What Is a “Sister Wife”? Your (Unofficial) ‘House of the Dragon’ Dictionary

Game of Thrones terms

House of the Dragon is almost here. HBO’s hotly anticipated Game of Thrones prequel launches on August 22, three years after the controversial Game of Thrones finale.

While Game of Thrones fans are on the edge of their collective seats, there’s also plenty for those who never caught the original series to get excited about.

From the teasers and comments from the cast, we can expect as much delightful horny intrigue, violence and factional politics as the GOT series provided. Indeed, if you ask Matt Smith — who plays Prince Daemon Targaryen — there’s perhaps too much horny intrigue.

“You do find yourself asking, ‘Do we need another sex scene?” he mused to Rolling Stone, UK earlier this month. The answer from HBO was, yes we do. 

Even better, we’ve been promised a whole lot more dragon action.

House of the Dragon will feature 17 dragons to Game of Thrones’ meagre three. Showrunner and co-creator Ryan J. Condal said that he and co-director Miguel Sapochnik worked on perfecting and individualising the 17 dragons for over a year before filming and that their personalities are emphasised to a far greater extent in this series.

The real king of Westeros, George R. R. Martin, has given Condal and Sapochnik’s efforts an A+.

“When you give your kids to people for adoption, you wonder how they’ll be treated. Will you recognise them when they come back to you?” he told Den of Geek in July, “[but] I’ve seen nine of the  10 episodes and it’s pretty amazing.”

Do You Need to Have Watched Game of Thrones to Watch House of the Dragon?

If you didn’t catch the original series, but House of the Dragon looks like a good time, never fear. The events of the show occur 179 years before the War of the Five Kings that Game of Thrones fans lapped up between 2011 and 2019. So, you’ll be able to go into this without needing any prior knowledge of Game of Thrones.

What’s House of the Dragon All About? 

House of the Dragon is the prequel to the events of Game of Thrones — it covers the civil war referred to in GOT as “The Dance of Dragons”, a war of succession that would put Succession’s Roy family to shame.

Prince Daemon, younger brother of the dead King Viserys I Targaryen, the oldest male heir and assumed successor is set to take the Iron Throne when Viserys Targaryen’s eldest daughter Princess Rhaenyra (played by Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy at different ages during the series) declares her intention to become the first queen of Westeros.

Game of Thrones terms
Millie Alcock as Princess Rhaenyra, Image credit: HBO

Is House of the Dragon Canon?

Based on George R. R. Martin’s Fire and Blood, House of the Dragon is canon in the Game of Thrones universe. Fire and Blood is a Westeros pre-history that Martin — who was once publicly shamed by Esquire for “suffering the most public case of writer’s block in human history” — worked on instead of writing Winds of Winter, the final Game of Thrones novel (to the outrage of Redditors everywhere).

The Language of Westeros

Like any good fantasy writer, George R. R. Martin’s world-building involves terms and concepts specific to the world of Westeros. While you’ll learn fast, embedded in these terms is the history and context that will give you a head-start on getting into the show. so without further ado, here is your exhaustive Westerosi dictionary. 


“Dragon” has two meanings in the Westerosi universe.

The first, of course, refers to fire-breathing dragons, the beasts the Targaryens won and ruled Westeros with.

The other is a shorthand used by Westerosis for the Targaryens themselves. Not all Targaryens were dragon riders, and calling a Targaryen a dragon is a measure of their mettle and magic. As Daenerys Targaryen says repeatedly, “fire cannot kill a dragon”.

Game of Thrones Terms
Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen, Image: HBO


Every family has their thing, and for the Targaryens, it’s incest! But they have good reasons! Kind of.

The Targaryen’s power over dragons is attributed to Valyrian magic. Amongst the Targaryens there is a belief this magic is maintained by “keeping it in the family”. Indeed, Aegon the Conqueror wed both his sisters.

While a match between brother and sister is considered optimal, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces are all “on the table”. Otherwise, the incest taboo is strictly observed in Westeros, and the Targaryen tradition is resented. But, nobody wants to quibble with a family of dragon riders. 


George R. R. Martin has said he was inspired by both Ancient Rome and the legend of Atlantis in the creation of Valyria. Once a civilisation known for high learning, architecture and dark magic, Valyria was destroyed by a cataclysmic volcanic event referred to as “the doom of Valyria”.

According to lore, the Valyrians practised dark magic that gave birth to dragons, twisting “the flesh of beasts and men to fashion monstrous and unnatural chimeras”. The gods resented the Valyrians arrogance and rained fire on them. Valyria is of course, where the Targaryens are from so this history is a neat bit of foreshadowing.

Game of Thrones terms
Queen Elizabeth with the least comfortable chair in Westeros. Getty/Pool

The Iron Throne

The first Targaryen king, Aegon the Conqueror, united seven warring kingdoms under one rule. As a symbol of their submission, he took the great swords of the lords and kings, melting them down to forge the Iron Throne.

Made of jagged swords and twisted steel, the Iron Throne is uniquely uncomfortable. The ability to seat the Iron Throne is a measure of the ruler. Bad kings are mocked for cutting themselves on the chair, or resorting to cushions. In this way the Iron Throne is symbolic of the burden of rule, as much as the submission of the people.

