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The 10 Races of Skyrim: The Elder Scrolls V

Updated on January 13, 2018
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Dani is a college student and loves time management, personal finance, video games, and writing about their college experiences.

Skyrim is a beautiful, yet war-torn province of Tamriel with a diverse population. This article discusses all 10 playable races which include: the Altmer, the Argonians, the Bosmer, the Bretons, the Dunmer, the Imperials, the Khajiit, the Nords, the Orsimer, and the Redguard.

Runil, an Altmer priest who tends the graveyard in Falkreath.
Runil, an Altmer priest who tends the graveyard in Falkreath. | Source

1. The Altmer (or High Elves)

Proud, elegant, and often rude, the Altmer claim to be the purest in a line of descendants of the ancient Aldmer. They make fine mages and often specialize in alchemy or other arcane arts, in which they are the most gifted.

Physical Appearance and Biology

The Altmer are the tallest of the Skyrim races, standing at a scale of 1.08. Being one of the Mer races, they share many similarities with their Elven cousins. They also have a pale, gold-toned complexion, high-pointed ears, and almond-shaped eyes. The Altmer share many physical characteristics with both the dark and wood elves, notably in the shape of their eyes and ears.

Culture and Society

As stated above, the Altmer are a proud race who claim their lineage from the ancient Aldmer. The name Altmer even stems from the Aldmeri language and means High Ones or Cultured Ones. They have stringent marital customs that help to ensure a pure bloodline, something they hold sacred and protect. The Altmer often argue that they are the oldest and most civilized of all Tamriel races. High Elves make up the majority of the Thalmor, an often-hated position in the high courts.


High Elves characters are commonly used as starter mages due to their unique and proficient restoration skills. They also start with an extra 50 Magicka, which can be used to balance other skills or quickly become a master mage very early on in the game.

Stands-In-Shallows, a male Argonian and skooma addict.
Stands-In-Shallows, a male Argonian and skooma addict. | Source

2. The Argonians

Intelligent and hardy, Argonians are a race of vaguely humanoid amphibious people native to the Black Marsh.

Physical Appearance and Biology

Argonians range in color from green to brown, with some a more reddish tint than others. The males often have feather-like extremities protruding from the top of their heads, and both sexes commonly have small horns. They are a scaled race of people, with small eyes and a gravely voice.

Due to their swampy origins, the Argonians have developed the ability to breathe underwater indefinitely. They are also immune to most diseases that the average traveler would stumble across in Skyrim.

Culture and Society

Being one of the two beast races found in Skyrim, Argonians are often subject to widespread racism. A common slur used by members of other races, mostly Nords, is being called "boots" in reference to their scaly skin. They also often live in segregated housing from the rest of Skyrim's inhabitants.

One especially interesting aspect of Argonian society is their courting ritual. In their homeland, they prefer to use an Argonian Wedding Band instead of an Amulet of Mara. It is crafted with three flawless amethysts, with one representing each spouse and a middle stone representing The Hist.


Argonians make excellent assassins and thieves, and are granted an additional advantage due to their water-breathing ability. In many aspects, their gameplay traits rival that of the Khajiit.

Dark 5's Favorite Playable Skyrim Races

Anoriath, a Wood Elf who is a hunter that resides in Whiterun.
Anoriath, a Wood Elf who is a hunter that resides in Whiterun. | Source

3. The Bosmer (or Wood Elves)

The Bosmer are a mysterious and ancient culture that hail from the province of Valenwood. Unlike many of their Mer brethren, the Wood Elves prefer a simpler way of life, free from the triviality and the lavishness of "civilized" life.

Physical Appearance and Biology

Wood Elves share many features with their Elven brothers and sisters, and as such have the characteristic elven ears and sharp facial structure. They are smaller in stature and have a more human skin-tone than the others.

Culture and Society

The Bosmer have a strong religious relationship with nature and because of this have taken an oath known as the Green Pact. While they are only required to follow these rules in Valenwood, most Bosmer still adhere to a strictly carnivorous diet. The four known rules of the Green Pact are as follows:

  1. Meat and dairy products are the only foods available for consumption. Another aspect of this rule is known as the Meat Mandate that dictates that a fallen enemy, including those of the same species, must be eaten in his entirety within three days after his death. Thankfully, this rule allows for the family to assist in this process and feasts are often planned around major battles.
  2. Wood or other plant-derived materials can't be used as building materials. This leaves stone and imported timber as the main means of housing in Valenwood.
  3. Trees and other plant life can't be harmed for the betterment of an individual.
  4. Vegetation and plant life can't be smoked for recreational use. While traditional smoke is banned under the Green Pact, Bosmers commonly smoke grubworms and other insects.

