Posted by David Peterson
I’ve got this terrible headache right now (and an ankle ache), so in order to distract myself, I’ve decided to talk about some of Dothraki’s pain vocabulary. This should work, right?
Let’s start in the most obvious place: the root nith. This root is most closely associated with “pain” in Dothraki. As an adjective, nith means “painful”. The root itself, though, is experiencer-focused, if that’s a term (or rather, if that’s the term for what this is). Thus, the natural interpretation of nith will be “painful to the one most intimately connected to the modified noun” (e.g. if you have some sort of otherwise neutral phrase like rhae nith, it will mean “my painful foot”, or, more specifically, “my foot that is painful to me”—never “my foot that’s causing something or someone else pain”). As a result, it can also be used to mean something like “in pain”, for example mahrazh nith, which would mean “the man who’s in pain” (or I guess “the painful man”, but that doesn’t quite mean the same thing in English).
As a verb, its sole argument is the one that feels pain. This started out referring exclusively to the individual, but has been extended to cover other objects. So while, for example, Anha nithak, “I pain”, would be more ordinary, one could say Rhae nitha, “My foot feels pain”. More usual for the latter, though, would be the causative version of the verb, annithat, for which you’d say something like Rhae annitha anna, literally “My foot pains me”, but probably best translated as “My foot hurts”.
Sidestepping athnithar (“pain”) for a second, I’d also like to briefly introduce the word athnithizar. Those familiar with Dothraki morphology will note that this is the diminutive of athnithar. While historically it’s related to the same root, today it means “to feel encouraged” or “to feel invigorated”. Its causative, annithilat, is what you’d use to say “to encourage” or “to invigorate” or “to entice”.
Back to pain, what I’ve got now is a mhari, or “headache”. It derives from the same root that gives us “sore”—one of the words coined by George R. R. Martin. A migraine headache would probably be mharisof, but if I ever have one, I may decide a stronger word is needed at that time.
The other thing I’ve got that should be clearing up is basically a rhae darin, which is a less-than-optimally-functioning leg. The verb form darinat is used most often to indicate that someone is limping (at the moment), though it can be used with other body parts (e.g. if one said of themselves Qora darina, it might mean that they sprained their wrist or did something which has affected the regular function of their arm).
Since we’re on limps, though, if one has a persistent and habitual limp, the appropriate verb is mattelat (vimatterat can also be used, but really only to emphasize it). This one refers specifically to one’s legs, though, whereas darin can be used elsewhere. The verb ammattelat is kind of a vicious one: it’s where you go for someone’s legs specifically to hobble them. Ooh! Ooh! Just got an idea:
- Ammattes mae. Hash yer nem vaesie ki reki?
- Vos, sensei!
Heh, heh, heh… That last word is a borrowing; not a Dothraki word. See if anyone figures that one out.
Now if something aches specifically, you can use the verb ziroqoselat. This verb derives from the word oqo, which is the word for a beat or some sort of rhythmic noise. The form of the root was onomatopoeic in origin.
If pain needs to be qualified, Dothraki actually makes use of the words lavakh, “loud”, and haf, “quiet” or “soft”. Thus, of my headache now (post-Ibuprofen), I can say, Me vos athnithar lavakh.
And there you have it! That’s some of the pain vocabulary used in Dothraki. You know, I prefer athnithar to the English word “pain”. English’s word has that awful “p” sound in it. Blech! What a terrible sound. Can’t imagine having a name—even a last name—that begins with that sound…