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Phantasy Spelling

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"In honour of you guys, we're naming this band 'Ironheade'. With an 'e' at the end, so people know we mean business!"
Eddie Riggs, Brütal Legend

The tendency for common words describing fantasy concepts to be deliberately misspelled, typically:

  • As a way of distinguishing the "real" concept from the fake version, such as "Magick" versus stage magic.
  • As a way of implying great age. This is somewhat Truth in Television, because before spelling was codified words could be spelled in a number of different ways, though in modern fantasy it is often gratuitous and may not even reflect the way a word was really spelled in any ancient languages.
  • As a way of being pretentious.
  • It looks Kool

Common words spelled this way are "magic", "vampire", "fairy", and "fantasy", among others. See also My Nayme Is, Xtreme Kool Letterz, Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut, The Backwards Я, Punctuation Shaker, A Villain Named "Z__rg" and Law of Alien Names. Depending on the word, the author may instead decide that Capital Letters Are Magic.

A Super-Trope to Magick.

Also known as phantassie spælling, pfant'see pspaëllynnge, or fantaſy ſpelling.


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  • A Court of Thorns and Roses uses "faerie"/"fae".
  • Gunnerkrigg Court lampshades it:
    Tea: Fairies? Faeries? Phayrighies? It doesn't matter; they all mean the same thing.
  • Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre.
  • Faerie Wars by James Herbert Brennan is odd in that it uses two spellings ("fairy" and "faerie") depending on who is saying the term, most probably to distinguish between the "real" thing and the more mainstream usage.
    • Also that Faerie is simply a humanoid race— fairy is the word confused humans have for them when they come into our world and grow wings as a result of the transportation (we do the same when we transport there).
    • Along with "faerie," there are uses of both "Hael/Hell" and "Haven/Heaven" at various points in the series. Almost always, the Phantasy Spelling is used by faeries and the normal spelling is used by human characters, although Mr. Fogarty switches over to the faerie spellings after moving to the Faerie Realm.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: The magical otherworld is spelled "Faerie", while its inhabitants are called "Fairies". (In English, at least. In their own language (which is apparently Irish), they're the Sidhe; their name for their homeland is never given.) This distinction is not uncommon in fantasy generally.
    • One of the short stories in the connected story collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories has its semi-literate narrator refer to fairies as "Pharisees". Obviously, she has a confusion in terminology, but since the fairies of the stories are often somewhat different than Strange and Norrell fairies, a different term might be justified.
    • "Pharisees" as a term for fairies really has been used in various rural locations across England, mostly Sussex but also Somerset where the above story is set.
    • There's at least one of Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill stories, set in Sussex, where a farmer uses "Pharisees" in this sense.
  • Lampshaded in Kim Newman's story "The Gypsies in the Wood", featuring a series of children's stories about faeries (including The Aerie Faerie Annual). One character rhetorically asks what's wrong with the word "fairy".
  • Averted in Goblin Moon, where "fairy" is the name of the race, while "Fae" and "Farisee" are apparently two different nationalities within that race. (The Biblical overtones of the latter may be intentional, as some of Teresa Edgerton's nonhuman cultures are analogs to real-world human cultures.)
  • In Wicked Lovely, they are commonly referred to as the fey, one on it's own is a faery. The world is faerie.
  • Extremely common in general in fantasy stories that mention fairies. They will usually be spelled Faerie or Faery.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, it's faeries.
  • Both Changeling: The Dreaming and Changeling: The Lost go for "faerie" or "fae." In Lost, it's divided up amongst "faerie/fae," lowercase (to refer to all things that draw power from the Wyrd), "Faerie," uppercase (to refer to Arcadia) and "the True Fae" (to refer to the Gentry).
  • Poison: A Phaerie Tale uses 'Phaerie,' naturally.
  • Most The Legend of Zelda games use "fairy," but the original version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past used "faerie." The GBA remake went back to "fairy."
  • Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms splits the difference, with "fae" used for magical beings but "Fairy" given as an honorific for Godmothers, who are allowed to call themselves the Rose Fairy, the Lilac Fairy, etc.


  • Parody in the "Storyteller" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Buffy, Slayer of the Vampyrs". Andrew actually pronounces "Vampyr" slightly differently to make the point, putting the stress on the second syllable rather than the first.
  • Discworld:
    Vampyres are just the same, the only real difference being that they can't spell correctly.
    • Maskerade at some point mentions a "Vampyre whose morals were worse than his spelling" during a speculation about whose laugh would be scarier.
  • Another parody in Preacher: Cassidy calls an exceptionally pretentious fellow vampire a "wanker", and the latter assumes it's an archaic variant of the word vampire.
  • One Blade series implies that vampires and vampyres are actually different things.
  • The Ravenloft campaign setting makes the distinction explicit: vampyres are living, predatory humanoids who consume blood and have the ability to supernaturally dominate the minds of their prey; vampires (generally) follow their traditional depictions.
    • That setting did the same trick with "goblin"/"goblyn", making them two different monsters.
  • The Usenet group alt.vampyres.
  • The first vampire novel published in English, Varney the Vampire spells the word in two ways; one cover uses "vampire" while the title page reads "vampyre".
    • However, the first vampire story published in English is called The Vampyre and uses that spelling exclusively.
  • The Vampyr boss from the Sega CD game Vay (in addition to being a lame-as-hell boss) doesn't even get the courtesy of having an "e" on the end of his name.
  • City of Heroes' 5th Column / Council Vampyri are explicitly stated not be "true" vampires but the end result of a super-soldier program.
  • Brian Lumley's Necroscope series features the classic Romanian mythological variant "Wamphyri".
  • American Gods includes a very brief walk-on by a "wampyr". Mostly, this is to evoke the Slavic folk roots of the creature, and not simply to say that Neil Gaiman's Vampires Are Different. Which hardly needs saying. Neil Gaiman's everything is different, at least from the pop culture version.
  • RuneScape's vampires are vampyres (noted in the quest name "Vampyre Slayer"), with the tie-in novels being the current notable exception spelling-wise.
    • This would be because originally they were all called vampires, then the race was split into the mindless vampires and the intelligent and stronger vampyres, then in mid-2011 they were changed again so the race as a whole was called vampyre, with the intelligent ones referred to as vyres. The novels were released before the changes to spelling and terminology.
  • The darkangels of Meredith Ann Pierce's The Darkangel Trilogy is variously called darkangel, icarus or vampyre. As it turns out, a darkangel is a human boy adopted by the witch, raised as her son and lover. Eventually she drains his blood, gives him his wings, and gilds his heart with lead before sending him out to collect some souls for Mommy. When he succeeds, he flies home, Mommy drinks the souls like shots, as well as his own soul, which will make him a complete darkangel.
  • The House of Night would like to remind you that their vampyres are in fact super special. They have no association with feral, violent 'vampires' of any sort. Spelling vampyre with a 'y' both differentiates from these completely imaginary creatures and creates a cozy learning environment. The House of Night would also like to wish you a nice day.
  • Christopher Moore's You Suck: A Love Story uses vampire most of the time, but switches to vampyre for Abby's diaries, to spoof how "gothic" she is.
  • While World of Warcraft has no vampires per se, the San'layn come close. One of the dungeon bosses in Wrath of the Lich King, Prince Taldaram, has an attack called "Embrace of the Vampyr".
  • Darkened Skye:
    "You're the boss vampire?"
    "With a Y. Spell vampyre with a Y!"
  • Nosferatu the Vampyre, the 1979 remake of Nosferatu.
  • In the 2004 The Tomb of Dracula mini-series, starring Marvel horror mainstay Blade, it's indirectly implied that a vampyre is completely different from a vampire. From the context, they're apparently analogous to the real life vampire subculture, except they hobnob with actual vampires and are really obnoxious about it.
  • The 1932 horror film Vampyr.
  • Red Moon Rising (Moore): Vampyres instead of "vampires"

