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DROW NAMING PRACTICES

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Dedication to a Deity

Drow can be named for a god or goddess at birth, or can re-name themselves in dedication when they are older. This is mainly practiced by clerics of a given deity, and is often done because the mother expects the child to follow in her footsteps and become a cleric of the same god in the future. It is also popular with Drow who decide to rename themselves upon reaching adulthood, or some other great life event. Some Drow nobles and merchants dedicate their children through their names in an effort to win the favor of a deity, but this does not always end in desirable results.

A Drow is not named after a deity directly - any Drow who calls herself "Lolth" had better be Lolth or some other very powerful being, because such vanity and impudence will be punished quickly. Instead, pieces of holy names are fitted into the various slots a name has; they are either placed at the front, in the middle, or at the end of a name. 

Thus, using -lolth or -loth somewhere within a name is a common form of homage to the Spider Queen, such as in the names Lolthmiira and Rualoth. Some devout followers use -yoch or -lol in names because the yochlol are the handmaidens of the goddess (Yochmara, for example, or Lolsyn). Likewise, -myr and -myrlo are also used in honor of the myrlochar, a lesser demonic species dedicated to Lolth (as in Myrvorn or Myrlodra).

Not all Drow pay homage only to Lolth, however. The faithful of other gods also fit parts of their deities' names into their own.

For instance, the faithful of Ghaunadaur occassionally use -ghaun, -adaur, or -daur in their naming practices (T'larghaun, Nyladaur, Midaura).

Likewise, the followers of Kiaransalee sometimes use -kiaran or -salee in their naming (B'kiaran, Quel'salee).

Those devoted to Selvetarm might have -tarm in their names (as in Xyltarm).

The worshippers of Vhaeraun use -vhae, -vhaer, and -aun in their naming (Vhaeliira, Synvhaerix, Zoraun).

Birth Order

Sometimes a Drow's place in the family will be reflected in their name. This is mostly done by using the Drow words for numbers in children's names. "Uss" means "one," and "ust" means "first" in the Drow language. Thus, the first child might be named Faeryn'Ust. "Draa" translates to "two," and "drada" means "second." The second child to the mother might be named Aeryn'Drada. "Llar" amounts to "three," and "llarnbuss" means "third." The third child might thus be named Rynllar. Sometimes children are simply named Ust, Drada, or Llar. Particularly prolific and cynical matron mothers might only call their children by their birth order designation, asking for "Ust" to do this, or "Drada" to do that - even if the children were given other proper names.

It is important to note that in female-dominated Drow cultures, it is common for mothers divide their children into male and female. Even if a mother has a son first, a daughter next, a son and then another daughter, she will not name her son as her only firstborn child. Instead, she will divide the sons from her daughters and name them accordingly. So the first son would be named with "ust," the next son would be named with "drada" - but the first daugher would be named with "ust" and the next daughter would be named with "drada" as well. In this way, a Drow mother has the first son, second son, and so on. She also has the first daughter, second daughter, etc.

This practice is not uncommon in the most high and powerful Drow noble families, since they tend to tie privileges to birth order. Drow do not usually continue this form of naming beyond the third child, since children have a lesser value the further down the family order they are. The firstborn bears the terrible weight of most family expectations, and the secondborn is always urged to be better than the first in order to amount to anything. The thirdborn child is in a precarious position indeed, having two older siblings to contend with. Any children beyond the third are simply extra, until they prove otherwise.

Drow children can "change" their birth order if an older sibling dies - they are considered to move up the line to fill in the vacant spot. When this happens, their names might be changed to reflect the new order of the family. If, for example, Faeryn'Ust the firstborn dies, Aeryn'Drada moves up to take her place. The problem is that Aeryn'Drada is no longer considered the secondborn; she takes her sister's place in every way, so she is given the name Ust'Aeryn and treated as though she is the firstborn. Since Rynllar is no longer thought of as the thirdborn daughter, she is given the name Ryndrada. The previously disregarded fourth daughter, Triel, becomes Trillarel - the new thirdborn.

An only child might be referred to as the "maglust" child, since that word means "apart, alone" in the Drow tongue.

Matronymic and Patronymic Alternatives

In certain Drow societies children's names are given a matronymic element, meaning that they are named for their mothers. In female-dominated Drow settlements, the common opinion is that the male is needed only for conception, but is not essential for childbirth or child rearing. Thus, children are not named for their fathers in any respect but are known by their mothers and their female ancestors.

The Drow word "xund," which means "striving, effort, work" is used as a matronymic element in the names of Drow daughters. It refers not only to the trouble of pregnancy and childbirth but also to the expectation that Drow daughters will take on the striving and work. This word is placed after the first name of the daughter, and then is followed by the name of the mother [first name + xund + mother's name]. So, the Drow mother Yasrena decides that her infant daughter will have the first name of Vierna; the child's full name is then Vierna xund Yasrena of House Abbylan. Yasrena's own name is Yasrena xund Liilyss of House Abbylan. Sometimes Drow daughters are called upon to recite as much of their family line as they can, and are often punished when they are able to recall any more of their foremothers. Young Vierna might be asked to recall her line thusly: "I am Vierna xund Yasrena xund Liilyss xund..."

The Drow word "kulg," which ironically means "snag, hitch, blockage" is used as the matronymic element for the names of Drow sons. This refers to the general Drow view of having male children; most females view the birth of male children as a waste of time and energy. Nonetheless, some mothers are willing to claim even their male offspring. By using "kulg" after the son's first name, the Drow mother is letting everyone know that her house has just grown larger and that her personal property has been enlarged as well. Draazoran kulg Yasrena would be Yasrena's second son ("draa"=two + zoran). He might be asked to recite the names of his foremothers as many times as Vierna or more as a sort of punishment, but he will not be able to track his forefathers the same way. He would recite his line thusly: "I am Draazoran kulg Yasrena xund Liilyss xund..."

Not all Drow make commentary when naming their children. The word "dal" means "from" in Drow, and the Drow sometimes use it in this sort of naming. Instead kulg Yasrena, Draazoran could be dal Yasrena - from her, but not necessarily a bad thing. In matrilineal Drow societies, however, the child would still belong to the mother.

A few Drow groups have rebelled against female Lolthian tyrants and all that they stand for, and have turned such tyranny on its head. In groups like these, children are named for the father, often using "dal." If the group feels particularly hateful, they will divide sons from daughers as above, except that the sons will be "alurl" or "best" and the daughters will be "harl" or "below." Thus, Draazoran alurl Rizzym and Vierna harl Rizzym would be claimed by their father in this sort of arrangement.

Drow words and definitions used here are found in the glossary in The Drow of the Underdark by Ed Greenwood.

 
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