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A 'Game of Thrones' Glossary to Get You Ready for 'House of the Dragon'

It's been a minute since we've visited Westeros. Here are definitions for key Game of Thrones terms and more.

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Dan was a writer on CNET's How-To and Thought Leadership teams. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, Architectural Digest and elsewhere. He is a crossword junkie and is interested in the intersection of tech and marginalized communities.
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Dan Avery
4 min read
House of the Dragon

Get reaquainted with the Game of Thrones lexicon before House of the Dragon debuts on Sunday.


We're quickly approaching the premiere of House of the Dragon, the prequel series to HBO's blockbuster fantasy series Game of Thrones. The new show charts the rise and fall of House Targaryen centuries before Daenerys Targaryen tangled with Jon Snow.

Game of Thrones wrapped up its final season more than three years ago, so it's understandable if you're a little rusty on the lingo. Fortunately, we've compiled a dictionary of terms and titles that might come up in House of the Dragon, which premieres Sunday, Aug. 21, at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.

For more, here's everything we know about House of the Dragon, here's our review, and here's why you shouldn't let GoT's controversial last season warp your view of the franchise.


John Snow, dressed for winter

Jon Snow in HBO's Game of Thrones.


A bastard is anyone, especially a man, born out of wedlock. There are a lot of negative connotations to being illegitimate in the Seven Kingdoms -- with little hope of inheriting land or a title, many noble-born bastards join the Night's Watch in hopes of carving out a destiny of their own.

The last name "Snow," as in Jon Snow (Kit Harington), is typically given to bastard children of noblemen in the North.


Lord Varys of Game of Thrones

Lord Varys, Master of Whisperers at King's Landing, in Game of Thrones.

Helen Sloan/HBO

Historically, eunuchs are men who've had their testicles removed, often to keep them from being distracted by carnal pursuits or being tempted to sleep with the king's concubines.

In Game of Thrones, several eunuchs played key roles -- notablyVarys (Conleth Hill), the Master of Whisperers, or spymaster, in King's Landing. Despite his condition, Varys wields considerable influence over both nobles and commoners.

Read on: The Rings of Power: All the Terminology You Need to Know

In her sojourn to raise an army, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) encounters the Unsullied, a eunuch-slave army known for their discipline, unity and bravery.

In Season 3, the sadistic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) tortures and emasculates Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), renaming him "Reek."  


Brienne of Tarth swears fealty to Catelyn Stark

Brienne of Tarth swears fealty to Catelyn Stark in GoT.


A sacred pledge of loyalty to a noble.

In season 2, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, Brienne of Tarth swears fealty to Catelyn Stark, saying, "I will shield your back and keep your counsel and give my life for yours if need be. I swear it by the Old Gods and the New."

In return, Lady Stark vows "that you shall always have a place in my home and at my table, and that I shall ask no service of you that might bring you dishonor. I swear it by the Old Gods and the New."

In House of the Dragon, Aegon I Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) is the first-born son of King Viserys and plays a key role. Eventually, he'll unite the Great Houses of Seven Kingdoms by having them swear fealty to him.


Fourteen days or two weeks. It comes from the Old English term fēowertīene niht -- literally "fourteen nights." 

The Hand of the King

Ser Otto

Ser Otto, Hand of the King to Viserys in House of the Dragon.


A monarch's closest advisor and the highest-ranking member of the Small Council. They're expected to execute their lord's orders and can rule in their lord's absence.

Like his father before him, Game of Thrones' Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) served as Hand of the King, first to King Joffrey, then to Queen Daenerys Targaryen and then, finally, to King Bran the Broken.

In House of the Dragon, Ser Otto (Rhys Ifans) serves as loyal Hand of the King to King Viserys (Paddy Considine).

The Kingsguard


Ser Harrold Westerling, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard in House of the Dragon.


A fraternity of seven knights who forsake marriage, wealth and land to fully commit to protecting the king.

In Game of Thrones, Jaime Lannister was recruited to the Kingsguard by Mad King Aeries, thereby depriving Tywin Lannister of his intended heir.

In the first episode of House of the Dragon, Ser Harrold Westerling is promoted to Lord Commander of the Kingsguard by King Viserys Targaryen.

"In a world of vipers ... he's a straight arrow," Graham McTavish, who plays Westerling, told the Daily News. "He's a moral center in the story. He's not corrupt. He's not personally ambitious in the same way that other characters might be. He doesn't have that kind of agenda."


Rhaenys Targaryen

Rhaenys Targaryen.


As House of the Dragon makes clear, Cersei and Jaime Lannister were hardly the first incestuous couple in the Targaryen family tree.

Three hundred years earlier, Rhaenys (Eve Best) and Visenya Targaryen (Katheryn Winnick) were both sisters and wives of Aegon I the Conqueror.

The Targaryens' penchant for incest follows the tradition of their ancestors, the Valyrians, who sought to keep the bloodlines "pure" to better control their dragons. 

The Small Council

Tywin Lannister and his Small Council.

Tywin Lannister and his Small Council.


In uniting the kingdoms, Aegon I also created a bureaucracy to keep things running smoothly. This cabinet, known as the Small Council, includes seven experts: the Master of Coin, the Master of Law, the Master of Ships, the Master of War, the Master of Whispers, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and the Grand Maester.

The Hand of the King leads the Small Council and makes decisions in the ruler's absence. 


In the context of Game of Thrones, "trueborn" offspring are the opposite of bastards -- legitimate heirs recognized by their parents.



The elite Unsullied troops display their military discipline.


An elite cadre of soldier eunuchs trained from birth in the slaver city of Astapor. The belief was that removing their sexual urges enabled the Unsullied to be more disciplined -- and made them better guards because they wouldn't rape or loot. 

Renowned for their use of the spear, shield and shortsword, they formed lock-step phalanxes. Allegedly immune to pain, Unsullied troops never retreat, even in the face of certain defeat.

After the Unsullied are freed by Daenerys Targaryen, one of them, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), becomes her most devoted protector.