  • Aleister Crowley and the Wiccans following his example are responsible for the Real Life trend of adding a 'k' to the end of the word 'magic', ostensibly for the first reason in the description but more realistically for the second (magic had never been spelled that way in modern English, but it seems like an older spelling at first glance).
    • Mage: The Ascension sometimes uses the -k spelling to indicate proper reality-warping magic(k), as opposed to lower-powered supernatural dabbling.
    • GURPS Thaumatology notes the variation and its origins; “Some people think this offers a useful distinction between stage trickery and the real supernatural deal; others consider it pretentious.”
  • The "Wi'tch" series of novels.
  • There's some confusion over the term "Dæmon".
    • H. P. Lovecraft will occasionally use this to refer to evil spirits (i.e, Demons).
    • His Dark Materials was a bit more on the ball with the original meaning: a shortening of the term "Agathos Dæmon", a benevolent guardian spirit, "Daimon" meaning minor immortal or spirit. It is the eventual root of the Christian concept of "Demon", but indirectly.
    • Warhammer 40,000 in an odd mix of sci-fi and fantasy. Orks vs. Orcs, Psykers vs. Psychics — and Daemons vs. Demons.(Daemon is the Latin spelling, which is understandable here because the Imperial High Gothic language is Canis Latinicus. Of course, Warhammer Fantasy likewise.) The Eldar and Dark Eldar make liberal use of peculiar spellings: Vyper hover-tanks, Wych cults, Haemonculi...
    • Marvel has more than one dimension called Limbo, so the one formerly ruled by Belasco and now by Magik of the New Mutants is referred to as Daemonic Limbo if you want to make things clear.
  • "Dwarfs vs. Dwarves".
    • Supplementary sources state that J.R.R. Tolkien discovered too late that "dwerrow" was an acceptable plural for "dwarf". Had he known that earlier he said he would have used it, and avoided the "dwarfs/dwarves" question. He realized too late for The Hobbit, but in The Lord of the Rings he did use "Dwarrowdelf" as a translation for Khazad-Dûm.
    • In The Wanderings of Wuntvor books by Craig Shaw Gardner, the plural is "dwarves" ... and the singular is "dwarve".
    • They're "duaroughs" in The Darkangel Trilogy.
  • "Elven vs. Elfin vs. Elvish".
    • The Elfs roleplaying game notes that during their culture's Golden Age, elfs "spelled their plural differently".
    • The comic Poison Elves by Drew Hayes spells the adjectival form of elf as "elvin".
  • China Miéville's Perdido Street Station and sequels employ this trope heavily — vampirs, chymistry, elyctric elementals.
  • Mention must be made of the series of young adult fantasy novels by Angie Sage whose titles include Magick, Flyte, Physik, Queste, and so on.
  • The roleplaying game Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura shows off the use of "Magic as Magick" spelling already in its title, and magic is always referred to with such a spelling throughout the entire game. Given the industrial revolution setting and steampunk esthetics, a lot of the more technical language in the game is also influenced by outdated 18th and 19th century terminology and expressions (though not excessively and usually without archaic spellings).
  • The different tribes of Trollocs in The Wheel of Time: Al'ghol, Ahf'frait, Bhansheen, Dha'vol, Dhai'mon, Dhjin'nen, Ghar'ghael, Ghob'hlin, Gho'hlem, Ghraem'lan, Ko'bal, Kno'mon.
  • In addition to the above vampire/vampyre example, various words in the Darkangel Trilogy have odd spellings, which may be justified as corruptions of the original language of the Ancient Ones. Squatty underground-dwellers are duaroughs, big black birds are rhuks, scaly creatures are dracgs, and sweet pale-orange fruits are apricoks.
    • And "lyons," "sfinxes," and (in The Firebringer Trilogy) "wyches."
