This year for Lexember, I intended to coin new names for birds and animals in Denju, the ancient language of my RPG campaigns and interactive fiction.

I ended up concentrating on birds. I basically just searched through the American Heritage Dictionary Indo-European Roots Appendix, a favorite resource since I was a kid, for inspiration for my own creations. Once I’d finished that, I pulled up a list of the most common European birds and then worked through that to make sure I had translations for each common type.

I did a word a day, in this order:

  1. galgal [Reduplication of gal-, to call.] rooster
  2. jeljl̥ [ghel-ghl-, to call.] thrush
  3. guu [guu-, to screech.] to screech; a kite (bird)
  4. caprawi [capro, he-goat + awi, bird.] billybird (fictional: follows goats to eat insects)
  5. nectocu [< necut+ocu, night eye.] owl
  6. drujnectocu [< druj+nectocu, dwarf owl.] dwarf owl (fictional: small insectivorous owl)
  7. prowet [< pro+wet, before the prophesy (a bird used in divination).] oscine
  8. orn [or-n-, large bird.] golden eagle
  9. zeregorn [< zereg+orn, white eagle.] white-tailed eagle
  10. ombo [gembh-mā‑, tooth, nail.] fowl’s comb, head of a fowl
  11. colombo [< col-ombo, hidden head.] diving bird, cormorant, grebe
  12. pelombo [< pel+ombo, gray head.] pigeon, dove
  13. pelcopso [< pel+copso, gray blackbird.] falcon
  14. pelareg[< pel+areg, gray white.] gull
  15. perno [< per, to pass over + no-, uncertain meaning.] to fly, to fly over
  16. pleusmos [< pleus + -mos, that which is plucked.] flesh of a fowl
  17. nizdo [niz-do-, perch.] nest, perch
  18. str̥g [str̥g- < streig-, stiff.] stork
  19. mecorn [< mec+orn, long and slender (large) bird.] heron
  20. zeregmec [< zereg+mecorn, white heron.] egret
  21. plimbo [< pli + ombo, bald head.] northern bald ibis
  22. plud [plud-, float.] flutter, hover
  23. baso[bhaso-, bheso-, large bird of prey.] bird of prey
  24. pludbaso [< plud- + baso, hovering bird of prey.] kestrel
  25. jeln [ghel-, to call.] swallow (bird), swift (bird)
  26. glubm̥ [glubh-mā‑, husk, cleft.] husk, chaff
  27. glumspingo [< glubm̥ + spingo, husk + finch.] chaffinch
  28. rodtro [rod-tro-, to gnaw.] beak, bill
  29. rodtrot [< rod-tro- + -t, beak + diminutive.] tit (bird)
  30. ruda [rudh-a‑, red bird.] robin
  31. erseln [< ers + jeln, tail swallow.] martin

Almost all of these are names for birds, with a few exceptions (e.g., nizdo, for “nest, perch”; plud, “flutter, hover”).

As a monthly challenge, Lexember can be fit into your year whenever works for you, not just in December (or November or September). Think about coining a word a day in a conlang sometime in 2024!

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash. A great egret (zeregmec), white ibis (no direct equivalent, but see plimbo), and great blue heron (mecorn).