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9 words you need to know to win the Game of Thrones

With the return of George R. R. Martin’s epic series to TV screens it’s time to brush up on your knowledge of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. For the full story on the language of Game of Thrones read our blog post.

Whether you have nefarious designs on the Iron Throne itself, or you’re just too honourable for your own good – this vocabulary could be the difference between life and death. Be you Lannister-like in your cunning or Stark in your outlook on life, below you’ll find all you need to know to win the Game of Thrones…

1. Dragons

How do you feel about dragons? You’ll soon find out because they’re on their way and having a couple up your sleeve, so to speak, could do your chances of survival a world of good.

This mythical monster is first cited in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in 1225 but the word has many applications, including the more recent phrase ‘to tickle the dragon’. This evocative idiom, first noted in the 1960s, means to undertake a hazardous activity and plays on the dangerous nature of dragons in the same way the phrase ‘to wake the dragon’ does, something which Viserys frequently threatens: “You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?”. I think it’s fair to say that tickling a dragon in Westeros would likely be the last thing you do.

2. Honour

‘The quality of knowing and doing what is morally right.’ Good luck with that. In this game of treachery you need to be cunning, so leave your honour behind you if you want to succeed.

There is also, however, a less common sense of honour which dates back to the early sixteenth century meaning ‘an obeisance; a bow or a curtsy’. This kind of honour is far more likely to save your skin and help you on the road to power to win the Iron Throne.

3. Dothraki

Having a horde of these horse lords at your command would certainly help you rise to power if you can get them to cross the Narrow Sea. Dothraki is also the name of their language, never expressly written in Martin’s books but created for the TV series. Dothraki has now grown to a vocabulary of over 3,000 words.

4. Snow, Flowers, Storm…

What’s in a name? A fair amount of information, it would seem. In Westeros the stigma of illegitimacy is displayed prominently through a child’s surname – as a bastard is not deemed worthy of a family name such as Stark, Tully, Baratheon, or Tyrell. The choice of name reflects where the illegitimate child comes from. This means you can immediately know the status and provenance of those you meet; those from the North would bear the name Snow, whereas those from the Riverlands would have the name Rivers, and those from the Southern areas of the Stormlands and the Reach would be Storm and Flowers respectively.

If you bear one of these names you will have an uphill struggle to power in the world of the court, but blood will out and if your father is high born you could still topple the kingdom.

5. Wildling

If you want to command the North you’ll have to be prepared for consistent onslaught from this troop. Wildling currently dates back to the early nineteenth century meaning a wild creature, animal, or plant, and the word wilding also shares this meaning. In addition, there is another word wilding (which although spelt the same way has a different etymology) meaning a violent public rampage by a gang of youths. Both of these definitions capture different elements of the Wildlings and further highlights that they play by different rules, so don’t expect any Southron courtesies.

6. Kissed by fire

Among the Wildlings in the North those with red hair are said to be ‘kissed by fire’ and are regarded as lucky. Every little helps – so why not do a quick dye job – because you’re worth it?

Once you have flaming locks you could make good use of any one of the following synonyms: auburn, flame-coloured, Titian, chestnut, carroty, ginger, sandy, foxy, rufus, redhead, or sorrel-top.

7. Turncloak

These are everywhere and becoming one yourself may not win you respect but it could win you the crown. Turncloak  is Martin’s archaic-sounding amendment of turncoat meaning a treacherous person who deserts one cause in order to join an opposing one. If your side is losing it’s worth considering!

8. Craven

Being a craven will make you no friends but might just save your life. When battling for the Iron Throne it’s better to choose your moment to be brave!

Craven meaning cowardly currently dates from the late 16th century as both adjective and noun, and is a development of Middle English cravant meaning ‘vanquished, defeated’.

9. Direwolf

As the name suggests this is no cuddly pet. Having one at your side in battle could lead to a winning streak.

This giant wolf has been extinct for around 10,000 years in our world and aptly the word dire derives from the Latin dīrus meaning fearful, awful, portentous, or ill-boding – very fitting for the sigil of the Stark house with their foreboding motto ‘Winter is coming’.

Remember these key words and you might just have what it takes to win the Game of Thrones. But in this land of treachery and false friends, victory is a dangerous thing so watch your back!

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