Commentary on The Nature of Middle-earth

by Helios De Rosario Martínez


The Nature of Middle-earth (NM for short), edited by Carl F. Hostetter and published in 2021, is arguably the book with the greatest wealth of information about J.R.R. Tolkien’s secondary world since Christopher Tolkien ended the series on The History of Middle-earth over two decades ago. As one might expect, that book also includes a substantial amount of information about the invented languages of Middle-earth, even considering that it is a book addressed to the general audience, and the linguistic details have been simplified and abridged.

The present article is a survey of new linguistic material that can be found in NM, with commentaries and cross-references to other published texts, for those readers with specific interest in that field of Tolkienian studies. It starts with a note about the selection of texts that are included in the survey, followed by a discussion on some chapters that deal with the Elvish vision of some aspects of life and the world, which are purportedly reflected on the grammar and usage of their languages (although they do not present particular examples of words or particles that exhibit those traits). Then there is an analysis of the grammar and phonology of a few sentences and expressions, and finally a commented account of new words and names found in the book — or new relationships found between already known vocabulary, structured in subsections by themes.

Selected texts

The texts presented in NM may be a novelty for the majority of readers, since this is the first time that they are published in a trade book. But those more familiarized with the study of Tolkien’s invented languages will surely recognize some texts that were previously published in specialized journals like Vinyar Tengwar or Parma Eldalamberon — and in one case in Tolkien Studies, as well as in the French journal La Feuille de la Compagnie.

Many of those texts are specially rich in linguistic information, even taking into account that a lot of details about word forms, phonology and etymology contained in them have been synthetized or removed in NM, to make the text easier to read. But those texts have already been thoroughly examined and commented — to a great extent in the original publications. So, in order to reduce the extension of this work, and to save the trouble of setting the limits of what information from the original publications should be cross-referenced, all those texts that had been previously published in English are ruled out from the analysis and commentaries below. In particular, the excluded texts are:

From Part Two (Body, Mind and Spirit), the following chapters:

  • I: Beauty and Goodness (originally published in PE17).
  • III: Eldarin Hands, Fingers and Numerals, (VT47-48).
  • VII: Mind Pictures (PE17).
  • IX: Ósanwe-kenta (VT39).
  • X: Notes on Órë (VT41).
  • Pages 228-230 from XI: Fate and Free Will (Tolkien Studies vol. VI).
  • XII: The Knowledge of the Valar (PE17).
  • Text 1 of XIII: Spirit (PE17).
  • XIV: The Visible Forms of the Valar and Maiar (PE17).

And from Part Three (The World, its Lands, and its Inhabitants):

  • VI: Dwellings in Middle-earth (PE17)
  • XXI: The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor (VT42).

The linguistic material of chapter XV of Part Two (Elvish Reincarnation) was already analyzed by Carl Hostteter in A Glossary of Elvish Terms in Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation. But this article presents additional commentaries to some terms given in that article, and other related words that are found in NM.

Chapters with grammatical and meta-linguistic information

Relative positions in time and space

In chapter 1-XXI (Notes on Elvish Time-reference) Tolkien explains how the immortality of the Elves affected the way they perceived the relationship between past or future events in the course of their lifes, seen as some kind of journey — this detail may be related to some extent to the Great March, which was a major aspect of their lifes during the early stages of development of the Eldarin languages. And it is also commented how this affected the meaning of adverbs and other grammatical devices, which might be used to express both spatial and temporal relationships, as also happens in English, but for some aspects in the opposite way — including opposite contradictions within both languages.

For instance, there is told that for the Elves, their ancestors were not seen as the people the lie behind (as happens among Men, whose more distant ancestors are deceased), but those who are ahead of them. On the other hand, for ordinary purposes the words for before and after referred to time were reversed with respect to that pictorial metaphor. Thus, in Elvish languages past events (those that happened before the present time according to English usage) were expressed as being behind, whereas future events (which will happen after the present in English) were expressed as being in front.

In the texts of NM there are no actual examples of such terms in Elvish languages, but part of that discussion was quoted by Bill Welden in VT49:12 (although this is not noted in NM), in a discussion about the preposition epe, which in the texts he was discussing means following, after (of time), but was reported to mean before for all other relations in a different text.1 According to Welden’s commentary in VT49:32 n.12, the text that we can identify as the one published in NM also mentions the word glossed as at back, of place and before, of time, although that detail is not present in the published fragment.2

Gender and sex

In chapter II of Part 2 (Gender and Sex), it is explained that there is no grammatical distinction in Elvish languages between masculine and feminine, although there is a distinction between animate (including all living beings) and inanimate.

The absence of masculine vs. feminine gender is consistent with the evidence of many late tables and lists of pronouns and pronominal particles in conjugations and possessives, which do not have differentiated 3rd person forms except for number (PE17:67, 75, 132, VT50:22), or only make a distinction for impersonal forms (VT49:48–51). The 3rd impersonal person, also called abstract in those tables, is usually meant to be used for actions without a definite subject as it rains. But in this case it might be also applicable to the inanimate gender mentioned by Tolkien in the referred chapter. Actually, in a discussion on pronominal stems c. 1940 quoted in VT43:20, Tolkien explained the impersonal stem ta as being referred to abstracts or to things (such as inanimates) not by the Eldar regarded as persons.

There is also a table of Quenya conjugations in PE17:57 that contains different 3rd person forms for animate (ended in -te) and neuter (ended in -ta), besides a distinct impersonal form (with no singular ending, plural -r and dual -t). The affixes of that table agree with those of the adhesive pronouns (with me, with you...) given without explanation in VT43:29, so it may be safe to assume that they are meant to refer to the same cases.

It may be noted that in earlier conceptual stages Quenya grammar did differentiate between masculine, femenine and neuter, as seen in the pronoun tables of the Early Qenya Grammar (PE14:53–56, 85–86) and in the Early Qenya Pronouns (PE15:47–57). This did not happen, however, in Goldogrin (PE13:97) or early Noldorin (PE13:126–130), which only distinguished between personal and impersonal in some tables, although the demonstrative stem S- in Etym. shows different forms for masculine, feminine and neuter, with derived pronouns in later Noldorin.

Even in later stages sex was not absent from all the areas of Quenya grammar. For instance, in PE17:190 there is a note about the bases WEG, NES and variants referred to masculinity and feminity apart from sex. That note contains lists of name-formative, agental and patronymic suffixes which have different masculine and feminine forms. There is also a list of possessive suffixes with two forms, both singular (-rya / -ssa) and plural (-lte / -nte), although it is not clear if that is also a differentiation by sex or not.

Memory of language in reborns

The second text of chapter 2-VIII (Knowledge and Memory) comments on the loss of linguistic memory in the Elves after rebirth. That text recalls the answer of Pengoloð to Ælfwine’s question about why the languages of immortal Elves changed through generations (XII:396–402). In both cases, the underlying reason is the conception of living speech (coirëa quenya, as called by Pengoloð) as something more than a collection of sounds, but the physical vehicle of thought and imagination: something that is to our thought as the body to our spirit (XII:399), or as put in NM:202, an art of the cohering fëa and hrondo, and the chief product of their cooperation. Now, whereas in Dangweth Pengoloð the change of Elvish languages and the oblivion of old forms is explained as a natural process due to the dynamic expression of thought, in the referred chapter of NM the reason for reborns having to learn languages anew is more dramatic: it is a consequence of the destruction of the coherence between mind and body, which must be reconstructed in all aspects — including language — after death in re-incarnated Elves.

Sentences and expressions

The majority of linguistic information found in NM relates to vocabulary of Quenya, Sindarin and other languages of Middle-earth, but there are a couple texts that also contain phrases that invite to the analysis of some grammatical and phonological details. In particular, we are going to look into a couple of related Quenya sentences, and a Sindarin appositional genitive expression.

Quenya spirit-sentences

In p. 239 there are two Quenya sentences that exemplify the usage of the word thúlë / súlë (see further commentary on those and related words in the section about Spirit, whiteness and wind below). Tolkien first wrote out a sentence in English, and started to write its Quenya version, which he left unfinished (cfr. p. 240 n.7 for details), and then he wrote the following phrases, whose literal translations are provided by the editor:

  • Ar thúlë Manwëo etsurinye ar Eldaron indor turyaner. (And the spirit of Manwë blew forth and the hearts of the Eldar obeyed).
  • Sustane Manwëo súle ten i indo Sindicollo ar he lastane ar carnes. (The spirit of Manwë blew into the heart of Thingol and he listened and did it).

The first clause of both sentences is similar, differing only in the verb and the order of words. The subject in both cases is the spirit of Manwë, expressed by the noun thúlë/súlë — which are the classic/exilic forms of the same word for spirit (LR:1096), and Manwë in genitive case. The order of the words is reversed in each other sentence, as well as the order between subject and verb.

The verbs surinye and sustane are explained by Tolkien in a note as past tense conjungations of surya and susta, respectively (in CE thusya, thusta), both glossed as blow and derived from THUS.3 The difference between them is that the form ended in -ya is intransitive, and the one in -ta is transitive (cf. such pattern of -ya and -ta derived verbs in PE22:115, 157). The actual verb used in the first sentence is etsurinye, which shows the prefix et- out, used for continuous actions with a sudden onset (PE22:114), hence its translation blew forth.

