On the challenge of giving your interstellar empire a cool name

Have you ever thought about what a challenge it is to come up with an original, yet cool-sounding, name for your type of interstellar empire?

It’s a challenge keenly felt by the major factions in most science fiction game settings, judging by the wide variety of near-synonyms for the word “empire” that crop up in their names. As we all know, every good interstellar empire’s name needs to follow the format [faction name] [government type]. And we also know that there can be no more than one instance of any particular type of interstellar government in existence at the same time. Look at the effort game designers go through to avoid duplicating faction names in, say, the Traveller universe:

Traveller factions (current Mongoose edition)

  • Vodani Consulate
  • Vargyr Extents
  • Aslan Hierate (is that even a word?)
  • Solomani Sphere
  • Hive Federation
  • Third Imperium

Imagine the embarrassment of being unable to think of a cool, unique name for your interstellar empire! The factions of the Battletech universe feel your pain:

Battletech factions (in 3025 or thereabouts)

  • Free Worlds League
  • Federated Suns (Hey, “Suns” isn’t a government type! Sneaky.)
  • Draconis Combine
  • Lyran Commonwealth
  • Capellan Confederation
  • Marian Hegemony
  • Outworlds Alliance
  • Taurian Concordat

The powers of the (sadly defunct) Star*Drive universe had to really break out the thesaurus to name themselves:

Star*Drive factions

  • Borealis Republic
  • Rigonmur Star Consortium
  • Nariac Domain
  • Orion League
  • Orlamu Theocracy
  • StarMech Collective
  • Thuldan Empire
  • Hatire Community

And we’ll close with Hero Games’ Terran Empire setting, which is unique in featuring more than one “Empire”:

Terran Empire factions

  • Terran, Varanyi, and a few other Empires
  • Conjoined Civilizations Republic
  • Thorgon Hegemony
  • Velarian Confederation
  • Mon’dabi Federation

The point is not that these aren’t interesting or well-imagined settings (I happen to appreciate them all). It’s just amusing to watch the settings’ creators jump through vocabulary hoops to come up with unique names for the different factions.

Pity the poor latecomer to the galactic superpower scene, who must make do with being a “Community” or “League,” rather than a much cooler-sounding “Hegemony” or “Theocracy”!

(And real-life country naming conventions are a bit bizarre, too—for instance, the more politically repressive and un-democratic your country is, the more likely you are to have “republic,” “democracy,” or other wildly inappropriate words in your country’s official name.)

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One Comment

  1. Raymond says:

    Two that I’ve used in my stories are “Protectorate” (stolen from Cromwell) and “Syndicacy” (stolen from nowhere). For those other you cited — I like “Extents” and “Combine”, but “Consulate”?!? A consulate is a minor embassy!

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