“Dune” Terminology Glossary
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This is a list of terminology used in the fictional Dune
universe created by Frank Herbert, the primary source
being "Terminology of the Imperium," the glossary contained
in the novel Dune (1965).
Dune word construction could be classified into three
domains of vocabulary, each marked with its own neology: the names and
terms related to the politics and culture of the Galactic Empire, the
names and terms characteristic of the mystic sodality of the Bene Gesserit,
and the barely displaced Arabic of the Fremen language. Fremen share vocabulary
for Arrakeen phenomena with the Empire, but use completely different vocabulary
for Bene Gesserit-implanted messianic religion.
Due to the similarities between some of Herbert's terms and ideas and
actual words and concepts in the Arabic language — as well as the series'
"Islamic undertones" and themes — a Middle Eastern influence
on Herbert's works has been noted repeatedly.
* Aba – A loose, usually black robe worn by Fremen women
and Bene Gesserit sisters.
* Abomination – Bene Gesserit term for one who is pre-born
and thus susceptible to being taken over by the ancestral personalities
in Other Memory.
* Ajidamal (or Amal) – Disastrously-flawed synthetic
melange created by the Tleilaxu Project Amal before the process of producing
spice in axlotl tanks is perfected.
* Akarso – "Plant native to Sikun (of 70 Ophiuchi
A) characterized by almost oblong leaves. Its green and white stripes
indicate the constant multiple, condition of parallel active and dormant
* Al-Lat – "Mankind's original sun; by usage: any
* Ampoliros – "Legendary 'Flying Dutchman' of space;"
Lady Jessica refers to the pre-Guild legend in Dune: "Like the men
of the lost star-searcher, Ampoliros – sick at their guns – forever seeking,
forever prepared and forever unready."
* Amtal (or Amtal Rule) – "Common rule on primitive
worlds under which something is tested to determine its limits or defects.
Commonly: testing to destruction." "To know a thing well, know
its limits. Only when pushed beyond its tolerances will true nature be
seen. – The Amtal Rule."
* Arafel – The "cloud-darkness of holy judgment"
or "cloud darkness at the end of the universe;" the destruction
of the mankind averted by Leto Atreides II's Golden Path.
* Axlotl tank – Biological tank in which gholas and
melange may be produced.
* Assassin's Handbook – "Third-century compilation
of poisons commonly used in a War of Assassins. Later expanded to include
those deadly devices permitted under the Guild Peace and Great Convention."
* Ayat – "The signs of life. (See Burhan.)"
* Baliset – "Nine-stringed musical instrument,
lineal descendant of the zithra, tuned to the Chusuk scale and played
by strumming. Favorite instrument of Imperial troubadours." Gurney
Halleck is a master playing the baliset in the series. In David Lynch's
1984 adaptation of Dune, a cosmetically altered Chapman Stick was used
to portray the instrument. In the miniseries Frank Herbert's Dune, the
baliset resembles a renaissance-era lute, with the pegbox bent back almost
* Baraka – "A living holy man of magical powers."
* Bashar – Military rank, slightly above a traditional
Colonel and primarily used for military leader of a planetary subdistrict;
alternately, Colonel Bashar, or Supreme Bashar for a military's most senior
* Bene Gesserit – Secretive and powerful matriarchal
order whose members possess extraordinary physical and mental powers.
* Bene Tleilax (or Tleilaxu) – Secretive and powerful
patriarchal race known for their genetic manipulation technologies.
* Bi-la kaifa – A Fremen religious phrase meaning "Amen,"
which translates literally to "Nothing further need be explained."
* Burhan – "The proofs of life. (Commonly: the ayat
and burhan of life. See Ayat.)"
* Burseg – Military general.
* Butlerian Jihad – Mankind's "crusade against
computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots."
* Caid – "Sardaukar officer rank given to a military
official whose duties call mostly for dealings with civilians; A military
governorship over a full planetary district; Above the rank of Bashar
but not equal to a Burseg."
* Carryall – Aircraft used on Arrakis to "transport
large spice mining, hunting and refining equipment."
* Chakobsa – Language of the Fremen of Arrakis.
* Chaumas – "Poison in solid food as distinguished
from poison administered in some other way."
* Chaumurky – "Poison administered in a drink."
* CHOAM (Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles)
– the "universal development corporation controlled by the Emperor
and Great Houses with the Guild and Bene Gesserit as silent partners."
This corporation essentially controls the economy of the known universe,
with shares and directorships determining each House's income and financial
* Cogitor – One of several ancient philosophers whose
brains are transplanted into fluid-filled canisters so that they can analyze
the universe indefinitely.
