T'hy'la (Vulcan term)

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For other uses of the term, see T'hy'la.

Synonyms: friend, brother, lover
See also: soulbond, Vulcan language
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T'hy'la is an apocryphal term in Star Trek coined by Gene Roddenberry in an infamous footnote in his novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture; the footnote states that Spock thinks of Kirk as his t'hy'la, a Vulcan word that can mean "friend," "brother" and "lover." [1]

EDITOR'S NOTE on "t'hy'la": "The human concept of 'friend' is most nearly duplicated in Vulcan thought by the term 't'hy'la' which can also mean 'brother' and 'lover'. Spock's recollection (from which this chapter has drawn) is that it was a most difficult moment for him since he did indeed consider Kirk to have become his brother. However, because 't'hy'la' can be used to mean 'lover', and since Kirk's and Spock's friendship was unusually close, this has led to some speculation over whether they had actually indeed become lovers. At our request, Admiral Kirk supplied the following comment on this subject: 'I was never aware of the "lovers" rumor, although I have been told that Spock encountered it several times. Apparently he had always dismissed it with his characteristic lifting of his right eyebrow which usually connoted some combination of surprise, disbelief, and/or annoyance. As for myself, although I have no moral or other objections to physical love in any of its many Earthly, alien and mixed forms, I have always found my best gratification in that creature "woman". Also, I would dislike being thought of as so foolish that I would select a love partner who came into sexual heat only once every seven years...' " from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (novelization), p. 22

Readers familiar with Vulcan language conventions would immediately recognize a t' prefix as usually denoting femaleness. Those who know Greek mythology might point to the word as resembling "Hylas", a young man who was mentored by Hercules and became a great hero in his own right, as well as, in some accounts, Hercules' lover.

Some fans refer to "page 22" (pp 18-19 in the Futura UK/Australasian editions) as proof that Roddenberry believed that Kirk and Spock could possibly be lovers.

“I’m not exactly sure of when I first heard of K/S, but I do know when I gave the concept my first serious thought: immediately after reading page 22 of Gene Rodenberry’s [sic] novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. For the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself to create a brand new term for the relationship between Kirk and Spock—and to include the word ‘lover’ as one of its multilayered meanings—lent unmistakable credence to the theory. And Admiral Kirk’s footnote on the ‘rumors’ -- penned, of course, by Roddenberry -- was a delightfully ambiguous, sly, teasing affirmation of the fact…. [2]

Kirk/Spock fandom embraced the term as the Vulcan word for "lover," and it is frequently used in fan fiction as a Vulcan term for a partner in a special/committed relationship or as a term of endearment.


Fans in 1999 debated the pronunciation of the word.

"Without the advantage of speaking to anyone about K/S, I’ve never really known how to pronounce T’hy’La. Can someone show me? Two syllables or three? “Thigh-La” or “Ta-high-la”? Help!" [3]

"I don ́t think anybody knows for sure how "T ́hy ́la" is pronounced. Shatner had once a very creative approach to it, if I remember correctly (but I wonder where he got the idea from? Gene himself?). As far as I know most of the English tend to pronounce it Tee-high-la. But there is a wonderful song by Julia Ecklar and she pronounces it Tee-hee- la. This is corresponding more with the classical Latin pronunciation of the letters, as we have it with rather all the Vulcan words as heard in Star Trek. So it sounds more correct to me and I prefer it by far." [4]

"With regard to the recent letters about how T’hy’la is pronounced, I think I can provide the definitive answer. Just after the novelization of ST:TMP appeared, Gene Roddenberry was on holiday in Scotland, visiting Janet Quarton, who for many years ran Star Trek clubs in Britain. There had been quite a bit of discussion in K/S circles about this very useful word, so I took the chance to ask him how it was pronounced. He replied “TUH-HIGH-LA,” as best I can render it, the first syllable very short, the second stressed. Since several Scottish fans were present, we have always used that form. I suppose the man who made up the word should have the final say." [5]


  1. ^ Star Trek: The Motion Picture (novelization) by Gene Roddenberry, Pocket Books, 1979, p. 22
  2. ^ from Not Tonight, Spock! #1
  3. ^ from The K/S Press #32
  4. ^ from The K/S Press #33
  5. ^ from The K/S Press #35