The past form etsurinye shows that (et)surya is a half-strong verb: a type of verbs with extended stems that formed the past tense as strong verbs from the bare stem, or — as in this case — with intrusion of nasal before the last consonant, like in sirya - sirinye flowed (PE22:113, 115). On the other hand, sustane in the second sentence is a weak past, formed by suffixion of -ne to the extended stem.

In the second sentence, the predicate of the first clause includes ten i indo Sindicollo, translated word-by-word as into the heart of-Thingol (with the name Thingol in genitive case). The gloss of indo = heart is borrowed from the English version of the sentence that was aborted, although that word is elsewhere translated with other terms more related to inner thoughts, reasoning or will (see the section about Heart and mind below).

The second clause of the first sentence (Eldaron indor turyaner) has clearly the same word indo in plural form (indor), with the suffixes of the other words agreeing in number (gen. -ron and pa.t -ner). But the meaning of the verb turya requires some thought. The English version of the aborted sentence includes the clause and the hearts of the Eldar heard afar [off?] and were comforted / or obeyed; and leaving aside the part of heard afar (which echoes in the second sentence), that phrase matches quite well the Quenya clause that is being discussed, but it leaves us with two options to translate the verb. Now, turya can be assumed to derive from TUR(U), a base consistently associated with mastery, victory, power, strength... (cf. V:395, PE12:95, PE17:188). The editorial choice for its gloss, obey, is indeed connected to those meanings, but rather in the opposite way. On the other hand, the alternative to be comforted, although seemingly unrelated if taken in the ordinary sense of being soothed, solaced, does fit very well if we consider the first (obsolete) meaning of comfort given by the OED: to strengthen (morally or spiritually); to encourage, hearten, inspirit, incite.4 This also agrees with the attested meaning of turya- as strengthen, used for phonological developments (modification of the vowels of Eldarin bases, cf. PE18:45–46, PE22:110).

The second clause of the second sentence (he lastane ar carnes) is straightforward. In VT49:15 Patrick Wynne cited a text where the pronoun (with long e), glossed as him (the other, etc.) is reported to be used for a 3rd person of second reference which was not the subject of a 3rd person sentence (emphasis original). That description suits the sentence we are dealing with, whose first subject is Manwë (actually his spirit), and in the second clause uses a 3rd. pronoun referred to another person (Thingol). The rest of the clause are two well-known verbs, lasta listen and car do (V:362,368 s.v. KAR LAS, PE17:46,84), conjugated as weak pa.t., the latter with the suffix of 3rd. object -s (did it).

Language of the sentences

The contrast between thúlë and súlë in those two sentences suggests that they might be instances of different dialects of Quenya. If that were the case, the second one would be a clear example of the Exilic Noldorin variety of Quenya or Tarquesta (PE19:68). In contrast, the first sentence would represent an older variety, although a more precise characterization of its language requires considering the phonological development of the verb etsurya, derived from CE et + thusya.

On the one hand, the change -sy- > -ry- seen in medial position is also a typical Noldorin trait (PE19:102), so we could consider the first sentence to be an example of the pre-Exilic variety of Noldorin Quenya (Parmaquesta). However, this Parmaquesta vs. Tarquesta hypothesis is challenged by the first consonant group of that verb. In Parmaquesta, the unprefixed CE thusya would have yielded *thurya, rather than surya; so if the combination t-th generally developed into something different than ts, then etsurya could be argued to be a late formation, made by speakers of Tarquesta after old th had turned into s.5

Now, the Outline of Phonology, dealing with the developments in Parmaquesta and Tarquesta (PE19:82), tells that the combinations of stops and aspirates coalesced into long, weakly aspirated stops (PE19:83–84, 87). Therefore, tth would normally yield tt (pronounced with a weak aspiration), as actually seen in nette girl < CE netthe (VT47:16).6 According to this pattern, et + thusya would yield *etturya, pa.t. *etturinye in Parmaquesta.

In this regard it is remarkable that, as noted by the editor, the mansucript actually shows etturinye written right before etsurinye. This is taken as if Tolkien intended to replace the former verb by the latter, but no sign of rejection or selection is reported for either word; and in light of the previous discussion, it might be argued that none of them was rejected, but he was just hesitating between them. A reason to consider an alternative to the regular form of Parmaquestarin *etturya could be to dissimilate it from a possible derivative from turya, which is also used in the second clause of that sentence, to avoid confusion.

i Cirdh Daeron

The Sindarin expression i Cirdh Daeron the Runes of Daeron, is given in a fragment from The Annals of Aman (p. 164), and it has a couple of pecularities that are worth comment.

The most remarkable is the dh of cirdh runes, a well-known term that is everywhere else found as cirth (sg. certh). There is no clear explanation to that unusual spelling: it cannot be a grammatical mutation, which are always applied to the initial consonants of words; and although it might look like a partial assimilation of -th to the following voiced d-, that would be an unusual development — cp. Rath Dínen, the Silent Street in Minas Tirith, where there is no modification of rath in the same phonological context. (See more about that word in the section about Valleys and roads below). It is also unlikely that Tolkien just decided to alter the Sindarin word, which was remarkably present in the published Appendices of LR.

The other peculiarity is the absence of the nasal mutation that is applied to words preceded by the plural article in (itself reduced to i in that position). This regularly transformed initial unvoiced stops into fricatives, as in + tiw = i thiw the letters, or in + Periannath = i Pheriannath the Halflings, the Hobbit-folk (L:427, PE17:44, 66). Following that pattern, which is also fully described for early Noldorin (cf. PE13:120–121), i + Cirth (or Cirdh) should have produced i Chirth (or i Chirdh).

New vocabulary

Even ruling out the texts that had already been published elsewhere, NM contains a lot of vocabulary in the languages invented by Tolkien, which provide us with new insights into the tongues and lives of Elves and Men, and of their vision of the world.

That vocabulary is presented below, in sections organized by themes, plus a miscellanea section for words that do not fit into any of the other categories. Each section contains a list of words and names sorted alphabetically, with a gloss and a commentary including cross-references to other entries or other sources. Pages of NM are referred to as numbers between parentheses. The glosses are taken from the texts when suitable, but sometimes there are multiple glosses in different fragments, or the meanings of the words are explained with lengthy descriptions; in those cases the glosses are arbitrarily selected or abridged.

This is not a complete word list. Words and names have been selected if they present some relevant novelty, either because they are not found with the given form elsewhere in the corpus, or because there is some new point in their meanings, derivations or etymological relationships to other terms. Etymological bases, stems, and words in Common Eldarin or ancient forms of the languages do not receive specific entries, but are mentioned in the entries of their derivatives. The special highlighting of entry items (e.g. coimen) is also used in cross-references to them in the commentaries.7

Elvish life cycle

Part One presents thorough discussions about the chronology of the Elder Days and the reckoning of time by the Elves, dealing also with their cycles of growth, reproduction and ageing. Tolkien devised Quenya names for various of those concepts, which are more or less equivalent to the phases of the human life cycle — except by the remarkable absence of (natural) death — although the time scales were longer for the Elves. (The equivalence between Elvish years and sun-years was subject to variation throughout the texts.)

  • coimen, pl. coimendi. Q. life-year, equivalent to a yén or 144 sun-years (91, 120, passim), derived from the stem *coi- live, as in coivië life. The suffix -men is usually employed for words with meanings related to space (e.g. the cardinal points formen, númen, etc.), rather than time. But it could be a deverbative suffix, as suggested for olmen below, or be formed by analogy to it.
  • colbamarië, colbanavië. Q. gestation (91, 120). Tolkien alternated between those two forms of the word depending on the text. Both are abstract nouns seemingly formed from *colba- + the infinitive of a verb, either *marië or *navië. *Colba- seems to be a noun derived from KOL bear, carry (PE22:155); considering the common alternation between lb and lv (LR:1095), it might be compared with *carva womb in carvalyo of thy womb, apparently derived from kar- make (VT43:31). *Navië may be related to the abstract noun nāve being (PE17:68), so that the literal meaning of colbanavië would be *womb-being. On the other hand, marië could be the infinitive of mar- dwell, abide, or a variant (with short a) of márië goodness, good estate, so that colbamarië would be literally translated as *womb-abiding or *womb-well-being.
  • olmen, pl. olmendi. Q. growth-year, i.e. a year during the phase of growth (84), derived from *ol- grow as in olvar plants (beings that grow), and also in olmië growth. In PE17:68 the suffixes -mie and -men are given as derived from -mē, and denote a single action (of a verb). So olmen might be originally an abstract noun meaning growth. But given the existence of olmië, it might also be that olmen is derived from it (perhaps influenced by yén year). In such case coimen might be formed by analogy to olmen.
  • olmië. Q. growth (84), abstract noun derived from *ol- grow, using the deverbative suffix -mië instead of the general infinitive -ië (PE17:68). Cf. olmen.
  • onnalúmë, onnarië, ontalúmë. Q. time of children (16, 25–26, 31, passim). Tolkien alternated between those three forms of the word depending on the text, onnalúmë being the one used in the majority of them. Formed by onna child or onta beget (PE17:170) + lúmë time as in the famous greeting elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo (PE17:13), or the suffix -ië of infinitives and abstract nouns, as the names of seasons in the Appendix D of LR.
  • quantolië. Q. maturity (91, 120, 122). Abstract noun derived from quanta- to fill (R:67, PE17:68).
  • ontavalië. Q. puberty (120–121). Abstract noun derived from onta- beget (PE17:170) + val-, probably with the sense of *having power, such that it would mean *(age of) being able to beget.
  • vinimetta. Q. end of youth (120). From víne youth (PE17:191, VT47:26) + metta end, as in tenn’ Ambar-metta unto the ending of the world in Aragorn’s oath (LR:946).


