His Dark Materials terminology

This article, "His Dark Materials" terminology, details the various terminology used in the His Dark Materials trilogy written by Philip Pullman.

Alternate naming and other words

To enhance the feeling of being in a parallel universe, Pullman renames various common objects of our world with historic terms or new words of his own, often reflecting the power of the Magisterium (Pullman's version of the Roman Catholic Church) in Lyra's world. The alternative names he chooses often follow alternate etymologies, while making it possible to guess what everyday object or person he is referring to. Below are some of the significant renamings as well as new words the author has developed entirely on his own.

* "Æsahættr:" (literally "God-destroyer") The formal name of the subtle knife; deemed the "last knife of all"
* "Anbaric:" Electric. From "anbar", Arabic for amber; the English word "electric" is based on the Greek ήλεκτρον ("élektron"), meaning "amber". Both words derive from the electrostatic properties of amber.
* "Atomcraft:" Research into particle physics, specifically using uranium.
* "Cauchuc:" Rubber and possibly also plastic, from the Native American word cauchuc or meaning the sap of the rubber tree.
* "Celestial geography:" Celestial navigation.
* "Chapel:" A scientific laboratory.
* "Chaplain:" The head of a scientific laboratory.
* "Chocolatl:" Sometimes hot chocolate, sometimes "a bar of chocolatl" (a chocolate bar). From "", the Nahuatl word for chocolate.
* "Chthonic Railway Station:" An underground railway station. "Chthonic" is from Greek χθονιος ("chthonios"), meaning pertaining to the earth; earthy.
*"Cloud-Pine:" A type of wood used by Witches for "flying" (akin to broomsticks in other literature)
* "Coal-silk:" Nylon, a synthetic fibre made from coal, was invented as a substitute for natural silk.
* "Dæmon:" The animal embodiment of a human's soul. It is prounounced 'demon'
* "Dust:" Dark matter or dark energy (although as more of a "life force"); in the real world, particles which make up most of the mass of the universe, but which cannot be directly observed.
* "Experimental Theology:" Physics. A term derived from the fact that the Magisterium (see above) controls scientific research in Lyra's world.
* "Electrum:" An occasionally used Latin word for amber; see "anbaric" above.
* "Gyropter:" A helicopter.
* "Fire-Mine:" A geothermal vent in which the "panserbjorne" work in metallurgy; supposedly impenetrable to humans and witches.
* "Marchpane:" Marzipan. In reality, "Marchpane" is an archaic word for "marzipan".
* "Naphtha:" Oil (as in oil-lamp, rather than "naphtha-lamp"), a petrochemical like kerosene.
* "Night-ghast:" A Nightmare (in the mythological sense).
* "Oratory:" An individual church.
* "Ordinator:" A computer (from the same root as "ordinateur" (French) and "ordenador" (Spanish)).
* "Philosophical:" Having to do with the study of physics. In our own world, physics was once considered a part of philosophy.
* "Photogram:" A photograph, more primitive than those in our own world but able to be developed in multiple ways.
* "Projecting lantern:" A magic lantern used for photograms. (Pullman noted in "Northern Lights"'s "Lantern Slides" addendum that he based the projector in the book on one his grandfather owned. [pg.294 "I think it was my grandfather's magic lantern that Lord Asriel used..."cite book |title=Northern Lights |last=Pullman |first=Philip |authorlink=Philip Pullman |year=1995 |publisher=scholastic Point |isbn=0-590-66054-3 ] )
* "Shadow" (particle): See "Dust".
* "(Experimental) Theologian:" A physicist. From "Natural Theology" meaning science.
* "Tokay:" Is either an Anglicized form of tokaji (a famed wine of the Tokaj-Hegyalja region in Hungary), or a reference to Tokay d'Alsace, a name for pinot gris created in the Alsace region of France. The golden color of the wine in the book fits the latter definition. [pg.5 "...a decanter containing a rich golden wine..." cite book |title=Northern Lights |last=Pullman |first=Philip |authorlink=Philip Pullman |year=1995 |publisher=scholastic Point |isbn=0-590-66054-3 ]

People and locations

The history of Lyra's world is also very different from our own; most obvious is the settlement of the New World in Lyra's universe was dramatically altered. Pullman underlines this and other variations by using archaic or alternate names for otherwise familiar people and regions.