* Cone of silence – Sound-deadening "field of a
distorter that limits the carrying power of the voice or any other vibrator
by damping the vibrations with an image-vibration 180 degrees out of phase."
Used for privacy, the field does not visually obscure lip movement.
* Coriolis storm – Sandstorms on Arrakis in which "winds
across the open flatlands are amplified by the planet's own revolutionary
motion to reach speeds up to 700 kilometres per hour."
* Crysknife – Weapon made from the tooth of a sandworm
* Cutterray – "Short-range version of a lasgun
used mostly as a cutting tool and surgeon's scalpel."
* Cymek – Type of cyborg; specifically, a human brain
implanted into a large, weaponized machine body.
* D-wolves – Guardians of the Sareer on Arrakis in
the time of Leto Atreides II; ferocious wolves descended from Gaze Hounds
and ordinary wolves, "noted for their keen eyesight."
* Deathstill – Fremen device used to extract all moisture
from a living or dead human or creature. This is traditionally done to
reclaim precious water from the dead, who no longer require it; but in
Children of Dune the device is used as a method of execution.
* Distrans – Steganographic device producing a "temporary
neural imprint on the nervous system of Chiroptera (bats) or birds. The
creature's normal cry then carries the message imprint, which can be sorted
from that carrier wave by another distrans."
* Elacca drug – Narcotic produced from the "blood-grained"
elacca wood of Ecaz; users' skin shows a characteristic carrot color.
The drug's effect is to remove most of the will to self-preservation;
commonly used to prepare slave gladiators for the ring.
* Face Dancers – Creatures created by the Bene Tleilax
that are able to mimic other humans exactly and go undetected by all known
means, except by Bene Gesserit Truthsayers.
* Famine Times – Years after the reign of Leto II, marked
by chaos and famine on many worlds, that led to The Scattering.
* Faufreluches – "The rigid rule of class distinction
enforced by the Imperium. 'A place for every man and every man in his
* Fedaykin – (pronounced /fɨˈdaɪkɨn/) "Fremen death
commandos; historically: a group formed and pledged to give their lives
to right a wrong." Personally trained by, and fiercely loyal to,
* Fish Speakers – All-female military force created
by Leto Atreides II to enforce his rule over the known universe.
* Fogwood – Wood native to Ecaz, capable of being shaped
by thought alone.
* Fremen – "Native" inhabitants of Arrakis.
* Fremkit – Fremen desert survival kit. Notable contents
include an inflatable stilltent, a sand snorkel, a thumper, and maker
* Futar – Primitive and fierce humanoid creatures, a
genetic mix of man and cat, artificially created out in the Scattering
to hunt Honored Matres.
* Galach – Universal language of the Dune universe.
* Ghola – A type of Clone grown in an axlotl tank from
genetic material retrieved from the cells of a deceased subject.
* Glowglobe – "Suspensor-buoyed illuminating device,
self-powered (usually by organic batteries)."
* Golden Path – Leto II's strategy to prevent humanity's
* Gom jabbar – "Specific poison needle tipped with
meta-cyanide used by Bene Gesserit Proctors in their death-alternative
test of human awareness."
* Great Convention – "Universal truce enforced
under the power balance maintained by the Guild, the Great Houses, and
the Imperium. Its chief rule prohibits the use of atomic weapons against
* Guild Navigator – Melange-mutated humans able to safely
navigate interstellar space (using prescience) in ships called Heighliners.
* Handlers – Humanoid race who bred and trained Futars
to hunt Honored Matres.
* Harvester (also Harvester Factory or Crawler) – "Large
(often 120 metres by 40 metres) spice mining machine ... [with a] buglike
body on independent tracks."
* Heighliner – Enormous carrier starships used by the
Spacing Guild for interstellar travel.
* High Council – "The Landsraad inner circle empowered
to act as supreme tribunal in House to House disputes."
* Holtzman effect – Scientific phenomenon that makes
(among other things) instantaneous space travel and defensive force shields
* Honored Matres – Violent matriarchal order formed
in The Scattering.
* Hunter-seeker – "Ravening sliver of suspensor-buoyed
metal guided as a weapon by a nearby control console; common assassination
device." Floating in mid-air, it kills by entering the body and following
nerve pathways to vital organs. A hunter-seeker is employed in Dune in
an assassination attempt on Paul Atreides.
* Inkvine – "Creeping plant native to Giedi Prime
and frequently used as a whip in its slave pens. Victims are marked by
beet-colored tattoos that cause residual pain for many years."