While the Green Pact may seem primitive to outsiders, it has rendered the Wood Elves to be a peaceful and passive people. Skirmishes are avoided in order to avoid cannibalism, and every part of the animal (human or otherwise) is used. The hunt is an absolute necessity for the survival of the species, so death is a well-respected and understood aspect of their life.


The Bosmer are naturally talented at archery and sneaking skills which make them popular for those wanting to join the Dark Brotherhood or the Thieves Guild. They are also excellent hunters and proficient in archery, due in part because of the necessity of the Green Pact as well as the natural Elven proficiency.

Colette Marence, a professor at the College of Whitehold and a Breton.
Colette Marence, a professor at the College of Whitehold and a Breton. | Source

4. The Bretons

Bretons are one of the human races inhabiting the province of Skyrim. Hailing from High Rock, many Bretons work as merchants in Skyrim or live in the hills of Markarth as the Forsworn. They are considered to be "the mongrel race of Tamriel" and still retain a few characteristics of their Elven blood.

Physical Characteristics and Biology

Bretons, hailing from High Rock, have grown accustomed to a more temperate climate than found in Skyrim and are thus less physically adjusted to the harsh Skyrim winters than their other human cousins. Their elven ancestry is still prominent in many of their features, from their pointed ears to their sometimes arrogant demeanor.

Society and Culture

The Bretons are keen on politics and are a very diplomatic race. While most tend to embrace the human half of their origin, they - and others - are very much aware of their Elven ancestry. This "mixed breed" of a race often appear to have no home out of Skyrim, as they are often resented by both Mer and Man. They have their origins as the byproduct of Altmeri enslavement and breeding with an ancient race of Cyrodill Men.

Despite their half shared heritage, Bretons have a strong distaste for Orcs, often citing their barbaric ways.


The most popular and perhaps most effective way to use a Breton character is a battle mage. They make excellent diplomats and can blend easily into almost any culture and assimilate well.

Erandur, a Dark Elf, ex-cult member and current priest of Mara.
Erandur, a Dark Elf, ex-cult member and current priest of Mara. | Source

5. The Dunmer (or Dark Elves)

The Dunmer, commonly known as the Dark Elves, have much in common with their Elven brethren. They face discrimination and have enhanced magical abilities.

Physical Appearance and Biology

A distinct feature of the Dunmer is their pale, jewel-toned skin which has lead for them to take upon the racial slur "the Greys."

Culture and Society

Like many races in Skyrim, the Dark Elves are subject to discrimination and prejudice. Their somewhat off-putting appearance, natural skills in magic, and refugee status seem threatening to many.


Builds and gameplay options are nearly unlimited for the Dunmer. Dark Elves are the middle-ground between the Altmer and the Bosmer, with excellent skills in both magic and stealth. As well as proficient assassins and thieves, Dunmer are excellent battle mages.

Commander Caius, an Imperial general that resides in Whiterun.
Commander Caius, an Imperial general that resides in Whiterun. | Source

6. Imperial

Imperials are one of the four human races that inhabit the land of Tamriel, and rule the heart of the Empire. Shrewd minds, silver tongues, and a charisma famous across the lands.

Physical Features and Biology

At first glance, Imperials are the lesser of their other Human cousins. They are not as strong or fierce as the Nords, nor are they as magically-inclined as the Bretons. They also lack the pale tone reminiscent of both the Nords and the Bretons, but they are not as dark as the Redguards. However, where they lack in brute strength or magical prowess they gain in flexibility in the heat of battle.

Although they aren't Elven, they have slightly sharper faces than the other races of Men. They also have a larger range of skin tone than other human races, ranging from almost Elven pale to a brown rivaling a Redguard.

Culture and Society

The largest political upheaval currently in Skyrim is the fight between the Imperials - (and their gathered army of various races) against the Stormcloaks (who are predominately Nord.)

Imperials are widely renowned as one of the most educated, sophisticated, and wealthy races.


Imperials are often played as crusaders or soldiers, but can be trained in magic to make powerful battle mages.

M'aiq the Liar, a Khajiit who is a constant character in the Elder Scrolls series.
M'aiq the Liar, a Khajiit who is a constant character in the Elder Scrolls series. | Source

7. Khajiit

The Khajiit are a fierce, feline race world-renowned for their stealth and physical prowess. They are one of the few remaining Beast races before the introduction of Mer and Men to their lands.

