Phantasy Spelling

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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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 ancientness. 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, and Punctuation Shaker, A Villain Named Zrg and Law of Alien Names. Depending on the word, the author may instead decide that Capital Letters Are Magic.

A Super-Trope to Magick. Sometimes happens as a symptom of Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe.

Also known as phantassie spælling, pfant'see pspaëllynnge, or fantaſy ſpelling.[1]

Examples of Phantasy Spelling include:


Extremely common in general in fantasy stories that mention fairies. They will usually be spelled Faerie or Faery.


  • The Faerie Wars Chronicles 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.
  • Also lampshaded in Kim Newman's Diogenes Club 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 (the first volume of Teresa Edgerton's Mask and Dagger series), 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 its own is a faery. The world is faerie.

Live-Action TV

Web Comics

Tea: Fairies? Faeries? Phayrighies? It doesn't matter; they all mean the same thing.

Tabletop Games



Video Games


Comic Books

  • One Blade series implies that vampires and vampyres are actually different things.
  • In the latest[when?] The Tomb of Dracula 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.


Vampyres are just the same, the only real difference being that they can't spell correctly.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The eponymous being 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 series 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.

Live-Action TV

Tabletop Games

  • 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.

Video Games

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!"

Web Original

  • The Usenet group alt.vampyres.



  • 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.
  • China Mieville'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 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, Biological Mashups 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.
  • Discworld parodies this occasionally, not only with the 'vampyres' listed above, but also with 'magick' which is the largely-useless modern attempt at witchcraft done by the younger witches who don't understand what they're doing.

Taybletop Games

  • Warhammer 40,000 in an odd mix of sci-fi and fantasy. Orks vs. Orcs, Psykers vs. Psychics, Daemons vs. Demons, etc.
    • Daemon is the Latin spelling, which is understandable because the Imperial High Gothic language is Canis Latinicus. Of course, Warhammer Fantasy likewise.
    • Daemon comes from the Greek "Daimon", meaning minor immortal or spirit. It's the eventual root of the Christian concept of "Demon".

Web Comics

  • 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"?

Multiple Media

  • Don't forget about "Dwarfs vs. Dwarves" and "Elven vs. Elfin vs. Elvish".
  • 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)
  1. Or "a pain in the ass to keep consistent without a spelling checker."