What Does Bastard Mean in Game of Thrones? A Deep Dive into the Terminology and Significance

What Does Bastard Mean in Game of Thrones? A Deep Dive into the Terminology and Significance

Introduction: Understanding the Terminology in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is a popular television series that has captivated audiences worldwide. One of the intriguing elements of the show is its use of intricate terminology, particularly when it comes to the concept of being a “bastard.” This article aims to delve into the meaning and significance of this term within the Game of Thrones universe.

Defining Bastard: An Illegitimate Child

In the context of Game of Thrones, the term “bastard” refers to a child born out of wedlock, specifically a child whose parents were not married at the time of their conception. This means that the child’s parents were not legally married or in a formal union when they conceived the child. Consequently, the child bears the stigma of being an illegitimate offspring.

The Symbolic Importance of Bastards in Game of Thrones

Within the Game of Thrones narrative, bastards play a significant role, both in terms of their position within society and their potential for political intrigue. In the feudal society presented in the show, legitimate children hold higher positions and inherit titles, lands, and wealth from their noble parents. In contrast, bastards are generally denied these privileges, as their birth puts them at a disadvantaged status.

1. Bastard Surnames: An Indicator of Illegitimacy

One key characteristic of bastards in Game of Thrones is the use of specific surnames to denote their illegitimate status. For example, in the North, bastards are often given the surname “Snow,” while those in the Westerlands are known as “Hill” and in the Stormlands as “Storm.” These surnames not only differentiate the bastards from legitimate children but also serve as a constant reminder of their inferior status.

2. The Struggles of Bastards: Social Acceptance and Identity

Bastards in Game of Thrones face many challenges, including the constant battle for social acceptance and the search for their true identity. As they are seen as lesser beings in the feudal society, bastards often grapple with feelings of rejection and struggle to find their place in the world. This struggle for acceptance can lead some bastards to resort to extreme measures to prove themselves, while others may embrace their status and utilize it to their advantage.

3. The Role of Bastards in Political Intrigue

Bastards in Game of Thrones often find themselves embroiled in political schemes and power struggles. Due to their unique position within noble families, bastards can be used as pawns in intricate political machinations. Their illegitimate status can make them vulnerable to manipulation, as their loyalty and desire for recognition can be exploited by those seeking to further their own agendas.

Conclusion: The Complexity and Significance of Bastard Terminology

In Game of Thrones, the term “bastard” carries deep meaning, both symbolically and politically. It represents the challenges faced by those born into illegitimacy and the constant struggle for acceptance and identity. The use of specific surnames to differentiate bastards underscores their marginalized status within society. Additionally, their vulnerability to political manipulation adds another layer of complexity to their role in the Game of Thrones narrative.

Understanding the significance of the term “bastard” in Game of Thrones allows viewers to gain a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of the show’s world-building and the complexity of its characters’ experiences. Through exploring this terminology, we can recognize the depth of storytelling and social commentary that Game of Thrones offers. So, the next time you watch the show, take a moment to reflect on the journeys and trials of the bastards and the compelling stories they bring to the series.


1. What is the meaning of “bastard” in Game of Thrones?

In Game of Thrones, a “bastard” refers to a child born out of wedlock, with at least one parent being a noble or highborn.

2. Who are some of the notable characters in Game of Thrones who are bastards?

Some notable characters in Game of Thrones who are bastards include Jon Snow, Ramsay Bolton, and Gendry.

3. What are the societal implications for bastards in Game of Thrones?

Bastards in Game of Thrones face various societal implications, such as being excluded from inheritance, having limited social status, and often being given the surname “Snow” in the North or “Rivers” in the Riverlands.

4. How does being a bastard affect a character’s claim to the Iron Throne?

Being a bastard typically diminishes a character’s claim to the Iron Throne, as legitimate children have higher priority in the line of succession. However, in certain circumstances, bastards can still make claims or gain power.

5. What significance does the term “bastard” hold in the context of noble families?

The term “bastard” holds significant meaning in noble families as it often represents a stain on a family’s honor or a secret shame. It can also be used as a weapon against rivals or as a tool for manipulation.

6. How is the treatment of bastards different in different regions of Westeros?

The treatment of bastards varies across different regions of Westeros. In the North, they are given the surname “Snow” but can still hold positions of authority. In the Riverlands, they are given the surname “Rivers” but have less social standing compared to true-born children.

7. Can bastards ever be legitimized in Game of Thrones?

Yes, bastards can potentially be legitimized in Game of Thrones. This can happen through royal decree, favor from a ruling monarch, or by being recognized and acknowledged by their noble parent.

8. How does the status of bastards affect their identity and role in Game of Thrones?

The status of being a bastard often shapes a character’s identity and role in Game of Thrones. Many bastards in the series experience a struggle for acceptance, search for their true parentage, or attempt to prove themselves in a society that views them with prejudice.

9. Are there any notable stories or plotlines in Game of Thrones involving bastards?

Yes, there are several notable stories and plotlines in Game of Thrones involving bastards. For example, Jon Snow’s journey from being an outcast to a leader, Ramsay Bolton’s sadistic actions, and Gendry’s quest to discover his true heritage.

10. How does the concept of bastards contribute to the overall narrative and themes in Game of Thrones?

The concept of bastards contributes to the overall narrative and themes in Game of Thrones by exploring themes of identity, honor, power dynamics, and the consequences of societal prejudices. It adds complexity and intrigue to the story, showcasing the impact of lineage and blood ties in a harsh and unpredictable world.