In pages 16 and 20 there are two versions of a note regarding the time of children of the Elves (cf. onnalúmë), where Tolkien made a detailed account of Quenya terms for love and affection, involving the bases MEL (the spiritual side of love between persons), YER (the physical love between persons of different sex), and NDIL, NDUR (love for things, objects of thought and creatures of a different kind).

The distinction made between NDIL and NDUR in those notes (dated c. 1959) is that NDIL expresses a personal interest or concern for the loved thing, related to one’s inherent character, whereas NDUR is more related to fidelity and devotion in service. Those are essentially the same meanings that Tolkien expressed in a draft letter in 1967 (L:386n), but they represent a move from the description given in another draft letter in 1955, where Tolkien had defined NIL as love as a friend or equal, applied to persons, in contrast to DUR, which was love for things of other kind (PE17:152, cf. PE17:40 for the date).

  • emel. Q. n. love (16). It is an extended form of the base MEL with the same meaning. It refers to the kind of love felt between Quendi, as a general concept. On the other hand a particular case of emel (i.e. the bond between particular lovers, — of same or different sex) is called melmë.
  • meletheldi, melotorni. Q. love-sisters and love-brothers, respectively, i.e. friends of the same sex (female or male), bound by the type of friendship or love defined by MEL (20). The masc. pl. torni brothers is found Etym. s.v. TOR, with sg. toron (V:394); and a close approximation to fem. pl. *theldi (taking into account the usual change th > s in Q.) is also found in selli s.v. THEL, with sg. seler (V:392). Closer in form, but not in meaning, is seldë daughter s.v. SEL-D (V:385) and in PE17:70. In both cases, the stem-vowel of the second term is duplicated medially after MEL.8
  • melmë. Q. *love between persons, a particular case of emel (16). This word is also found, glossed simply as love, in Etym. s.v. MEL (V:372). The gloss of the main base in Etym. is love (as friend), which in the light of the notes of NM can be taken as love between persons regardless of sex, but not necessarily excluding sexual desire, since among the Elves melmë is naturally present also in marriage and procreation. Cf. yermë.
  • nilmë. Q. love (16). In Etym. s.v. NIL that word is glossed as friendship, which implies a kind of love between persons unlike its meaning in the referred text, which is love for things, and objects of thought, related to sciences, arts, etc. (see the general commentary above).
  • yermë. Q. sexual desire (16). That Elvish term does not have connotations of lust; it is rather the physical counterpart of melmë, just as the body (hröa) is a counterpart of the spirit (fëa). The base YER with the same meaning is also found as a late entry of Etym., which contains Q. yēre (VT46:23).

Spirit, whiteness and wind

The philosophical aspects of life, and specially the notion of rational creatures as incarnate spirits, are a major subject of the texts contained in NM. A key element of this topic is the identity of the spirit as something that exists independently of the body — although they are naturally united in the Incarnate.

That concept was present in Tolkien’s invented languages since the very earliest lexicons, where we can find specific words for departed, disincarnate spirits like Q. manimo or G. manos, related to things good or holy,9 and also to the name of Manwë (PE11:56, PE12:58). There are also similar words in Etym. s.v. MAN (Q. manu, N. mân), although with no explicit mention of their relationship to good or other moral notions. On the other hand, later texts do relate MAN with good, blessed, unmarred (cf. chapter 2-I), but there is no association in them between that base and words for spirit, which Tolkien eventually transferred to other stems with more physical meanings.

The main of those new words was fëa, echoed in the name of Fëanor, which had been previously related to PHAY radiate, send out rays of light (V:381). In parallel, the Fanturi (Mandos and Lórien) were renamed as Fëanturi Masters of the Spirits, but the stem fan- related to clouds and whiteness, which was contained in their former name (V:387 s.v. SPAN) became connected with the words for spirit (cf. fân).

Yet another word that acquired the meaning of spirit was súlë (older thúlë), which formely only meant breath or wind (V:393), establishing a new link between the concept of spirit and Manwë Súlimo (see also the discussion on the Quenya spirit-sentences above). As explained in the commentary to thúlë below, with this Tolkien also introduced the idea of a primitive stage in Quendian lore, before their acquaintance with the Valar, characterized by a more mythological thinking, in which they made names for abstract things using metaphorical images (see more about Light and darkness below).

The close relationship — sometimes even identity — between words for spirit and breath or wind in many languages, like Greek πνευ̃μα (pneuma), Latin anima, spīritus, or Sanksrit prāṇa, is a classic example used by many to claim that old languages tended to be more metaphorical than modern ones, an assumption that underlies many traditional theories about mythology, historical linguistics and poetry. In this regard, we may note specially Owen Barfield’s antroposophical theory of the ancient unity of perception and thought about the world (Barfield, 2010, esp. p. 71–73; see also Flieger, 2002 about the influence of Barfield’s work on Tolkien).

There is a lot of linguistic information about fëa, súlë and other late words concerning spirits or their physical manifestations, in chapters VII, XIII and XIV, specially in the more complete edition of those passages in PE17, and in other sources (cf. X:165, 349, XII:352, PE19:102, 104). But the (previously unpublished) text 2 of 2-XIII provides new insights and alternative meanings and relationships between Quenya and Sindarin forms, represented in the words commented below (T1 and T2 are used for short, instead of text 1 (or text 2) of chapter 2-XIII).

  • faen. S. spirit (as a variety or mode of being) < phainĭ, lit. vapour (237). Distinguished from fëa in that the latter is the spirit indwelling in a given body. Given as equivalent to Q. fairë < phai-rĭ, which is also found with that meaning in p. 235 and other sources like X:349, although there the S. cognate and equivalent word is faer (which also is mixed with the meaning of fëa). The pair Q. fairë / S. faen in T2 parallels the situation of Q. fëa / S. fân.
  • fân. S. spirit < phănā, equivalent (in sense, not etymologically) to Q. fëa (237). In other texts, CE phanā gave Q. fana, used to define the figures of the Valar, which the Eldar perceived as radiant, as if suffused with a light from within, and S. fân is equated to that word, although more commonly used with the sense of cloud, as Q. fanya (R:74, cf. also NM:241). Also, the S. cognate of Q. fëa is elsewhere given as a word likewise derived from PHAY, as fae or faer (X:165, 349). But in T2 the stems PHA, PHAY and PHAN are given as mutally related, originally referred to exhalations, as mists upon water, steams or the like, with an implicit notion of whiteness and clarity (see the next two entries).
  • fanwë. Q. vapour, steam (237). Derived from PHAN.
  • fein, fain. S. pallid, white, diaphanous, cognate of Q. fanya cloud (237). The form fain is also mentioned in 2-XIV, which moreover provides the CE form phanyā (241); on the other hand N. fein is given as cognate of Q. fanya in Etym. (V:387).
  • gwae, gwaew. S. *wind (237). Both words are derived from the stem (cf. hwá), but gwae comes from older gwoe < wā-yo, whereas gwaew comes from wagmē. Gwae is actually marked as N. (apparently Noldorin), but that may be just a slip for Sindarin (cf. the editorial comment in p. 236). Other notes published in PE17:34 contain same words with nearly identical derivations — except for the CE form of gwae which is given as wāyā. In both places gwaew is equated to Q. vangwë, glossed as storm in NM and blow in PE17. It is not clear if gwaew also incorporates the sense of a specially noisy or stormy wind, or if it is just a synonym of gwae.
  • hwá, hwarwa. Q. violent wind, seemingly from CE swā and its reduplicated form swa-swa, which are given as echoic representations of sound of wind (237). The text also mentions other CE words (without forms in Q. or S.) like swar, and wa-wa. The two latter are also found in PE17:34–35, glossed as blow, whence Q. váva (unglossed), whereas hwâ < SWAW is only given as a Sindarin word. Cf. gwae(w) and vangwë
  • nîf, nivol. S. cognates of Q. níma and nimulë, respectively, both meaning phantom (238). Those words show the phonological development m > v (regularly written f at the end of word, cf. LR:1087) seen in silimā > S. silef, Q. silma (white) crystal (PE17:23) and many Noldorin words in Etym.
  • níma, nimulë. Q. phantom, lit. a seeming, referred to the mental images of beings that have no physical manifestation (238). In the texts about Quenya verbs published in PE22, the verb *nem- appear, seem is used in various places as examples, and in one of them there is a late revision where the stem was modified to *nim- (PE22:93, n6). Níma looks like a strong present conjugation (cp. nēma is appearing in PE22:100), whereas nimulë seems to come from a derivative stem *nimu-.
  • súl. S. wind (237). Written as sûl in Amon Sûl (Weathertop, lit. hill of the wind, cf. RC:778). The wording in T2 is slightly confusing, but it can be interpreted that súl is derived from the same word as Q. súrë, in contrast to S. thû that is related to thúlë. Cp. N. thūl breath in Etym. s.v. THŪ (V:393, VT46:19).
  • súrë. Q. wind (237). This word is well known from the Namárië, where it occurs in the instrumental form súrinen (by agency of wind, PE17:62); but it existed since early poems, in the same or slightly variant forms like súru, cf. PE16:75, MC:222. Presented as related to thúlë, although with a different meaning and etymology, as shown in T2 (and also, but less clearly, in T1): thúlë is derived from the base THŪ (blow, cause an air movement) as *thū-le or maybe *thū-li, whereas súrë comes from CE suri, with the stem SUR (blow, move with audible sound of air), normally applied only to actual wind.
    A much later note on Monosyllabics in CE (dated 1968), cited by Patrick H. Wynne in VT47:35, also mentions the stem related to the sound of wind, whence besides sūr(i) there is the derivative sūli. It can be assumed that the latter did not survive in Quenya (at least in its Exilic variant), because it would have coalesced with thúlë. On the other hand, it might be taken as the source of S. súl.
  • Súrimo, Thúlimo. Older forms of the name given to Manwë, later blended in the well-known Súlimo (237). Those two forms are respectively derived from súrë wind and thúlë (movement of) spirit, referred to the quality of the Vala as Lord of the winds and to the power of his spirit. T1 gives the opposite forms, Sūlimo and Thūrimo.
  • thû. S. movement of spirit (237). Equivalent in meaning to Q. thúlë, and derived from the same stem, although maybe with a different ending (thus is marked with a question mark in the text). On the other hand, another late text (PE17:183) gives thû as derived from thūsē < THUS, with the completely different meaning of horrible darkness, black mist, related to Gorthu, a name of Sauron. That idea can be traced back to Etym., where thû means stench (V:393).
  • thúlë. Q. (movement of) spirit < THŪ/THUS blow, cause an air movement (237). In LR:1096 this is given as the name of a tengwa, next to its variant in the Quenya spoken by the Exiles súlë, which shows the coalescence between þ (th) and s; in T2 the form with s- is not given. In T1 thūle is described as a figurative term, applied to the great spirits like those of Valar or Maiar that might exert some physical influence on things, even if they were disembodied (236). On the other hand, in T2 it is a trace of their more primitive thought and theory.
  • thus, thos. S. puff (of air), cognate of Q. thussë (237). In spite of their etymological relationship to thû (spirit), those words are only applied to wind.
  • thussë, sussë. Q. puff of air (237). Although not mentioned explicitly, it can be guessed that sussë is the Exilic variant of thussë < THUS. The cognate S. words are thus, thos.
  • vangwë. Q. storm < wagmē (238). The same word with identical etymology is mentioned in PE17:34 (cf. gwaew), although there it is glossed as blow.

