The second son of Finwë and half-brother to Fëanor. After Fëanor's death, his eldest son Maedhros should have become High King of the Noldor, but Maedhros repented his deeds at the Kinslaying and refused the title, which thus passed to Fingolfin.
He ruled the lands to the northwest of Beleriand with his sons Fingon and Turgon, and dwelt behind the mountain fences of Hithlum during the long Siege of Angband.
When Morgoth broke the Siege in the Dagor Bragollach, Fingolfin was prevented from sending immediate help to the other princes of the Noldor by the ferocity of the onslaught, but when heard of the extent of their defeat, he rode in anger to the doors of Angband and demanded single combat with Morgoth. There they fought a mighty battle, but though Fingolfin wounded the Dark Lord, he could not prevail, and was finally crushed by Morgoth. His body was saved, though, by Thorondor, who bore it to a peak in the Encircling Mountains. Turgon came there and built a cairn over his father's remains.
A possible derivation appears in The Peoples of Middle-earth (The History of Middle-earth Vol. 12): XI The Shibboleth of Fëanor. Here, Fingolfin is a contraction of Finwë Ñolofinwë adapted to the sounds of Sindarin. The meaning would be 'Finwë, wise Finwë' (according to this source, Finwë originally named each of his three sons after himself).
It should be noted, though, that The Shibboleth of Fëanor dates from the late 1960's, suggesting that Tolkien invented this derivation 'after the event' - it appears (though this cannot be stated certainly) that the name came first, and its derivation followed years later.
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