What do Dwarves and Halflings call themselves?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion


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Human, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Orc - everybody in the corebook has a name that stands as a self-label other than these two, which describe them relative to the height of a 'normal' humanoid. We've seen a bunch of other Ancestries advance their endonyms recently, but do these two really stand alone?


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I would expect dwarves and halflings to more readily identify themselves as their ethnic sub-groups, like Holtaksen or Jaric, before they identify as dwarf or halfling. But I do think there's plenty of room to come up with new names. Dwarf is in real life descended from the Norse Dvergr, while Tolkien invented halfling wholecloth (and his estate is notoriously litigious about the name Hobbit). Given certain recent copyright changes in the industry, finding a new setting-exclusive name for many of the nonhuman ancestries might be wise in the long term. Dwarves and halflings should be fine, but tieflings and aasimars might need new terms.

In my own game, Dwarves are happy to answer to the name, which originated in the Ulfen lands and spread, though in my Osirion those who aren't Pahmet or Ouat are known as Rudetyu - the Sandstone People, after their impressive stonemasonry. They don't expect outsiders to understand the nuances, and aren't especially interested in explaining it to them. Their traditions are their own, although a few rare outsiders might be trusted with the information. Halflings, on the other hand, were never given a proper collective name because they either kept out of society's notice or were too low class to have one, but consider "halfling" a pejorative by "big jobs." They don't talk about Kender. Ever.


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Since the two most general ethnic groups of Dwarves are the Grondasken (Underground Dwarves) and the Holtasken (Mountain Dwarves), the Dwarven word for Dwarf is probably "asken" or "sken" or "ken" something like that, since those words probably diagetically mean "Ground people" and "High people."


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
keftiu wrote:

Human, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Orc - everybody in the corebook has a name that stands as a self-label other than these two, which describe them relative to the height of a 'normal' humanoid. We've seen a bunch of other Ancestries advance their endonyms recently, but do these two really stand alone?

One way around this might simply be that the term Dwarf for the ancestry/species was the original term for the word, but then it began to be applied to everything that was a bit shorter and stouter than others. There is a history of this phenomena in the real world origin of words, so it makes sense for Dwarves. FYI In my own non-TTRPG setting I use Dverg, which is the German word for Dwarf.

Alternatively, going with Norse language, maybe they used to all be called Duergar, but regular dwarves don't like to be associated with that name now for obvious reasons.

Halfling for me has always been a silly name, so that is something I wouldn't mind seeing an alternative version of.

Radiant Oath

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PossibleCabbage wrote:
Since the two most general ethnic groups of Dwarves are the Grondasken (Underground Dwarves) and the Holtasken (Mountain Dwarves), the Dwarven word for Dwarf is probably "asken" or "sken" or "ken" something like that, since those words probably diagetically mean "Ground people" and "High people."

I like this, and kind of thought it was the case anyway, "ken" sounding very much like "kin" so it could be like "groundkin" or highkin," to follow your examples. Dwarves DO place a high emphasis on clan kinship, after all!


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Note that the suffix used in the dwarf group names is actually spelled 'aksen'. If I were to speculate at an etymology for the holtaksen it would actually be the "Hold" people, based on their legendary sky citadels. I dont know if there intended to be a real life reference for aksen, bit it does kind of sound like a plural form of axe, which would be quite dwarfish.


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I bet it's something like Holt-as-ken, where Holt = hold or high, as = preposition denoting connection, and ken = people, so Holtasken = Hold's Kin.


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Wrong John Silver wrote:

I bet it's something like Holt-as-ken, where Holt = hold or high, as = preposition denoting connection, and ken = people, so Holtasken = Hold's Kin.

Contrasted with the Ergaksen (who walk the Earth, giving us Er- or Erg-) and the Grondaksen (who live below the Ground, giving us Grond-). The three dwarven branches are mnemonic devices and I didn't even notice!


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Yeah dwarves definitely don't identify themselves primarily by their ethnic sub group. There's too strong a sense of dwarven pan-cultural identity. It was mentioned in one of the interviews for the new book that Highhelm is basically "Dwarven New York", so there's explicitly dwarves coming from all over, and a lot of dwarven cultural traditions like clan daggers (and pistols) and the Dwarven cultural pantheon are even stronger among dwarves than most other ancestries. I think only the Taralu would be more likely to refer to themselves as Taralu than their ancestry. So unless, as others have mentioned, the word dwarf originated as a term that referred to the dwarven people and was later spread to others of similar constitution, there's almost certainly a word for their people in their own tongue, and "aks" or "aksen" is a pretty good guess.