Light and darkness

Light and darkness are key elements in Tolkien’s mythology, and naturally also in its fictional languages. The most recognizable Eldarin stems related to those concepts are kal- and mor-, which are used for instance in the denomination of the Calaquendi and Moriquendi (Light and Dark Elves, respectively), but Tolkien invented many other words, and some new terms — or new derivations from known ones — can be found in various chapters of NM.

A special mention has to be made of the chapter 3-I, Dark and Light, which accounts for some words that represent light and darkness as a kind of substances. That idea is found in the very first tales, in which during the early ages of the world, light flowed and quivered in uneven streams about the airs, or at times fell gently to the earth in glittering rain and ran like water, and also describe rivers of light, light pouring from Laurelin and Silpion, against the webs of darkness weaved by Ungwë Lianti, etc. (I:69ff, 151ff). Likewise, the Q. words linquë and fuine or huine that are discussed in 3-I can be also traced back to the QL, which has hui, fui fog, dark, murk, night, and linqe water from a base LIQI that blends the meanings of flow, water and clear, transparent (PE12:41, 50).

It is remarkable that, however, the texts of 3-I belong to a time when Tolkien was revising the history and cosmology of his invented world and removing many of its old mythical elements, specially those related to the creation of the Sun and the Moon. Thus, the existence of such a figurative vocabulary is explained as a vestige from the Quendian primitive imagination.

  • angal. Q. mirror < aññala, also written as aŋŋala (350, 353). Derived from ÑAL reflected light (280); cf. ñalda, and Angal-limpe in the section of Other names.
  • , pl. dúwath. S. darkness (283). Opposed to glae(gal) light, very much like Q. fuinë is opposed to linquë, although they are pairs of words with different etymologies. In other texts dú(wath) is associated to night shadows, and it is explained as coming from CE dōmē, whence Q. lómë night (cf. in S:433, V:354, PE17:152). This creates an odd alternation of meanings and etymologies between Quenya and Sindarin, such that the S. words for darkness and night ( and fuin, respectively), have switched meanings with respect to their Q. cognates (lómë and fuinë), although neither lómë nor any other generic term for night is presented in NM, let aside the twilights. CE dōmē is specifically glossed as twilight (280), whence tindómë and undómë are derived. In Etym. s.v. DOMO (V:354) lómë blends the meanings of night and twilight.
  • fuin. S. night < phuinē < PHUY (279, 283). In contrast with the poetical term môr, fuin includes the twilights (Q. tindómë and undómë, as explained in p. 280 — cf. LR:1084). In the mytho-astronomical picture presented in p. 280 it comprises all the part of the cycle that is not marked as aurë (the sunlit day). Cf. fuinë.
  • fuinë, huinë. Q. darkness < phuinē < PHUY (279–280, 283–284). Fuinë is Noldorin Q., whereas huinë is the Vanyarin form. Cognate of S. fuin, although in that language it has the specific meaning of night. The base PHUY is glossed as breath out (285), and in CE phuinē was a mythological concept referred to darkness as a mist, a vapour-like substance opposed to linquë. Cp. dú(wath) and glae(gal).
  • glae, glaegal. S. light < GLAY (283). Opposed to dú(wath) darkness. GLAY is marked as a specifically Sindarin base; it may be related to glaw- sunshine, whence glawar, glaur- golden (PE17:159). Glaegal seems to contain cal light, with voicing of c ([k]) in medial position.
  • glathralvas. S. name of the signalling artifact called ñaltalma in Quenya, lit. flashing glass/crystal (354). The first part of the word can be related to the N. verb glathra- polish (PE13:126ff) and the G. adj. glathrin brilliant, lucent (PE11:39). The ending -lvas, allegedly containing *crystal, cannot be explained easily, but might be derived from the same term or suffix as -lma in Q. ñaltalma, with lm > lv.
  • hlimbë. Q. cognate of S. lhim, q.v.
  • kalantar. Q. light-giver, specially applied to the Sun (280). From kal- light + anta give (V:348, PE17:93, inter alia).
  • lhim. S. sliding, gliding, slippery, sleek < slimbi, cognate of Q. hlimbë (284). In a preliminary version of the text, the word was limb > lim(m), derived from CE limbi; cp. S. lim, Q. limbe < lĭmbĭ quick, swift in PE17:18. The most basic form of the stem might be *LIB, with s- prefixion and nasal infixion; cp. LIB in Etym. (V:369) and LIP in an unpublished note cited in VT44:15, glossed oil or with words related to it. Discussed as an alternative to limp underlying the Rohanese name of the river Limlight (cf. Limhîr in the section of Other names)
  • limp. S. *bright water (284). Cognate of Q. linquë and T. limpi, although deprived of the original mythical meaning of light. According to p. 283 the Sindarin term is used only for dew, but a bit later in the same text it is said to be applied to pools or rills of clear clean water. It is also discussed as a possible element underlying the Rohanese name of the river Limlight (cf. Limhîr in the section of Other names).
  • limpi. T. light, cognate of Q. linquë (283). Only the mythical sense of the Quenya word is referred to in the text. It is not clear if the Telerin form might also be applied to other usages of Q. linquë.
  • linquë. Q. light < linkwē < liŋkwi < LIK (280, 283-284). Cognate of S. limp and T. limpi. Conceived as a mythical word referred to light as a liquid, ethereal substance emanated from luminous things or beings, as fuinë, huinë with respect to darkness. A less mythical meaning is given in p. 284, as (bright, clear, gleaming) liquid, both as a noun or an adjective, applied to things like dew or fine sunlit rain, presumably as a more modern usage of the Q. word.
  • môr. S. night < mori (279). Elsewhere used for darkness, and black things; its meaning as night is marked as poetic, originally referred to the hours of full darkness, and replaced in ordinary speech by fuin, which also included the twilights. Its Q. cognate would be *morë, although NM does not give a specific Q. word for night. Cf. dú(wath).
  • ñalda. Q. bright, polished (350). Derived from ÑAL reflected light (280), cf. angal.
  • ñaltalma. Q. name for an artifact to make light signals, a kind of heliograph (353). Apparently derived from ñalata glitter of reflected light (cf. the commentary about the name of Galadriel below). The ending can be compared to that of silma < silima white crystal (PE17:23), although in that case the l of -lma does not belong to the stem; cf. its Sindarin cognate glathralvas, which seems to have a different etymology but might share part of the ending.

