Monthly Archives: October 2012


I’ve got this terrible headache right now (and an ankle ache), so in order to distract myself, I’ve decided to talk about some of Dothraki’s pain vocabulary. This should work, right?

Let’s start in the most obvious place: the root nith. This root is most closely associated with “pain” in Dothraki. As an adjective, nith means “painful”. The root itself, though, is experiencer-focused, if that’s a term (or rather, if that’s the term for what this is). Thus, the natural interpretation of nith will be “painful to the one most intimately connected to the modified noun” (e.g. if you have some sort of otherwise neutral phrase like rhae nith, it will mean “my painful foot”, or, more specifically, “my foot that is painful to me”—never “my foot that’s causing something or someone else pain”). As a result, it can also be used to mean something like “in pain”, for example mahrazh nith, which would mean “the man who’s in pain” (or I guess “the painful man”, but that doesn’t quite mean the same thing in English).

As a verb, its sole argument is the one that feels pain. This started out referring exclusively to the individual, but has been extended to cover other objects. So while, for example, Anha nithak, “I pain”, would be more ordinary, one could say Rhae nitha, “My foot feels pain”. More usual for the latter, though, would be the causative version of the verb, annithat, for which you’d say something like Rhae annitha anna, literally “My foot pains me”, but probably best translated as “My foot hurts”.

Sidestepping athnithar (“pain”) for a second, I’d also like to briefly introduce the word athnithizar. Those familiar with Dothraki morphology will note that this is the diminutive of athnithar. While historically it’s related to the same root, today it means “to feel encouraged” or “to feel invigorated”. Its causative, annithilat, is what you’d use to say “to encourage” or “to invigorate” or “to entice”.

Back to pain, what I’ve got now is a mhari, or “headache”. It derives from the same root that gives us “sore”—one of the words coined by George R. R. Martin. A migraine headache would probably be mharisof, but if I ever have one, I may decide a stronger word is needed at that time.

The other thing I’ve got that should be clearing up is basically a rhae darin, which is a less-than-optimally-functioning leg. The verb form darinat is used most often to indicate that someone is limping (at the moment), though it can be used with other body parts (e.g. if one said of themselves Qora darina, it might mean that they sprained their wrist or did something which has affected the regular function of their arm).

Since we’re on limps, though, if one has a persistent and habitual limp, the appropriate verb is mattelat (vimatterat can also be used, but really only to emphasize it). This one refers specifically to one’s legs, though, whereas darin can be used elsewhere. The verb ammattelat is kind of a vicious one: it’s where you go for someone’s legs specifically to hobble them. Ooh! Ooh! Just got an idea:

  • Ammattes mae. Hash yer nem vaesie ki reki?
  • Vos, sensei!

Heh, heh, heh… That last word is a borrowing; not a Dothraki word. See if anyone figures that one out.

Now if something aches specifically, you can use the verb ziroqoselat. This verb derives from the word oqo, which is the word for a beat or some sort of rhythmic noise. The form of the root was onomatopoeic in origin.

If pain needs to be qualified, Dothraki actually makes use of the words lavakh, “loud”, and haf, “quiet” or “soft”. Thus, of my headache now (post-Ibuprofen), I can say, Me vos athnithar lavakh.

And there you have it! That’s some of the pain vocabulary used in Dothraki. You know, I prefer athnithar to the English word “pain”. English’s word has that awful “p” sound in it. Blech! What a terrible sound. Can’t imagine having a name—even a last name—that begins with that sound…

Dothraki on The Office

If you happened to be watching NBC’s Thursday night line-up yesterday, you will have seen Dwight Schrute teaching Erin Hannon Dothraki on The Office.

For real!

I’d heard a rumor about this before the episode aired, but didn’t realize the extent to which it’s used in the B-story. If you missed it, you can (provided this link works right) watch the episode on Hulu here. (If the link doesn’t work, you can just go to Hulu and poke around; you should be able to find it without too much trouble.)

Someone asked if I’d been consulted, and no, I wasn’t, but whoever was creating the Dothraki for this certainly did some digging. I didn’t even recognize the word aggendat (had to look that up). Actually they did something kind of interesting. Before the first commercial break (around the 7:30 mark on the Hulu video), you see that Dwight has written this on a paper pad:


This is defined (in order) as “I throat-rip”, “you throat-rip”, “he/she/it throat-rips”. First off, the word for throat is fotha, meaning that the accusative is foth, meaning that they declined this noun correctly (props all around!). What they created here, though, is something I haven’t done (yet) in Dothraki: a noun-verb compound. In particular, this is a form of noun incorporation. Noun incorporation happens in many (if not most) languages. In this instance, it takes the characteristic object of the verb and adds it to the verb stem, making the new object something connected to the incorporated noun. An easy example to think of is “sideswipe”, in English. If someone sideswipes you in a car, they have hit the side of your car. “Side”, though, is incorporated, and “you” is treated as the direct object.

Back to Dothraki, this is something I actually avoided and never did, because I didn’t want to bother to think of how it would work (and it never came up in translation). But you know what? That works pretty well (i.e. putting the noun in the accusative and attaching it to a transitive verb), so I’m canonizing it. In my mind, I’ll think of it as a Schrutean compound. (Though, of course, I’d probably delete the space between the two words.)

Of course, this isn’t the first time The Office has mentioned Dothraki. For last year’s Emmy’s, The Office folks put together an Office-style montage which featured Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope doing some fake Dothraki. Before that, though, there was an actor done up as a Dothraki from Game of Thrones who did a different kind of fake Dothraki—specifically, French. I thought that was a hoot. Fast forward to today’s episode of The Office, Erin is trying to learn a language to impress Andy’s family. The language? French. Dwight then convinces her to switch to Dothraki—only this time they did actual Dothraki. Nice.

Anyway, that kind of made my day. (Though I’m still going to have the quote from The Simpsons etched on my tombstone.) Yera chomo anna, zhey liraki haji Office!

Fonas chek!