* Ixian damper – Portable device which hides words from
anyone without the proper coded translator, and projects distortions that
hide the precise movements of lips and the sounds of voices. It is described
as a "black disc" buoyed midair by suspensors.
* Ixian Probe – Device used to capture the thoughts
of a person (living or dead) for analysis; can be blocked by the substance
* Jihad, Butlerian – Mankind's "crusade against
computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots."
* Judge of the Change – "An official appointed
by the Landsraad High Council and the Emperor to monitor a change of fief,
a kanly negotiation, or formal battle in a War of Assassins. The Judge's
arbitral authority may be challenged only before the High Council with
the Emperor present."
* Kanly – "Formal feud or vendetta under the
rules of the Great Convention carried on according to the strictest limitations."
* Kralizec – Long-foretold "Typhoon Struggle"
or final "battle at the end of the universe."
* Krimskell fiber/Krimskell rope – "The 'claw fiber'
woven from strands of the hufuf vine from Ecaz. Knots tied in krimskell
will claw tighter and tighter to preset limits when the knot-lines are
* Kwisatz Haderach – Bene Gesserit label applied to
"the unknown for which they sought a genetic solution: a male Bene
Gesserit whose organic mental powers would bridge space and time."
* Landsraad – The Assembly of all nobles in the Imperium.
* Lasgun – Handheld energy weapon, technically a "continuous-wave
laser projector;" also lasegun.
* Laza tiger – A breed of tiger brought to Salusa Secundus
"almost eight thousand years" before the events of Children
of Dune. "Genetic manipulation of the ancient Terran stock had erased
some of the original tiger features and refined other elements. The fangs
remained long. Their faces were wide, eyes alert and intelligent. The
paws were enlarged to give them support on uneven terrain and their sheathed
claws could extend some ten centimeters, sharpened at the ends into razor
tips by abrasive compression of the sheath. Their coats were a flat and
even tan which made them almost invisible against sand."
* Little Maker – The "half-plant-half-animal deep-sand
vector of the Arrakis sandworm," whose "excretions form the
* Lost Tleilaxu – Offshoot race of the Bene Tleilax,
formed in The Scattering.
* Levenbrech – A military rank that is roughly in between
a sergeant and a lieutenant.
* Mahdi – "In the Fremen messianic legend, 'The
One Who Will Lead Us to Paradise;'" applied to Paul Atreides by the
Fremen when they determine that he is their prophesied messiah.
* Maker hooks – "The hooks used for capturing,
mounting, and steering a sandworm of Arrakis."
* Maula pistol – "Spring-loaded gun for firing
poison darts; range about 40 metres."
* Melange – Highly-addictive drug essential to space
travel, extended life, and therefore to the survival of the universe.
* Mentats – Individuals trained as "human computers,"
their minds developed to staggering heights of cognitive and analytical
* Missionaria Protectiva – An arm of the Bene Gesserit
charged with spreading contrived myths, prophecies and superstition on
primitive worlds so that the Bene Gesserit may later exploit those regions.
* Muad'Dib – "The adapted kangaroo mouse of Arrakis,
a creature associated in the Fremen earth-spirit mythology with a design
visible on the planet's second moon. This creature is admired by Fremen
for its ability to survive in the open desert." In Dune, Paul Atreides
takes "Muad'Dib" as his Fremen name, which takes on greater
significance when he is perceived as a messiah.
* Muadru – Ancient religion predating the Old Empire
before the Time of the Titans.
* na-Baron – Noble title given to a Baron's heir-apparent.
* No-chamber – Construct that hides anything inside
from prescient and ocular vision, as well as other methods of detection.
* No-ship – No-chamber in spaceship form, with enough
limited prescience to be capable of interstellar travel without a Guild
* Nullentropy – Technology akin to the science fiction
concept of stasis, in which the natural processes of time, such as decomposition,
are ceased. In this way, perishable matter such as food and even human
cells may be stored for millennia and remain undamaged.
* Obliterators – Weapons of mass destruction stolen
by Honored Matres from their "outside enemy;" they combust the
atmosphere of a planet and subsequently its surface.
* Other Memory – The combined ego and memories of all
female ancestors, which a Bene Gesserit may be trained to access.
* Ornithopter (or 'Thopter) – "Aircraft capable
of sustained wing-beat flight in the manner of birds;" one of the
primary modes of transportation on the desert planet Arrakis.
* Palm lock – "Lock or seal which can be opened
only by contact with the palm of the human hand to which it has been keyed."
* Phibian – Primitive and amphibious humanoid creatures,
a genetic mix of man and fish.
