Terminology of the Imperium

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All terms defined below come from Dune, pages 513 - 533.
Copyright ?1965 by Frank Herbert

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z


ABA: loose robe worn by Fremen women; usually black.

ACH: left turn: a worm-steersman's call.

ADAB: the demanding memory that comes upon you of itself.


a 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 chlorophyll regions.


the mystical world of similitudes where all physical limitations are removed.

AL-LAT: mankind's original sun; by usuage: any planet's primary.

AMPOLIROS: the legendary "Flying Dutchman" of space.

AMTAL or AMTAL RULE: a common rule of primitive worlds under which something is tested to determine its limits or defects. Commonly: testing to destruction.

AQL: the test of reason. Originally, the "Seven Mystic Questions" beginning: "Who is it that thinks?"


first settlement on Arrakis; long-time seat of planetary government.


the planet known as Dune; third planet of Canopus.

ASSASSINS' 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.

AULIYA: In the Zensunni Wanderers' religion, the female at the left hand of God; God's handmaiden.

AUMAS: poison administered in food. (Specifically: poison in solid food.) In some dialects: Chaumas.


the signs of life. (See Burhan.)


BAKKA: in Fremen legend, the weeper who mourns for all mankind.

BAKLAWA: a heavy pastry made with date syrup.

BALISET: a nine-stringed musical instrument, lineal descendant of the zithra, tuned to the Chusuk scale and played by strumming. Favorite instrument of Imperial troubadors.

BARADYE PISTOL: a static-charge dust gun developed on Arrakis for laying down a large dye marker area on sand.

BARAKA: a living holy man of magical powers.

BASHAR (often Colonel Bashar): an officer of the Sardaukar a fractional point above Colonel in the standardized military classification. Rank created for military ruler of a planetary subdistrict. (Bashar of the Corps is a title reserved strictly for military use.)

BATTLE LANGUAGE: any special language of restricted etymology developed for clear-speech communication in warfare.

BEDWINE: see Ichwan Bedwine

BELA TEGEUSE: fifth planet of Kuentsing: third stopping place of the Zensunni (Fremen) forced migration.


the ancient school of mental and physical training established primarily for female students after the Butlerian Jihad destroyed the so-called "thinking machines" and robots.

B.G.: idiomatic for Bene Gesserit except when used with a date. With a date it signifies Before Guild and identifies the Imperial dating system based on the genesis of the Spacing Guild's monopoly.

BHOTANI JIB: see Chakobsa.

BI-LA KAIFA: Amen. (Literally: "Nothing further need be explained.")


relating to the human nervous system, especially to nerve training. Often expressed as Bindu-nervature.

BINDU SUSPENSION: a special form of catalepsis, self-induced.


flat, open desert.

BOURKA: insulated mantle worn by Fremen in the open desert.


the proofs of life. (Commonly: the ayat and burhan of life. See Ayat.)

BURSEG: a commanding general of the Sardaukar.

BUTLERIAN JIHAD: see Jihad, Butlerian (also Great Revolt).


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 Burseg.

CALADAN: third planet of Delta Pavonis; birthworld of Paul-Muad-Dib

CANTO and RESPONDU: an invocation rite, part of the panoplia propheticus of the Missionaria Protectiva.

CARRYALL: a flying wing (commonly "wing"), the aerial workhorse of Arrakis, used to transport large spice mining, hunting, and refining equipment.

CATCHPOCKET: any stillsuit pocket where filtered water is caught and stored.


the so-called "magnetic language" derived in part from the ancient Bhotani (Bhotani Jib--jib meaning dialect). A collection of ancient dialects modified by needs of secrecy, but chiefly the hunting language of the Bhotani, the hired assassins of the first Wars of Assassins.

CHAUMAS (Aumas in some dialects): poison in solid food as distinguished from poison administered in some other way.

CHAUMURKY (Musky or Murky in some dialects):

poison administered in a drink.

CHEOPS: pyramid chess; nine-level chess with the double object of putting your queen at the apex and the opponent's king in check.

CHEREM: a brotherhood of hate (usually for revenge).

CHOAM: acronym for 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.

CHUSUK: fourth planet of Theta Shalish; the so-called "Music Planet" noted for the quality of its musical instruments. (See Varota.)

CIELAGO: any modified Chiroptera of Arrakis adapted to carry distrans messages.

CONE OF SILENCE: the 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.

CORIOLIS STORM: any major sandstorm on Arrakis where winds across the open flatlands are amplified by the planet's own revolutionary motion to reach speeds up to 700 kilometers per hour.

CORRIN, BATTLE OF: the space battle from which the Imperial House of Corrino took its name. The battle fought near Sigma Draconis in the year 88 B.G. settled the ascendancy of the ruling House from Salusa Secondus.

COUSINES: blood relations beyond cousins.