Heart and mind

Tolkien devised a rich Eldarin vocabulary concerning conscience, inner thought and (metaphorically) heart. The Notes on Órë (2-X) is the most important text about those concepts, but there are interesting points in other texts too.

A persistent notion since the earliest lexicons is that the Elves did not conceive the heart as a metaphor of the center of emotions and impulses. Thus, in the GL honn heart was noted as not used metaphorically (PE11:49), and in Etym. the base of Q. hōn, KHŌ-N, is glossed heart (physical), i.e. only referred to the vital organ (V:364). This idea was kept in the later texts, although in the same vein as other words seen in previous sections, Tolkien also considered some vestiges of a more figurative ancient language (cf. hón vs. hondo).

  • gorð. S. deep thought (176). Derived from GOR prfound, maybe cognate of the Q. adj. orda.
  • gœria. S. ponder (176). Derived from GOR profound; maybe from *gor-jā.
  • hón, hom. Q. heart < KHOM (176). Those words are only referred to the physical organ, as in the earlier references mentioned in the general commentary. On the other hand, a roughly contemporary note in PE19:9710 mentions that CE khō̆m is not the physical heart, but the interior used of the whole range of emotions or feelings; cf. hondo and sincahonda.
  • hondo. Q. deep feeling, like pity or hate < khomdō (176). This is reported as an ancient derivative, influenced by indō (the center of reason), which contrasts with the ordinary Q. hón or hom. The meaning given for hondo is like that of CE khō̆m in PE19:97, where it is also contrasted to indō — the interior mind.
  • indo. Q. self, innermost being < indō < im-dō. (176). In the referred text only the CE forms are given, but Q. indo is found in the Notes on Órë and other places, expressing concepts related to mind, and also will and feelings (e.g. in V:361, X:216, PE17:155, 168, PE22:165). The meaning expressed here is closer to that of PE17:155, which emphasizes to notion of inner senses and thoughts. The etymological analysis that is given, im-dō seems to relate it with the stem im- that is observed in Q. reflexive pronouns (VT47:137), and can be derived from the base MI, IMI in, within (PE17:155, 165).
  • ondórëa. Q. hard-hearted, pitiless (176). Formed by ondo stone + órë inner mind, such that the literal translation would be *stone-minded, or more idiomatically *stone-hearted, considering the metaphorical meaning of heart in English — but not in Elvish. Contrasting with the physical sense of sincahonda.
  • orda. Q. profound. Adjective derived from GOR (with the same meaning) + the suffix -da seen e.g. in sincahonda. The stem is related to órë (heart in the same sense as given to hondo).
  • serkilixa. Q. translation of blood-thirsty, one of the names called by Treebeard to the orcs in LR:957 (176). As sincahonda, this name it is meant to be taken literally, referring to the orc’s drinking the blood of their victims. Formed by serke blood (PE17:184), and maybe some word meaning drink derived from LIK glide, slide, slip, drip, applied to liquid substances (283), as *liksā (perhaps < *lik-tā or *lik-dā).
  • sincahonda. Q. flinthearted, one of the names called by Treebeard to the orcs in LR:957 (176). Formed by *sinca, an adj. form of flint (cp. sink mineral, metal, gem in PE12:83) and hón heart with the adj. suffix -da (cf. orda). According to the referred text, here heart means the physical organ: the name does not refer to the orc’s lack of pity, but to their capacity to do extraordinary physical efforts without showing fatigue. Cf. ondórëa and serkilixa.

The Creation

The vocabulary contained in this section is largely related to concepts that are found in the Ainulindalë, as the demiurgic plan of Eru, the particular ways in which it was developed by the Valar, and the conformation of the universe. A point that can be observed in that vocabulary is that life is the central element and motivation of the whole Creation. Also, it is interesting to note Tolkien’s intent to address not only the grand questions about how all things began and were created, but also detailed questions as the composition of the matter, or the evolution of the species in his secondary world. For a comparison of the product of Tolkien’s imagination and the treatment of those topics by Classical and Catholic philosophy, see the Appendix in NM:401–412, specially the epigraphs on Evolution, Hylomorphism and Prime Matter.

Part of that vocabulary from 2-XV has already been analysed in depth by Carl. F. Hostetter in A Glossary of Elvish Terms in Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation. Some of those words, particularly Ermenië and únehtar, are also given here with additional comments.

  • ambarmenië. Q. the way of the world (227). That word conveys a particular interpretation of the concept of fate, understood as the conditions fixed by Eru for the development of life in the world. Formed by ambar world, lit. the great habitation (226) + *menië determination, intention, will (cf. Ermenië, and Hostetter’s commentary in the Glossary and in NM:291 n.9).
  • arkantier. Q. pl. major patterns, particular developments derived from the Erkantië Eru’s Great Pattern (288). Referred to the development of the different forms of life devised by the Valar. Derived from ar- high, noble, exalted, a prefix that is present in the name of the Aratar, the Great Valar, and *kantië making, shaping, from the stem kat- make with nasal reinforcement.
  • endor, enendor. Q. name for the Earth, lit. Middle-land (282). This gloss, given as such in the text, differs from the more familiar Middle-earth, and moroever it is meant to refer to the whole planet, instead of the inhabited lands to the east of the Belegaer, which is the usual meaning of Endor elsewhere. That sense of en(en)dor is equivalent to what is called Imbar in 2-XV and X:337. Likewise, in the same text Ambar does not designate our planet, but the whole Solar Sistem.
  • Erkantië. Q. Great Pattern, the unfolding of the Ermenië, referred to the development of life in the world (287). Derived in the same fashion as arkantier, from *kantië making, shaping, but with the same prefix Er- as Ermenië, associated to Eru.
  • Ermenië. Q. Theme of Eru or Device of Eru, referred to His initial intention or will, the Primal Impulse (287–288). The explicit glosses in the referred text complement the information provided in 2-XV and anlyzed in Hostetter’s Glossary, where that word is told to mean the one beginning whence life originated, just as the erma (prime matter) is the fundament of all material things. The new glosses suggest that the capitalized prefix Er- in Ermenië does not only carry the meaning of one in the sense of prime or single, but also in reference to Eru. Cf. Erkantië and ambarmenië.
  • únehtar, únexi. Q. word referred to the smallest quantities of a material that can be distinguished from another one (250). The analysis of the word únehtar and its relationship to the English term atom is found in Hostetter’s Glossary. Únehtar replaces earlier únexi (265 n.6), which seems to be the plural form of sg. *únexe, with the same literal meaning (inseparable, indivisible). Both share the same stem nek-, but in one case used to form a noun (*nek-sē separation), and in the other a verb (*nek-ta separate), such that the literal meaning of únehtar would be *[matter] that cannot be divided and únexi would be *[matter] that do not have separation.

Older names of Lothlórien

In the chapter Galadriel and Celeborn (3-XVI) we can find explanations about the names of those two characters (see in the section on Other names below), and about the names that the wood of Lothlórien had in older days. The latter are gathered here in a separate section, since they involve various names and words with relatively complicated connections that are easier to present this way.

Those explanations can be compared to those given in a note to The History of Galadriel and Celeborn in Unfinished Tales (UT:327 n.5), where Christopher Tolkien explained that the wood was originally called by their Teleri inhabitants Lindórinand Vale of the Land of the Singers — where Singers stands as the literal translation of Lindar, the autonym of the Teleri. The name was afterwards transformed into Lórinand Valley of Gold for the mallorns brought by Galadriel; and eventually it was turned (allegedly by Galadriel herself) into Lórien, as a memory of the land of Irmo in Valinor.

One of the sources used by Christopher Tolkien to write that note in UT might be the text published in PE17:48, where Nand. Lindórinand and Lórinand are given together with the alternative forms Lindóriand and Lóriand, respectively. There, the suffix -nand valley is replaced by -and, likely related to the ending of Sindaring place-names as Beleriand or Ossiriand, which another note explains as derived from yandē a wide region or country (PE17:42, emphasis in the original).

The texts of NM — which include another fragment which the note of UT is based on — provide other forms for those names and additional words in the Nandorin languages, which are accounted for here.