Halflings, on the other hand, tend to absorb whatever the culture of those surrounding them is, so referring to themselves primarily by their ethnicity or nationality makes sense. It fits in with their Tolkienian roots as a people that live within the margins of history. I also recall hearing that the Halfling language is less of a cultural tongue and more of a "secret language" that halflings use to exclude the tall folk from their discussions. I don't know where that information came from, but it would tie in nicely to halflings not having their own word for themselves, so you could use that information at your table, at least.


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The other thing is that the Dwarven sense of identity is so strong that the word to identify "Dwarves as a whole" is probably going to be popularized outside of Dwarven culture. Since you meet a Dwarf they're not just going to tell you about their species, they're going to tell you about their clan, their hold, their guild, and probably several other things they do that are important to them. This is likely entirely normal in Dwarven society it's just strange to others.


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Halflings I think are a lot harder to nail down just what they would call themselves. They seem to have less rigid cultural traditions than dwarves, as well as having been on the surface and part of human culture since most likely ancient Azlant or even before.

It's likely that it varies from place to place and even halfling to halfling. There might be a pan-racial word for halflings but if it exists at all it hasn't been printed.


Doesn't help that the closest thing to a unified halfling culture is the Bellflower Network. If the Halfling language spread, it's through the slave trade... which is on its death throes now that even Katapesh has made slavery illegal.


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I have to admit, I bristle at how 1e largely depicted Halflings as just largely being extensions of human culture and/or slaves to humans. I'm very glad to see the unique Halfling peoples in the Jaric, Nearic, Othoban, and Song'o that we've gotten in 2e, but a sense of Halflings as any kind of larger whole remains elusive.


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keftiu wrote:
I have to admit, I bristle at how 1e largely depicted Halflings as just largely being extensions of human culture and/or slaves to humans. I'm very glad to see the unique Halfling peoples in the Jaric, Nearic, Othoban, and Song'o that we've gotten in 2e, but a sense of Halflings as any kind of larger whole remains elusive.

To be fair, the Song'o also existed in 1e.

Dark Archive

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I do genuinely like idea of that dwarves/dwarfs just call themselves dwarves/dwarfs xP

It hooooooonestly makes sense when you remember that Dwarf is mythological name for creature. Its kinda like if Elves had different name for themselves that isn't elf. (dweorg/dwergaz/etc didn't to my knowledge really have etymology of "short person", its more of that people are calling short people after the mythological creature rather than other way around. I could be wrong though?)

Ye want to know the silly thing from old player companion Dwarves of Golarion lore that is probably outdated and not canon anymore?

According to it "the stout folk” (as the Five Kings dwarves call themselves)"... Yeah kinda like if elves called themselves "thin folk".


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Come to think of it, most ethnic group names tend to just be the word for "people" in their language or dialect. Which doesn't really apply to dwarves and halflings, since they have racial languages that, as far as we know, don't differ by region - a Gebbite Kulenett, a Qadiran Paraheen and a Mwangi M'beke are all speaking the same language, unlike their human neighbours who will be speaking Osiriani or Keleshite or a Mwangi dialect. Perhaps those clan names are local words that they adopted to set themselves apart? Others come from ancestral homelands or founders, so if we wanted to construct a reverse-engineered name I'd propose Taaraksen - either the People of Tar Taargadth, or the People of Taargick, to differentiate themselves from the Duergar who stayed behind.

You could probably do something interesting and non-slave related with a halfling ethos that they DON'T have or want a word for their own species, because even when they assimilate into human society they're so distinct nobody ever needed to clarify it, while simultaneously the sight of them is common and entirely normal, and they prefer not to think of themselves as a species apart. A halfling doesn't think of himself as A Halfling, he thinks of himself as a Taldan bootmaker whose daughter ran off with Darric the bard and whose ancestors have been here just as long as the Big Folk have. Dwarves tend to be more isolationist and traditionalist, slow to assimilate into non-Dwarven cultures or to trust outsiders, and that isolationism would manifest differently.


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Morhek wrote:
Others come from ancestral homelands or founders, so if we wanted to construct a reverse-engineered name I'd propose Taaraksen - either the People of Tar Taargadth, or the People of Taargick, to differentiate themselves from the Duergar who stayed behind.

As mentioned in Legends, Taargick is only the ancestral hero of dwarves in the Inner Sea, so that wouldn't even be the name of all dwarves—Arcadian dwarves would call themselves something entirely different.

