An ‘InSong By Any Other Name…

Klingon chanting ritual (CBS All Access)

What’s in a Klingon Name

In an attempt to perhaps gain some insight into Klingon characters in the upcoming series Star Trek Discovery, I’ve spent a bit of time trying to parse their names.

It should be obvious to any Klingon speakers or students that none of the below are exactly grammatical, but we also don’t know how true to the Klingon language/culture the new series will be given how much they’ve changed the appearance of the Klingons.

Also, it should be noted that this is not a serious attempt to predict any actual aspects of the show, character traits, or plotlines. I am a passive Klingon enthusiast, and an amateur linguist, so this is a sliver of space where my interests intersect. So, take this analysis with a large bag of salt.


T’Kuvma:

This very easily could be a Romanization of teH, a verb meaningbe true’; quv, a verb that means ‘be honored’; maH, one of the pronouns used for ‘we, us’. This could be interpreted as “We are truly honored.” This would definitely be an appropriate name for the leader of the Klingon Empire (KE).


L’Rell:

This was not as direct as T’kuvma, but leH is a verb meaning ‘maintain’ and retlh is a noun meaning ‘area beside, area next to’. So perhaps it means that she maintains a position next to someone or group that is powerful, or essential to the KE.


Kol:

There does not seem to be a word qol in the various lexicons available online, but the verb Qol means to beam away, and there is the name qolotlh (or Koloth) from The Original Series, to which, this could be an homage.


Ujilli:

This name is not only difficult to parse, but it seems very un-Klingon like to me. However, I found jIl, which means ‘neighbor’, and lIH, which means ‘introduce’. So, perhaps Ujilli means something close to “He introduces neighbors”…a sort of ambassador for the KE.


Dennas:

The possibilities that I came up with for this name are, by far, the longest stretch of any of the above, but the verb Degh (and could have, phonologically, lost the “gh” when connected to naS) is slang for ‘acting without a plan, improvising’ and the homonym noun means either ‘helm’, or ‘medal, emblem, symbol, insignia’. The verb naS means ‘to be vicious’, so, Dennas could be “She viciously improvises”, or perhaps “She is emblematic of viciousness”, maybe even “She steers towards vicious”.

For further information about these Star Trek Discovery characters and more, visit our character bio page.

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About Carl Buck

Carl Buck is the newest contributor to our Opinion section. You can find him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nahskkrit. For now, he values his privacy. Be sure to check back here in case he is willing to share more about himself in the near future.

  • David Yonge-Mallo

    As an analogy, “Carl” is like “car”, and “Buck” is like “Buick”, so maybe “Carl Buck” is a man who drives an upscale American motor vehicle.

    In other words… it’s a huge stretch. 🙂