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In some English versions of Final Fantasy elemental spells are named Fire, Fire2, Fire3 while in others they're named Fire, Fira, Firaga (or Thunder, Thundra, Thundaga). At first I thought it was due to bad English translation, but the English translation is flawless. What does "Firaga" stands for?

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and some have Firaja as the fourth –  Mooing Duck Mar 20 at 20:16
    
In the original FF for the NES, there wasn't enough space to spell out FIRE each time, so it became FIRE, FIR2, FIR3. –  J. Polfer Mar 20 at 20:20

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up vote 26 down vote accepted

Based on information in this link, the -a, -ga, -ja, etc. endings for spells appear to be a naming convention Square decided on that is rooted in a Japanese grammar structure similar to the english -er, -est (e.g. something described as greater is not as good as something described as greatest).

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So they're actually called fire, fierier and fieriest. Neat. –  Studoku Mar 20 at 15:25
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And sometimes you also have firaja etc, fieriestest. –  Humungus Mar 20 at 15:57

The suffixes (Fire, Fira, Firaga) have been used in Japan since the very beginning. Several other Japanese RPG series have done similar things, like Phantasy Star (Foi, Gifoi, and Nafoi) or the Persona series (Agi, Agilao, and Agidyne). They all refer to levels of a fire-based attack spell, but they follow their own pseudo-grammatical structures.

The early English translations of these games didn't allow enough space in spell names to translate straight across. FF1 only allowed four characters, and FF4 (which we called FF2 at the time) only allowed 5: neither one is enough. FF6 allowed for 6 characters, which would have been enough for Fire and Cure but not Blizzard or Thunder, so they kept the English convention to keep things consistent. When they started being able to use more free-form spell names, they used the Japanese convention everywhere.

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FFVII had room for long-form names but still used numbers...I think VIII was the first to stop doing that. –  Shinrai Mar 21 at 1:32
    
don't forget Maragi/Maragion/Maragidyne in Shin Megami Tensei (not just Persona)! (multi-target versions of the tiered spells) I did always wonder about Agilao vs Maragion though. Why not Maragilao? –  sevenseacat Mar 21 at 9:57
    
@sevenseacat I left out SMT's "Ma-" prefix because it doesn't map to anything in the other series: both FF and PS allow Fire spells to be single-target or group-target, while SMT uses separate spells for each targeting type. You're right that SMT's grammar goes a bit further, but I wanted to keep to the theme of "basic fire spells". As for why I kept the scope as narrow as Persona: as you point out, SMT can get strange with the way its fire spells are named. –  The Spooniest Mar 21 at 19:38

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