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Languages of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon — High Valyrian, Dothraki and more

To say that Game of Thrones was a popular TV series is to say nothing about it. It was adapted from the bestselling “Ice & Fire” saga by American author, George R.R. Martin, and aired on HBO in 2010-2019 through 8 seasons.

The show’s presence in the media was a worldwide phenomenon, influencing almost all sectors of the current pop culture.

At its peak, the show was broadcasted in 207 countries and averaged almost 44 million viewers for its final season (Forbes, 2019 & Hollywood Reporter, 2022).

Even though the ending of the show left most fans disappointed, the prequel show House of the Dragon has attracted the audience of 20 million for its first aired episode on August 23rd, 2022. Needless to say, it bodes well for the franchise’s future.

As dive deep in the plot lines of Westeros, we once again encounter its fictional languages, like High Valyrian. Hearing it might sound weirdly familiar for some – and not just because it was already present in Game of Thrones.

So, this begs a few questions.

Is Valyrian a real language? If it’s invented, does it take after existing languages? What is the difference between High Valyrian, low Valyrian, and old Valyrian language? Is High Valyrian somehow related to Dothraki language?

Let’s find the answers to all these questions!

What languages are spoken in Game of Thrones?

To answer that question, we could dive deep into the lore, but let’s just focus on the languages we actually hear in the show and that were developed for its sake.

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The most prominent languages of Westeros & Essos are:

  • Common tongue of the Andals. Both in the books and the shows, this language is represented simply by English, and interestingly enough, it has a similar origin.

  • High Valyrian. In the Game of Thrones, Daenerys is the last known speaker of this old language, which may imply it dies with her. Though it’s not completely true, as this language is preserved by the written sources. High Valyrian gets much more screen time in House of the Dragon, as it’s used by the whole Targaryen family.

  • Low Valyrian / Bastard Valyrian. These are the dialects that evolved out of Valyrian after it fell out of use.

  • Dothraki. It is spoken by the nomadic horse-mounted warriors in the lands of Essos.

  • Skroth. The language used by the White Walkers. Even though there was a whole Skroth language created, the producers decided to use literal ice creaking as White Walker’s tongue.

Now that we know what languages are there in the Seven Kingdoms, let’s find out more about them.

Is Valyrian a real language?

No. Valyrian a fictional language developed for the TV series Game of Thrones by saga’s author Geroge R.R. Martin and a language creator David J. Peterson.

Still, Valyrian in Game of Thrones is meant to work as a regular language. It has eight cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, locative, instrumental, comitative and vocative) with six declensions. It also has four grammatical genders of sorts (lunar, solar, terrestrial and aquatic), but they are not connected to biological sex but rather their type. It also has four numbers (singular-paucal-collective-plural).

Valyrian writing system is the same as Latin, as creators didn’t need to incorporate a unique alphabet in the show.

What language is Valyrian similar to?

It’s no coincidence that Valyrian sounds like a language that could exist in our world. You may wonder, is Valyrian a romance language? You wouldn’t be far from the truth. The Valyrian language is fictitious, but it is based on the Latin and Greek languages.

What’s more, David J. Peterson explained that in order to make Valyrian seem like a living language, he implied the existence of many dialects of it. The most prominent is the Low Valyrian dialect used by common people in Slaver’s Bay.

So, all of it should answer the question of what language is Valyrian similar to.

Author: Ollie Upton / HBO. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.
Author: Ollie Upton / HBO. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.

What’s the difference between High Valyrian language and Low Valyrian dialects?

High Valyrian is the ancient language spoken in the past by the Valyrians of Essos. Nobles of the house Targaryen come from Valyria and therefore, they learn High Valyrian as a sign of their status. For the same reason, they have Valyrian names, e.g. Aegon, Daenerys, Rhaenyra etc.

However, outside of elite’s circles, High Valyrian fell out of use. It has evolved into the new dialects in the Free Cities and Ghis, resulting into so-called Low Valyrian or Bastard Valyrian languages.

Considering that there are nine cities, we can expect that there are nine dialects of Valyrian in Game of Thrones with unique grammar and structure.

