‘Game of Thrones’: The Right Way to Pronounce Khaleesi

Game of Thrones might have ended in 2019, but for true fans, discussion regarding the epic fantasy television series will never really die down. The show, based on the fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, was one of the buzziest TV shows in the world for seven years. The actors featured in the show have gone on to become major movie stars and the series itself won multiple awards during its run. These days, fans relive Game of Thrones glory days by rewatching all the episodes from start to finish, and by discussing interesting trivia regarding the characters and worlds created in the series. 

When did ‘Game of Thrones’ debut?

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen on 'Game of Thrones'
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen on ‘Game of Thrones’ | Helen Sloane via HBO

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George R. R. Martin‘s fantasy books were published in the late nineties, and immediately, people started talking about the possibility of turning them into a television miniseries. It took nearly twenty years to adapt the books into an onscreen format, but in 2011, Game of Thrones premiered on HBO.

It was a grand undertaking, with production for the series taking place all over the world. The cast filmed everywhere from Belfast to Malta, often in less than savory working conditions.

Still, fans reacted positively to the show, and the series accumulated thousands of viewers in short order. As the show progressed, it grew in popularity, and eventually, it became one of the biggest shows on television.

Although Game of Thrones was criticized for a number of elements, including the depictions of sexual violence the show contained, it continued to dominate television ratings, year after year. 

Emilia Clarke played ‘Khaleesi’ Daenerys Targaryen  

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Game of Thrones continued to air new episodes for over seven years, with the series finale airing in May 2019. The finale was hugely controversial, and disappointing for many fans, all of whom had their own ideas about how the show should wind to a close.

In the months since the series ended, all the actors have gone on to pursue other projects. Arguably, the most famous actor to have sprung from Game of Thrones is Emilia Clarke, a young performer from London.

Clarke rose to fame during the early seasons of Game of Thrones, with fans noting her remarkable beauty and expressive eyebrows. Over the years, she became one of the shining stars of the show, eventually making the jump to Hollywood films.

Her role as Daenerys Targaryen, the “Khaleesi” to the Dothraki people, earned her critical acclaim and inspired fan devotion. For many, Clarke’s portrayal of Targaryen is some of the best acting contained in the series.

How should fans pronounce ‘Khaleesi’?

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Daenerys Targaryen is one of the main characters in Game of Thrones. For the first few seasons, she is one of the heroic leads, making tough decisions for the greater good of her people.

It wasn’t until the very last few episodes that Daenerys’ true colors were revealed. She ended up making a drastic change in direction, becoming a tyrant and forcing Jon Snow to take a difficult stand. Still, fans think fondly of her glory days, remembering the early episodes where “Dany” was just finding herself as the Dothraki’s Khaleesi.

When it comes to how to pronounce the unique designation, showrunners had difficult decisions to make. A linguist who worked on the show revealed: “I wanted to make sure if something was spelled differently, it was pronounced differently. That worked pretty well for everything except the word Khaleesi … There’s no way it should be pronounced ‘ka-LEE-see’ based on the spelling.”

He went on to state: “I had to decide, ‘Am I going to respell this thing because I know how people are going to pronounce this, or am I going to honor that spelling and pronounce it differently?’ I made the latter decision and I think it was the wrong decision.” Still, he later revealed that “Khaleesi” actually has up to three correct pronunciations within the world of Game of Thrones – “khal-eh-si, khal-ee-si, and kal-ee-si,” which at a later point in the book spelled is “ka-lee-si.”