Sometimes you may want to create a handful of alien names that sound internally consistent, or words from that language, quickly. Here’s a handy tool to do so: The Fantasy Name Generator by Samuel Stoddard. It has a simple and an advanced interface.
Since I have a Ph.D. in Linguistics, I find the Advanced Interface is best for creating my unique alien names, but it does take a bit of experimentation and learning to figure out how to use it. I prefer to set my own consonant and vowel combinations, since I’m more likely to get names that are consistent with each other. There are a few ways of doing this, but the procedure that I will show is an Onset + Rime method, which should allow you to get started quickly.
Let’s create names for the Maloculans, a new species from Continuing Mission for GMs to use.
Step One: Determine Number of Syllables and Break Down Into Onset-Rime
First, how many syllables are your species names, typically? For Star Trek, they tend to be no more than three syllables, but there are some exceptions. For Maloculans, I decided that they would have two syllable names normally, with those that have accomplished great glory adding an extra syllable at the end of their name to symbolize their achievement.
Each syllable can be broken down into Onset + Rime. The Onset can be a single or cluster of consonants. The Rime is everything else in that syllable, the part that typically rhymes. For example, the word ‘dog’ can be broken down into the onset ‘d’ and the rime ‘og’. The word ‘strength’ would be the onset ‘str’ and the rime ‘ength’.
A longer word like ‘Romulan’ can be broken down into its syllables [ro][mu][lan], which then can be broken down into onset-rime counterparts [r+o][m+u][l+an].
For names from the hypothetical Maloculan language, we then need: [Onset 1+Rime 1]+[Onset 2+Rime 2], plus the honorific syllable if they merit one.
Step Two: Choose Your Onsets and Rimes
Once you have your Onsets and Rimes, pick consonants and vowels for each that you think would sound nice in that language. Different positions in the name (at the start or at the end) could have different kinds of sounds. For example, in Vulcan, S and T are common for the start of a name, but you’re less likely to see a Vulcan name that starts with J.
For Maloculan, I decided on the following. Note the formatting I used to make it easier later when constructing my formula: use parentheses around everything, then use | to separate them.
Onset 1: (m|n|p|t|n|l|r|c|h|sh|th|f|s)
Rime 1: (a|i|o|u|al|an|as|il|im|in|is|ul|um|un|us)
Onset 2: (m|n|b|d|n|l|r|g|c|t|p)
Rime 2: (a|i|o|u|an|il|im|in|is|ul|un|aa|oo|aan|aal|uul|uun)
And for the honorific syllable, I picked two possibilities, where ‘wor’ means glory through strength and ‘val’ means glory through sacrifice: (wor|val).
Step Three: Constructing the Formula
Once you have your onsets and rimes, put them together without a space between the parentheses.
It requires one more tweak: wor and val are not always in the name. The simplest way to do this is to put a | in front of wor to allow a blank to be selected as an option.
Step Four: Entering the Formula
Go to the Fantasy Name Generator and paste in the formula in the Advanced Interface. Hit Generate Names and it will provide you with a great many random names using the phonological rules you provided. For our example, I got:
You’ll get some names that work, but possibly many that are total stinkers. But it is a lot faster than coming up with a name yourself, and you can reload to get a fresh list! I see a few names that sound good to me, that I might use (but your mileage may vary): Sustaan, Talgis, Sanruval, Thonoval. I don’t like any of the -wor names, but all I need to do is to hit reload until I find some I like: Taliswor.
Sometimes I will tweak my formula until I get the right sounds for the language. Other times, I might increase the frequency of a consonant or vowel by adding it multiple times, but I don’t think that’s always necessary, since it costs nothing to hit reload.
That’s it! Remember to save your formula for each species so that you can create new names on the spur of the moment.