Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.

A Guide to All the Essential Terms to Know in 'Dune'


Oct. 23 2021, Published 1:26 p.m. ET

The release of Frank Herbert's 1965 epic Dune changed the entire science-fiction genre. Considered the best-selling sci-fi novel of all time, the story takes place in the distant future in a galactic universe comprised of several noble houses. House of Atreides initially lives on Caladan but soon exchanges their home for planet Arrakis, where they will manage the manufacturing of the galaxy's most potent drug: the spice melange.

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The saga is an entire world in itself. Herbert includes an extensive glossary at the back of the first novel, but we complied our own dictionary compromised with only the most important terms you need to know if you're beginning your trek into Dune.

A shot from the opening scene of 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.
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Our guide of the most important 'Dune' terms to know.

Bene Gesserit: A religious and political matriarchal order. The members, including Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica, possess extraordinary physical and mental powers. Many in the Imperium refer to them as “witches” since they have the gift of foresight and longer lifespans. Their main objective is to obtain additional authority to influence and help direct humanity toward a civilized path with the arrival of their chosen one, the Kwisatz Haderach.

Crysknife: A knife with a blade made from the tooth of a dead sandworm. It's the weapon of choice for the Fremen, and its tip, near the tooth's nerve, is laced with quick-acting poison. Once a crysknife is withdrawn, no opponent can yield, meaning someone must die.

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Fremen: Humans who consider the desert planet Arrakis their home. Their fight for survival is a crucial part of their cultural identity, and as such, they are skilled in combat knowledge, effectively turning them into worthy warriors. They reside in sietches, which exist within the rocky formations of Arrakis.

Javier Bardem as Stilgar in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.
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Water plays a vital role in Fremen culture. To reduce the loss of water, Fremen wear stillsuits to absorb the body's moisture. The spice melange is also a lively part of their existence, and because of the extreme consumption of the drug, they have entirely blue-colored eyes.

Gom Jabbar: A meta-cyanide poisoned needle that the Bene Gesserit use in the Gom Jabbar Test of Humanity, which examines if an individual's awareness is more active than their instincts. If their perception of the Gom Jabbar's presence is strong enough, it will override their need to retreat from the test, which consists of a severe burning sensation in your right hand. At the beginning of Dune, Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam uses this method against Paul Atreides.

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Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam uses the Gom Jabbar Test of Humanity against Paul in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.

Kwisatz Haderach: A term primarily used by the Bene Gesserit, who initiated a long-term genetic breeding program to yield a male with powers unattainable to females, such as the ability to bridge space and time. He would possess male and female Other Memory and be the Reverend Mother, Mentat, and Guild Navigator all in one individual. After the appearance of one Paul Atreides, the term understood its meaning as “The one who can be many places at once" and became interchangeable with Paul.

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Lisan al Gaib: A term used by the Fremen to describe their messiah. It is “The Voice from the Outer World” and translates to the “Giver of Water.” This is one of the names the Fremen give to Paul later in the story, which will play a crucial role in the potential sequel. However, it is thrown around a bit in the 2021 film adaptation.

Lady Jessica and Paul Atreides in Fremen territory in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.
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Melange: Commonly referred to as the spice, and is a naturally harvested drug found on Arrakis. The Spice Melange is the rarest and most valuable product in the universe. It offers many benefits to those who take it, such as extended lifespans, expanded sensory perceptions, mind reading and control, and prescience. As we said before with the Fremen, constant use of the spice led to the discoloration of the entire human eye, staining them blue.

Ornithopter: Also known as thopters, and are the most popular mode of transportation in the Imperium. They typically seat six passengers, but you can squeeze in an extra three if the back seats are gone.

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Full look at the stillsuits in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.

Stillsuit: A full body suit worn in the open desert of the planet Arrakis. The stillsuit was designed to preserve the body's moisture, such as sweat, tears, and urine, and sift out the filth to produce drinkable water that will flow to catchpockets. The individual can then drink the recycled water from a tube inside the mask. If a stillsuit is kept in working condition and sustained well, the wearer can survive for weeks.

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Voice: An auto-neuro mechanism that authorizes the manipulation of a person through mind control. The Bene Gesserit have perfected this method and often use it on a person to do something awful or discover the truth from an uncooperative subject. Some are resistant to the Voice, including Paul Atreides.

Well, there you have it! Now you're an expert of all things Dune and can show off your knowledge to your friends and family.

Be sure to watch Dune in theaters now and on HBO Max for a limited time.

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