“If the day comes when you would find me again, give that coin to any man from Braavos, and say these words to him--valar morghulis.”
---Jaqen H’ghar, A Clash of Kings, pg. 691.
In a memorable scene from A Clash of Kings, Jaqen H’ghar leaves Arya with only an old iron coin, and two words to say to any Braavosi she meets. Arya repeats this words often times throughout the series, never quite knowing what they mean. What does the enigmatic phrase signify?
1) Valar Morghulis
Valar morghulis seems to translate to ‘All men must die,’ or ‘all men are mortal.’ In Storm of Swords, pg. 308, Missandei uses the phrase, and it seems to be in the High Valyrian tongue. And on page 748, Oberyn Martell uses the phrase, confirming it is from Valyria.
For a discussion on why Jaqen may have told Arya to use that phrase, see the ‘What do we know about Faceless Men?’ discussion.
2) Valar Dohaeris
Arya finally uses the words valar morghulis at the end of Storm of Swords, speaking them to a Braavosi ship captain. The captain replies with an odd sort of salute, and the phrase valar dohaeris. Now what does this phrase mean?
Quite frankly, we don’t know. It’s never stated in the books. The best clue comes from something Ygritte says on page 464 of A Storm of Swords:
“You’re mine,” she whispered. “Mine, as I’m yours. And if we die, we die. All men must die, Jon Snow. But first we’ll live.”
Ignoring the question of how the wilding culture could have adopted a High Valyrian phrase, Ygritte’s ‘all men must die,’ seems close to Dany’s translation for valar morghulis. It is possible, then, that ‘first we’ll live’ is the translation of valar dohaeris. However, nothing is certain, so we can only conjecture about the definition at this point.