Wood Elf Nicknames and Bynames

Author: Telenger the Artificer
Released In:

Spend any amount of time among the Bosmer, and you’ll notice they never seem to call each other by their given names. Everyone has some appellation or epithet that everyone else knows by heart. It can be confusing. Ask where you can find an inn and you might get an answer along the lines of, “Just past Long-Ear’s house!” or “Bird Nest is heading that way, she can show you.”

At first, I thought all these nicknames were simply more examples of Wood Elf humor. After all, people who enjoy a good laugh and delight in the play of words naturally coin interesting monikers for their friends and neighbors. But over several visits to Valenwood, I came to realize that there’s more to the art of Bosmer nicknames than meets the eye.

First off, nicknames are practical. Since most Wood Elves don’t use family names, a nickname helps identify which individual you’re referring to. If there are two Gildans in the same village, you’ll find Gildan the Loud and Gildan Ale-Lover, or Gildan the Lucky and Gildan Skeever-Face, or even Gildan the Tall and Gildan the Small (frequently reversed so the taller Elf is referred to as “the Small,” to the perpetual amusement of all who know them).

Second, there are nicknames and there are bynames. Nicknames are lightly given and lightly used. You can find a “Lucky” or a “Muddy-Foot” in every Wood Elf village. Bynames, on the other hand, are marks of renown (or, in some cases, infamy). A byname reflects some great deed or rare skill possessed by the bearer of the moniker. In fact, you can refer to a Bosmer by their byname alone, and any Wood Elf will know exactly who you’re talking about. I’ve heard of a great warrior called “Long-Spear,” an archer known as “Sharp-Arrow,” a gifted bard known as “Songthrush,” and a beloved brewer called “Golden-Keg.”

Lastly, the most important rule of nicknames is this: You can’t choose your own nickname. It takes someone respected by the clan—a wise leader, a seasoned warrior, or a gifted storyteller—to bestow a name. Be warned: Wood Elves ridicule anyone who tries to avoid a well-deserved nickname or elevate themselves by adopting a flattering byname. That’s a type of renown no one should aspire to.

Scroll to Top