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A Lexicon of Ice and Fire

One of problems readers (and viewers) new to fantasy often bring up is the wealth of strange names, odd places and curious words that don’t always mean what you think they should mean. Of course, with Game of Thrones one could easily look up any of those odd words on the various sites dedicated to the books, but in doing so one would run the risk of being spoiled. In light of this, we’ve put together a mini-lexicon for Game of Thrones-newbies that basically gives short, spoiler-free explanations for some of those words that might give you pause. We’re not covering characters here (see our guide to the Characters for that) but if there’s something else you think we have missed, let us know!

  • Arakh: The curved sword of the Dothraki.
  • Bannerman: A vassal sworn to a greater lord.
  • Dothraki: A warlike nomadic culture that lives on the great plain called the Dothraki sea. They are skilled riders and deadly warriors, feared by all their neighbours as they do not believe in trading for what they need. Also the name of their language.
  • Essos: The eastern continent, home to the Free Cities, the plains of the Dothraki sea, and many other lands. It is separated from Westeros by the narrow sea.
  • Eyrie, the: The impregnable, mountain-top seat of House Arryn, chief lords of the Vale of Arryn.
  • Ironborn: A person from the Iron Islands.
  • Faith, the: The chief religion of Westeros, save for in the North and the Iron Islands.
  • Free Cities, the: Nine rich trading cities in Essos: Braavos, Lorath, Lys, Myr, Norvos, Pentos, Qohor, Tyrosh, and Volantis.
  • Godswood: The primary place of worship for the Old Gods. In the North, such groves contain a carved weirwood, called the heart tree. In the South, the godswoods may be little more than gardens.
  • Khal: The leader of a Dothraki khalasar.
  • Khalasar: The Dothraki word for a tribe.
  • Khaleesi: The wife of a khal.
  • King’s Landing: The capital of the Seven Kingdoms.
  • Kingsguard, the: Seven knights sworn to guard the king and the royal family. They take vows of celibacy and serve for life. Among their past members are some of the most legendary knights in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. They wear white cloaks that have become an icon symbol of their office.
  • Maester: An advisor, healer and tutor to the lords of the Seven Kingdoms, trained at the Citadel in Oldtown. They swear vows of celibacy and wear chains whose links denote their areas of expertise.
  • Milk of the Poppy: An opiate used to dull pain.
  • Night’s Watch, the: An order of men, sworn to celibacy, who serve for life at the Wall. They wear all black garments.
  • Old Gods, the: The religion of the North and of a few houses in the Riverlands. It used to be the chief religion of Westeros.
  • Sellsword: A mercenary.
  • Septa: A priestess of the Faith, similar to a nun. Many function as governesses and chaperons for young noblewomen.
  • Septon: A priest of the Faith. The High Septon is the head of the Faith.
  • Seven, the: The Gods of the Faith: the Father, the Mother, the Maiden, the Warrior, the Smith, the Crone, and the Stranger.
  • Seven Kingdoms, the: The kingdom that spans most of Westeros, a unified realm made up of what once was seven independent kingdoms. Those kingdoms were the North, the Iron Isles and the Riverlands, the kingdom of Mountain and Vale, the Westerlands, the Stormlands, the Reach, and Dorne.
  • Silent Sister: An order of women within the Faith. Sworn to silence, they traditionally tend to funerary arrangements.
  • Small Council: An advisory council that assists the King and his Hand. Their offices are the Master of Laws, the Master of Coins, the Master of Ships, the Master of Whisperers, and the Grand Maester. In the novels, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard also has a seat on the council.
  • Tears of Lys: A costly and undetectable poison.
  • Valyria: The ancestral home of the Targaryens, once the center of a great empire controlled with dragons and sorcery. The Doom of Valyria, some four hundred years in the past, was a cataclysm that destroyed Valyria, but the Targaryens had fled to the safety of Dragonstone.
  • Valyrian Steel: Spell-forged steel, stronger and sharper than any ordinary steel. It’s said no more than 200 such weapons exist in the Seven Kingdoms, the secret of their making having been lost with the Doom.
  • Wall, the: A 700-foot tall structure made of ice that guards the northernmost border of the Seven Kingdoms.
  • Ward: A kind of foster son, the son of one lord who is sent to another one to grow up in his court. Usually this is done as a sign of friendship and political alliance, but sometimes the ward may be little more than a hostage.
  • Vaes Dothrak: The only city of the Dothraki, a holy place where no steel can be drawn or blood shed. Khalasars travel there for occasional, important rites.
  • Weirwood: A tree with white bark and red leaves, as well as a red sap. Thousands of years ago, the children of the forest carved many of the trees with faces. Many of these were cut down by the First Men and Andals who feared the children could spy on them through the eyes of the trees. Since then, the First Men worship the same gods as the children, and weirwood trees—especially carved ones—are sacred.
  • Westeros: The western continent where the Seven Kingdoms are.
  • White Walker: Legendary beings from the far North that supposedly overran Westeros during the Long Night thousands of years ago.
  • Wildling: Calling themselves the free folk, wildlings live in the lands beyond the Wall, with little in the way of governance. Some wildlings turn to raiding across the Wall.
  • Winterfell: The seat of the House Stark, chief lords of the North.
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