English is not my primary language, as such I have some difficult trying to understand the actual meaning of some place names.

Shadowfell is the place where "shadows (noun) fell (verb)", or is a place with creatures that are "shadow (adjective) and fell (adjective)", or even a place with creatures with a "shadow (adjective) fell (noun)"?

Underdark is place where people live "under the dark[ness]", or a place that is "under [the ground] and dark"?


I think I know understand enough to make concessions and come up with some more descriptive (and correct) terms for the main regions of D&D in Portuguese:

Feywild: Its a wilderness that inhabited by fey creatures, therefore: "Selva Feérica" (Fey wilderness).

Shadowfell: Its a fell (moor) that is shadowy, therefore: "Pântano Sombrio" (Shadow Swamp).

Underdark: Its a dark region thats below ground, therefore "Escuridão Inferior" (Under Darkness).

I could try make some wordplays, but I think it would be trading a more correct meaning and interpretation for some witty words that might looks like it means nothing. Also, portuguese if not very good on making composite words such as fey-wild, shadow-fell, or under-dark.


New definitions, more abstract and appropriate to planes or "worlds":

Feywild: It's magical, misterious, beauty, and somewhat dangerous, therefore: "Fascinação Feérica" (Fey Fascination);

Shadowfell: It's dangerous, dull, moor'y, cruel, and decaying, therefore: "Desolação Sombria" (Shadowy Desolation);

Underdark: It's dark, deep below the ground, and somewhat hellish, therefore: "Escuridão Profunda" (Deep Darkness).


New definitions, more literal and keeping in line with the same english style (compound name made of adjective-adjective):

Feywild: "Feérico-selvagem" (fey-wild);

Shadowfell: "Sombrio-desolado" (shadow-desolate);

Underdark: "Profundo-escuro" (deep-dark).

Using this last schema allow for some wordplay since I have two adjectives any of them might take the part of being a noun. Also, is allow for other place names to follow the same "rule", eg Feydark/Feérico-escuro.

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    \$\begingroup\$ For someone who doesn't have English as a native language you are doing pretty well with obscure words like 'fey' and 'fell'. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, it was fortunate that we have the adjective "feérico" is an exact counterpart to fey. But it was really hard for me to understand what exactly wild means in the feywild name context, the same for fell... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 19:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice question! Just for completeness: Italian official translations are these. Feywild: Selva Fatata (Fey Forest), Shadowfell: Coltre Oscura (dark pall/shroud), Underdark: Sottosuolo (underground). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 7:48

4 Answers 4


The place names actually have a bit to do with the actual geography of the location. @dpatchery does a good job summing up what the places are, since you asked about the linguistic nature of the place names, I'll elaborate a bit further.

The short answer is all of your interpretations are valid, and have to do with the authors doing an intricate play-on-words here.

The Shadowfell

In terms of primary meaning, I would say that "fell" here primarily is an adjective meaning "fierce; cruel; dreadful; savage". Since the Shadowfell is a rather harsh place, and filled with shadow creatures, I would the authors were using that as a primary meaning. On the other hand, your interpretation of "Place where Shadows Fell", could also be correct, as the whole land itself is shrouded in a gloom.


As @AceCalhoon notes, I agree, this is a place which is underground and dark. However, the interpretation of "place which is under the cover of darkness" is also generally accurate, as not very much light gets down there.

So in short, basically your interpretations are all "correct", and I think it was rather witty word-play on the part of the authors.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Curiously, the translations to Spanish for them are "Páramo sombrío" ("shadowy moor") for Shadowfell, and "Infraoscuridad" ("infradarkness") for the Underdark. I have a hard time deciding which is worse. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm really tempted to make a place called the "Infradarkness" now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re-reading the question, I see that the OP knows these are places and is looking for more on the actual word meanings. +1 to you for addressing that. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpatchery
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 15:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very nice answer, the translations to portuguese of these names are "Agrestia das Fadas" ("Rurality of the Fairies") for Feywild, "Pendor das Sombras" ("Incline of the Shadows") for Shadowfell and "Subterrâneo" ("Underground") for Underdark. They are pretty awful, thats why I want to make a portuguese translation for them that is more correct and nice. BTW: the wild (noun) doesn't have a direct counterpart in portuguese, so the closest to Feywild would be Feyworld ("Mundo Feérico")... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 16:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cthos, for a translation of Underdark, I'm thinking about "Escuridão Inferior" ("Under Darkness" or "Darkness from Below"), for Shadowfell I'm thinking maybe "Selvageria Sombria" ("Shadowy Savagery" ou "Shadowy Wildness"), what do you think about it? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 17:10

I think Underdark was basically covered in the previous answers, but there is another meaning of "fell" in English that hasn't been mentioned yet:

Fell –noun Scot. and North England.

an upland pasture, moor, or thicket; a highland plateau.