Liberty's Edge

Morhek wrote:

Come to think of it, most ethnic group names tend to just be the word for "people" in their language or dialect. Which doesn't really apply to dwarves and halflings, since they have racial languages that, as far as we know, don't differ by region - a Gebbite Kulenett, a Qadiran Paraheen and a Mwangi M'beke are all speaking the same language, unlike their human neighbours who will be speaking Osiriani or Keleshite or a Mwangi dialect. Perhaps those clan names are local words that they adopted to set themselves apart? Others come from ancestral homelands or founders, so if we wanted to construct a reverse-engineered name I'd propose Taaraksen - either the People of Tar Taargadth, or the People of Taargick, to differentiate themselves from the Duergar who stayed behind.

You could probably do something interesting and non-slave related with a halfling ethos that they DON'T have or want a word for their own species, because even when they assimilate into human society they're so distinct nobody ever needed to clarify it, while simultaneously the sight of them is common and entirely normal, and they prefer not to think of themselves as a species apart. A halfling doesn't think of himself as A Halfling, he thinks of himself as a Taldan bootmaker whose daughter ran off with Darric the bard and whose ancestors have been here just as long as the Big Folk have. Dwarves tend to be more isolationist and traditionalist, slow to assimilate into non-Dwarven cultures or to trust outsiders, and that isolationism would manifest differently.

The racial languages for non-Human ancestries are an oversimplification we could do without.

I think of them as the Common for their race, in the sense that they have ethnical languages too, likely with things in common with the languages of other ancestries in the vicinity.

And even this take is not satisfying because "Common" only works in a given geographical area.


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I would like to point out what you are all talking about so far (outside of the dwarf vs duergar thing) is nationality and at best race. There is no reason dwarfs from different countries would call the ancestry a different word unless they were speaking a different language.

A great example is us. Everyone who speaks english would call out species "human", but a spanish person would say "humano", while a turkish person would say "insan", etc. The difference in word is due to the language not the region/race/nation were the speaker comes from.

Also, there is no reason why dwarf/halfling can't be borrowed from those languages. Specially when considering the naming convention for ancestry language containing the name of the species. Elves speak Elvish, Amurrun speak Amurrun, Orc speak Orcish, etc.

***************

By my logic the dwarfs use the common Dwarven language, but might also have ethnic languages named after their ethnicity. Just like humans have common (human/taldane/tien), but also have a number of ethnic languages.

What we say are racial/ancestral languages are in fact the trade language for each ancestry. The type of language you might need to learn for international trade IRL.

***************

Ninajed by The Raven Black.


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Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
keftiu wrote:

Human, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Orc - everybody in the corebook has a name that stands as a self-label other than these two, which describe them relative to the height of a 'normal' humanoid. We've seen a bunch of other Ancestries advance their endonyms recently, but do these two really stand alone?

What are the names for Human, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, then? Where do i find that?


All Dwarves on the surface can trace their ancestors to Dwarves who left Nar-Voth shortly after Earthfall in the Quest from the Sky, right? It's likely that Dwarves might have more cultural similarity between settlements on opposite sides of the planet than other people do since they all sort of started from the same place, where they had a common language and shared cultural traditions since they lived in relatively close proximity- they just dug up in different directions.

Like I would believe that the Dongun Hold Dwarves have more in common with Highhelm Dwarves than Osirioni have with Taldans or Aiudeen have with Mualijae.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

All Dwarves on the surface can trace their ancestors to Dwarves who left Nar-Voth shortly after Earthfall in the Quest from the Sky, right? It's likely that Dwarves might have more cultural similarity between settlements on opposite sides of the planet than other people do since they all sort of started from the same place, where they had a common language and shared cultural traditions since they lived in relatively close proximity- they just dug up in different directions.

Like I would believe that the Dongun Hold Dwarves have more in common with Highhelm Dwarves than Osirioni have with Taldans or Aiudeen have with Mualijae.

It's true that something near 8000 years have passed since the dwarves emerged across the planet and built their sky citadels, but then what is fantasy time but a big number? Besides, dwarves living up to 350 years apiece no doubt slows linguistic drift some.


Zaister wrote:
keftiu wrote:

Human, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Orc - everybody in the corebook has a name that stands as a self-label other than these two, which describe them relative to the height of a 'normal' humanoid. We've seen a bunch of other Ancestries advance their endonyms recently, but do these two really stand alone?

What are the names for Human, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, then? Where do i find that?

Human is Human (in Common, anyway), but since the rest of the names are Human/Common names, presumably the corresponding would have their own words for their own kind and for the others (like in Middle Earth, Elves called Orcs "Yrch", and then Orcs had their own names for their own kind, but obviously we can't use these in published material as in-world names without triggering a lawsuit).

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