sadly abandoned but perhaps not without a just cause. Roux talks to the Dungeon Master and asks about the family that rules the city, House Axefall.
The Dungeon Master explains that the Axefall’s are callous and care only for their own ambitions; even if it comes down to culling their own herd. Learning that House Axefall has ruthlessly cast aside all outside competition and in the zenith of their power, have begun to war within their own ranks, Roux has an idea. Roux states that their Character is a street-wise orphan who helped found a gang of cut-purses and thugs that were eventually absorbed into the Thieves Guild of the city. The Character has a hazy memory of a woman who may have been their mother, carrying them through what they believe were the city sewers. Try as the Rogue might, they remember nothing of their origins and only part of their name.
The Dungeon Master then takes this idea and informs Roux that some twenty years prior, House Axefall experienced a purge when one brother betrayed their siblings to secure their accession to power within the family. Together they decide that Roux’s Rogue is the rightful heir to the head of the Axefall family and was not abandoned, rather they were saved from the bloodshed that destroyed their immediate family. Roux asks for a small family tree that specifically shows the victims of the betrayal and finds a name that sticks out: Ar’Rykura. Roux decides that their Character only caught part of their name and settles on calling the Character Ryku.
This name ties in the past and origin of Ryku and also points to a potential future of the Character, where they discover the truth of their birth and their very existence poses a threat to the cutthroat House Axefall. I feel this technique in naming is much more rewarding and far more meaningful than just calling the Character Ryan The Real King Johnson. Even if it is a good name…
The Sounds And Syllables of a Dwarf Name
All people, no matter where or when, had some form of communication, whether written or spoken. In popular fantasy mediums, Dwarves are often depicted as gruff, stubborn, courageous, hearty, and strong. They are a tough people, their bodies robustly built and their axes are second to none; but what do they sound like? If you are a fan of Critical Role, you will likely have heard that many of Matthew Mercer’s Dwarven characters have slightly comedic, thick Scottish accents.
Dwarf characters in The Lord of The Rings and Hobbit movies have accents that sound Scandinavian and Scottish. Tolkien himself described the Dwarven language Khuzdul as having hard-sounding consonants and guttural sounds. So does this mean that your Dwarf needs to have a name that sounds like it comes from the Northern Sea of our own Earth? Absolutely not. These are just examples and tips to help you create your own name for your Dwarf.
So, as with regional influences, one must consider the culture that your Dwarf comes from. In The Silmarillion, the Dwarves are often preoccupied with their mountains and mines, amassing wealth and crafting objects of incredible skill. Sometimes they could be roused to involve themselves in the affairs of the outside world; both fighting the Elves in tragic battles as well as standing beside them against the host of Morgoth.
What are the Dwarves like in the world in which their story takes place? What do they value above all else? What is their food like? Do they keep track of the passage of time? Do they have knowledge of magic or how to chart the stars? Begin asking questions; perhaps you have modeled your Dwarves like those in DND or maybe you have created an original culture of your own.
In Dungeons and Dragons, the name of a Dwarf character is determined by their Clan and is the property of the Clan. To bear that name is to bear the honor of their family, of their predecessors and successors. Perhaps in your own world, the Dwarves are unique in that they choose to craft their own name once they reach a certain age. The tradition is to take aspects of the parent’s names and combine them to make an original name. Shawn decides that his Dwarf Barbarian will choose to name himself Torgus during the ceremony – taking aspects of the names of his Dwarf’s parents; Radagus & Torrhilld.
In the world of DND, for a Dwarf to bear the name of a prominent ancestor is a huge honor. In the example of the child crafting their own name from aspects of the names of their parents, the honor is dispersed. The newly created name would honor ancestors on both sides of the family and the ceremony of choosing and creating their own name could be a rite of passage in that culture, honoring the child themself. In both examples, the name of a Dwarf will look and sound like that of their ancestors.
Many of the Dwarven surnames that were previously shown have words like Hammer, Iron, and Stone. This is keeping with traditional depictions of Dwarves being subterranean craftsmen but what if the Dwarves in your world have never lived underground? What if they are renowned seafarers and explorers? Example names for this oceanic culture of Dwarves could be Oesric Keelhaul, Porrun Sailblack, and Jorrlak Saltbeard. In Tabletop Totality’s world of Drakuva, there is a subgroup of Dwarves that have the blood of Fire Giants in their veins, but the joining of the two peoples was wrought with oppression and war.
These Dwarves are known as Ku’Vakyr and those who are able to escape the dominion of the Fire Giants choose new names in defiance of their oppressors and tragic history, vowing vengeance and the hopeful liberation of their brethren. These nomadic Dwarves are renowned merchants and craftsmen with manes of burning fire in place of hair. The Ku’Vakyr example names are Urrkus Burningbeard, Rollo Bonedrinker and Carrkaa Shackled No More.
So how do you create a Dwarf name? Well, that’s up to you. There are tons of resources at your disposal, you just need to nurse the spark of creativity into a roaring flame. There are no rules that you need to follow in creating the name of your character and if there were, I’d tell you every single time to break them. If you couldn’t tell, I am a fan of Tolkien and have been for many years. His use of language inspired me to use root words and put hidden meanings into the names I created. Tolkien was a linguist and apart from creating a number of his own languages, he studied many more.
The people of Rohan are heavily influenced by the Anglo-Saxons, as are their language and names. The names found among Hobbits and the Shire are heavily influenced by the English Countryside. Tolkien took several of his Dwarven names directly from Norse Mythology and the same could be argued for Dwarves and Elves as a whole, as both peoples are prominently featured in Germanic and Scandinavian folklore. One could also argue that without the work of Tolkien, there would be no DND, without mythology as a whole, there would be no LOTR. The point is, that everything can be traced back to something else.
When it comes to making a Dwarf name, you could do the very same thing, you don’t have to make something of your own but I think that it’s way cooler if you do. Now I would never besmirch my homeboy Tolkien, rather I would argue that Tolkien was inspired by Norse Mythology and he then built upon it and expanded it into something of his own design, rather than plagiarize. You can choose to do the very same without shame for as humans we are influenced by the world and the people around us; writers, artists, musicians, etc. all take influences from the artists that impacted them the most and craft it into something new and original while still paying homage to the art they love.
What Is Your Favorite Dwarf Name?
We hope you enjoyed our breakdown of dwarf names in Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games. What is your Dwarf called? Let us know on social media!