CRUSHERS: military space vessels composed of many smaller vessels locked together and designed to fall on an enemy position, crushing it.

CUTTERAY: short-range version of lasgun used mostly as a cutting tool and surgeon's scalpel.

CRYSKNIFE: the sacred knife of the Fremen on Arrakis. It is manufactured in two forms from teeth taken from dead sandworms. The two forms are "fixed" and "unfixed." An unfixed knife requires proximity to a human body's electrical field to prevent disintegration. Fixed knives are treated for storage. All are about 20 centimeters long.


DAR AL-HIKMAN: school of religious translation or interpretation.

DARK THINGS: idiomatic for the infectious superstitions taught by the Missionaria Protectiva to susceptible civilizations.

DEATH TRIPOD: originally, the tripod upon which desert executioners hanged their vicitims. By usuage: the three members of a Cherem sworn to the same revenge.

DERCH: right turn; a worm steersman's call.

DEW COLLECTORS or DEW PRECIPITATORS: not to be confused with dew gatherers. Collectors or precipitators are egg-shaped devices about four centimeters on the long axis. They are made of chromoplastic that turns a reflecting white when subjected to light, and reverts to transparency in darkness. The collector forms a markedly cold surface upon which dawn dew will precipitate. They are used by Fremen to line concave planting depressions where they provide a small but reliable source of water.

DEW GATHERERS: workers who reap dew from the plants of Arrakis, using a scythelike dew reaper.

DEMIBROTHERS: sons of concubines in the same household and certified as having the same father.

DICTUM FAMILIA: that rule of the Great Convention which porhibits the slaying of a royal person or member of a Great House by informal treachery. The rule sets up the formal outline and limits the means of assassination.

DISTRANS: a device for producing a temporary neural imprint on the nervous system of Chiroptera or birds. The creature's normal cry then carries the message imprint which can be sorted from that carrier wave by another distra ns.

DRUM SAND: impaction of sand in such a waythat any sudden blow against its surface produces a distant drum sound.

DOORSEAL: a portable plastic hermetic seal used for moisture security in Fremen overday cave camps.

DUMP BOXES: the general term for any cargo container of irregular shape and equipped with ablation surfaces and suspensor damping system. They are used to dump material from space onto a planet's surface.

DUNE MEN: idiomatic for open sand workers, spice hunters and the like on Arrakis. Sandworkers. Spiceworkers.

DUST CHASM: any deep crevasse or depression on the desert of Arrakis that has been filled with dust not apparently different from the surrounding surface; a deadly trap because human or animal will sink in it and smother. (See Tidal Dust Basin.)


ECAZ: fourth planet of Alpha Centauri B; the sculptors' paradise, so called bcause it is the home of fogwood, the plant growth capable of being shaped in situ solely by the power of human thought.

EGO-LIKENESS: portraiture reproduced through a shigawire projector that is capable of reproducing subtle movements said to convey the ego essence.

ELACCA DRUG: narcotic formed by burning blood-grained elacca wood of Ecas. Its effect is to remove most of the will to self-preservation. Druggee skin shows a characteristic carrot color. Commonly used to prepare slave gladiators for the ring.

EL-SAYAL: the "rain of sand." A fall of dust which has been carried to medium altitude (around 2,000 meters) by a coriolis storm. El-sayals frequently bring moisture to ground level.


an extensive dune area, a sea of sand.


FAI: the water tribute, chief specie of tax on Arrakis.

FANMETAL: metal formed by the growing of jasmium crystals in duraluminum; noted for extreme tensile strength in relationship to weight. Name derives from its common use in collapsible structures that are opened by "fanning" them out.

FAUFRELUCHES: the rigid rule of class distinction enforced by the Imperium. "A place for every man and every man in his place."

FEDAYKIN: Fremen death commandos; historically: a group formed and pledged to give their lives to right and wrong.

FILMBOOK: any shigwire imprint used in training and carrying a mnemonic pulse.

FILT-PLUG: a nose filter unit worn with a stillsuit to capture moisture from exhaled breath.

FIQH: knowledge, religious law; one of the half-legendary origins of the Zensunni Wanderers' religion.

FIRE, PILLAR OF: a simple pyrocket for signalling across the open desert.

FIRST MOON: the major satellite of Arrakis, first to rise in the night; notable for a distinct human fist pattern on its surface.

FREE TRADERS: idiomatic for smugglers.

FREMEN: the free tribes of Arrakis, dwellers in the desert, remnants of the Zensunni Wanderers. ("Sand Pirates" according to the Imperial Dictionary.)

FREMKIT: desert survival kit of Fremen manufacture.

FRIGATE: largest spaceship that can be grounded on a planet and taken off in one piece.


GALACH: official language of the Imperium. Hybrid Inglo-Slavic with strong traces of culture-specialization terms adopted during the long chain of human migrations.

