I'm hoping for clarification on some fantasy-based terminology. I've read a number of websites that refer both to "orcs" and"orks", occasionally in the same sentence! Previously, I had only ever seen the term "orc" in fantasy writing.

From what limited information on the topic I've been able to find, "orks" seems to be a term for an orc-like creature in the Warhammer 40K series.

What I want to know is does the term "ork" apply exclusively to the character in the Warhammer 40K universe or does it also represent something else? Can "ork" and "orc" be used interchangeably? If does only apply to Warhammer, should it be considered a proper noun and capitalized at all times?

  • 3
    Perhaps this is better suited for the rpg site? – Oso May 20 '14 at 19:31
  • 1
    Yep, you're probably right! I'm new here :) Thanks for the suggestion! Will ask there. – ComplexGames May 20 '14 at 20:46
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking about very specific usages and is better suited for the rpg site. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 13 '16 at 13:08

As an addendum to Ilythya and njboot's answers, there is one form of Ork that is unrelated to orc.

L. Frank Baum created the creature called an Ork in his Oz universe. It is a gentle, flying creature that seems completely unrelated to the Warhammer 40K creature, or the creature from Germanic legend.

You can read more at Google books.

  • Thanks for bringing this up. I think we can all agree that "Ork" carries with it a specificity that the term "Orc" encompasses, almost always, to some extent. In this case, only partially - as the creature holds none of the dispositional characteristics typical of the "Orc" as defined in my response, but still fits within the literary categorization. – njboot May 21 '14 at 10:54
  • An Oz Ork is certainly a literary creation, but I don't see how you can call that creature related to me. We are nothing alike. – Matt E. Эллен May 21 '14 at 10:59
  • @Matt E. Эллен: Well, you both have knees, I think—and they named a set of islands after that feature. (Admittedly, Baum says that Orks come from Ork Island, which isn't the same thing at all.) – Sven Yargs Oct 12 '16 at 20:03

Ork is also a creature from European legend. If you can speak German the original link is here however a rough translation is as follows:

It is believed that in the early Middle Ages, due to the advent of Christianity, the god Orcus was villified as an evil devil-like creature.

In Austria the Ork lives on mountaintops and in forests and is a solitary creature; lord of the forests and animals. He warns animals when the hunters come and can encourage wild animals to steal cattle, thus ruining livelihoods. Occasionally he's believed to be a shapeshifter.

Variants of Orks include Norks who are house-spirits that live in cellars and take the form of a grumpy goblin.

The words orc, ork and ogre stem from the same place. Orcus was originally a god of the underworld; a punisher. The belief in Orcus was particularly prevalent around Tarquinia where it is thought he took the form of a large bearded giant.


According to Wikipedia, Ork only refers to Warhammer 40000:

"Ork (Warhammer 40,000), a fictional species in the Warhammer 40,000 universe"

However, the "Ork" in Warhammer 40000 still constitutes an orc, which is defined as:

noun (in fantasy literature and games) a member of an imaginary race of humanlike creatures, characterized as ugly, warlike, and malevolent.

(Source: New Oxford American Dictionary).

You can think of it in terms of "a square is a rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares." An "Ork" is considered an "orc," however not all "orcs" are "Orks."

  • @littlebluerobot you're very welcome – njboot May 21 '14 at 7:52
  • 2
    Having said that, Wikipedia also notes that Tolkien originally used the "Ork" spelling and expressed a wish to change the spellings, however it was only in one poem that it got published as "Ork" during his lifetime. Therefore it cannot just be a Warhammer reference. – Ilythya May 21 '14 at 9:51

Orks are the mushrooms of the orkoid fungus. They do not have genders. But more important than their biology is their language, culture and philosophy. Most other Orcs are simply "evil monster-humans"(eg. in Tolkien) or "Apart from their proud warrior culture just people like you and me."(Warcraft) depending on the message the work wants to portray. The Ork are fundamentally different from humans, with their own values, mores and philosophy. They are an engineered warrior species and happy about it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.