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‘Game of Thrones’: The Most Iconic Quotes Explained

At some point as autumn ends and snowfall appears imminent, you’ve probably heard someone say, “Winter is coming,” perhaps with a joking nudge in the ribs. Or maybe you’ve put on your thickest English accent and imitated the line, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” Tons of iconic quotes from “Game of Thrones” have made their way into our everyday vernacular, including a few in a completely made-up language. Before the HBO series wraps for good, let’s revisit some of the most memorable phrases from the series’ eight seasons.

“Winter is coming” (Season 1, Episode 1)

The motto of House Stark is more than just a reminder to bundle up for the cold. The lords of the North are always prepared for the harshest season and the arrival of White Walkers, but the phrase is also a warning to others to think twice about provoking the family, because “the North remembers.” Arya Stark used both sayings perfectly after she poisoned all the Frey men as revenge for the Red Wedding. “Tell them the North remembers,” she said, “Tell them winter came for House Frey.”

“Valar morghulis” (Season 2, Episode 10)

The High Valyrian phrase means “all men must die” and is traditionally answered with “valar dohaeris,” meaning “all men must serve.” Arya first learned the saying from the assassin Jaqen H’ghar when he gave her a coin and instructed her to say “valar morghulis” to anyone from Braavos in exchange for a free favor. The quote became particularly iconic as the show has enjoyed killing off beloved characters left and right.

“You know nothing, Jon Snow” (Season 2, Episode 7)

Ygritte’s jab at her lover Jon Snow has become one of the biggest memes from “Game of Thrones.” She first used it to make fun of Jon’s lack of sexual experience and then in a heartbreaking moment when the two were forced to split due to their opposing allegiances. When Ygritte and her wilding companions attacked Jon and his Night’s Watch brothers at Castle Black, she uttered the words in her final breath as she died in his arms.

“A Lannister always pays his debts” (Season 1, Episode 5)

It’s always good to have the Lannisters owe you a favor. The golden lions of Westeros have enough money and power to repay any of their debts, whether they’re monetary or vengeful. The unofficial motto was immortalized with the song “The Rains of Castamere,” created in honor of a young Tywin Lannister obliterating House Reyne after their foolish rebellion. The Red Wedding massacre, also orchestrated by Tywin, served as another reminder to not cross the powerful, wealthy family.

“Chaos is a ladder” (Season 3, Episode 6)

Littlefinger and Varys, the two most conniving masterminds, revealed what drives them toward power in a duel of words. Varys asserted that his shady deals benefitted Westeros, and chaos would swallow them all like a pit without his cutthroat actions. Littlefinger countered with a monologue that explained the entire power struggle of the series. “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try it again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb. They refuse. They cling to the realm or the gods or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die” (Season 1, Episode 7)

Hey, it’s the name of the show! Cersei Lannister broke the news to Ned Stark, the perennial good guy, that fighting for the Iron Throne would lead to many deaths, and soon his own. The list of fallen kings continued with Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy, and Joffrey, Stannis, Renly and Tommen of House Baratheon. It’s been a deadly game for eight seasons, and in two episodes, HBO will try to give a satisfying end to it.

“Hold the door” (Season 6, Episode 5)

“Thrones” fans might burst into tears if someone ever asks them to hold the door behind them. In “The Door,” Bran Stark travelled back in time and saw a younger Hodor –- once named Wylis — who could say more than just “Hodor.” Meanwhile, the present version of the gentle giant was busy barricading a door with his body as Bran and Meera Reed escaped zombies in the Three-Eyed Raven’s hut. They yelled at him to “hold the door,” which looped back in time and gave Wylis a seizure, thus turning him into the Hodor we all know, love and mourn.

“Dracarys” (Season 2, Episode 5)

When Daenerys says “dracarys,” things get heated. She uses the High Valyrian word for “dragonfire” to turn her enemies to a crisp, like the Qarth warlock Pyat Pree, a whole bunch of slavers’ ships in Meereen, the Lannisters’ loot train and Randyll and Dickon Tarly. In the fourth episode of Season 8, Missandei used “dracarys” as her last word before Cersei ordered her execution, inciting Daenerys to wage war on King’s Landing in the upcoming penultimate episode.

“The night is dark and full of terrors” (Season 2, Episode 1)

Melisandre convinced a lot of people to abandon their gods and worship the Lord of Light, the Essos deity with the power to resurrect his believers and set swords ablaze. First, the Red Woman thought Stannis Baratheon was the Prince Who Was Promised, the religion’s foretold savior, then moved on to Jon Snow and brought him back to life after he was killed. The priestess received her mystical powers through prayer by reciting “Lord of Light! Come to us in our darkness. We offer you these false gods. Take them and cast your light upon us. For the night is dark and full of terrors.”

“What is dead may never die” (Season 2, Episode 3)

The Greyjoys of the Iron Islands have their own way of doing things. The notorious rebels declared themselves sovereign during the War of the Five Kings, then Euron Greyjoy murdered his brother Balon to lead the Ironborn. They pay the iron price and seize what they want. They worship the Drowned God and submerge their leaders’ heads in water. They may rule if they survive, proclaiming, “What is dead may never die, but rises again harder and stronger.”

“Night gathers, and now my watch begins” (Season 1, Episode 7)

The brothers of the Night’s Watch don’t take their oaths very seriously. “Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.” Samwell Tarly is expecting a child, Jon Snow is trying his hardest to not wear a crown, and both have left their posts on the Wall and won a fair amount of glory.

“What do we say to the God of death? Not today.” (Season 1, Episode 8)

Syrio Forel, the First Sword to the ruler of Braavos, gave Arya Stark her initial lessons in swordfighting way back in Season 1, paving the way for her to survive on her own and become a trained assassin. We last saw her teacher fend off some Kingsguard members with just a wooden sword as Arya escaped the city, and his final words were echoed by Melisandre as she told Arya she’d be the one to kill the Night King during the Battle of Winterfell.

“That’s what I do. I drink and I know things” (Season 6, Episode 2)

One of Tyrion’s classic lines came while he was proving his strategic cunning in a meeting with Missandei, Grey Worm and Varys in Meereen while Daenerys was gone. After learning the dragons had not been eating, Tyrion advocated for their release from captivity, despite having little experience with the beasts. When asked why he knew that, he replied that drinking and knowing things were his specialties.

“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention” (Season 3, Episode 6)

Ramsay Bolton said this cryptic quotation during one of his torture sessions with his captive, Theon Greyjoy — aka Reek. The psychotic villain sliced and diced Theon’s body for his own amusement for days, but the sentence may have greater implications for the entire series. If “Thrones” fans think the show will have a happy ending, they haven’t been paying attention the past eight seasons.

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