OGF:Making realistic names

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This page is intended to help users select place names that are realistic.

To create a realistic mosaic of place names throughout a country, each name should find a balance somewhere between actual names (e.g. New York) and unbelievable names (e.g. ZbmÜUkñçP). Additionally, for maximum realism, the names should follow some sort of shared pattern.

Here are some tips to help get started:

Naming tips

1. Avoid using well-known place names, real or fictional, past or present.
This is actually an official OGF rule, for several reasons:
  • Using a well-known name pulls the viewer's imagination away from the OGF world and pushes them back into the real world.
  • Using a well-known name can give the impression that the name does not originate naturally from within the OGF world. A well-known name often comes across as having been placed there by an unimaginative mapmaker from Earth.
  • Using a well-known name can cause confusion about the places we're imagining (is "Kenya" supposed to be the real Kenya transported to another planet, or is it a nation inspired by the real Kenya, or is it merely a coincidental name).
  • Using a well-known name can be seen as lacking creativity, or suggesting that our world is just a mixed up version of Earth.
Kenya
Paraguay
Berlin
Shanghai
Vancouver
Assyria
Narnia
Mordor
Flagtutorialarrow.png Kinayu
Parsuway
Burlicht
Shaiheng
Van Pelt
Syrasia
Anniria
Murdoon
Even if a place is not well-known to you, it may be well-known to millions of people in another part of the world.

For example, you may think "Guadalajara" is a unique, exotic name, but to 120 million people in Mexico it's very well-known.
Guadalajara
Tallahassee
Düsseldorf
Flagtutorialarrow.png Guelenajana
Tophappan
Du Bois
Similarly, using the prominent place names of a specific region isn't ideal, either.

For example, most people may not know "Kamloops," "Chilliwack," "Nanaimo" or "Kelowna" but to millions of people in British Columbia they are very well-known. The names of smaller towns, such as "Lytton," "Sayward," and "Granisle," may be a better solution. Even if you think a name is pretty obscure, try switching it up a little to be as original as you can.
Kamloops
Chilliwack
Nanaimo
Kelowna
Flagtutorialarrow.png Pamooks
Wackachia
Mononai
Kewolla
An exception can be made for place names that refer to many different places. For example, names like "Fairview," "San Pedro," "Aliabad" or "Gradina" (and many others) are so widespread, they aren't overly associated with one specific place and it's easy to imagine them being repeated elsewhere.
Avoid referencing real world companies, organizations, and famous people or characters. State of Nestlé
Baberuth Town
Harrypotter City
Flagtutorialarrow.png State of Nésene
Ruth Town
Potterston City
2. Check important names.
There's no need to do this for every name, but for important names, such as your country name and largest cities, Google them to make sure they don't have other well-known meanings that might be strange or unwanted.

For example, "Durchfall" might sound like a pleasant name, but that word has a very unpleasant meaning in a major European language. Even in cases where the other meaning of the word isn't unpleasant, the weirdness can still be distracting. Don't name your country "Tempura" or "Myalgia" or "Shakira" for example. Those words already have other well-known meanings that will be distracting for a lot of people. If you're not sure about a name, feel free to ask the OGF community.
Durchfall
Tempura
Myalgia
Shakira
Flagtutorialarrow.png Dursvale
Terumea
Mygania
Skanira
Similarly, make sure your important names don't sound like something weird. "Dayaria" might seem like a great name for a country until you realize it sounds like "Diarrhea." When in doubt, ask for feedback from friends or the OGF community.

If you're not a native English speaker and you want to make sure your important places don't sound odd in English, ask a native English speaker. Or if you're creating a country in a language that's not your own, ask a native speaker of that language. The OGF community speaks lots of languages and will be happy to help.
Dayaria
Kokakola
Mik Imaus
Ostralia
Tattooween
Flagtutorialarrow.png Darania
Koakolana
Mik Umasi
Ostaria
Taturian
3. Create patterns.
Many OGF countries lack the patterns which are found so often in the place names of the real world. For maximum realism, create patterns in your place names to help give your country a clear flavor. Names are one of the most important aspects of a map, because they tell so much about what we're looking at. For example:

NameFlavors.jpg
Each of these maps has a different flavor — a flavor which is created entirely by the pattern of names.

