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  • Updated 2 March 2020
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Common Language

The Westron tongue used across Middle-earth

A Mannish tongue used by peoples from across the Westlands of Middle-earth, and therefore also known as the Westron. The language had its origins in the Second Age, when the Númenóreans began to establish themselves in Middle-earth. In their new settlements, and notably at Pelargir on Anduin, their own Adûnaic language began to merge with the native languages of the region. Thus a hybrid Common Language emerged, a language also often known as the Common Tongue or the Common Speech.

From the lands around the Bay of Belfalas, the Common Language spread far and wide across Middle-earth. By the end of the Third Age, it was the usual mode of communication for most of the peoples of the Westlands, though its particular dialects often varied from one another. For example, the Rohirrim of Rohan spoke an archaic form of the tongue that was effectively a different language. Because of their shared history in the northern Vales of Anduin, the Hobbits recognised many of the words in the ancient Common Language of the Rohirrim.

The Common Language was not universally adopted by all peoples (as notable exceptions, the Elves and Dwarves maintained their own ancient tongues). Nonetheless most of the inhabitants of western Middle-earth could speak and understand the Westron, even if it were not their first language.


Throughout his work, Tolkien represents the Common Language as English (and its older variant used by the Rohirrim as Old English). For this reason, we have almost no examples of untranslated terms from the language. Among the very few words in the recorded vocabulary are kuduk ('Hobbit') and banakil ('Halfling'), along with a handful of place-names. We know, for example, that 'Rivendell' in the Common Language was actually Karningul. According to notes in Appendix E II to The Lord of the Rings, the consonant sounds ch, j and sh were particularly common within the language.


See also...

Common Tongue

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About this entry:

  • Updated 2 March 2020
  • Updates planned: 2

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