Essential Language From The Star Wars Universe

space opera

Star Wars is beloved for its epic space battles, quirky cast of intergalactic characters, and fierce lightsaber duels. But what about all the words? Jedi, lightsaber, and more are in the dictionary, and we're here to celebrate a few of the words that fuel the Star Wars universe!

First up: space opera. Star Wars is considered a space opera, a genre that blends science fiction with conventional dramatic elements. And, this is just the first of many word additions we can attribute to the legendary film franchise.

WATCH: Star Wars Meets the Dictionary

I am your father

I am your father might be the most quoted line in science-fiction history. It's easy to forget Darth Vader's stunning revelation in The Empire Strikes Back was seriously shocking to audiences back in 1980. These days, I am your father has been so heavily parodied and imitated that it's understandably lost some luster.

Turns out Darth Vader's menacing title actually alludes to his parentage of Luke Skywalker. According to Star Wars creator George Lucas, "Darth is a variation of dark. And, Vader is a variation of father. So, it's basically Dark Father." The words vader (Dutch) and vater (German) both mean "father" as well.

lightsaber

Lightsabers are the iconic weapon of choice for Jedi knights in Star Wars. That said, non-Jedi have been known to wield the flashy laser-swords, as well. During a climactic battle in The Force Awakens, former stormtrooper Finn manages to hold off the ferocious Kylo Ren in a lightsaber duel.

Hardcore Star Wars fans might know these weapons conduct plasma and are powered by kyber crystals.

the Force

The Force acts as a universally binding energy in the Star Wars franchise. It's a potent metaphysical power that's constantly in threat of falling out of balance. Jedi and Sith use the Force to do cool stuff: choke each other, move objects around, and do acrobatic stunts.

The popular phrase May the force be with you also inspired Star Wars Day, which aptly lands on May the fourth of each year.

May the Fourth

Every year, May 4 is officially recognized as Star Wars Day. The reason this day in particular was chosen is delightful: May the Fourth is a pun based on the famous Star Wars phrase May the Force be with you.

The origin of this clever pun is credited, in fact, to the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom all the way back in 1979. The party took out a newspaper ad that said “May the Fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations,” after Margaret Thatcher became prime minister on May 4.

Today, the Walt Disney Company officially recognizes May the Fourth as Star Wars Day and celebrates the occasion with Star Wars-centric events, parades, parties, music, food, and merchandise.

Jedi Knights

Jedi Knights are sworn protectors of the Force and the Jedi Order. Overall, they're pretty chill, almost like a new-age cult, more interested in theorizing and meditating than engaging in combat.

Apparently, the term Jedi is a nod to an early collection of science-fiction books published around 1917 known as The Martian Series. In an interview with The New York Times, George Lucas claimed he based the name Jedi on the made-up words Jed or Jeddak featured in the book series he loved growing up. And yes, we have an entry on Dictionary.com!

Sith Lords

Sith Lords represent the dark side of the force. They're bad guys; easily identifiable by their red lightsabers and evil aspirations.

Yet, sith is simply an archaic version of the word since. To add some drama, some Star Wars fans reckon the foreboding name might be related to the Scottish Gaelic term Sìth, which refers to mischievous faeries.

stormtrooper

Unlike most words on our list, this one isn't tricky to decode. Stormtroopers in Star Wars share eerie similarities with the Nazi shock-troopers who marched over Europe in the 1940s.

George Lucas has been candid about his inspiration for the evil Galactic Empire, at one point even referring to them as "Nazis" on the commentary track for The Empire Strikes Back.

iconic characters

Many of the characters that George Lucas introduced back in the 1970s still populate its universe today. These characters don’t just exist in a galaxy far far away, though; they live in both our vocabulary and our popular imagination.  

 

  • Darth Vader: The Universe’s #1 Dad continues to be one of the most popular villains in popular culture. He has become so iconic that Darth Vader has become a term that can apply more generally to evil overlord characters. The title of Darth itself is often used to refer to evil versions of characters that call to mind his intimidating maliciousness. 
  • Han Solo: We all love Han Solo, and he knows it. Due to his popularity, Han Solo set the bar high for other charming rogues in fiction to follow.
  • Wookiee: Han may have the looks, but we all know Chewbacca is the real brains of the operation. Today, even casual Star Wars watchers can tell you what a wookiee is, and the term is also often extended to refer to hairy creatures in general. 
  • Yoda: Hear this when he speaks you will. Not only can the jedi master talk a big game, but he dispenses advice faster than you can blow up a Death Star. Today, we refer to a person as “our Yoda” if they act as a guru or font of wisdom.  
  • Obi Wan Kenobi: Yoda will dish out the advice, but if you like your wise mentors a little less green and muppety, Obi Wan has your back. Old Ben Kenobi is another favorite mentor figure—especially for those uninterested in learning from the Gandalfs or Mr. Miyagis of the world. 
  • Droid: Yes, this is the word you’re looking for. Not quite robots and not quite androids, the droids of Star Wars have shuffled into our hearts despite having no hearts of their own. What they lack in major organs, beloved droids like R2-D2, C3P0, and BB-8 have made up for in charm and personality. 
  • Ewok: If you need an all-powerful galactic empire brought to its knees with logs and sticks, these teddy bears have got you covered. For people especially fond of these little guys, the term Ewok works well to refer to any cute little creature. 
  • Hutt: Money talks, even if you're a disgusting slug monster. Jabba the Hutt is certainly the “pride” of his greedy, hideous race and made the term Hutt synonymous with lazy, selfish blobs
  • Jar Jar Binks: Wait, don’t leave! The name Jar Jar Binks has become synonymous with an annoying, kid-friendly character that is widely hated both in this galaxy and one far, far away. Jar Jar is so hated that even director JJ Abrams joked about killing him before the release of the sequel trilogy. 
  • Baby Yoda: "Grogu" to his friends, Baby Yoda took the world by storm and overshadowed his co-stars instantaneously. More than a meme, this tiny Force-sensitive green bean captivated everyone with his cuteness.  
  • MandalorianBaby Yoda’s sidekick Din Djarin is better known as the Mandalorian. The Mandalorians—including bad dudes like Boba Fett and his dad, Jango—are notorious among Star Wars fans for kicking galactic butt, since they seem to make a habit of becoming bounty hunters. Din Djarian is certainly carrying on the legacy. 