GAMONT: third planet of Niushe; noted for its hedonistic culture and exotic sexual practices.

GARE: butte.

GATHERING: distinguished from Council Gathering. It is a formal convocation of Fremen leaders to witness a combat that determines tribal leadership. (A Council Gathering is an assembly to arrive at decisions involving all the tribes.)

GEYRAT: straight ahead; a worm steersman's call.

GHAFLA: giving oneself up to gadfly distractions. Thus: a changeable person, one not to be trusted.

GHANIMA: something acquired in battle or a single combat. Commonly, a memento of combat kept only to stir the memory.

GIEDI PRIME: the planet of Ophiuchi B (36), homeworld of House Harkonnen. A median-viable planet with a low active-photosynthesis range.

GINAZ, HOUSE OF: one-time allies of Duke Leto Atreides. They were defeated in the War of Assassins with Grumman.


a holy truth. (Commonly seen in the expression Giudichar mantene: an original and supporting truth.)

GLOWGLOBE: suspensor-buoyed illuminating device, self-powered (usually by organic batteries).

GRABEN: a long geological ditch formed when the ground sinks because of movements in the underlying crustal layers.

GREAT CONVENTION: the 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 human targets. Each rule of the Great Convention begins: "The forms must be obeyed. . . ."

GREAT MOTHER: the horned goddess, the feminine principle of space (commonly: Mother Space), the feminine face of the male-female-neuter trinity accepted as Supreme Being by many religions within the Imperium.


common term for the Butlerian Jihad. (See Jihad, Butlerian.)

GRIDEX PLANE: a differential-change separator used to remove sand from the melange spice mass; a device of the second stage in spice refining.

GRUMMAN: second planet of Niushe, noted chiefly for the feud of its ruling House (Moritani) with House Ginaz.

GOM JABBAR: the high-handed enemy; that specific poison needle tipped with meta-cyanide used by Bene Gesserit Proctors in the death-alternative test of human awareness.


the Spacing Guild, one leg of the political tripod maintaining the Great Convention. The Guild was the second mental-physical training school (see Bene Gesserit) after the Butlerian Jihad. The Guild monopoly on space travel and transport and upon international banking is taken as the beginning point of the Imperial Calendar.


HAGAL: the "Jewel Planet" (II Theta Shaowei) mined out in the time of Shaddam I.

HAIIIII-YOH!: command to action; worm steersman's call.

HAJJ: holy journey.

HARJ: desert journey, migration.

HAJRA: journey of seeking.

HAL YAWM: "Now! At last!" a Fremen exclamation.

HARMONTHEP: Ingsley gives this as the planet name for the sixth stop in the Zensunni migration. It is supposed to have been a no longer existent satellite of Delta Pavonis.

HARVESTER or HARVESTER FACTORY: a large (often 120 meters by 40 meters) spice mining machine commonly employed on rich, uncontaminated melange blows. (Often called a "crawler" because of buglike bodyon independent tracks.)

HEIGHLINER: major cargo carrier of the Spacing Guild's transportation system.

HIEREG: temporary Fremen desert camp on open sand.

HIGH COUNCIL: the Landsraad inner circle empowered to act as supreme tribunal in House to House disputes.

HOLTZMAN EFFECT: the negative repelling effect of a shield generator.

HOOKMAN: Fremen with Maker hooks prepared to catch a sandworm.

HOUSE: idiomatic for Ruling Clan of a planet or planetary system.

HOUSES MAJOR: holders of planetary fiefs; interplanetary entrepreneurs. (See House above.)

HOUSES MINOR: planet-bound entrepreneur class (Galach: "Richece").

HUNTER-SEEKER: a ravening sliver of suspensor-buoyed metal guided as a weapon by a near-by control console; a common assassination device.



characteristic effect of a diet high in melange wherein the whites and pupils of the eyes turn a deep blue (indicative of deep malange addiction).


"Thus go the hold words. . . ." Formal beginning to Fremen religious incantation (derived from panoplia propheticus).


the brotherhood of all Fremen on Arrakis.

IJAZ: prophecy that by its very nature cannot be denied; immutable prophecy.


cry of the water-seller on Arrakis (etymology uncertain). See Soo-Soo Sook!

ILM: theology; science of religious tradition; one of the half-legendary origins of the Zensunni Wanderers' faith.


a development of the Suk Medical Schools: the highest conditioning against taking human life. Initiates are marked by a diamond tattoo on the forehead and are permitted to wear their hair long and bound by a silver Suk ring.

INKVINE: a creeping plant native to Giedi Prime and frequently used to whip in the slave cribs. Victims are marked by beet-colored tattoos that cause residual pain for many years.

ISTISLAH: a rule for the general welfare; usually a preface to brutal necessity.

IX: see Richese.

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