Is High Valyrian an ancient language?

Technically, yes. High Valyrian is the term of a dead language used in the old Valyria. In the House of the Dragon, only the high-born (mostly Targaryens) can speak and read in it.

All the other Valyrian languages that change overtime are considered to be Low Valyrian dialects.

Where are Valyrian languages used in Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon?

Throughout the Game of Thrones, Low Valyrian is spoken in the Free City of Braavos, on the Iron Islands, and in Slaver’s Bay. High Valyrian is only known by Daenerys.

In the House of the Dragon, the High Valyrian is used by the whole Targaryen family and probably the closest court nobles, though we don’t see them speak it on-screen. Instead, most often we see Rhaenyra and Daemon using it.

Source: HBO. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.
Source: HBO. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.

High Valyrian phrases

Source

Meaning

Literal meaning

Valyrio muño ēngos ñuhys issa Valyrian is my mother tongue
Ñuhor līr gūrēnn I will take what is mine.
Vīlībāzmosa iderennī emilun I would like a trial by combat
Ao ynoma dīnilūks? Will you marry me?
Sōnar mastan Winter is here
Skoriot rāenābion ilza? Where’s the bathroom?
Vēzos qēlossās ñuho My beloved (relating to a man) My sun and stars
Ñuho glaeso hūrus My beloved (relating to a woman) Moon of my life
Skorkydoso glaesā? How are you?
Sesīr kipi! An now, we ride!
Se ribazma iksis se ossēnagon hen zūgagon Fear is the mind killer
Nerni ōrēs Hold the door
Bantis zōbrie issa se ossȳngnoti lēdys The night is dark and full of terrors

What is Dothraki language similar to?

The language of Dothraki was the first language created by David J. Peterson for the Game of Thrones.

He explained, that its grammar is mostly similar to Russian, but the vocabulary is heavily inspired by Genghis-Khan Mongolian language to reflect their nomadic lifestyle similarity.

Apart from that, the creator of Dothraki language described that its speech is designed to sound similar to Arabic languages, borrowing the characteristic growl and breathy sounds.

The Dothraki language is, no surprise, used by the Dothraki tribes and Daenerys once she learns it while being Khal Drogo’s wife.

Dothraki phrases

Source

Meaning

Literal meaning

Anha dothrak chek asshekh I feel well today I ride well today
Hajas! Goodbye! Be strong!
Shekh ma shieraki anni My beloved (relating to a man) My sun and stars
Jalan atthirari anni My beloved (relating to a woman) Moon of my life
Shor tawakof Armor Steel dress
Ase shafki athdrivar Your wish is my command Your words are death
Sek, k’athjilari Yes, certainly Yes, by rightness
Vos. Vosecchi! No. No way!
Me nem nesa It is known
Hash yer dothrae chek asshekh? How are you? Do you ride well today?
Hash me laz adakha jin zhoris? Are those hearts edible?
Me zisosh disse It’s just a flesh wound
Anha vazhak yeraan thirat I will let you live
Hash yer asti k’athijilari? Are you speaking truthfully?

What are the other popular fictional languages?

Even though the languages of Westeros & Essos are getting so popular now, this is not the first time that a fictional language is created for a book or a TV show.

These are the most popular ones:

  • Quenya

    Tolkien created many languages for his fictional world of Middle Earth (and beyond), but Quenya is the most widely spoken language among elves, and, interestingly enough, the fans. Quenya grammar is simple and regular, with a syntax that’s similar to Finnish; the alphabet has thirty-two letters without any distinction between uppercase or lowercase letters.

  • Klingon

    Klingon is the constructed language spoken by the fictional Klingons in the ‘Star Trek’ universe. It was developed by Marc Okrand from 1984 onwards, improving the previously functioning gibberish.

  • Na’vi

    The Na’vi language was created by the film’s director, James Cameron, and is spoken mainly by the inhabitants of Pandora in the ‘Avatar’ universe. The intent was to create a language that could express all the nuances and emotional content of English, but which would be completely unique in sound and structure.