    • Aside from the aforementioned corruptions, there is also the possibility that all of them would be, to us, Mix-and-Match Critters which look sort of like their semi-namesakes. After all, the series also has technicolor humans, and remember that the entire place was terraformed by the Ancient Ones from Oceanus.
  • Erfworld somewhat subverts this by replacing many an 'r' with a 'w', resulting in gwiffons, dwagons and spidews. When the protagonist makes note of this and asks if it shouldn't be "dragon" instead, the other characters seem to be quite weirded out by these "incredible stupid words" and state that they "really don't want to know what you call spidews in Stupidworld or whatever you call it". Note that "erf" sounds slightly like "earth". "earthworld"?
  • Griffins, Griffons, and Gryphons, Giant Flyers one and all.
    • as well as griffen, griffoun, griffun, griffyn, grifo, grifon, grifyn, grefyne, gràobhín, griphin, griphon, gryffen, gryffin, gryffon, gryfon, gryphen, and gryphin.
      • Justified in Edward Ormondroyd's David and the Phoenix, where gryffens (lazy, dopey, and harmless), gryffons (big, mean, and territorial), and gryffins (red-feathered and friendly) are related but distinct species.
      • EverQuest divides them into Griffawns (lowest-level), Griffennes (in the middle), and Griffons (highest-level)
  • Discworld parodies this occasionally, not only with the 'vampyres' mentioned above, but also with...
    • “Magick” (see above), which is the largely-useless modern attempt at witchcraft done by the younger witches who don't understand what they're doing.
    • Also "Wizzard", but that was an in-universe spelling error on Rincewind's part. It becomes a plot point in Interesting Times when Unseen University is instructed to send "a Great Wizzard" and because there's only one wizard who spells it like that, they send him. (The use of a different spelling for differentiation actually kind of applies. Rincewind is not like most wizards. Mainly, he can't do any actual wizardry.)
  • NightLife, a small-press splatterpunk RPG, used "vampyres", "daemons", and "wyghts" as PC races. The non-player creatures' spellings were even weirder (trolles, goblynnes, toxxixs).
  • Sometimes this applies even outside of the fantasy genre. In the 4X strategy game Master of Orion II, there is an energy weapon called a "phasor", an obvious Shout-Out to Star Trek's "phaser".
  • In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Flamel is called the Alchemyst and that's also used as the first book's title.
  • Many works call dragons wyrms. This is because "worm" is a traditional name for them, but has changed meaning, so the Phantasy Spelling is used to differentiate dragons from the mundane invertebrate type of worms.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Knights are "Ser" not "Sir".
    • Phantasy Spelling is common in character names as well. A non-exhaustive list of these include:
      • Eddard (Edward)
      • Helaena (Helena)
      • Laena (Lana)
      • Alysanne (Alison)
      • Cersei (Circe)
      • Daario (Dario)
      • Alys (Alice)
      • Jeyne (Jane)
      • Joffrey (Geoffrey)
      • Myrcella (Marcella)
      • Lysa (Lisa)
      • Myranda (Miranda)
      • Tytos (Titus)
  • Red Moon Rising (Moore): Werewulves instead of "werewolves"
  • Parodied in Homestuck. Rose's needlewands "crackle with the majyyk enyrjjies."
  • The Crescent Moon Kingdoms: Justified, in that they're alternate transliterations of terms from Arabic. Still, the book is riddled with "alkhemy," "faroes," and of course, "ghuls."
  • A jokey example in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World: The four inadvertently introduce pizza to C'hou. Whenever one of the inhabitants or outworlders mentions the food, it's always spelled “peetzah,” but when the four or the narrative use it, it's always “pizza.”
  • In Slay the Spire names of various mundane animals, of all things, are given this treatment. Hence we get "byrd", "phrog", "krane" and "snecko". Aside from the last one, which seems to be a hybrid of snake and gecko, the others don't seem much different from their real world counterparts.