iconic spacecraft

If you're going to traipse across the galaxy while a cranky Bigfoot warbles at you, you might as well do it in style. Many of the spacecraft and vehicles in Star Wars have made a name for themselves in their own right.

 

  • Death Star: If we were going to blow up a planet, a gigantic, highly explosive golf ball wouldn’t be our first choice. (But we're not Sith, so what do we know?) Today, the Death Star is fondly remembered as that formidable superweapon that is destroyed at the end.
  • Millennium Falcon: Now this is one bird you can depend on. Chewie’s ride has gotten our heroes out of more jams than we can remember. The ship is so iconic that Rey Skywalker had to take the old bird on a joyride or two in the sequel trilogy.
  • TIE Fighter: These pesky imperial ships constantly ate the Falcon’s spacedust. Still, these black ships have become so associated with Star Wars that it is rare to see a Star Wars toy, shirt, or cereal box that doesn’t slap one of these ships on it somewhere.
  • Podracer: Podracers may be one of the only things that people fondly remember from the prequels. These fast and furious ships showed up a few times during the prequels and have been referenced elsewhere in the Star Wars canon.
  • AT-AT walker: It takes a real bad dude to chase after rebel scum with humongous, slow-moving metal elephants. These behemoths may be crippled by tangled shoelaces, but they are so unnecessarily bulky and large that we love them anyway.

cantina

If you need to find a guy who knows a guy in the galaxy, you have to stop by the local cantina. These homes of interstellar drunkenness are the go-to place if you need to conveniently find that one person in the universe who can help you. That one song that the band plays over and over is also pretty good, too.

Did you know that cantina is an actual word? The Spanish word for “canteen,” cantina is used in the Southwestern United States as a word for a saloon or a bar. Of course, you would need to drink quite a lot to actually see any space aliens at a real-life cantina.

pew pew pew

In the world of Star Wars, many weapons are so powerful that they defy the laws of physics and manage to make loud noise in outer space. Pew pew pew is a commonly used onomatopoeia for the sound that a gun that shoots lasers or energy makes. In the Star Wars films, you constantly hear this noise as the stormtroopers fail to hit anything with their weapons while chasing after our heroes. The iconic pew pew pew of laser weaponry can be heard as TIE Fighter, battle droid, and bowcaster alike use lasers to try and fry enemies.

Today, pew pew pew is often used outside of Star Wars fandom to refer to firing lasers or even using real guns. After reading this, you may need to stop yourself from using the ol’ finger guns and shouting pew pew pew to entertain your children or make your cats once again question why they put up with you.

prequel

Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of Star Wars fans like the word prequelAlthough some have embraced the controversial prequel films that George Lucas directed, many fans view them as inferior to the original trilogy. Critics savaged the Star Wars prequels for their lousy acting, convoluted plots, and heavy reliance on CGI sequences.

trilogy

A trilogy is any dramatic work composed of three parts. While some film trilogies existed before Star Wars, creator George Lucas is credited with popularizing this format in the industry. Since the success of Star Wars, blockbuster film franchises like Spider-Man, The Matrix, and Lord of The Rings have released sequels in bunches of three.

In the case of Star Wars, we actually have a trilogy of trilogies. Often, the nine main films are often referred to as a saga, specifically the Skywalker saga. A saga is “a legend of heroic exploits” or “any very long story with dramatic events or parts.” Over the course of the nine movies, the film focuses on members of the Skywalker family (Anakin, Luke, and Luke’s nephew, Kylo Ren), and they definitely feature heroic exploits and dramatic events.

The history of trilogies dates way back to ancient Greece. During the extravagant festival of Dionysia, playwrights and actors would put on performances to honor the god Dionysus. Usually, three interrelated plays were performed over the course of the festival in addition to one satyrical or comedic performance. The satyr would complete what's known as a Greek tetralogy.

canon

No, we're not talking about that gigantic cannon mounted on the Death StarRather, canon refers to the extensive collection of fictional histories and stories that make up the greater Star Wars universe. For serious fans obsessed with every detail, official cartoon spin-offs, comic books, and novelizations all make up the canon. Of course, the primary source of the Star Wars canon is still the films themselves.

As you might imagine, there's an ongoing debate over what's officially considered canon within Star Wars fandom. George Lucas claims he mostly ignores the large amounts of licensed material produced under the brand. Still, certain fans remain desperate to absorb every scrap of canonical information about the intriguing Star Wars universe.

 

We know ...  you're either a Star Wars fan or a trekkie. If the final frontier appeals to you, check out these words from Star Trek.