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Game of Thrones fans have been saying Khaleesi wrong this whole time

I hate to break it to you, but you've been saying this one popular Dothraki word wrong. David Peterson, Game of Thrones' language creator explains why.


Game of Thrones was a cultural phenomenon when it first emerged. Remember back in 2014 when everyone started calling their babies Khaleesi? And then, four years later, when it all became super awkward after Daenerys became the Mad Queen? Well, it’s now about to get even more awkward, as it turns out we’ve been saying Khaleesi wrong the whole time.

To be fair, it isn’t just us Game of Thrones fans that are getting the name wrong. Game of Thrones cast members in the show said it all wrong, too. This is because the term, which means “queen” in the Dothraki language, is actually quite difficult for people to pronounce properly. So, when you see Game of Thrones characters calling people like Daenerys Targaryen “ka-lee-see,” they’re actually saying the term wrong. But the show’s language creator, David Peterson, decided to let the mistake slide.

“There’s no way it should be pronounced ‘ka-lee-see’ based on the spelling,” Peterson said during an appearance on The Allusionist podcast.

According to the linguist, the right way to pronounce the word is actually ‘ha-ley-eh-si,’ but there’s a fair reason why he decided to let this phonetic faux-pas slide.

“There was no way I was going to win that fight with the producers,” he added. ‘The instinct is so strong with English speakers when you see a double ‘e’, it’s pronounced ‘ee’.”

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“I had to decide, am I going to re-spell this thing? Because I know how people are going to pronounce this,” he explained. “Or am I going to honor that spelling and pronounce it differently? I made the latter decision, and I think it was the wrong decision.”

So, while it’s technically true that we’ve been saying Khaleesi wrong this whole time, we shouldn’t feel too bad because the fantasy series‘ own language creator gave us a free pass.

Well, kind of. While the Game of Thrones novels mention numerous languages, George R.R. Martin never created these languages in full like Tolkien did for The Lord of the Rings. So, when it came to televising the show, they hired Peterson to create languages like Dothraki from scratch. So, if anyone knows the right way to pronounce things, it’s him.

If High Valyrian, the language spoken by the Targaryens, is more your jam, then here’s everything you need to know about the Targaryen family tree, the House of the Dragon cast, and House of the Dragon season 2.