The Hand of the King

The Hand of King is the regent’s closest advisor and rules in their absence. They are responsible for implementing the ruler’s desires — Westerosi commoners delight in the expression, “the King shits and the Hand wipes” — and manage the small council.

Depending on the competence of the King, the Hand can act as the true power behind the throne, although history is littered with dead Hands who overreached themselves.

The Small Council

As well as uniting the seven kingdoms, Aegon the Conqueror standardised taxes and laws across Westeros, previously randomly implemented by feudal lords.

To do this, he created a small council of seven “specialists” — The Master of Coin, The Master of Whispers, The Master of Ships, The Master of War and the Grand Maester, the Master of Laws and the Hand of the King. Like a modern government cabinet, they advise while entangling themselves with factions, gossip and intrigue. 

House Words

Wondering if your favourite character is about to get stabbed in the head? In Westeros, spoilers are usually hidden in characters’ house words. Every noble family has an expression to go with their sigil.

The Targaryens’ house words are “fire and blood”, which captures their approach to diplomacy and problem-solving.

Meanwhile, the Lannister house words are “Hear me roar!” — but their unofficial house words are “A Lannister always pays their debts.” This tells you two things: they are really rich, and as a family who can’t even keep their house words, they are not to be trusted.

The (Sexless) Orders of Service

Game of Thrones terms
Image credit: HBO

Westeros is obsessed with forcing abstinence on certain professions, with variable success. Below are the abstinent orders.

The Kingsguard

The Kingsguard is a brotherhood of seven knights committed to the king’s protection. They serve for life, and sacrifice their right to inheritance, family, or a life outside of regicide-prevention. Think of them as violent monks.

While service in the Kingsguard is an honour, offering the position to a lord can be a punishment to a great house, as it removes a male heir. In Game of Thrones, Mad King Aeries punishes his Hand, Tywin Lannister, by recruiting his preferred heir, Jaime Lannister, to the Kingsguard. The Lannisters always pay their their debts, and the results for the Mad King are disastrous.  


Maesters are a secular order of scholars, healers and scientists trained in Old Town. They are usually of noble birth, as being a maester requires reading ability and Westeros has no public school system. When they complete their studies they are assigned to advise the lords and ladies of great houses. They also educate their children and provide medical care to those members of the household.

On any given day, a maester will deliver a baby, bookkeep and provide legal advice. Each maester wears a chain made of different metals, with each link indicating a completed area of study, it also represents their unbreakable vow of service.

The Narrow Sea

The Narrow Sea sea is the ocean that divides the continent of Westeros and the continent of Essos. When Westerosi refer to the “East” they are almost always referring to the landmass of Essos. 

The Free Cities

Essos is known to be the largest continent in the world, which is why Westerosi usually just refer to it as “east”. You do hear a lot about the “Free Cities” though. Most frequently you will hear of Braavos, Lys, Pentos and Tyrosh.

These wealthy cities are centres of trade, hotbeds of intrigue and pose the most immediate military threats to Westeros.

Dothraki – people

The Dothraki rove the grasslands of Essos in nomadic tribes called “Khallasars.” They love violence and horses, have no words for “thank you” and their warriors’ — known as “bloodriders” — are best avoided on the battlefield.

The Dothraki
Image credit: HBO

Dothraki – language 

While Dothraki sentences and terms are scattered throughout the first Song of Ice and Fire books, linguist David J. Peterson, linguist and “conglang” specialist, worked with Martin to develop a complete language for the Dothraki, which actors like Emilia Clarke and Jason Momoa had to become fluent in. This feat, and Jason Momoa’s abs, have made “Dothraki” the most commonly searched Game of Thrones term.

Dothraki is considered the hardest language to learn in Westeros or the free cities, as there are few equivalent translations to the Common Tongue. 

When a newly-wed Daenerys masters enough Dothraki to tell her husband she’d like to “anha dothrake” (or “I ride”) in the bedroom, it’s the first seasons’ biggest hint that she may one day cross the narrow sea and dothrake a dragon into Westeros.

Game of Thrones Terms
Life is rough on the Wall. Image credit: HBO

The Night’s Watch

Of all the orders, the Night’s Watch gets the rawest end of the deal. 

When a man “takes the black”, he renounces his family, inheritance and name. His crimes are also wiped clean, which is why service at the Night’s Watch is offered to murderers, rapists and thieves as an alternative to death. This somewhat undermines the respectability of the watch — everyone makes fun of them — but defection means death so if they don’t like it, they can lump it.

At the very least, the vows of chastity sworn by the Night’s Watch are the most loosely enforced of any of the orders.

The Wall

The Night’s Watch guard “The Wall,” a 300-mile-long, 700 feet tall ice structure at the Northernmost end of the seven kingdoms.

The Wall was raised during the Long Winter to protect the realm from wights and white walkers, although most modern Westerosis believe these stories to be fairy tales. Now, the wall is considered the best protection against Wildlings.

House of the Dragon premieres on BINGE from 22 August.

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter.