- "There is no word for "thank you" in Dothraki."
- ―Jorah Mormont
The Dothraki do not have their own writing system, nor much use for the writing systems of neighboring peoples, so they are an illiterate society.
- athjahakar - "pride, prowess". Derived from "jahak," the traditional long braid worn by Dothraki warriors ("warriors" being "lajaki").
- Dosh khaleen - council of crones. Widows of deceased khals, who preside over the Dothraki city of Vaes Dothrak. Wise-women who are essentially the leaders of the Dothraki religion.
- Dothraki - lit. "men who ride", "riders"; the Dothraki people. A single Dothraki rider is a dothrak.
- The noun for "riders" plural is Dothraki. The verb for "ride" conjugates as Anha dothrak = "I ride," Me dothrae = "You ride," Kisha dothraki = "We ride." Thus "dothraki" can also be the first person plural conjugation for "(We) ride" - it's just a homonym.
- Dothrakhqoyi - "Bloodrider", a Dothraki warrior that has pledged his life to the service of a khal.
- Frakhas valad! - riding command to a horse, literally "touch the horizon", more closely meaning "ride to the horizon!", and euphemistically just a variant of "ride!" or "giddyup!", etc. Because riding commands tend to be shortened down from full sentences, riders often just exclaim "valad!" (literally, "horizon!") to say "giddyup!", but this is clipped from the full phrase.
- Khal - Dothraki warlord.
- Khaleesi - the wife of the khal.
- Khalasar - Dothraki clan or tribe, led by a khal.
- Ko - Kos are lieutenants of a khal, commanding subdivisions of a khalasar. On the death of a khal, a ko may try to become the new khal, or split off his own riders to form a new, smaller khalasar.
- Me nem nesa - "it is known"
- Qoy Qoyi - (literally, "blood of my blood") the style of address between Khal and bloodrider.
- Vaes Dothrak - the only Dothraki city, located deep within the Dothraki Sea.
- zhey - the Vocative particle in the Dothraki language, used when directly addressing the object of a sentence; thus it is very frequently heard in Dothraki dialogue. While the Vocative case was present in the Proto-Indo-European language, it fell out of use in modern Romance languages, as well as Germanic languages such as English and German (but is still present in Celtic and Slavic languages). Thus there is no direct English equivalent for zhey, though it basically means "you", or more loosely, "hey", and often isn't directly translated as its own word in a sentence. For example, Rakharo says to Irri, "Hash yer ray tih loy alegra, zhey vikeesi?" (Have you seen any ducks, woman?). However, Daenerys says "Zhey qoy qoyi!" (Blood of my blood!) when addressing her bloodriders, or simply "zhey Rakharo" (literally just "Rakharo"), when trying to get Rakharo's attention. However, the Vocative particle may also be used reflexively when the subject is referring to himself: Khal Drogo swears "Anha, zhey Drogo, atak jin" (I, Drogo, will do this).
According to an interview with David J. Peterson on Forbes.com in November 2012, there is actually only one line in the Dothraki language in Season 3 of the TV series. This brief line occurred when Daenerys and Missandei are discussing the Dothraki language in "Second Sons":
Zhey Drogo ast me-Dothraki thasho h’anhaan ven anha ray yol mehas. Me azh maan atjakhar.
- "Drogo said I spoke Dothraki like one born to it. It gave him great pride."
"Athjahakar" was intentionally slurred as "atjakhar" so Missandei could correct Daenerys's mistake.
Behind the scenes
The Dothraki language was created by David J. Peterson of the Language Creation Society, and as of May 2015 has a vocabulary of over 4,000 words. On the May 18 2015 episode of the Lexicon Valley podcast, Peterson said he would like to see the language increase to 10,000 words. He has also worked on other languages for the show, such as High Valyrian, Skroth and Asshai'i.
While Peterson does transfer his final notes on languages he has invented into computer files, during the earliest stages when he is sketching out the details of one of his constructed languages he prefers to work with a pen and paper. Peterson's initial drafts of the Dothraki language were actually written in a Winnie the Pooh brand children's notebook.
Peterson described part of his creation process for Dothraki:
- "Two major factors come into play. First, the topography of the area, which helps determine what these people do and don't have words for, and what their lifestyle is like. I think about these people and ask: "What are their lives supposed to be like?", "Who do they interact with on a regular basis?" and "How do those interactions shape their own culture?"
