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House words

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This article is written from an out-of-universe perspective.
Eddard Stark: "Look at me, you're a Stark of Winterfell, you know our words."
Arya Stark: "'Winter is coming'."
— Lord Eddard Stark and his daughter Arya.[src]

Each of the noble Houses of the Seven Kingdoms have their own official family motto, or "words". These usually take the form of boasts or threats, used as battle-cries, such as House Baratheon's words "Ours is the fury!", or House Tully's words "Family, Duty, Honor". House Stark is a major exception in that unlike most other Houses, its words are not a boast but the ominous warning "Winter is coming".

Each noble House also has its own unique Heraldry, such as the Stark direwolf or Lannister lion. While a House's heraldic symbol and motto are often associated, the words are usually not depicted directly in heraldry or on an army's banners. Rather, House words are usually shouted by the men carrying the banners as they charge into battle. A noble House's choice of heraldry and official motto often reflects the general character, philosophy, or political strategy that the family espouses.

Tyrell lady Growing Strong

A Tyrell lady holds up her embroidery, featuring the golden rose of the Tyrell sigil surmounting their words, "Growing Strong".

House words do not typically appear on a House's heraldry, in the books as well as the TV series. In the first three TV seasons, House words have only appeared written out exactly once, when a Tyrell lady displays her embroidery of the House Tyrell golden rose sigil, surmounting their motto "Growing Strong".[1]

None of the official House words which have appeared in the TV adaptation produced by HBO were changed from the original A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Not all of the House words established in the books have, however, been established within the TV continuity. It would be awkward to fit this into on-screen dialogue for every single noble House which appears. The words of each of the Great Houses, which control the constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms, have been established in on-screen dialogue. There are well over a hundred major noble Houses underneath them, however, not all of which have been established within the TV series.

A benefit is that the "Histories & Lore" narrated Blu-ray featurettes, as well as the HBO Viewer's Guide, have been quite thorough about stating what each House motto is, when possible. These ancillary materials are part of the official "TV series canon", and so far have always matched what a House's words were in the books, but casual viewers may have skipped over them.

House words for the TV series generally fall into three categories: those mentioned in on-screen dialogue, those mentioned in ancillary materials (Blu-ray featurettes and the HBO Viewer's Guide), and those known only from the books. On a few occasions, certain House words have not yet been revealed in the books (i.e. despite their prominence within the storyline, the words of House Frey and House Umber have not been revealed even by the end of the fifth novel).

The TV series has referred to them as both "words" and "motto" at various points, so both terms are correct usage. They tend to be called "words" more often, but Maester Luwin refers to the Lannister "official motto" in "The Wolf and the Lion".

House words which have appeared on-screen in the TV series properEdit

Great HousesEdit

The Lannisters are an unusual case in that their unofficial motto is used far more often within the narrative of both the TV series and the books than their official motto. Their official motto is actually "Hear Me Roar!" - but this is hardly ever used, even within the books. It is usually brought up solely for characters to point out that it isn't as popular as their unofficial motto: "A Lannister always pays his debts". The unofficial motto is used on numerous occasions in the TV series. In "The Wolf and the Lion", Maester Luwin quizzes Bran Stark on the heraldry and words of different noble Houses. When asked to name the motto of House Lannister, Bran answers "A Lannister always pays his debts". Luwin points out that though this is a common saying, it is not their official motto. The official motto has been confirmed within the TV continuity, but so far it has only appeared in the Blu-ray featurette for "House Lannister" which is narrated by Tywin Lannister himself.

  • House Lannister - "A Lannister always pays his debts" (unofficial, common saying)[10]
    • "Hear Me Roar" (official motto, only referenced in the Blu Ray extras)
    • Female Lannisters of course adapt the unofficial motto to "A Lannister always pays her debts".[11]

Other HousesEdit

Words confirmed from ancillary materials within the TV continuityEdit

  • House Arryn - As High as Honor[13]
  • House Targaryen - Fire and Blood[14]
    • So far, the Targaryen words have not explicitly appeared on-screen, but in Season 2's "The Old Gods and the New" Daenerys Targaryen warns the Spice King of Qarth that she will take what is hers "With fire and blood." TV-first viewers (who didn't watch the Season 1 Blu-ray animated featurettes) would have no way of knowing she was quoting her House words.
  • House Bolton - Our Blades are Sharp[15]

Words of Houses present in the TV series, known only from the booksEdit

Houses whose words are unknown even from the booksEdit

See alsoEdit


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