Dune: our essential glossary of terms you need to read before watching the sci-fi epic

The world of the upcoming Dune is an extraordinary and complex one. Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of Frank Herbert's seminal science-fiction novel has already drawn comparisons with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, praised for its visual scope and cast of interlocking characters.

Don't know your Arrakeens from your Shai-Huluds? We're here to help with our essential Dune glossary, which will help you brush up on the intricacies of the film ahead of its Cineworld release.



A remote desert planet that is the only known source of melange, or 'spice'. The fabled substance grants remarkable abilities to those who ingest it (turning their eyes blue in the process), and it's also capable of powering intergalactic travel. For this reason, Arrakis is at the centre of a bitter, political battle as various dynasties and individuals compete for spice production.


The largest human settlement on the planet of Arrakis, and the place where the Atreides family takes up stewardship, at the behest of the Padishah Emperor.


A noble family compelled to take up stewardship of Arrakis by the Padishah Emperor. Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) senses his family are being lured into a trap, due to the fact that the Emperor fears the power and influence of the Atreides clan. However, Duke Leto is duty-bound to follow orders and uproot to Arrakis with his concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and son and prospective heir Paul (Timotheé Chalamet).

Bene Gesserit

A mysterious and secretive female religious order, of which Lady Jessica is a key member. The Bene Gesserit has been experimenting with bloodlines to bring about a male Bene Gesserit whom they prophesise will become a new messiah.

Butlerian Jihad

A revolt against all intelligent machines that took place aeons before the events of Dune. This feeds into the presence of the individuals known as the mentat (see below).


The watery, arboreal home planet of the Atreides family, and a place much-loved by young Paul Atreides.


AKA Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles, in charge of economic affairs throughout the universe, but subservient to the demands of the Guild of Navigators for transport purposes.


A weapon sacred to the Arrakis Fremen, formed from the tooth of Shai-Hulud. Glimpsed in bloodied form by Paul Atreides in his dreams, which portends violence in his future.


The indigenous peoples of Arrakis who have learned to adapt to the planet's harsh, sand-blasted environment. They have been witness to the exploitation and harvesting of the spice, but the Fremen are the only ones capable of locating water on Arrakis, and they also know how to locate the monstrous sandworms that burrow beneath the surface.

Giedi Prime

The home planet of the scheming Harkonnen family, sworn enemies of the Atreides family.

Gom Jabbar

A test of humanity devised by the Bene Gesserit, involving a long, meta-cyanide needle. While on Caladan, Paul is put through a gruelling Gom Jabbar test by the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling), and his stronger-than-expected response portends many remarkable things in his future.

Guild of Navigators

A high-ranking organisation that holds sway over faster-than-light space travel. Their activities are key to the mining and harvesting of spice on Arrakis.


The sworn enemies of the Atreides family. The Harokken's corpulent, grotesque figurehead, Baron Vladimir (Stellan Skarsgard), schemes with the Padishah Emperor to lure the Atreides family to Arrakis where they can be annihilated. 

Holtzman shield

A protective device used in a multitude of scenarios throughout the events of Dune. Young Paul is schooled in the art of combat using such a shield, and is mentored by weapons master Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin).


An umbrella term used to define the various empires that feature throughout the Dune mythology. During the events of Dune itself, the universe is governed by the Galactic Padishah Emperor. The Emperor rules the 'Known Universe', a power arrangement also shared between the Landsraad, Guild of Navigators and the Bene Gesserit.

Kwisatz Haderach

Translated as 'the shortening of the way'. The Kwisatz Haderach is the messiah whose arrival is anticipated by the Bene Gesserit, a person capable of liberating the entire universe.


Translated as 'land council'. An organisation that gathers together all the noble houses in the Imperium.

Lisan al Gaib

Translated as tongue ('lisan') unseen ('al Gaib'). The Fremen term for the prophet who will liberate the indigenous peoples of Arrakis.


If the lisan al Gaib refers to prophecy, the Mahdi is the embodiment of said prophecy, a role eventually taken by Paul Atreides. Translated from the Arabic as, 'the one who will lead us to paradise'.


A form of mental discipline that arose in the wake of the Butlerian Jihad. Following the rejection and destruction of thinking machines, a collective of individuals known as the Mentat were schooled in the arts of empathy and foresight, essentially becoming an organic alternative to artificial intelligence. There are Mentats shared between the Atreides and Harkonnen families: in the former, Thurfir Hawat (Stephen McKindley Henderson), and in the latter, Piter De Vries (David Dastmalchian).


Paul's adoptive Fremen name, which he takes when he and Lady Jessica are assimilated by the Fremen following the betrayal by House Harkonnen. The term stems from the kangaroo mouse that is found on Arrakis, a creature known for its cunning, tenacity and ability to survive the most testing conditions.

Reverend Mother

A leading figure within the Bene Gesserit whose given name is Gaius Helen Mohiam. The Reverend Mother is also the Emperor's truthsayer and holds a great deal of political sway.


The elite, brutal armed forces in the service of the Padishah Emperor.


The sacred Fremen term for the gargantuan sandworms that burrow beneath the sands of Arrakis and act as the source of the spice melange. There are several translations for 'Shai Hulud' including 'Old Man of the Desert' and 'Grandfather of the Desert'.


The coveted substance that is only found on the desert planet Arrakis. Spice is so coveted because of its ability to confer remarkable powers on its users, and it's also capable of powering super-powered inter-galactic flight. This means it is highly desired by all manner of organisations throughout the 'Known Universe'.

Spice harvester

A machine that trawls the desert surface of Arrakis in search of spice.


The outfit worn by the Fremen that allows them to live in harmony with Arrakis' harsh landscape. The stillsuit reclaims water produced naturally by the body, meaning the Fremen never have to go thirsty.


The anti-gravity device deployed by the malevolent Baron Vladimir Harkonnen to float around and assert power over his subjects.


AKA the ornithopter. A mode of transport used by the Atreides family to scout the desolate landscape of Arrakis. Whilst on a 'thopter, Paul, Gurney Halleck and ecologist Liet-Kieynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), a key member of the Fremen, witness a gigantic worm devouring a spice harvester.


A mechanical device used by the Fremen to pound the sand of Arrakis and distract the sandworms.


The tell-tale sign of an advancing worm, usually ripples in the sand that are imperceptible to any eye other than that of the Fremen.


Click here to book your tickets for Dune, which is released in Cineworld cinemas in both widescreen and IMAX on 21st October. How will you experience the sci-fi extravaganza? Let us know @Cineworld.