  • glavare. T. *gold, golden < (g)lawar- golden light, cognate of Q. laurë and S. glawar (351). The full CE word glawarē sheen of gold is found in PE19:79, and glavare shows characteristic traits of a Telerin phonological developoment from it, like awa > ava (XI:367), and retention of the initial gl- group (PE18:94, PE19:79–80, VT42:8). In XI:411 it is noted that, however, the g- of that initial group does not appear in the Telerin of Aman nor in Nandorin; so if that idea was present when Tolkien devised the word glavare, it might be accounted as an example of Beleriandic Telerin.11
  • Laurelinde-nan(do), Laure-ndóre. Q. names of Lórien attributed to Galadriel, based on the older Lawarind, which appear combined in Treebeard’s Laurelindórenan (351). They are not explicitly glossed in the text, but Laurelinde-nan(do) clearly means *Vale of the Singing Gold (as a tribute to Laurelin, the Golden Tree of Valinor, in the fashion of Lórien), and Laure-ndóre is the *Land of Gold (more or less equivalent to Laurende).
  • Laurende. Q. *Golden-light-land; translation of Nand. Lawarind, an old name of Lórien (351). Derived from laware-nde, where laware stands for the Ancient Q. derivation of glawarē golden light, sheen of gold (cf. glavare), and -nde is said to be a suffix frequent in place names, possibly related to the -(i)and seen in Sindarin place-names (see the general commentary above).
  • Lawarind. *Golden-light-land; an old name of Lorien in an unidentified Silvan dialect (351). Similar to Lórinand in UT, and specially ot the variant Lóriand in PE17:48, with a different vocalization. The reference to its translation into Q. laurende also parallels the note in UT, where Lórinand is translated into Q. Laurenandë.
  • Lindē. Autonym of the Nandor (347). It proceeds from the name given by the Teleri to themselves — originally Lindāi (XI:378), adopted in Q. as Lindar. In XI:385 the T. form is Lindai with short a, and its Nandorin form is Lindi.
  • lōri. Nand. cognate of Q. laurë gold, included in the name of Lōrinand Golden Vale (347).
  • Norlindon. Nand. Land of the Lindar (347). Formed by *nor- land, country (typically used as suffix in Q. and S.) + lindon gen. of Lindē (< lindānā according to XI:385, in a reference to Lindon, the land of the Nandor in Beleriand). This name occurs as a replacement of Lindoriand, coexisting with Lōrinand, in a similar fashion as in the notes of PE17 and UT.

Valleys and roads

Here is commented a set of place-names and related words, in their majority concerning different types of valleys, mountain-roads and other landforms. Part of those words are used for different kinds of valleys or related concepts:

  • nand. S. valley < nandē < NAD hollow (351). This is an old word, associated to the landscapes of the countryside since the earliest lexicons (cf. Q. nan(d-) woodland in PE12:64; G. nand, nann a field acre, pl. nandin the country in PE11:59). In Etym. the base NAD acquired a more specific meaning, related to meads and watered plains, with derivatives as N. nand, nann wide grassland, Dor. nand field, valley, and Nandorin nan land at foot of hills with many streams (V:374, VT45:36). By the time of LR, S. nan(d) was particularly used for wide valleys (PE17:37, 80). On the other hand, in the referred text from NM it is said that this word was originally used only of not very large areas the sides of which were part of their own configuration. Other types of valleys are represented by tum (Q. tumbo, circular deep valleys) and imlad (Q. imbilat, long valleys with high mountain walls, in p. 355 and in PE17:87).
  • *nanda. Q. hollow (with opening above) < nandā (351). Only the CE form is actually attested in the text; the Q. derivative given here is guessed. Seemingly derived from the same stem *nand- (NAD with nasal strengthening) observed in the words for valley (cf. nand). An alternative explanation would be that it is the basic nad- + -nā, a usual adj. suffix (cf. PE17:68, PE21:78, PE22:136), with metathesis. But dn was usually assimilated as nn or (semi-)vocalized as řn < rn (PE19:45, 92), so that might be expected to have yielded *nanna or *narna instead.
  • nanwa. Q. a (large) bowl or similar artefact < nadmā (351). Derived from NAD hollow with the instrumental suffix -mā, as in yulma a cup for drinking from YUL drink (PE17:63, 68). For the dissimilation nm > nw, see PE19:96.
  • tum (S.), tumbo (Q.) (circular and deep) valley < tumbu (351). Like nand, an old word that in this case meant deep vale since the beginning — associated to the name of Utumna (cf. tumbo dale, vale in PE12:95, G. tûm valley in PE11:71). The words given in the text of NM and their CE ancestor are found with the same forms in Etym. s.v. TUB, glossed as deep valley, under or among hills (V:394). But in NM it is especially referred to valleys with circular form, and particularly to volcanic crater-valleys (p. 355).

There are also wors related to roads and tracks, which are worth commenting separately, in order to clarify some complicated relationships between etymological bases and phonological developments. Those words involve the bases RATH climb and RAT to find a way, clearly related to each other and also blended to some extent. An additional complication comes from the fact that there are three derivative words from those bases, which are different but look nearly identical: a Lindarin verb and a Sindarin noun derived from RATH (rath- and râth, respectively), and another Sindarin noun derived from RAT (rath), where the ending -th is produced by dynamic lengthening of the final -t in the stem. Also, S. rant (track, trail) and Q. rantala (ladder) come from different bases (RAT and RATH, respectively), although the etymological differences are diluted by the phonological developments in those languages (in both cases involving nasal infixion).

  • amroth. L. up-climber, high climber (367). From amba up (PE17:82) + -rātho climber in compounds (base RATH), in contrast with the isolated form rathumo. The referred text is apparently the source of the editorial commentary in UT:330 n.16, where the name of Amroth is explained.
  • orotrātho. L. mountain-climber (363). From *orot(o) mountain + -rātho climber. Cf. amroth above.
  • rant. S. track, trail, specially applied to the courses of rivers (363). Derived from rantā < RAT, to find a way, with nasal infixion of the stem, in contrast to rath (< ratta or rattha), which has a very similar meaning, but shows dynamic lengthening of the stem. In the referred text, rant is only given as a particle in compound names like Celebrant or Gondrant, whereas rath is given as a full word. Cp. N. and Ilk. rant, also with meanings related to river courses, in Etym. s.v. RAT (V:383).
  • rantala. Q. ladder < ranthlā < RATH climb, with nasal infixion of the stem (363).
  • rath-. L. climb, a strong verb formed directly by the basic stem RATH (363); cf. orotrātho and rathumo.
  • râth. S. *climb, high pass, derived from RATH climb (367). Given in contrast to rath with short vowel (a track, not necessarily a steep or climbing way). The gloss is not given in the text, but suggested here, based on the translation of Andrath (Long Climb) given in the Index of names of Unfinished Tales (UT:540, 551).
  • rath (S.), ratta (Q. and L.). a track (363–364). Derived from RAT to find a way with lengthening of the stem (CE ratta or rattha). Cp. N. rath course, river-bed < ON rattha < rattā̆ in Etym. s.v. RAT walk (V:383), and perhaps G. rada track, path, way (PE11:64).
  • rathumo. L. climber (363). From rath- with a suffixed form of the pronoun mo somebody, one (PE22:154), such that its literal meaning would be *one who climbs.

The place-names related to the words accounted for above are:

  • i Tumbo Tarmacorto. Q. the vale of the high-mountain circle, name given to the vale of Gondolin — also called iTumbo in short form (351). Tarmacorto can be analyzed as tarma-corto, where the first part stands for high-mountain, and the second for circle. The term tarma is also found in Meneltarma, the central mountain of Númenor, where it is glossed as pillar (393); see PE17:186 for other derivatives of TĂR stand applied to high peaks. *Corto circle might be derived from *koroto, cf. the S. form of the name, Tum Orchorod, next.
  • Tum Orchorod. S. name given to the vale of Gondolin that corresponds to Q. i Tumbo Tarmacorto, vale of the high-mountain circle (351). The word orchorod, compared to tarmacorto, seems to replace the Q. term tarma pillar, *high-mountain by the prefix or-, thus leaving -chorod as possible cognate of Q. *corto circle. Both words might derive from CE *koroto < KOR round (PE17:158, V:365), yielding S. *corod with usual voicing of t after vowel (cp. S. orod vs. Q. orto mount in PE17:64). In compounds after l or r, the initial c- of *corod would be regularly spirantized into ch-, as observed in this case (cf. p. 378, and PE17:132, PE19:86).
  • Tum Orodgerth. Rejected S. name of the vale of Gondolin, replaced by Tum Orchorod (355). The first part of the name is clearly orod mountain, and the second part -gerth seems to correspond to *corod circle in Orchorod. The underlying S. word might be *certh, affected by the same kind of voicing observed in orodben mountaineer < orod mountain + pen < kwen one, somebody (XI:376). Such *certh might come, like *corto in Tarmacorto, from the stem kor- round plus a suffix with t. The fronting o > e seems to imply that the S. word was derived from *kor-ti against *kor-to or *kor-tu for Q. — or perhaps that it was the pl. of *corth.
  • Gondrant. S. stone-trail (363). Name given to the road across the Stonewain Valley between Min-Rimmon and Minas Tirith (cf. also Tum Gondregain). Clearly analyzable as gond stone + rant track, trail.
  • Tum Gondregain. S. translation of Stonewain Valley (363). Here tum does not apply to the kind of circular deep valley described in p. 351 for that word. Gondregain is a compound formed by gond stone + *regain, which can be argued to be the pl. of *ragan wain (cp. adan man with pl. edain, etc.) Other Sindarin translations of that name can be found elsewhere: PE17:28 mentions Nan Gondresgion, as derived from rasg (Q. raxa) drag, flat vehicle on wheels for hauling stone; there Gondresgion seems to contain the plural form *resg with the Old Sindarin pl. genitive suffix -on, used to mark relationships (355). There is also Imrath Gondraith cited in RC:558 and Imrath Gondraich in the index of names of Unfinished Tales (but not in the main text of that book). According to the gloss cited in RC, in those names imrath is a long narrow valley with road or water course, clearly modelled as imlad and containing rath track — or course, river bed as in Etym. The second word, gondraith or gondraich, might also contain the pl. of *rath or *raich.
    The similarity between Imrath Gondraich and Imrath Gondraith leads to consider that the unstated source of the former might actually be the same unfinished index of LR referred to in RC, in which case they might be alternate readings of the same name, or maybe one of them is mistaken. If that were really the case and the analyisis suggested above is not misguided, Gondraich would be a reasonable candidate to be the correct form, since *rach, the underlying word for wain, seems to be derived from a stem *rak- that also looks like the origin of the words in the other names: *ragan and rasg. The alternative form, *rath, would not match their suggested etymology that well — besides its coincidence with the words for track, climb, etc. seen above.