Physical Features and Biology

The Khajiit are large, bipedal feline creatures that originally resided in the jungles of Elsweyr. There are appear to be different "breeds" of Khajiit, whose body type is determined by the phases of the moon. This appearance can be that of a common house cat to a tiger to a mountain lion and affects not only their appearance but possibly their role in Khajiit society.

They have advanced night vision and retractable claws, which adds to their already stealthy nature. Compared to most other races, the Khajiit have a unique accent and a distinctly exotic air.

Culture and Society

Outside of their home province of Elsweyr, the Khajiit are subject to discrimination and racial slurs. Most Khajiit are banned from entering Hold walls and as such are forced to sell their wares outside of cities. This, coupled with their natural stealth and penchant for unarmed combat, has left them a nasty name in the mouths of many Skyrim citizens.

The Khajiit have a religion very different from that of Men and Mer, yet it appears to come from the same Aldemeri Pantheon. Moon Sugar, which can be refined into skooma (a very addictive narcotic) also plays a role.


With the exception of the Argonians, Khajiit may be the most widely discriminated race in all of Skyrim, which can make for a unique playing experience. Their stealth makes them excellent assassins and thieves, and their outcast demeanor makes them a perfect choice for a diverse variety of builds.

Ulfric Stormcloak, the Nordic Jarl of Windhelm and the leader of the infamous Stormcloak Rebellion.
Ulfric Stormcloak, the Nordic Jarl of Windhelm and the leader of the infamous Stormcloak Rebellion. | Source

8. The Nords

The Nords are a proud and strong race of Men who settled in Skyrim long ago. They value honor in battle and glory in victory and have strong ties to warfare.

Physical Features and Biology

Strong and hardy in build, the Nords are naturals on the battlefield. Their ancient roots have provided them with a strong resistance to the cold and frost magic. They are pale and large in build and are known across the Empire for their unwavering strength in the face of adversity.

Many Nords

Culture and Society

The Nords have a complex society and feudal government. They are the primary rules of Skyrim, with most Jarls being of the Nordic race.

Nords are one of the few remaining races that still believe in Talos, despite the strong political agreement of the White-Gold Concordant. Because of this, many Nords have developed a strong distaste for Elves, especially the Altmer, and have a distrust of anyone whom they consider "outsiders."


Nords are born warriors and make excellent soldiers, scouts, and adventurers. For those wishing to side with the Stormcloaks, a Nord barbarian build is a perfect choice.

Despite being described as the "fair-skinned people of Tamriel," Nords can be made to look very diverse when creating a character.

Moth gro-Bagol, an Orc who left his stronghold and now works as the Jarl's blacksmith in Markarth.
Moth gro-Bagol, an Orc who left his stronghold and now works as the Jarl's blacksmith in Markarth. | Source

9. The Orsimer

Orcs are a hardy and fierce race of Mer. They have a unique culture amongst both Man and Men, are subsequently are subject to fierce racism throughout Skyrim.

Physical Features and Biology

The Orsimer have a very distinct physiology. They are the second tallest playable race in Skyrim and are the only race to have tusks. They are generally very muscular, especially the males. Orcs vary in skin-tone from green to brown and look in general very foreign to most other Skyrim races.

Regardless of their somewhat foreign appearance, they have somewhat similar features to the rest of Elvenkind. Pointed ears and sharp eyes are a nod to their heritage.

Culture and Society

Orcs are no stranger to the rampant racism that afflicts Skyrim and greater Tamriel. Elves especially have a strong distaste for Orsimer kind, referring to them as "corrupted elves." In addition, they lack much of the magical knowledge that comes easily to other races of Elves, which has caused them to instead have advanced smithing and traditional weaponry skills. Very few live outside of their established strongholds, and those that do often serve in the Imperial Legion.

A distinctive feature of Orsimer society is their polygamous lifestyle. Each stronghold is ruled by a single male chieftain, each of whom takes on multiple wives. No other males can marry or bear children.


Orcs are strong and noble warriors, making it easy to make a soldier or adventurer player character build.

Nazir, a traditionally-dressed Redguard who is a member of the Dark Brotherhood.
Nazir, a traditionally-dressed Redguard who is a member of the Dark Brotherhood. | Source

10. The Redguards

Redguards are a race of Man desceneded from a long line of mystics, warriors, and time-honored tradition. Their native region of Hammerfell is a harsh desert environment and have made the Redguards a hardy race.

Physical Features and Biology

Culture and Society

Most traditional Redguards look down upon those who practice Conjuration and the Arcane arts, seeing them as witchcraft.


Redguards are excellent warriors and with time, can be made into strong battlemages or spellswords.


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