- The second factor is their level of technology. The world of 'Game of Thrones' is at a significantly lower level of technology than the modern world. And in the case of Dothraki, they are at a technology level that's below even that. It seems that their culture is very insular. They don't let their interactions with other people influence their lifestyle. What that said to me is that the Dothraki are going to have words for their own lifestyle, and they may borrow other terms. For example, the Dothraki word for "book" is borrowed from Valyrian."
The High Valyrian word for "book" is "tembyr", while the Dothraki word for book is "timvir". Similarly, there is no exact equivalent to "throne" in Dothraki: Khal Drogo uses the Dothraki word "ador" which literally means "chair", but Daenerys explains that this doesn't really convey the full symbolic meaning give to "throne", so Drogo then says "throne" as a direct loanword. Moreover, the Dothraki live on the central plains of the continent and fear the ocean, so because they don't sail on ships and rarely even see them, they don't really have a word for "boat". Therefore, as shown in the on-screen subtitles, when Khal Drogo describes traveling in ships to Westeros, he literally says "wooden horses" (hrazef ido), because it is conceptually the closest word for "thing you ride on" in his language.
Peterson pointed out in a April 2019 interview that the way Daenerys Targaryen pronounces Dothraki should not be used by viewers as a template - thus is by no means the fault of actress Emilia Clarke, but was done on purpose. The way Peterson developed lines for the show was to make MP3 files for each one, and then the actors carefully try to copy his exact pronunciation and intonation for each word. In the case of Daenerys, Dothraki isn't her primary language and she learns it during the course of the series, thus Peterson reasoned that she'd still have an accent when speaking it. Therefore, Peterson intentionally pronounced Daenerys's lines with a slight accent (compared with how Drogo would say the same words) - but he praised that Clarke did exactly copy his audio recordings, which were mispronounced in the first place. According to Peterson in the same interview, about 4,000 words of Dothraki were created by the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones.
How to learn Dothraki
David J. Peterson produced a guidebook for learning the Dothraki language, Living Language Dothraki, released in October 2014.
In the books
Arguably, given the sheer size of the Dothraki Sea, the Dothraki language approaches the Common Tongue of Westeros and the Low Valyrian languages spoken throughout the Free Cities and Slaver's Bay in terms of overall geographical spread. However, the actual population density of the Dothraki Sea is very small, as Dothraki khalasars ride through massive grassy plains which are otherwise devoid of permanent habitation. If plotted on a map, this makes the Dothraki language look disproportionately common.
The population of the only Dothraki city, Vaes Dothrak, varies from time to time: there are rarely more than a few khalasars stopping in the city at any one time, before leaving again to find plunder. As a result, the permanent population of the city isn't much compared to one of the Free Cities or to a Westerosi city such as King's Landing. However, Vaes Dothrak is physically large enough to hold every khalasar if they return all at once (for special religious ceremonies, etc.). Daenerys estimates that it physically has ten times as many buildings as Pentos does, and Pentos is one of the more populous Free Cities (the most populous, however, is Volantis). This might give a general idea of the size of the overall Dothraki population.
On the other hand, the Dothraki do not engage in long-distance trade, which has severely hampered the geographical spread of their language. Some of their neighbors have learned Dothraki in order to treat with them (i.e. in the TV series, Illyrio Mopatis of Pentos is seen speaking Dothraki to Khal Drogo), but their language has not spread with trade along sea lanes. In contrast, the Common Tongue of Westeros has spread along with merchant ships so that many traders in the Free Cities and Slaver's Bay have some knowledge of it to conduct business in. Even the inhabitants of distant Qarth conduct sea trade with Westeros, and thus some knowledge of the Common Tongue may be found there. Similarly, Valyrian-speakers from the Free Cities may be found in the five major port cities of Westeros.
- Dothraki language on A Wiki of Ice and Fire
- Dothraki language on Wikipedia.org
- Language Creation Society
- Dothraki.org - the Learn Dothraki Fansite.
- Dothraki.com - Peterson's blog on Dothraki in the TV series
- Tristan da Cunha Officially Adopts Dothraki Language
- David J. Peterson's blog, Dothraki.com, July 19, 2012.
- David J. Peterson's blog, Dothraki.com, June 4, 2012
- David J. Peterson interview with Forbes.com
- David J. Peterson's blog, Dothraki.com, May 20th, 2013.
- "M'athchomaroon, Zhey Lajak Vezhven!" May 18, 2015 Episode of "Lexicon Valley" Slate podcast
- David J. Peterson's Tumblr
- "http://wiki.dothraki.org/Vocabulary Dothraki.org]
- David J. Peterson interview, The Daily Dot, April 2019