Other names

These are other names of characters and places that are not accounted for in previously published texts, or for which new linguistic details are given:

  • angalailin, Angal-limpe. Q. translation of Mirrormere, given in two different versions of the same note (350, 353). In both the firs term is angal mirror. Ailin lake is also found in PE17:160, and in Etym. (V:349, 369), among other places. Limpe only has that meaning in the referred text, although the base LIP and variants of it are found in Etym. and in QL, with words related to water and other liquids (cf. lhim and limp above). Angal-limpe is a correction of Angal-mille, but it is not easy to find a clear etymology for mille as meaning mere in other texts.
  • Atyamar. Q. *second home (51, with editorial gloss in p. 55). Referred to the first place where the Eldar settled during the March (thus their second home after Cuiviénen). Formed by atya second (cf. p. 180, 184) + -mar, a typical suffix of place-names.
  • Dúnad in Gyrth. S. Descent of the Dead, name of the way that led to the tombs of Minas Tirith (364). Dúnad derives from , NDŪ sink, go down (PE17:64) with the suffix -ad used in gerunds as aderthad reuniting in Mereth Aderthad (S:128), suilad greeting (IX:129), etc.; so it might be literally translated as the gerund *descending. For Gyrth dead (pl. noun) see also the name of Dor Gyrth i chuinar Land of the Dead that Live (L:417).
  • Elmō. Name of the star of Venus before receiving the mythological name of Eärendil (281). This is associated to the demythologized version of the cosmology, in which all astronomical bodies existed since the beginning of Arda, so that the conception of Venus as Eärendil’s ship could only be maintained as a tale after the end of the First Age. Nevertheless, it still seems to be a person’s name, formed by the stem el- star and the suffix -mo that is frequent in many names (e.g. Ulmo, Súlimo, Curumo, etc.) Actually Elmo (with short o) is in other texts the name of a brother of Elwë and Olwë.
  • Felagund. Nickname of Finrod, lord of Nargothrond, translated as den-dweller or figuratively brock, badger (304). Derived from philig- a usual stem in the names of places with minor excavations; related to fela den, lair. About the element -gund it is said that it cannot be interpreted from Eldarin. That explanation merges elements from previous conceptions about the name. In the Silmarillion of the 1930s Felagund was translated as Lord of the Caves or Lord of the Caverns (V:123, 223), and analyzed as N. fela cave + cunn prince (V:366, 381). A similar analysis is given in some notes dated 1957, although they show some dissatisfaction with the name and some experimentation with its spelling, as well as the suggestion of a possible Beörian origin (PE17:112, 117–118, and 29 for the dating of those notes). In the Later Quenta Silmarillion c. 1958 it was still glossed lord of caverns, adding that it was a name give by the Gnomes of the North, at first in jest (V:178). However, in later corrections it was noted that Felagund was in fact a Dwarfish name; and in 1959 Tolkien wrote down a revised etymology, making it derive from Khuzdul felakgundu cave-hewer, from felak chisel, hewing tool + gundu underground hall (XII:352). In the referred text of NM, dated 1969, Tolkien revisited the older conception, but changing the second part of the name by a foreign word (maybe Khuzdul as well, although that is not explicitly stated) meaning dweller rather than lord or prince, increasing the nuance of mockery.
  • Galadriel. This name receives two different origins in the texts contained in the chapter Galadriel and Celeborn (3-XVI). In p. 349 and 353 we can read essentially the same analysis as in XII:347, with minor variations in the spelling and the glosses: there S. Galadriel (= T. Alatáriel) is translated as maiden crowned with a garland of radiance, derived from ñalatā a glitter of reflected light and rīȝelle woman bearing a garland. On the other hand, in p. 346 Alatáriel is the Quenya (not Telerin) translation of Galadriel, glossed as blessed queen, from S. galad bliss. The second element *riel should thus mean queen (in both Q. and S.). In spite of having a different meaning, it could be the same word derived from rīȝelle as in the other explanation; cf. N. rhiend < rīȝende queen, lit. crowned, crown-lady in Etym. — rejected in favor of rhîn crowned and rhîs queen (V:383, VT46:11).
  • Gevolon. S. adaptation of Kh. Gabilān Great River, suggested as replacement of Gelion (311). In XI:336, which according to the editor contains fragments related to the referred text, the same is commented for the name Gevelon. It is unclear if the difference between those two names is accidental, or both forms are actually found in the manuscripts.
  • Ilquendatar. Q. Father of All Quendi, a name given to Imin, the first Elf awaken according to Quendian tradition (97). Formed by *ilquendi all the Quendi + atar father, like Ilúvatar All-father.
  • Limhîr (older Limphîr). Original S. name of the river Limlight (284). Derived from limp or lhim + sîr river. Transformed into Rohanese Limliht(ēa).
  • Limliht, Limlihtēa. Rohanese name corresponding to Common Speech Limlight (284). Adapted from S. Limhîr, whose first element was preserved, and at the same translated as Roh. (Old English) liht. See the article Commentary to Musings on Limlight for further discussion on this topic.
  • Telepornë. Telerin translation of Celeborn, silver tree (349). That meaning differs from the one given in a previous fragment in the same page, as well as two paragraphs below in the same fragment, where the name is Teleporno silver-tall — from the adj. ornā upraised, high, tall, instead of the nount ornē tree. (Cf. UT:346–37 and PE17:112 for further examples of hesitation between those two meanings).
  • Tompollë. Name of the place in Forostar where the Great Bear-dance (ruxoalë) was celebrated (335). There is no gloss for the name; similar stems and words in Quenya have onomatopoeic meanings, such as the base TOM whence Q. tomba, tompe, related to resonant sounds (PE17:138), or TOMPO in QL, whence the verb tompo- bang, the noun tompa small drum and related words.
  • Tyeleptalëa. Quenya translation of Celebrindal, silver-footed, nickname of Idril the daughter of Turgon (349). Formed by tyelpe, tyelep- silver + tál foot, with the adj. suffix -ëa. In older texts the Q. form of that name was Taltelepta (PE15:27), Taltelepsa or Taltelemna (V:366–367), with the terms in opposite order.

A particular small collection of names is worth commenting separately: the original Quenya names of the Five Wizards, given in p. 95 with editorial suggested glosses in p. 102 (n.7). All except Olórin (Gandalf) are unique to that text.

  • Tarindor (Saruman). *High/wise-mind(ed)-one, from tar- high + indo mind. That name departs from Curumo *cunning one, which was closer to the S. Curunír given in LR (UT:519).
  • Hrávandil (Radagast). *Wild-beast-friend, derived from hráva wild (PE17:78), very close to Aiwendil Bird-friend (lover of birds in UT:519).
  • Palacendo. *Far-sight(ed)-one, from palan far + an agentive form of KEN perceive, see — different from TIR watch, observe as in palantír (PE17:187). This name is reminiscent of Pallando, another of the names used for the Blue Wizards in a different text (UT:519).
  • Haimenar. *Far-farer, possibly derived from hāya, *hai̯- < KHAYA far (V:364, cf. also haila far beyond in PE17:65) + men- go, proceed (PE17:13).


