Valar Morghulis Vs Valar Dohaeris

One of the biggest television phenomena of the 21st century so far has been Game of Thrones. It's almost impossible to have an understanding of popular culture without knowing at least something about it. Thinkpieces have used it for everything from questioning the brutality of modern media to understanding the 2016 presidential elections. But just having a working knowledge of the characters isn't necessarily enough. The deep lore of the novels and show can be fun to explore, and give you a richer understanding of this contemporary media landscape. That's why it's important to avoid getting burned by the dracarys and take a deep dive into the meaning of High Valyrian. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

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What Do Valar Morghulis and Valar Dohaeris Mean?

There's a short answer, and a long one. The direct translation of "valar morghulis" is "all men must die." Valar dohaeris' translation is "all men must serve." But there are some other facts you should know about these phrases.

  1. They were some of the only words in High Valyrian that George R.R. Martin came up with for the books.
  2. HBO hired a linguist who was interested in constructed languages, or conlangs, to come up with the language for the show.
  3. The linguist based the declension system of High Valyrian nearly entirely on these two phrases.
  4. He also extrapolated a good amount of the phonology of the language from them, as well.
  5. This helped him to elaborate the differences between High Valyrian and the various Low Valyrian dialects.

What Are Some Other High Valyrian Words I Should Know?

  • Thank someone by telling them kirimvose.
  • When you need someone to lift something up, you can tell them to manaerās it.
  • kessa and daor are yes and no, respectively.
  • If you're ever in the presence of zaldrizes, you should probably get out of there (they're dragons).
  • dracarys means dragonfire.
  • As tears well up when a season ends because you can't wait for more episodes, you are liman. When the series finale happens at the end of season 8, we will all be limaoty.
  • The way you say cat is kēli.

Take Lessons In High Valyrian


The phrases "valar morghulis" and "valar dohaeris" mean more than they appear to at first glance. "All men must die" is a way to greet someone, and "all men must serve" is a way to accept and return that greeting. But the particular choice of those phrases says something deeply ingrained about the culture in which they operate. This is a testament to the rich world that George R.R. Martin and the team at HBO have created for people to enjoy.

In Depth

One of the things that makes Game of Thrones so fascinating is that both the show and the books pay painstaking attention to detail. This well thought out world boasts its very own laws of nature, as well as distinct cultures and languages. One of the most important tongues is called High Valyrian. It was spoken during the reign of a territory called the Valyrian Freehold. It is emphasized often in both the books and the television show. Comparable to Latin in the real world, High Valyrian is a dead language that still exists in some forms.

It is taught to highborn children in Westeros as a sign of an esteemed education. Many books and songs are still written and sung in High Valyrian, and many scholars can speak it. It is also used in a corrupted form known as 'Low Valyrian'. This impure dialect is spoken in Slaver's Bay and the Free Cities. One of the most popular and mysterious expressions is often spoken by both major and minor characters. It consists of the phrase, "valar morghulis" and is usually met with the answer "valar dohaeris".

We're here to illustrate why these fictional words are spoken, how they're different from each other and what they mean. "Valar morghulis" is a customary greeting in High Valyrian. It translates to "all men must die." It is similar to the Latin phrase "memento mori" which means "remember death", or that everyone dies. Both of these sayings are meant to convey an acceptance of mortality. What makes the Valyrian saying different is that it is intended actively. The belief behind it is that sometimes you must take someone else's life yourself.

What makes the Valyrian saying different is that it is intended actively.

It is most commonly spoken on the fictional continent of Essos, though people from Westeros say it too. While it's often coupled with the counterpart response, this is not always the case. This phrase can be said to a superior as a sign of courtesy. It is also exchanged between equals instead of saying hello. As a foreigner, it can be used to show familiarity and cultural awareness.

When the character Arya Stark says "valar morghulis" to an unhelpful ship captain, it convinces him to offer her passage to the free city of Braavos. Arya was taught the phrase by an assassin named Jaqen H'ghar, a man who belonged to a society known as the Faceless Men. He gave her an iron coin and instructed her to say it to any man in Braavos if she ever needed help. She learns to say the words but is not taught the deeper meaning.

It can also be used maliciously. Arya occasionally utters this phrase after killing someone. She also weaves it into her nightly prayer, in which she utters the names of the people she wishes to murder. Though the saying is intended to be more benevolent, it is used in anger in these instances. However, it's not just educated foreigners and native common people that use the expression.

Though the saying is intended to be more benevolent, it is used in anger in these instances.

Feared and respected religious characters also use the greeting. When high priestess Melisandre from Essos meets a red priest named Thoros of Myr, the first thing they do is exchange this High Valyrian salutation. Within the religious society of the Faceless Men, this phrase and its reply serve as the backbone of their philosophy.

"Valar dohaeris" is the customary response. It translates to "all men must serve." Like "valar morghulis", this phrase is mainly used by people in the Valyrian speaking parts of the world. It is used as the second part of a common greeting among all classes of people and religious leaders. It is known to all who speak High Valyrian. As a phrase, it is almost always used in direct response and seldom by itself.

You will hear it said far less often by the people in Westeros and other parts of the world. This is because it is an aspect of the religions more commonly found in Essos. One such creed is the worship of the Many Faced God, who is revered in Braavos. This deity serves as a simple representation of all the supreme beings across multiple systems. This is why you'll still hear worshippers of specific beliefs use these terms.

This is because it is an aspect of the religions more commonly found in Essos.

The general idea behind this philosophy is that death is an inescapable enemy. But before we pass away, we have to be prepared to use our lives to serve. This depends on a particular character's motivation. How, who, and why they serve changes. Some choose to serve a king or a religion. Others choose the greater good or their families. Certain people are self serving.

Throughout this, the inevitable outcome is always that a life is given up for a death. So, why did saying 'all men must die' and 'all men must serve' become so important in the Game of Thrones universe? Many think it is because it represents two of the most important motivations in the series. How you live, and how you die. The way you interpret the finer details is up to you.