Continue scrolling for curated lists of Male and Female Orc names and a list of great Surname options.
The Orcs (or Orks if you are a special snowflake) are the quintessential bad guys of almost every fantasy game. They are iconic as villains, and almost as ubiquitous as comic relief at the same time.
How many adventurers’ backstories start out with their home village being raided by a band of orcs? How many early adventures even begin with the stereotypical “Stop the Orcs” or “Strike Back Against the Orcs” when they come to pillage an innocent settlement?
All of them! And if they don’t start with Orcs, they typically start with giant rats.
Orcs are typically characterized as brutish and strong, with a lack of intelligence but oftentimes having a sharp cunning mind (high wisdom, low intelligence). They are a resourceful people, but sometimes also characterized as savage and irredeemable.
More often than not, Players in fantasy gaming might want to play a member of this race. Either as a noble anomaly among a race of savage brutes (see the literary myth of the Noble savage), or as the ambassador who wishes to show their people as more than the horrible rumors would suggest, or maybe they are really wanting to play that big dumb brute character that doubles as the party comic relief.
For these players, we have this name generator and sample names to get your going. We’ve broken this list up into several different categories based on what kind of orc you want to play. It’s important to work with your GM to figure out just what Orcs are like in their setting. A Warhammer Ork is going to be very different from something that is closer to a Tolkien Orc.
A Note about Coding, Tradition, and the nature of Evil Races
Before we delve into the meat of the article, it is probably worth it to touch on an important aspect of how we as a community play games.
“Coding” is a term used in fiction to refer to characters or groups of characters in a specific way that links them to a group, without stating outright they belong to that group. A great example of this is the Navi in Avatar. While they are not specifically stated to be a part of the indigenous natives of the Americas attempting to resist the expansion of the United States into their land, they are shown to be using similar clothing and tools as well as practicing similar beliefs. So the Navi are not the native peoples indigenous to the Americas, they are “Coded” that way.
Coding is often used by writers and creators as a quick shorthand. Example: An author wants you, the reader, to know that a character has a deep connection to the natural world, so they are shown with ragged or skimpy clothing, like a naturalist. Done well, it can help to keep people immersed in the narrative without loading down the audience with exposition. Done poorly, it can be lazy and create some very unfortunate implications.
Traditionally, Orcs in fantasy fiction and gaming have been coded with many practices that are largely considered “savage” or “brutal” or “uncivilized.” Typically these are practices like animism, nomadic lifestyles, “poor” hygiene, different eating habits, body modification (piercings, tattoos), or facial features and skin tone that do not correspond to Anglo-European features.
They are then called irredeemable evil or vile corruptions of other races. Creators using this coding, then denouncing practices, beliefs, and even body features of the Orcs in question really goes a far way to point out that minorities are indirectly villainized by most fantasy.
None of this is to say that these fantasy stories or settings are bad and should be shunned. Neither is this saying that these settings are purely innocent. Just keep in mind when you are using Orcs and building them for your setting or game, what you are coding or implying is very important.
The works of J.R.R. Tolkien are the seminal works that have inspired western fantasy stories since 1937. The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion are the bedrock on which almost every fantasy story is based.
In the Legendarium, Orcs (also known as Goblins) are a race of beings originally created from corrupted and tortured Elves. The power of Melkor, basically the Devil, twisted them into monstrous beings to use as foot soldiers against the Gods of the world in Melkor’s wars.
These names are often corrupted Elvish words, often meaning dark or evil things. There is a heavy emphasis on consonants and hissing sounds in the name, often to give them more of a sinister sound.
Tolkien Orcs have both male and female members, but almost every Orc shown in Tolkien’s writings were male. Below are some name examples.
High Fantasy Orcs
High Fantasy Orcs are sort of a catch all for Orc characters that don’t really fit into most other genres. These Orcs are most often the kind of Orcs you would find in Pathfinder First Edition, Pathfinder Second Edition, and even Dungeons and Dragons.
Most often these Orcs are characterized as violent and angry, with a particular hatred of civilized societies. They congregate together in warbands and tribes, often seeking to increase their holdings and power through war and conquest. They are almost universally a part of a Chaotic society, but can sometimes change through great upheavals.
Most Orc names are short and with two syllables at most. Most names have harsh consonants and flat noun sounds.
Male Orc Names
Female Orc Names
World of Warcraft Orcs
One of the main branches from the traditional high fantasy that exploded in popularity in the 90s, and has become an entertainment juggernaut over the years. World of Warcraft has had a huge influence on what many people in the west think of when they talk about fantasy. It has defined the fantasy gaming genre for almost an entire generation.
The Orcs in World of Warcraft are a strong, proud, and independent people. They live in clan units, which are large extended families traveling together. They have a shamanistic way of seeing the world, and often have a deep connection to the natural world.
At one point, they were corrupted by a demonic force and turned into a horde of bloodthirsty soldiers for a war of conquest. They have since thrown off the corrupted influence, but still harbor a deep grudge against those they once fought against.
Orcs from World of Warcraft often have multiple syllable names that alternate between long vowels and hard consonants.
Male Orc Names
Female Orc Names
One of our last unique Orc types, the Orks from Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 are very…unique.
The Orcs of Warhammer fantasy are a war-like people, who live very primitively on the borders of the Empire and “civilized” lands. They are often considered the scourge of all civilized people, as they frequently wage deadly never-ending wars against everyone, including themselves.
In Warhammer 40,000, the Orks are very similar, but are actually a cosmic fungus that seeks to spread all over the galaxy. They grow as they fight others, getting monstrously huge in size if they are not stopped. They employ psychic powers in the form of “group think,” meaning if enough Orks think something is real or true, then it is real.
Orks are commonly referred to in-universe as the “Greenskins.” They are originally based on British soccer hooligans, complete with overly exaggerated cockney English accents. This is complete with exaggerated vowel sounds, and replacing many S sounds with Sch sounds. They also add many Z sounds, often slurring one syllable into another.
It is worth noting that Orks like this are almost always seen in-universe as male. There are female Orcs in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, but they are rarely seen “on-screen.”
Many times, when looking for an Orcish (Orky?) surname, much of fantasy literature uses a common convention of putting two words together in a sort of “deed-name.” A Deed-name would be something a character, or one of their ancestors, did that defined some major portion of their life. Think of them as something like an epithet for how they live their life
If they are a prolific hunter, they might have a name having to do with arrows or game animals. If they are a great warrior, they would probably have some kind of name having to do with their signature weapon.
Deed names could also come from a place the Orc comes from. If they are from a frozen area, they might have Ice or Snow in their name. Places with great heat, like deserts or volcanic islands, would offer Orc names having to do with fire or heat.
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