The article, His Dark Materials terminology, details the various terminology used in the His Dark Materials trilogy written by Philip Pullman.

Alternate naming and other words[]

To enhance the feeling of being in a parallel universe, Pullman renames various common objects of our world with historic terms or new words of his own, often reflecting the power of the Church in Lyra's world. The alternative names he chooses often follow alternate etymologies, while making it possible to guess what everyday object or person he is referring to. Below are some of the significant renamings as well as new words the author has developed entirely on his own.

  • Æsahættr: (literally "God-destroyer") The formal name of the subtle knife; deemed the "last knife of all"
  • Anbaric: Electric. From anbar, Arabic for amber; the English word "electric" is based on the Greek ήλεκτρον (élektron), meaning "amber". Both words derive from the electrostatic properties of amber.
  • Atomcraft: Research into particle physics, specifically using uranium.
  • Brytain: A phonetically identical respelling of the region of Britain.
  • Cathay: The medieval European name for China.
  • Cauchuc: Rubber and possibly also plastic, from the Native American word cauchuc or caoutchouc meaning the sap of the rubber tree.
  • Celestial geography: Celestial navigation.
  • Chapel: A scientific laboratory.
  • Chaplain: The head of a scientific laboratory.
  • Chocolatl: Sometimes hot chocolate, sometimes "a bar of chocolatl" (a chocolate bar). From chocolatl, the Nahuatl word for chocolate.
  • Chthonic Railway Station: An underground railway station. "Chthonic" is from Greek χθονιος (chthonios), meaning pertaining to the earth; earthy.
  • Cloud-Pine: A type of wood used by Witches for "flying" (akin to broomsticks in other literature)
  • Coal-silk: Nylon, a synthetic fibre made from coal, was invented as a substitute for natural silk.
  • Corea: A phonetically identical respelling of the country Korea, which was formerly used.
  • Dæmon: The animal embodiment of a human's soul
  • Dust: Dark matter or dark energy (although as more of a "life force"); in the real world, particles which make up most of the mass of the universe, but which cannot be directly observed.
  • Eastern Anglia: Most likely East Anglia, the region where John Faa's gyptians live.
  • Eireland: Ireland, as referred to in the Cittàgazze universe. Presumably a mixture of Ireland's Irish-language (Éire) and English-language names.
  • Electrum: An occasionally used Latin word for amber; see "anbaric" above.
  • Gyropter: A helicopter.
  • Fire-Mine: A geothermal vent in which the panserbjorne work in metallurgy; supposedly impenetrable to humans and witches.
  • Gyptians: Boat-dwelling "Gypsies" (Roma). In reality, the word "Gypsy" is derived from "Egypt". Gypsies were once thought by "native" Britons to have come from Egypt due to their darker skin. Pullman is clearly referencing this etymological heritage.
  • Lake Enara: Lake Inari, a lake in Northern Finland. From Enare, the Swedish-language name for the lake.
  • Lascar: An East Indian. This is a real, though archaic, English word.
  • Marchpane: Marzipan. In reality, "Marchpane" is an archaic word for "marzipan".
  • Muscovite: A Russian; a reference to the Grand Duchy of Moscow.
  • Naphtha: Oil (as in oil-lamp, rather than naphtha-lamp), a petrochemical like kerosene.
  • New Denmark: Most likely the USA, a reference to the fact that the Vikings first discovered America. Lee Scoresby is described as a 'New Dane,' although he is from the country of Texas.
  • New France: Quebec, or possibly Canada. A reference to the 17th and 18th century, during which the area around the St-Lawrence River was called New France.
  • Night-ghast: A nightmare
  • (Great) North Ocean: The North Atlantic Ocean combined with the European region of the Arctic Ocean
  • Nipponese: The Japanese language. From Nippon ("land of the rising sun"), a Japanese-language name for Japan.
  • Norroway: Norway.[1]
  • Oratory: An individual church.
  • Panserbjørne (generally italicized): Armoured bears (as a whole race); a warrior race of sapient, talking polar bears, known for crafting powerful armour from meteoric iron
  • Peaceable Ocean: The Pacific Ocean, calqued from the Latin.
  • Philosophical: Having to do with the study of physics. In our own world, physics was once considered a part of philosophy.
  • Photogram: A photograph, more primitive than those in our own world but able to be developed in multiple ways.
  • Projecting lantern: A slide projector for photograms
  • Roman: Specifically, the Latin language.
  • Shadow (particle): See Dust
  • Skraeling: A Native American (specifically Inuit) person, particularly one from Greenland. Natives of Greenland were once named similarly by the Vikings of our world.
  • Tartar: A Tatar; Nomadic Turkic, warrior people of the North, known for the practice of unusual spiritual rituals, including trepanning
  • Texas (country): The homeland of Lee Scoresby and presumably a separate nation from New Denmark which shares its southern border with Texas' northern one.
  • (Experimental) Theologian: A physicist. From "Natural Theology" meaning science.
  • Tokay: A rare golden wine; Simpler respelling of tokaji


The pronunciations given here are those used in the radio plays and the audio book readings of the trilogy (by Pullman himself).[2] The transcriptions surrounded by square brackets are in the International Phonetic Alphabet, as spoken in Received Pronunciation.

  • Alethiometer: al-eeth-ee-OM-et-er [ˌæliːθɪˈɒmɪtə]
  • Æsahættr: AS-hatter [ˈæshætə] ("God-destroyer")
  • Chthonic (see above): kuh-THON-ick [k(ə)ˈθɒnɪk] orTHON-ick [ˈθɒnɪk]. See chthonic for details.
  • Cittàgazze: chee-tuh-GAHT-s(z)ay (as Italian) [ˌtʃitaˈgatse]
  • Dæmon: DEE-mon [ˈdiːmən] (pronounced as "demon")
  • Iorek: YOR-ick [ˈjɔːɹɪk]
  • Iofur: YO-fur [ˈjəʊfʊə]
  • Kirjava: KEER-yah-vuh [ˌkiːrˈjɑːvə]
  • Lyra: LIE-ruh [ˈlaɪɹə]
  • Mulefa: moo-LAY-fuh [ˌmuːˈleɪfə]
  • Panserbjørne: PAN-ser-byurn-eh [ˈpænsəbjɜːnə] (written "Panserbørne" in early UK editions: "Armoured Bears")
  • Pantalaimon: pan-tuh-LIE-mon [ˌpæntəˈlaɪmən]
  • Salmakia: sal-MACK-ee-uh [ˌsælˈmækɪə]
  • Serafina Pekkala: SEH-ra-fee-nuh PEK-ka-luh ['sɛɹəfiːnə 'pɛkələ]
  • Tialys: tee-AH-lis [tɪˈɑːlɪs]
  • Torre degli Angeli: TOR-ay DAY-(y)-lee an-JEL-ee (as Italian) [ˈtɔrːe delɪ an'dʒelɪ] ("Tower of the Angels")
  • Xaphania: za-FAY-nee-uh [zəˈfeɪnɪə]


  1. Quiller-Couch, Arthur (Ed) (1919). The Oxford Book of English Verse: Sir Patrick Spens. Oxford University Press. 
  2. "Bridge to the Stars - Pronunciation".