Friday, September 25, 2009

Tyranid Creature Names and Their Meanings

Tyranids have an interesting collection of names for their creatures. Here are some of their meanings. I have classified them in a couple of groupings. Italicized choices come from Epic, Forgeworld, or Armourcast.

The Female Ones

Termagant: Means a harsh-tempered or overbearing woman.

Harridan: One of my favorite words, it means a strict, bossy, or belligerent old woman.

Dominatrix: A dominating woman, it has other meanings but I'm sure you already know those.

The Greekish Ones

Biovore: Literally, life-eater. Methinks the technical Greek is Biophage, but the -vore is Latin, so it's one of those fused words.

Malanthrope: Another fused word, Mal- being the Latin for bad, and -anthrope being human being.

Hierophant: A priest who interprets sacred mysteries.

Hierodule: A slave in an ancient Greek temple.

Dactylis: Comes from the Greek meaning "fingers" if I recall.

Exocrine: Meaning an external secretion.

Zoanthrope: A portmanteau of zoo- meaning animal, and -anthrope meaning man. This term was coined by Gene Wolfe in his Torturer series (he also uses the terms Lictor and Carnifex heavily in that series, the books were an influence on GW).

Hormagaunt: I'm just guessing on this one, but horman is the Greek for "to set in motion" (it's where the word hormone comes from), so this would mean a gaunt that is set in motion. A good name for a fast moving creature.

The Latin Ones

Carnifex: Means butcher. For the plural, just use Carnifexes. If you really want to get all Latin, you can say Carnifices. However, there are several versions of Latin plurals and I don't want to recall my 4th grade Latin lessons so just use the -es ending. Similarly, the plural of codex is codices.

Edit: I stand corrected- The original sources I looked up said it meant butcher, and I assumed it to be correct because the roots would mean flesh-maker, but Elazar pointed out otherwise. I did some further research and he indeed is correct, a Carnifex is an executioner.

Malefactor: Means evil-doer.

Lictor: A lictor was a civil servant in ancient Rome, who acted as bodyguards of sorts. It means "one who binds." Interestingly enough, the bundle of rods carried by a Lictor was called fasces which is where the term "Fascism" originates.

Haruspex: A religious official who divined the future by looking at the entrails of animals.

This list isn't comprehensive. I figured I'd point out where the words for our more oddly named creatures come from.


  1. Carnifex was the latin name for a Roman executioner. Never heard the butcher reference before but I guess I can see how that would progress.

  2. Being italian I studied Latin and a lot of words of my language have a direct link to aincent romand
    In Italian Codex a lot of creatue names were italianized (Carnifex becomes Carnefice and Lictor Littore, for example)
    I hope they leave original "40K Latin" names in new codex, as i think Greek and Latin are quite evocative(I expecialy like Hierophant, which is Ierofante in italian, for making me think about heroes, priests and elephants^^)
    About the translation, yes the word "Carnefice" in italian means killer or executioner
    And again the reference to Lictors-Littori (even if i think the name was chosen for his similarity with the english "Lick") is correct
    The "Fascio" (pl fasci) was chosen as a simbol of italian totalitarism as a (poor) reference to ancent romans, a fequent theme in it's propaganda
    It's a dark page of our history an frequently we see the 40k Imperium as having similar "Fascist" design...but since it's just a game it's not a problem^^
    Sorry for long post and bad english

  3. Grazie per aver commentato :)

    Your English is pretty good, far better than some of the drivel I see thrown around Internet forums. I too like the Greek/Latin names as they add a weight and presence to the creatures.

  4. Carnifices, eh? I was wondering what I was supposed to call them... I'll link back to this post when I get to my Carnifex section.

    Thanks for the education!


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