  • Adûnayân. Númenórean name for their own language (323). From *adûnâ Númenórean, as found in the pl. adûnâi (profusely used throughout The Drowning of Anadûne in IX).
  • caraxë. Q. wall with sharp stakes or standing stones (351). Related to Silvan caras fortress in Caras Galadon, and evidently contained in Helcaraxë, the icy pass through which the Noldor returned to Middle-earth. The relationship between caraxë and caras may be by blending of originally unrelated stems, since in Etym. karakse is derived from KARAK shark fang, spike, tooth, whereas N. caras city comes from KAR make, do (V:362). Those two stems are still used in later vocabulary with differentiated meanings, as seen in names with S. carch, Q. carca fang (S:432), and many words and verb tables involving the verb kar-. But there may be a crossed influence in the formation and meanings of caraxë and carasse, given in PE17:84 as cognate of S. caras fort or dwelling surrounded by bulwarks, derived from CAR make build.
  • ekelli. Q. pl. desgination of animals like urchins and hedgehogs with long black quills (336). Seemingly derived from ek, eke sharp point, whence ek-tā prick with a sharp point, stab, and eket a short stabbing sword (VT48:25, XI:365, UT:368 n.28).
  • fela, pl. fili. S. den, lair, referred to small excavations of wild animals or temporary dwellings of wandering folk, < phelga or philga, pl. phelgai (304). The same word is found in PE17:118 together with feleg and fele (pl. feli), combining meanings of mine, cave, underground dwelling, etc. Also in Etym. there is N. fela cave with nearly identical etymology (V:381), except that the base is PHELEG instead of PHELEK or PHELES. In all cases that word is associated to the name of Felagund.
  • galad. S. bliss in one of the suggested etymologies of Galadriel (346). Taking into account that the Q. form of the name in the referred text is Alatáriel, it should be derived from CE *galāta, possibly related to ALA good, blessed, fortunate, blended in Q. with GAL grow, flourish (PE17:146, 153). Something similar is also observed in the entries AL, GAL2-, GALA and GALÁS from Etym. (V:357, VT45:5, 13-14).
  • háva, havar. Q. bread (295). The first form is the collective noun used for food made of grain — and formerly for other vegetable foods, whereas the second is a loaf or cake of bread (so it is a singular noun in spite of its ending in -r — the plural form would be *havari). There is a weak similarity with yáva fruit (VT43:31, although in most other places it is yávë), derived from a different stem. The CE forms, khābā and khabar, respectively, suggest that such stem is KHAB. However, that base is only found in PE19:91 with a different meaning — heap up, pile up, whence S. haudh funeral mound.
  • hávanissi. Q. pl. bread-women; women of the Quendi who were entrusted to make the lembas (295). From háva bread + nissi, pl. of nís woman (X:213). The concept is equivalent to that of the Yavannildi (the maidens of Yavanna) in XII:404.
  • hröambari. Q. pl. incarnate (14). Lit. *body-dwelling, from hröa body and MBAR settle, establish (226). Cf. mírondina.
  • hröangolme. Q. lore of the body i.e. physiology, medicine (322). From hröa body and ñolmë science, department of wisdom (XII:360). First written as hröanisse, although it is more difficult to connect the ending -nissë with attested words for lore or related meanings.
  • laurinquë. Q. name of a Númenórean tree with golden flowers, glossed as golden rain (338). The referred text is the same as that of UT:217, where the meaning of the name was ommited. The first part of the name is clearly related to laurë gold; the ending might be related to words as linquë.
  • lopoldi. Q. pl. name of a Númenórean animal similar to a rabbit (335). Cf. lopo in PE21:31 and older lapatte (tentatively related to lopatte) in PE12:51, meaning rabbit. In PE12:56, however, lōpa is horse, mare, from LOPO run (of animals); and the entry LOP, OLOP of Etym. is also related to horses rather than to rabbits (VT45:28).
  • mírondina. Q. incarnate (283). Apparently derived from mi- in, inside + hrondo body, with the adj. or participle ending -ina. Very similar to mirröanwi in X:350, which had the same meaning although there the word for body was hröa (cf. hröambari).
  • nendili. Q. pl. designation of sea animals, including fish (lingwi), but also mammals like dolphins, whales, etc. (336). Derived from nen water, and seemingly meaning *water-lovers (used metaphorically). With that literal meaning, Nendili is also attested as a name given to the Lindar (XI:411).
  • olië. Q. people together (117). Collective form of lië people, folk (cf. VT39:6, and earlier in PE12:53, V:369, inter alia), with prefixed o- together — of things in company (PE17:13, 191).
  • ombari Q. pl. dwelling together (117). Collective adj. derived from MBAR settle, establish (226), referred to the houses of Elves, in contrast to the whole population of Quendi. Cp. olië above.
  • palantímië, palanyantië. Q. telepathy (238). Both words are formed by palan far and an infinitive or an abstract noun, as telepathy from Greek τηλε far + πάθεια perception, feeling. The second term of palantímië is not easy to recognize; palanyantië clearly contains *yantië joining, related to the name of the tengwa yanta bridge, from the base YAT with nasal reinforcement (V:400). Palanyantië occurs in the text as a correction of palannexe, which seems to be a slip, since *nexe separation would be the opposite of *yantië (cf. únexi).
  • rasillo. Q. squirrel < raþillo < RATH climb (363). See the editorial commentary in p. 367 about a possible inspiration from Norse mythology. The ending -(i)llo for an animal name may be compared with the pl. -(e)lli in ekelli, and indirectly to -ldi in lopoldi.
  • ruxöale, ruxopandalë. Q. great bear-dance, a Númenórean show (335). Apparently derived from *ruxo bear, which might be related to rusko fox, from CE (u)rus brownish red (VT41:10). A connection with rusca, ruxa wroth might also be suggested (PE17:188), although the referred text tells that Númenóreans generall lived amicably with bears, so such a meaning would not be expected. Ruxopandalë is a previous form, replaced by ruxöale in the text (341). There *pandalë dance seems to be a noun derived from a verb *panda-; this might be related to S. pad- walk, step, with a variation of the stem (which is pat- in the case of the attested Sindarin verb). See also PAT in PE12:72, whence Q. pata- rap, tap (of feet) and patinka shoe, slipper.
  • solma, pl. solmar. Q. hall, central room of Númenórean houses (326, 337). This word is also found in PE17:188, associated to ÞOL stand up, top, although there it is unglossed, and its meaning in that context is uncertain. A relationship between those two instances of solma might be suggested, considering that the word refers to the top, most important room of the house.

1. The text that gives that gloss of epe was later published in PE17:56.

2. I consider that the text quoted by Bill Welden in VT49:12 may be the same as the Text 2 of the commented chapter, because the quoted words are exactly the same as the opening of the text published in NM, although Welden dated the text in the mid 1950s, and the date given by Carl Hostetter in NM is c. 1968.

3. Common Eldarin and Quendian words throughout NM are consistently prefixed with a star (e.g. thusya) to point them out as reconstructed forms in Eldarin linguistics. In this article they are presented without that mark, to avoid confusion with asterisked forms that are not actually found in Tolkien’s texts. Likewise, etymological roots or bases are homogeneously typed as THUS, although in the published texts they are represented in varied ways, in uppercase or lowercase, sometimes with a root sign (e.g. √thus-), with or without hyphen.

4. That is actually the literal meaning of the Latin original word confortāre, derived from fortis strong.

5. It should be noted that th is used to represent two different sounds: the aspirate [] in CE, and the spirantal (fricative) [θ] in later Quenya (usually rendered by Tolkien as þ). Anyway, that distinction does not influence the points made in the discussion.

6. The text cited from VT47:16 is the second footnote given in NM:181, in the essay on Eldarin Hands, Fingers and Numerals, although the derivation of nette from CE and its cognates in other languages is omitted in NM. Those details are also repeated in VT47:14, 33.

7. Cross-references to other entries are also hyperlinks in the HTML version of the article.

8. The bases THEL and TOR in Etym. also contain the terms oselle and otorno sworn sister/brother, associate. But although the masc. term might account for melotorni, the fem. would not fit the vocalization of meletheldi.

9. The Catholic fundament of the ideas about the spirit contained in Tolkien’s mythology, as discussed in the appendix of NM — specially in pages 403–405, was more notorious in the earliest vocabularies. Thus, in QL manimo is Holy soul and manimuine is Purgatory. When those words were copied in the Poetic and Mythological Words of Eldarissa, their glosses were rephrased with less obvious religious resonances, as disincarnate spirit and abiding place of disincarnate spirits, respectively (PE12:58).

10. The text in NM is dated after 1968, whereas the note cited from PE19:97 is a marginal addition written in green ball point to the Outline of Phonology, and according to the analysis made by the editors, some of such changes seem to date from the late 1960s (PE19:17, 98).

11. The cited note in XI:411 refers to the General Phonology for the discussion of late PQ gl- as an initial variation of l-. Although Christopher Tolkien commented that his father’s allusion to the General Phonology was not referred to any specific, completed work (XI:420), it is possible that he was actually pointing to the Outline of Phonology, where gl- is indeed commented as one of the later initial groups favored in Telerian dialects (PE19:79–80); or maybe to the Tengwesta Qenderinwa, which is referred to in the Outline of Phonology as the General Account (cf. PE19:11), and also discusses such later initial groups, commenting that they were especially favored in the languages of Beleriand (PE18:93–94).

Barfield, Owen. Poetic Diction. A Study in Meaning, 4th ed. Oxford: Barfield Press, 2010.

Flieger, Verlyn. Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World, revised edition. Kent: The Kent State University Press, 2002.

Hostetter, Carl. F. A Glossary to Elvish Terms in Fragments of Elvish Reincarnation. Tengwestië. Jan. 2015.

Tolkien, J.R.R., edited by Carl. F. Hostetter. The Nature of Middle-earth. London and Dublin: HarperlCollins Publishers, 2021.

See also the general Tengwestië Bibliography.

Copyright ©2021 Helios De Rosario Martínez

Quotations from the works of J.R.R. or Christopher Tolkien are the copyright of their publishers and/or the Tolkien Estate, and are used here with their kind permission. The word TOLKIEN is a registered trademark of The J.R.R. Tolkien Estate Limited. The characters and scripts of Tolkien’s invented languages and works in those languages are the copyright of the Tolkien Estate.


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