* Plasteel – Extremely tough form of steel, "stabilized
with stravidium fibers grown into its crystal structure."
* Plaz (or windowplaz) – Synthetic glass, used for windows
(especially in aircraft and spaceships) due to its superior strength.
* Poison snooper – "Radiation analyzer within the
olfactory spectrum and keyed to detect poisonous substances."
* Powindah – Tleilaxu term for all outsiders, whom they
consider "unclean" sinners and heretics.
* Prana-bindu – Training providing a Bene Gesserit with
complete muscle control (Prana nervature relates to nervous system control).
* Pre-spice mass – The "stage of fungusoid wild
growth achieved when water is flooded into the excretions of Little Makers.
At this stage, the spice of Arrakis forms a characteristic 'blow,' exchanging
the material from deep underground for the matter on the surface above
it. This mass, after exposure to sun and air, becomes melange."
* Probe, Ixian – Device used to capture the thoughts
of a person (living or dead) for analysis; can be blocked by the substance
* Probe, T – Device used to capture the thoughts of
a person (living or dead) for analysis; unlike an Ixian Probe, it cannot
be blocked by the substance shere.
* Pundi rice – "A mutated rice whose grains, high
in natural sugar, achieve lengths up to four centimeters; chief export
* Qanat – "Open canal for carrying irrigation
water under controlled conditions through a desert."
* Residual poison – "Innovation attributed to
the Mentat Piter De Vries whereby the body is impregnated with a substance
for which repeated antidotes must be administered; withdrawal of the antidote
at any time brings death."
* Reverend Mother – Bene Gesserit who has survived a
ritual wherein she consciously transforms a toxic dose of melange into
a non-poisonous substance at the molecular level, thereby raising herself
to a higher level of awareness and enabling her to access Other Memory.
* Salusan bull – Fierce and very aggressive creature
with compound eyes and multiple horns, used in bullfighting on Caladan
and originating from Salusa Secundus.
* Sandworm – Giant sand-dwelling creatures native to
Arrakis. Called Shai-Hulud by the Fremen and worshipped as deities.
* Sapho – "High-energy liquid extracted from barrier
roots of Ecaz. Commonly used by Mentats who claim it amplifies mental
powers. Users develop deep ruby stains on mouth and lips."
* Sardaukar – Ferocious "soldier-fanatics"
of the Padishah Emperor, later disbanded by Leto II.
* Sareer – Last desert of Arrakis in the time of Leto
Atreides II, location of his Citadel; guarded by D-wolves.
* Sayyadina – Among the Fremen, the Sayyadina ("Friend
of God" in Chakobsa) is a priestess who has not yet passed within
to become a Reverend Mother. When a Sayyadina undergoes the spice agony,
another is then consecrated into the Sayyadina to continue the line of
* Scattering, The – Event after the reign of Leto II
in which billions of people left the settled worlds of the Old Empire,
striking off into unknown space.
* Selamlik – "Imperial audience chamber."
* Semuta – "Second narcotic derivative (by crystal
extraction) from the burned residue of elacca wood [from Ecaz]. The effect
(described as timeless, sustained ecstasy) is elicited by certain atonal
vibrations referred to as semuta music."
* Shai-Hulud – Fremen name for the sandworms of Arrakis.
* Shere – Significant presence of this substance in
the body will block the use of an Ixian Probe or T-Probe from recovering
* Shigawire – "Metallic extrusion of a ground vine
(Narvi narviium) grown only on Salusa Secundus and III Delta Kaising.
It is noted for extreme tensile strength" and is used as a recording
medium as well as a garrote weapon.
* Sietch – Cave warren inhabited by a Fremen tribal
community; in the Fremen language, "Place of assembly in time of
- For a real-world lake wave caused by an earthquake, see seiche.
* Sietch orgy (or sietch tau orgy) – Fremen ritual
of unrestrained sexual indulgence which takes place after a Reverend Mother
shares the changed Water of Life with her community.
* Siridar – A planetary governor.
* Slig – Livestock animal, hybrid of a large slug and
a pig, considered a delicacy.
* Snooper, Poison – "Radiation analyzer within
the olfactory spectrum and keyed to detect poisonous substances."
* Solido – "Three-dimensional image from a solido
projector using 360-degree reference signals imprinted on a shigawire
* Soostone – Valuable iridescent gem produced on Buzzell
by the abraded carapaces of monoped sea creatures called Cholisters, much
in the manner of pearls.
* Spacing Guild – Powerful organization with a monopoly
on space travel and transport due to their Navigators.
* Spice agony – Fremen version of the ritual used by
the Bene Gesserit to create Reverend Mothers, using the Water of Life
instead of melange.
