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MUDspeke Dictionary

Copyright © 1992-1999
Richard Bartle,
MUSE Ltd.,
Orchard House, Queens Road,
West Bergholt, Essex. CO6 3HE.
United Kingdom.


The full index is maintained separately.


This is a dictionary of terms in use by the players of MUD. Although biased towards MUD2, most of the entries would make sense to MUD1 players - indeed some of them hail exclusively from MUD1. As virtually all multi-user adventure games are descendents of MUD1, many of the words and phrases are in common use in other such games, too.

Entries appear in case-insensitive alphanumerical order (as if numbers were appended to the end of the alphabet); non-alphanumerics are ignored for ordering purposes. Words are spelled as in British (well, all non-American) English, although in cases where the usage is exclusively American this fact is noted.

The lexicographical conventions which apply to the definitions are as follows: each entry begins with a single line containing only the term being defined in this font with upper/lower case significance; On the next line begin the definitions, which, if there is more than one, are numbered (each different definition of a word being referred to as a "sense"); definitions/senses begin on new lines, and after their number (if any) begin with the part of speech in this font; after the part of speech, the term is defined in English; references to other entries in the dictionary are hyperlinked, except where they occur within "these" quotation marks; self-references to the term being defined, and alternative spellings of it, will also be in this font except where they occur within quotation marks. Parts of speech use normal grammatical terminology, except that rather than describing verbs as intransitive or transitive, the concept is represented by an integer expressing the number of extra 'parameters' the verb expects: intransitive verbs are therefore verb/0, and transitive verbs are verb/1, verb/2 etc. The construct verb/1/2 means it can take either 1 or 2 extra parameters.

Note that there is no pronunciation guide, as these terms are always written down. Sometimes some indication of how other people think they should be spoken can be observed, eg. you may see either 'a MUA' or 'an MUA', but it's not really all that important - use whatever you find most intuitive.

In referencing entries which can be extended, the protocol adopted herein is to hyperlink only the referenced part and leave the rest unaffected where possible, eg. the present participle of 'dr' is 'dring'. However, in cases where the original entry is not a contiguous subset of the letters in the modified form, the whole word is hyperlinked, eg. 'make <level>' would be hyperlinked as 'making <level>'. For compound phrases with intervening words, each word is individually hyperlinked, as in 'building a killer up' (where 'build up' and 'killer' have definitions).

A small number of entries need to be fleshed out with specific information before they can be used. The nature of the information is enclosed in angle brackets: 'make <level>' means that <level> should be substituted for some appropriate level referent, eg. a level name or bound pronoun. In references from other definitions, a specific expansion may well be given, eg. 'make wiz'.

Finally, there is the question of whether entries in this dictionary should be definitive (ie. the definitions are the only correct ones) or reflective (ie. formally incorrect but commonly-used meanings are also given). The solution adopted is to include reflective definitions while drawing attention to the fact that there are alternative meanings which longer-standing players (eg. wizzes) may prefer. As for the completeness of this dictionary, it is the nature of evolving slangs that they change very rapidly, and it therefore goes without saying that .


Obliged to communicate using ASCII text, MUD players have developed a series of conventions. Many of these extend across all comms communities, such as using smiley faces (like ':-)'), abbreviating common phrases (eg. 'by the way' as 'BTW'), and placing certain emotional flags in angle brackets ('<g>' = 'grin'). These will not be discussed here, as they're part of on-line culture in general. However, it should be noted that they're much less frequent in MUD than in, say, chat programs, as the community of MUD players is smaller and more tightly knit, with game-related jargon preferred.

MUD players tend to type a lot, and they therefore use lower case most of the time so they needn't keep hitting the shift keys. Although standard written English use of capitals is OK, eg. for proper nouns or the beginning of a sentence, anything else in upper case is definitely assumed to be there for a reason, generally being one of the following:

  • A command. Since some commands have quotes in them, it can be confusing to use them when telling someone how to do something, so upper case is preferred instead; upper case itself can therefore be seen as a form of quoting when used in this fashion. "Try G T instead of GET TREASURE". In this context, the creation of participles is done non-destructively (in direct disregard of common English practice) to make it clear that what's being said is a MUD command, eg. "Try SLIDEing it".

  • A minimum abbreviation. Many words in MUD can be shortened to a few key letters, and when explaining a command it is often the case that the letters comprising the abbreviation are capitalised leaving the rest in lower case. "If you can't spell her name, use the SYNonymise command". MUD itself uses this convention, and even the preceding one when it's unavoidable.

  • An acronym. There is some inconsistency here, with many people leaving well-known acronyms in lower case. However, acronyms are more commonly fully capitalised when extended somehow. "I was FODded for no good reason! No more MUDding for me until someone apologises".

  • For emphasis. "You told him WHAT?!",

  • A player, as opposed to a persona. If you don't know their real name (or whoever you're talking to doesn't), capitalising a persona name is taken to mean the player behind it. Player names can also be fully capitalised, though. "I was jumped by Flobble last night, I think it's ANCHOVY seeking revenge".