Reina Aléjana
Newcrown
Baie-Rose
Falcon City
Klaraburg
Sankt Beniamin
Sint Donald
Kawaha
Grand-Arbre
Flagtutorialarrow.png Reina Aléjana
Nueva Corona
Báhiarosa
Ciudad Halcón
Ciudad Clara
San Benjamín
San Donaldo
Cáhuaja
Árbol Grande
Lumu Republic
Ba Nehar
Säarija
Baczeshnyk
Rulerton
Agâscht
Bathville
Lútherbergh
Gillette
Flagtutorialarrow.png Lumu Republic
Ba Nehar
Salmagara
Ba Hugamna
Narulur
Agamanu
Ba Munhu
Lanu Lahu
Galumar
4. Don't be too wacky.
Some names just lack the seriousness of typical place names. True, there are some weird names in real life, but they are few and far between so use them sparingly. Avoid any name that might get you a cease-and-desist letter from the lawyers of Spider-Man, Froot Loops, or anyone else.

Remember, joke countries are not permitted in OGF. (Jokes are okay, but they should be subtle and clever, not overwhelming and obvious.)
Spider-Man Bay
Teddybearland
Lollypop Island
Froot Loop City
Pepto-Bismol
Flagtutorialarrow.png Parker Bay
Tedursia
Poplolly Island
Ringfruit City
Rosy Bismouth
Make names at least somewhat pronounceable. It's fun to think up really crazy names, but if they are too outrageously impenetrable they may not feel realistic. It's definitely a challenge to create exotic names that still capture a sense of realism. Z'xzññzzhxz
CttctTúr
M4jqjkqqk
Flagtutorialarrow.png Z'syñazhôz
Cuttutúr
Mykjakik
Make sure your pattern of names doesn't come across as a joke. For example, "A'milan" is a fine name on its own, but if it's surrounded by "A'venice" and "A'florence" and "A'rome" it starts to look like a joke country. "Bushville" would be fine on its own, but next to "Clintonville" and "Obamaville" it starts to seem like a pattern referencing US presidents. A'milan
A'venice
A'florence
A'rome
Flagtutorialarrow.png A'milan
A'navalice
A'ifrenze
A'remo
Bushville
Clintonville
Obamaville
Flagtutorialarrow.png Bushville
Cantonville
Omaville
5. If you're using an Earth language, include some names that tell about your country.
If you're using a familiar Earth language, you can help people understand your country better with a few carefully selected names.

For example, "Cap-Glacier" might tell us this is a cold country, while "Bahía del Sol" sounds much more tropical. "Hurricane Bay" and "Cactus Valley" might tell us different things about the weather. Many plants and animals are restricted to certain latitudes — "Spruce Town" or "Walrus Cove" suggest a very different climate from "Mango Harbor" or "Parakeet Hill."

Names can also illustrate your geography. "Canyondale" suggests a certain topography, while "Flat Prairie" suggests a very different one. "Rocky Pillars National Park" or "Red Desert Province" helps us imagine what we might see there.

You can also use names like "King Admar City," "Puerto Revolución," "Settlersbury," "Battle Bay" or "Lac-République" to give us hints about the history or politics of your country.

You may also be able to reference your country's cultures, customs, religions, mythologies and more: "Harp River," "Beefmarket," "Gold Temple City," "Rain Goddess Falls," etc.

Not all the place names should be like this (it can get corny after a while) but a few well-placed ones can really help people get a feel for your country.

ThemeNames.jpg

Have fun and ask questions

Happy naming! If you have questions or comments, or are looking for more specific advice, feel free to share on the talk page here or make a post on User Diaries. Lots of people in the OGF community would be more than happy to help you with names.

Be sure to also check out OGF:Resources for names, which is particularly useful if you want to generate thousands of street names, village names, etc.

See also