* Steersman – Title given to Guild Navigators.
* Stillsuit – "Body-enclosing garment" of
Fremen design which performs the "functions of heat dissipation and
filtering bodily wastes," as well as retaining and reclaiming moisture.
* Stilltent – "Small, scalable enclosure of micro-sandwich
fabric designed to reclaim as potable water the ambient moisture discharged
within it by the breath of its occupants."
* Stone burner – Atomic weapon, the explosion and radiation
of which can be precisely adjusted depending on the desired effect. A
stone burner with sufficient fuel can burn through the crust of a planet
to the mantle or core, potentially causing a release of energy destroying
the surface of the planet on which the weapon is deployed. Stone burners
emit "J-Rays," a form of radiation that has an affinity for
destroying the eyes of anyone surviving the initial radiation blast.
* Suk School – Prominent medical school whose doctors
are the universe's most competent and trusted; those who have received
the "Suk Imperial Conditioning" bear a diamond tattoo on their
foreheads, wear their hair in a special silver ring, and are incapable
of inflicting harm. However, the fallibility of Suk training is proven
in Dune (1965) when Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and his twisted Mentat Piter
De Vries manage to subvert this conditioning and coerces Suk Dr. Wellington
Yueh into helping him in his attempt to destroy House Atreides.
* Suspensor – Any of a number of 'hovering' devices
which utilize the "secondary (low-drain) phase of a Holtzman field
generator" to nullify gravity "within certain limits prescribed
by relative mass and energy consumption." In Dune, the obese Baron
Harkonnen uses suspensors to support his massive weight.
* T-Probe – Device used to capture the thoughts of
a person (living or dead) for analysis. shere only prevents the T-Probe
from recovering memories directly (as it does for the Ixian Probe) and
does not impede any of the other features. The model created by the operation
of this probe can be interrogated to give an idea of how the person would
have reacted to a set of stimuli, possibly giving insight into a shere-loaded
* Tachyon net (or tachyon web) – Technology (involving
faster-than-light tachyon particles) used by Daniel and Marty in their
attempt to track and capture the no-ship Ithaca.
* Thinking machines – Intelligent and sentient machines,
created by humans, who enslaved much of humanity and eventually incited
the Butlerian Jihad.
* 'Thopter (Ornithopter) – "Aircraft capable of
sustained wing-beat flight in the manner of birds."
* Thorse – A six-legged pack animal bred for its stability.
* Thumper – "Short stake with a spring-driven clapper
at one end", placed in the sand to 'call' sandworms, who are attracted
to vibration and sound.
* Titans – Ancient dictators whose brains were transplanted
into fearsome, weaponized machine bodies to achieve immortality.
* Tleilaxu (or Bene Tleilax) – Secretive and powerful
patriarchal race known for their genetic manipulation technologies.
* Truthsayer – Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother trained
to "detect insincerity or falsehood."
* Umma – "One of the brotherhood of prophets;
a term of scorn in the Imperium, meaning any 'wild' person given to fanatical
* Usul – Fremen word, meaning "The base of the
pillar;" secret "sietch name" (known only to his tribe)
given to Paul Atreides upon his joining the Fremen.
* Verite – Will-destroying narcotic from Ecaz that
"renders a person incapable of falsehood."
* Voice – Training that allows the Bene Gesserit "to
control others merely by selected tone shadings of the voice."
* War of Assassins – Regulated form of warfare between
noble houses, intended to "reduce involvement of innocent bystanders."
The rules require "formal declarations of intent and restrict permissible
* Water of Life – Toxic liquid exhalation of a drowning
sandworm, used by Fremen Reverend Mothers in the spice agony.
* Weirding way – Specialized martial art component of
Bene Gesserit prana-bindu.
* Whale fur – Valuable commodity noted to be the original
source of House Harkonnen's wealth. Princess Irulan is described wearing
whale fur multiple times, including during her meeting with her fellow
conspirators in Dune Messiah. The Prelude to Dune prequel series establishes
it to be the fur of the Bjondax whales of Lankiveil, a planet controlled
by the Harkonnens.
* Windowplaz (or simply plaz) – Synthetic glass, used
for windows (especially in aircraft and spaceships) due to its superior
* Windtrap – Type of air well "placed in the path
of a prevailing wind and capable of precipitating moisture from the air
caught within it, usually by a sharp and distinct drop in temperature
within the trap."
* Yali – "A Fremen's personal quarters within
* Zensunni – Ancient religious sect, ancestors
of the Fremen.
See all literary glossaries:
Published - February 2011
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