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…


  1. Seems only fair that the word for pain should sound painful. And if you think Peterson is a cross to bear, try [‘χɾiʃtiɑ:n]. /:P

    So is there only one root related to pain? I would have thought a society like the Dothraki would cultivate a number of different flavors of pain for various purposes and occasions…

      1. *counts* …right. :oP I guess I got distracted by all the attention that |nith| gets.

        So do the Dothraki use the same words for emotional pain? Or do they deny the existence of such a thing? ;)

        Are those words used in idioms and figurative constructions, such as “painfully obvious” and “achingly beautiful”?

  2. That’s a uvular [χ], by the way, although it looks awfully velar in Trebuchet.

    What about interjections? I believe we have at least [eχ] attested…

    1. No, that comes out as perfectly uvular on my screen (the old long “x”). Does this site render in a different font on your screen?

      I can’t remember which interjections we’ve done and which we haven’t.

  3. I think I know the quote. You could add “Vo athrhanar.” as the next sentence as well.

    So does that mean vaesilat means “to be troubled by” or something like that? How does that relate to cities?

  4. Rhae nitha anna, literally “My foot pains me”, but probably best translated as “My foot hurts”.

    “Rhae annitha anna”, you mean.

    today it means “to feel encouraged” or “to feel encouraged”.

    To feel encouraged or…?

    I can almost feel your head hurting ;)

    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…

    I like it. Maybe Finnish non-aspirated version even more.

    – Paavo P. Pirinen

    1. Arggh! Man, and I had such a good run of typo-free posts! As always, thank you, zhey Qvaak. :)

      And is that your name?! It reminds me of a turkey, for some reason. Oh, duh. Because pavo is “turkey” in Spanish. Pretty cool name, though! (And, of course, I was poking fun because of my Petersonian patronymic.)

    2. Yes, I was going to point those out, I thought I was really missing something.

      I find “ziroqoselat” very useful, could it mean a kind of “throbbing” pain? I say it because of the rhythmic etymology, if that’s so I love it. Also liked the “soft” and “loud”, it does have some relation to rythm if you think about it.

      For a next post it’d be great to know about words for being drunk in Dothraki, hehe. Would you say you are loud or soft when talking about being drunk? I bet Dothraki really like their alcohol!

  5. P might be an awful letter, but “Peterson’ is not an awful word! There is a lot of stuff with that name. ‘Peterson’s Field Guides’ come to mind. And there are the Peterson mountains, just to the northwest of where I live. They often have snow on them, and catch the sun beautifully in the morning.

    I like Esploranto’s suggestion about drinking terminology. And I know wine flows very freely in GRRM’s world. I just sat through 4.5 hours of a live-on-TV wine auction last night (we do this every year as a fund raiser. And the more the talent drank, the more interesting the mistakes they made!). And there there a bewildering number of wine terms for all the various kinds of wine (merlot, chardonnay, zinfandel, syrah, etc. etc., mostly names of grape cultivars). And every year, there is some new variety of wine I have never heard of before (and this is the thirteenth wine auction I have worked on!). So, maybe you could have fun with drinking and wine terms.

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