  • A game item. By extending the notion of capitalising game commands, some people capitalise anything found in the game - rooms, objects, mobiles, whatever. Note that because personae are also game objects, this can mean a conflict with the preceding convention. In this event, all persona names will be capitalised, whether the persona or the persona's player is meant.

  • A mistake. Someone hit the caps lock and didn't notice. It's polite to inform them of this, or to apologise if you do it and notice yourself. "So when I HEARD THIS I SAID oops caps lock that he was a selfish toad".

Note that because this dictionary has more typographical facilities available than do players, it does not itself adhere to these conventions except when giving quoted examples of actual usage during the process of definition.


Where sources for terms are known, these are given. This can lead to rather obscure or lengthy definitions, which you have permission to skip if you're not interested... Some of the more common ways that words arise will be discussed now.

Firstly, MUD players get quite fond of some of the inhabitants of the game, and give them pet names. These are normally generated by shortening the name a little and adding a 'y' or 'ie' at the end, as in 'draggy' for 'dragon'. Personae may have short nicknames or traditional synonyms, but they don't usually get the 'y' treatment.

MUD players are also acutely aware of gender, since most of them have personae of both sorts. They don't like referring generically to personae in a gender-specific fashion, especially where experience levels are concerned, and therefore there have evolved three principal ways to reference personae of either sex. The most laborious approach is to separate the alternatives by a '/', eg. 'Sir/Lady'. Since that can be rather long and lead to pluralisation problems, sometimes the male form is given with the feminine suffix following the '/', eg. 'enchanter/ess'. This is still unwieldy, so further contraction can be applied to yield a gender-free term which can be used generically, eg. 'wiz' for 'witch/wizard'. It's mostly level names on the standard career path which undergo the full surgery, with the glaring exception of 'hero/ine' (for which a suitable derivative has yet to find favour).

As usual in highly-interactive communities, nouns are often used as verbs and verbs as nouns. 'To MUD' means 'to play MUD'; 'Can I have a restore?' means 'Can you restore my persona?'. There are examples of this practice throughout the dictionary.

Another common way that terms arise is by back- formation (eg. 'fangling' meaning 'that which is newfangled'), but this is comparatively rare among MUD players. This may be because back-formation extends a term, rather than foreshortening it. There is some over-generalisation, eg. forming 'baloonatic' from 'baloon', but, again, these occur less often than a linguist might at first expect from a slang language. The critical factor is the time it takes to type something; when time is important then abbreviations and contractions reign. As MUD itself accepts a host of abbreviations covering pretty well everything you need (especially common verbs, nouns and prepositions), the practice is actively encouraged and becomes second-nature to the players; they sprinkle abbreviations, acronyms and contractions into their 'speech' with impunity, and may not even notice.

Finally, some words and phrases come from the actions or personality of individual players. These usages tend to be short-lived, disappearing when the player becomes inactive. Although 'how very Cynth' might have been meaningful to MUD1 players in 1982, it is only of minor historical interest now. In the long term, all persona names are transient: for this reason, and to avoid offending players whose names are overlooked, no name-derived terms are included in this dictionary. The names used in examples are not intended to carry any significance. Some real-world names are used, however, principally those of people historically associated with the actual development of MUD.


Thanks are due to the many players who suggested items for inclusion in this dictionary. Particularly hefty contributions came from the following personae (in alphabetical order):

BL - Adrienne, Bonsai, Inmournin, Lucy, Peleulu, Valaryia, Wazoo.

MUD2 - Boogs, Carpetcraw, Draben, Doggydins, Minty, Mudguard, Roger, Tabitha, Wdi.


Some of the words in this dictionary are trademarked to commercial companies. In order to avoid being hit for not saying so, the following trademarks are acknowledged - let's hope no-one has been missed out...

Advanced D&D TSR Ltd.
Air Warrior Kesmai Corporation
Apricot ACT plc.
Archimedes Acorn Computers Ltd.
B-17 Boeing
B-29 Boeing
B-52 Boeing
British Legends CompuServe Inc. & MUSE Ltd.
BT British Telecommunications plc.
CompuNet CompuNet Ltd.
CompuServe CompuServe Inc.
D&D TSR Ltd.
DEC-10 Digital Equipment Corporation
Glaxo Glaxo Group plc.
IBM PC International Business Machines
M68020 Motorola Inc.
Macro-10 Digital Equipment Corporation
MS-DOS Microsoft Corporation
OS9 Microware Systems Corporation & Motorola Inc.
Prestel British Telecommunications plc.
PR1ME Prime Computers
Sinclair AMSTRAD plc.
Spectrum AMSTRAD plc.
Turbo Pascal Borland International Inc.
Unix AT&T
VAX Digital Equipment Corporation
VMS Digital Equipment Corporation
Zork Infocom

Copyright © Multi-User Entertainment Ltd. (
23rd September 1999: speke.htm