Dithematic Names

Dithematic names are like semi-detached tractor-trailers: each one is composed of two parts that can work together or with different, similar elements.

prototheme tractors with deuterotheme trailers

The "tractor" in this analogy is a prototheme, and the "trailer" a deuterotheme. These are two separate pools of elements, and are not interchangeable (though in some languages certain elements may be found in both pools). You need one of each, and in the right order, to make a functional name.

deuterotheme trailers hitched to each other

Of course, not every tractor works with every trailer. They might use different couplers, or the trailer might be too heavy for the tractor to haul. Similarly, a prototheme might never be used with a specific deuterotheme because they're exclusive to different subgroups, because native speakers of the language think they sound bad together, or for any number of other—often ephemeral—reasons.

It's also important to remember that not every name is dithematic, even in cultures that use dithematic names, and that most cultures dont use them at all. So hacking two random names in half and jamming the pieces together won't automatically give you a new name that works.


If you're interested in constructing a plausible dithematic name for use in the S.C.A, there are a few steps you need to take:

  1. Find a time, place, language, and cultural context within which dithematic names of the type you're considering were common. If someone else hasn't already done so, you'll need to document that fact. Typically a citation from a scholarly source that discusses the pattern will do. (And once you've found such a source, you can also refer to it for tips on how to distinguish dithematic names from that context, determine where one theme ends and another begins, and identify themes that are specific to names of a given gender, affiliation, class, or other subgroup.)
  2. Pick some names from that context that have a prototheme you want to use, and some that have a deuterotheme you want to use. Confirm that those specific example names are made up of assortable dithemes, and don't just superficially resemble names that are. (Again, you need to provide evidence of that, unless someone else already has.)
  3. Combine that prototheme and that deuterotheme in the way they would've been combined in the time, place, language, and cultural context in question (and be prepared to show evidence that you have).

This page was written and is maintained by Coblaith Muimnech, who created and owns the copyright to all portions not attributed to others. Click to visit her homepage or the index to her names articles.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Images on this page were constructed using clipart of a tractor-trailer, a van, and a motorcycle from Open Clipart.