Words for 'humanity' in multi-species fantasy settings?

#1
Ok so for obvious reasons English doesn't have a very good word for 'all sapient people including but not limited to humans'. But a fantasy culture with multiple sapient species/races that aren't humans would need that kind of inclusive word. I know I could just ignore this, but I find it surprisingly difficult to write the tone I want for one of my political factions without something to describe this concept and set it apart from 'humanity, the race of vanilla humans'. 

So, I've got a few possibilities. One is that I change the name of 'vanilla humans' to something else, and use the word 'humanity' in the more general way. So 'humans' would be elves, dwarves, 'vanilla humans' and everything else that shares a certain kind of ancestry or cultural value. And 'vanilla humans' would get a more specific word to describe them. (Or I change that around. IDK, the furries are just the socially dominant species that get to set the nomenclature for everybody else, and therefore everybody is a furry, everybody is part of 'furrity' because that's just the word for 'sapient people', but some furries don't have fur? Could be fun to explore language that way.)

The other option is to use 'humanity' specifically for vanilla humans and find another word for everything else. But what would that word actually be? In one way I'm seeing a very good opportunity for worldbuilding here (like using an ancient word for a specific continent or the name of a certain god of creation or something like that) but on the other hand... 'keep it simple stupid'. 

Thoughts?

Re: Words for 'humanity' in multi-species fantasy settings?

#3
Option one doesn't make a lot of since. Humanity is homo sapien, whereas dwarves and elves are distinctly not that, at least biologically what with living for hundreds of years sometimes and whatever else lore you may have for them. I think if you're thinking of someone addressing a group of citizens, 'citizens' 'people' (although still controversial, I think we could agree that elves are still people in the colloquial sense) or even the 'sapient races' would work perfectly well. Sapient is 'related to humans' though, so it's still a very human centric word. If you wanted something less scientific and fanciful, something like 'the wise / wise races' since their central quality being their ability to learn beyond animals? These are just a few ideas.

Re: Words for 'humanity' in multi-species fantasy settings?

#4
The Star Trek Humanoid works, I plan to use it in one of my books where the MC is on a planet populated by humanoid species indistinguishable form humans but biologically different.

Edit: Sorry didn't read your second post. They also use Intelligent life and lifeforms in Star Trek, though the latter technically refers to even unintelligent life, they usually turn out to be intelligent though

Re: Words for 'humanity' in multi-species fantasy settings?

#6
If you use the word humanoid as an overarching term you run into the problem that the word implies that these other thinking creatures are like humans but different. Depending on your world building humans may neither be omnipresent nor the precursor of all thinking species. It makes little sense for elves to call themselves humanoid while seeing themselves as distinct from humans and perhaps living in a place where humans don't even exist. This could of course make for awesome world building as humans call all the other races humanoid, man-like or some other variation while the elves call everyone elvenoid or elf-like. These various races would probably also be very offended at having the overarching term that another race uses applied to them.
Point is, a person uses a word that makes sense to them and is from a language they speak. Your protagonist can call all the thinking races 'spiders' if you give them a good reason for it. In a realistic setting there will be countless different ways to say this in countless different languages that will all reveal something about the culture that uses the word.

Another option is to make it clear at the start that the word 'man' or 'person' is the overarching term while 'human' refers specifically to humans. If the transition between monsters and thinking creatures is somewhat fluid it might even make sense for words like 'unman' or 'unperson' to be insults degrading someone to the status of a monster.

A pet peeve that I have is when 'beastkin' races don't have their own word for their race. Sure, it might make sense if everybody else calls them dog/cat/eagle/cockroach-person but it makes little sense for an entire species to liken itself to another because of superficial similarities. It's like a chair calling itself table-like because it has four legs.

Re: Words for 'humanity' in multi-species fantasy settings?

#7

Eretor Wrote: If you use the word humanoid as an overarching term you run into the problem that the word implies that these other thinking creatures are like humans but different. Depending on your world building humans may neither be omnipresent nor the precursor of all thinking species. It makes little sense for elves to call themselves humanoid while seeing themselves as distinct from humans and perhaps living in a place where humans don't even exist. This could of course make for awesome world building as humans call all the other races humanoid, man-like or some other variation while the elves call everyone elvenoid or elf-like. These various races would probably also be very offended at having the overarching term that another race uses applied to them.
Point is, a person uses a word that makes sense to them and is from a language they speak. Your protagonist can call all the thinking races 'spiders' if you give them a good reason for it. In a realistic setting there will be countless different ways to say this in countless different languages that will all reveal something about the culture that uses the word.

Another option is to make it clear at the start that the word 'man' or 'person' is the overarching term while 'human' refers specifically to humans. If the transition between monsters and thinking creatures is somewhat fluid it might even make sense for words like 'unman' or 'unperson' to be insults degrading someone to the status of a monster.

A pet peeve that I have is when 'beastkin' races don't have their own word for their race. Sure, it might make sense if everybody else calls them dog/cat/eagle/cockroach-person but it makes little sense for an entire species to liken itself to another because of superficial similarities. It's like a chair calling itself table-like because it has four legs.
what do you mean by omnipresent

Re: Words for 'humanity' in multi-species fantasy settings?

#10
Monsterkind is a typical catch-all name for all species that are not human, though it will obviously be a hard fit for less 'monster-like' species like elves and dwarves. Unless, of course, your world's culture labels all non-humans as monsters, whether they deserve it or not. It does seem like you're putting humans in one camp and every other sapient race in another.

If the non-humans are further split into their own groups, though, then you can categorize each group respectively. For example, faeriekind for fairy races (elves, dwarves, sprites, goblins), wyrmkind for draconic races (dragons, wyverns, sea serpents), bogeykind for demonic races (devils, imps, wraiths), and so on.

Or maybe this can give you some inspiration.

Re: Words for 'humanity' in multi-species fantasy settings?

#12
For fantasy settings, Races of (World name) could work.  Goodly races (if opposed to evil races, should they exist, like demonkind, etc).  Thinking sapients could cover everything from humanoid (bipedal, bilateral symmetry, pair of arms, legs, eyes, ears, and so on) to vegetable and mineral intelligences without respect to any moral imperative.  

So the question is, do you want to limit the descriptor to the good guys?  Or everything that can think?  Or maybe just everything that can speak?  Or everything that has humanoid appearance?  Do you include things like vampires and balrogs, should they exist?  Does it include unknown unknowns (races that your PoV faction doesn't know exist yet), or do you call them all the Known Races?  You can harken back to classic high fantasy and call them Races of Man (as Eretor mentioned).  All up to you.

Re: Words for 'humanity' in multi-species fantasy settings?

#13
Something worth considering is what culture is the most dominant/present in your world. Language and broad terms like humanity are pretty cultural in origin and usage, and a catch all term can definitely be biased towards whoever coined the term.

IMO that gives a few major options. Have a human say humanity and have others strike up a conversation about it. Appropriate a broad term that already exists. Or base it on something in the canon, like the planet or something tied to the faith of the land.