*"Beringland:" Northwest America, specifically Alaska and the Yukon Territories of Canada. Named for the explorer who first set out in the region, Vitus Bering
* "Brytain:" A phonetically identical respelling of the region of Britain. It has echoes of "Brython", a word for ancient British people and the lands they inhabited.
* "Cathay": The medieval European name for China.
* "Corea:" A phonetically identical respelling of the country Korea (used both in Cittàgazze and Lyra's world). This spelling was used prior to the current one, with a "K".
* "Eastern Anglia:" East Anglia, particularly Lincolnshire, the region where John Faa's gyptians live; in Brytain it has remained fenland with the Dutch influence remaining strong.
* "Eireland:" Ireland, as referred to in the Cittàgazze universe. Presumably a mixture of Ireland's Irish-language (Éire) and English-language names.
* "Gyptians:" Boat-dwelling "Gypsies" (Roma). In reality, the word "Gypsy" is derived from "Egypt". Gypsies were once thought by "native" Britons to have come from Egypt due to their darker skin. Pullman is clearly referencing this etymological heritage. There are also references to the Dutch watergeuzen, (in the books, not as much in the movie) a kind of north-sea pirates. One hint to the Dutchness of the Gyptians is their preference for drinking "ginniver" (or Dutch) genever. Also, many Gyptians carry Dutch names like "Dirk Vries", "Raymond van Gerrit" and "Ruud and Nellie Koopman" and use Dutch terms such as "landloper" (a Dutch word literally meaning "land-walker").
* "Lake Enara:" Lake Inari, a lake in Northern Finland. From Enare, the Swedish-language name for the lake.
* "Lascar:" An East Indian. This is a real, though archaic, English word.
* "Muscovite:" A Russian; a reference to the Grand Duchy of Moscow.
* "New Denmark:" Most likely the region occupied by the United States of America, east of New France. Lee Scoresby is described as a 'New Dane', although he is from the country of Texas.
* "New France:" Includes Quebec, much of Eastern Canada, and the region bought by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. A reference to the 17th and 18th century, during which the area around the St-Lawrence River and much of the North American Interior was called New France. (At its peak in 1712, the territory of New France extended from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains and from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.) Lee Scoresby recalls the Battle of the Alamo as not being between the Mexican Army and Texians and Tejanos, but between French and Danish settlers. [pg.517; "How often he and his companions had played that heroic battle...taking turns to be Danes and French!" cite book |title=The Subtle Knife |last=Pullman |first=Philip |authorlink= Philip Pullman |year=1997 |publisher=Scholastic Point |isbn=0-590-11289-9 ]
* "(Great) North Ocean:" The North Atlantic Ocean combined with the European region of the Arctic Ocean.
* "Nipponese:" The Japanese language and/or people. From Nippon ("land of the rising sun"), a Japanese-language name for Japan.
* "Norroway:" Norway. [cite book | last =Quiller-Couch | first =Arthur (Ed) | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =The Oxford Book of English Verse: Sir Patrick Spens | publisher =Oxford University Press | date =1919 ]
* Nova Zembla: Novaya Zemlya, a Russian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean
* "Panserbjørne" (generally italicized): Armoured bears (as a whole race); a warrior race of sapient, talking polar bears, known for crafting powerful armour from meteoric iron
* "Peaceable Ocean:" The Pacific Ocean, calqued from the Latin.
* "Roman:" Specifically, the Latin language.
* "Skraeling:" A Native American (specifically Inuit) person, particularly one from Greenland. Natives of Greenland were once named similarly by the Viking settlers of our world.
* "Tartar:" A Tatar; Nomadic Turkic, warrior people of the North, known for the practice of unusual spiritual rituals, including trepanning.
* "Texas": The homeland of Lee Scoresby and a separate nation from New Denmark which shares its southern border with Texas' northern one.


The pronunciations given here are those used in the radio plays and the audio book readings of the trilogy (by Pullman himself). [cite web|url=http://www.bridgetothestars.net/index.php?p=pronunciations|title=Bridge to the Stars - Pronunciation|accessdaymonth=2 February |accessyear=2007] The transcriptions surrounded by square brackets are in the International Phonetic Alphabet, as spoken in Received Pronunciation.

* Alethiometer: "al-eeth-ee-OM-et-er" IPA| [ˌæliːθɪˈɒmɪtə]
* Æsahættr: "AS-hatter" IPA| [ˈæshætə] ("God-destroyer")
* Chthonic "(see above)": "kuh-THON-ick" IPA| [k(ə)ˈθɒnɪk] or"THON-ick" IPA| [ˈθɒnɪk] . See chthonic for details.
* Cittágazze: "chee-tuh-GAHT-s(z)ay (as Italian)" IPA| [ˌtʃitaˈgatse]
* Dæmon: "DEE-mon" IPA| [ˈdiːmən] (pronounced as "demon")
* Iorek: "YOR-ick" IPA| [ˈjɔːɹɪk]
* Iofur: "YO-fur" IPA| [ˈjəʊfʊə]
* Kirjava: "KEER-yah-vuh" IPA| [ˌkiːrˈjɑːvə]
* Lyra: "LIE-ruh" IPA| [ˈlaɪɹə]
* Mulefa: "moo-LAY-fuh" IPA| [ˌmuːˈleɪfə]
* "Panserbjørne:" "PAN-ser-byurn-eh" IPA| [ˈpænsəbjɜːnə] (written "Panserbørne" in early UK editions: "Armoured Bears")
* Pantalaimon: "pan-tuh-LIE-mon" IPA| [ˌpæntəˈlaɪmən]
* Salmakia: "sal-MACK-ee-uh" IPA| [ˌsælˈmækɪə]
* Serafina Pekkala: "SEH-ra-fee-nuh PEK-ka-luh" IPA| ['sɛɹəfiːnə 'pɛkələ]
* Tialys: "tee-AH-lis" IPA| [tɪˈɑːlɪs]
* Torre degli Angeli: "TOR-ay DAY-(y)-lee an-JEL-ee (as Italian)" IPA| [ˈtɔrːe delɪ an'dʒelɪ] ("Tower of the Angels")
* Xaphania: "za-FAY-nee-uh" IPA| [zəˈfeɪnɪə]


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