  • Minion language

    Although it was created more as a joke than anything else, the Minion language became a phenomenon ever since it appeared in the Despicable Me movie in 2010. Its vocabulary contains words that are similar to those in several languages, however it doesn’t seem to have any consistent grammar or syntax rules.

Why are languages like High Valyrian invented?

There are many reasons why authors and creators invent fictional languages. Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent reasons.

Unique world-building

Some might want to create a new culture with its own language to build a unique world. They might want to give their characters an identity that is separate from their own, to create a more exotic experience for the audience.

Passion for linguistics

Authors might also want to make recipients more immersed in their creation, or they may simply be trying to add some linguistic interest into their work. E.g. J. R. R. Tolkien was known for his linguist passion and education, which reflected vividly in his works.

Immersion

In the end, when fans are dedicated to a certain fictional universe, they prefer to feel that it’s almost as real as their own world. For this reason, the invented languages help the fictional world to become more believable and tangible.

The most dedicated fans spend a lot of their time to learn the language of their favorite books or TV shows. This makes this language a living thing, just as any other language on Earth.

This is what happens now with High Valyrian, as it’s just been incorporated as one of the Duolingo’s language courses.

Almost 600k of its users decided to learn Valyrian! This is more than the current number of people who learn Hungarian (over 400k) and much more than the other popular fictional language: Klingon (over 300k as of now).

High Valyrian language: Summary

As we are awaiting the House of the Dragon final episodes, we can expect the High Valyrian to become even more popular among the fans.

This is an interesting case, because it shows that the passion for languages might come not only for the real-world existing ones. We’re sure that in the future, there might be even more invented languages that fans will be eager to learn, just as High Valyrian now.

If you’re interested in learning more about fictional languages, be sure to check our future articles. We have a whole series about them in mind!

And if you have a passion for learning languages, but not necessarily time and motivation, be sure to check our store. With our newest standalone device, Vasco Translator V4, you have 108 languages in your pocket! Maybe some day even Valyrian and Dothraki too…

In a nutshell:

To say that Game of Thrones was a popular TV series is to say nothing about it. It was adapted from the bestselling “Ice & Fire” saga by American author, George R.R. Martin, and aired on HBO in 2010-2019 through 8 seasons. At its peak, the show was broadcasted in 207 countries and averaged almost 44 million viewers for its final season (Forbes, 2019 & Hollywood Reporter, 2022). The show’s created many fictional languages, with the most prominent being Valyrian. Valyrian is based on Latin and Greek languages, with High Valyrian being the ancient language spoken in the past by the Valyrians of Essos. Low Valyrian is the term for the dialects that have evolved out of Valyrian. Dothraki is spoken by the nomadic horse-mounted warriors in the lands of Essos and is based on Russian with vocabulary from Genghis-Khan Mongolian. Skroth is the language used by the White Walkers, with White Walker speech being literal ice creaking.

FAQ:

Is Valyrian a real language?

No. Valyrian is a fictional language developed for the TV series Game of Thrones by saga’s author Geroge R.R. Martin and a language creator David J. Peterson.

What language is Valyrian similar to?

It’s no coincidence that Valyrian sounds like a language that could exist in our world. You may wonder, is Valyrian a romance language? You wouldn’t be far from the truth. The Valyrian language is fictitious, but it is based on the Latin and Greek languages.

What’s the difference between High Valyrian language and Low Valyrian dialects?

High Valyrian is the ancient language spoken in the past by the Valyrians of Essos. Nobles of the house Targaryen come from Valyria and therefore, they learn High Valyrian as a sign of their status. For the same reason, they have Valyrian names, e.g. Aegon, Daenerys, Rhaenyra etc. However, outside of elite’s circles, High Valyrian fell out of use. It has evolved into the new dialects in the Free Cities and Ghis, resulting into so-called Low Valyrian or Bastard Valyrian languages.

See also:

Robert Faber

Robert is an avid traveler and a fan of new technologies. He can cook well, but never has enough time to do so and he ends up complaining about most meals. A regular at the gym.