Origin: 1300–50; Middle English < Old Norse fell, fjall hill, mountain, akin to German Felsen rock,

In this case, I think the above definition of fell was being hinted at by the authors, basically meaning it is a dark swamp. Interestingly, this is supported by the Spanish versions mentioned in the comment by Adriano Varoli Piazza. The double meaning of fell meaning dreadful (Referenced in Cthos' answer) makes the name all the more clever.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Adriano Varoli Piazza's comment on @Cthos's answer suggests that your explanation of fell is correct. \$\endgroup\$
    – TRiG
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 17:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TRiG I thought so too as I was writing this. I hadn't seen the Spanish before, but it's interesting because it lets you see the etymology in a way that English doesn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rain
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 17:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. I hadn't thought of that, but it also fits well with the description, as a good portion of the Shadowfell looks like well, a moor. That is also savage. Also Shadowy. They've done quite a good job playing up the multiple meanings of the word "fell", wouldn't you say? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 17:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very nice anwswer, but I think Cthos was a bit more helpful, therefore I'm marking his answer as accepted. Also, I've updated my question with what I came up with. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 18:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Luiz Borges Totally. I just saw that the other, potentially relevant meaning of fell was skipped over. It's cool to see the place names in another language! \$\endgroup\$
    – Rain
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 18:30

Both terms are names of places. While the actual names do have a bit to do with the themes associated with the locations, you don't need to read too much into their literal meanings.

The Underdark is a (predominately) Forgotten Realms setting under the surface of Faerun. It is the home of Drow, Druegar, Deep Gnomes, Illithids, etc.

The Shadowfell is an underworld plane where ancient Gods discarded many powerful artifacts, and where shadow creatures roam. In the Death's Reach D&D 4e adventure, the gate to the shadowfell is breached, and some dying souls are lost in the Shadowfell instead of going to the Raven Queen as they are supposed to.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that the shadowfell and the feywild have their own underdarks: the first one's is named the "shadowdark". See penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/3/20 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Adriano I'd say it's time to send the PCs to Double Hell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 15:42

Feywild: Its a wilderness that inhabited by fey creatures, therefore: "Selva Feérica" (Fey wilderness).

Shadowfell: Its a fell (moor) that is shadowy, therefore: "Pântano Sombrio" (Shadow Swamp).

Underdark: Its a dark region thats below ground, therefore "Escuridão Inferior" (Under Darkness).

Yes, those are pretty accurate understandings.

The Feywild is used as a planar name, not a location name, in some contexts. As such, wild refers less to wilderness and more to bizzare and/or chaotic, as with descriptions of the English mythical Faerie realm.

Note that the Underdark is the deep underground setting, not the surface contacting portions. It's literally "below the dark caves," and most underdark races in prior editions of D&D used infravision (Thermal sight), ultravision (UV sight), or darksight (magical sight) rather than visible light. Underdark denizens are often adapted for total darkness.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your input... about the Feywild, would you say it might be savagery? Is so, I might name it Fey Savagery (Selvageria Feérica)... also, I like the idea of using deep for underdark, "Escuridão Profunda" (Deep Darkness) sounds very cool. Also, about Shadowfell, I think that a more abstract idea would be better than a simple swamp, so I think I will use "Desolação Sombria" (Shadowy/Gloomy Desolation)... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 0:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Less literal, but a better fit to the uses. Escurdião Profunda sounds impressive enough! I don't know Portugese; Does portugese have a compounding rule to convert two words to a single word? (If so, apply it.) \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 0:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ unfortunetely portuguese (and most latin languages) isn't good on creating compound words, besides common prefixes and suffixes there is much to do (Unaligned is a good example, there is a good single word for it in portuguese, impartial and neutral are close but not complete accurete). I still need a good word for wild in Feywild, let's get back to dictionaries... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 0:57

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