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Lexicon of Names

Common name elements in Tolkien's works

This lexicon lists some of the more common elements found in the names of places and people in Tolkien's work. These are mainly derived from Elvish tongues, but some common forms from other languages, such as Old English or Adûnaic, are also included, as well as a few less recognisable words that are still found in modern English. There are very large number of these name elements, and this page is being expanded to include more over time.

Where possible, the particular Elvish source language for an element is shown, but sometimes this is not possible (for example, where a common root word occurs in more than one language). In cases like this, terms are simply labelled 'Elvish root'.

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dagor (Sindarin) 'battle' (or literally 'slaughter'), used in the Elvish names of some of the most important battles in history: Dagor-nuin-Giliath ('Battle-under-Stars'), Dagor Aglareb ('Glorious Battle'), Dagor Bragollach ('Battle of Sudden Flame'), and also seen in the name of the prophesied climactic battle for the World itself Dagor Dagorath, (usually translated 'Last Battle', but more literally 'Battle of Battles'). Also in the name Dagorlad, 'Battle Plain', taken from the great Battle of Dagorlad fought there during the War of the Last Alliance.
deep (archaic English) simply 'deep place' (from Old English déop, usually referring to a valley). In Helm's Deep it refers to the narrow gorge guarded by the Hornburg, and places connected with the gorge used the associative form Deeping (Old English déoping), as in Deeping-coomb, the wide valley that led to the gorge. The meaning of the same element in Deephallow is less clear, but probably refers to low-lying land surrounded by slopes. The same word was used in naming the underground levels within Khazad-dûm, which were known as the First Deep, Second Deep, Third Deep and so on, counting downwards from ground level. In Old English, the opposite to déop was undéop, 'shallow', hence the the 'Undeeps' (or shallows) of Anduin south of the Field of Celebrant.
delving (archaic English) 'digging, excavation' found in the names of two towns in the Shire, Michel Delving ('great excavation') and Little Delving ('little excavation'), whose names were no doubt related to the Hobbits' habit of creating holes for themselves. The word derives from the Old English delf, which can also be seen in the Shire, in Standelf 'stone digging', as well as farther afield in Dwarrowdelf, 'Dwarf-digging', a Mannish name for Khazad-dûm.
der (Elvish root) 'man', 'adult male', probably seen in the names Dervorin and Derufin. The full derivations of these two names are unclear; Dervorin is probably 'faithful man', while Derufin seems to contain the element fin, 'hair'.
dim (archaic English) 'obscured', 'overshadowed' (and by extension 'secret') in Dimrill Dale ('valley of shadowed streams'), and Dimholt 'dark/secret wood'. Also seen in the expressions morrowdim and evendim, the twilight of morning and evening, respectively (with Evendim also used as the name of a region). This usage of dim only occurs in Mannish names, and is not to be confused with the unrelated Elvish elements in Dimbar or Dimrost.
dolin (Sindarin) a form of dolen, meaning 'hidden'. The original Quenya name for the city of Gondolin was Ondolindë ('Rock of the Music of Water'), and the sounds of this name were adapted into Sindarin form as the more familiar Gondolin, which was interpreted as gond dolen, 'Hidden Rock'. Because of this unique etymology, the element dolin is only seen as part of the name Gondolin.
dor (Sindarin) 'land', 'occupied region'. An extremely common element of place-names, including the names of some very prominent lands such as Gondor ('land of stone'), Mordor ('Black Land'), Eriador ('Lone-lands') and Endor (an Elvish name for the whole of Middle-earth, literally meaning 'middle land'). The collection of other names including this element is extensive, with other common examples being Doriath ('land of the fence'), Andor ('Land of Gift'), Dorthonion ('land of pines'), Dor-en-Ernil ('Land of the Prince'), Dor-lómin ('land of echoes') and numerous others. Confusingly, a -dor ending can often also be seen in the names of peoples or individuals (with examples like Noldor, Nandor, Galador or Hador). These cases aren't connected to the interpretation 'land'; the -dor is generally a grammatical formation such as a plural (as in Noldor, the plural form of Noldo) or an agental ending (as in Hador, a 'thrower' of darts and missiles).
dora (Greek) 'gift', but etymologically the 'bag' in which the gift was given (ultimately from dorá, the hide from which a leather bag was made). Hence its appearance in the name of Dora Baggins is quite possibly a linguistic jest by Tolkien.
drû (Sindarin) a name for one the mysterious Wild Men of the Woods, also called Woses or Púkel-men, taken from their own name for themselves, Drughu, of unknown meaning. As foes of the Orcs in the First Age, these people were considered to be part of the Edain, and thus acquired then name Drúedain. This element occurs in various place-names relating to these strange people, such as the Drúadan Forest (simply 'forest of the Drúedain') and Drúwaith Iaur ('Old Púkel-land'). The plural forms of Drû were either Drúin (for several Drúedain) or Drúath (for the entire people as a whole). In Quenya this word is rendered in the rarely seen form .
dun (Old English) from dunn 'dark brown, brown-black', representing a word in the language of the Rohirrim used to name the Dunlendings (who were dark-skinned and dark-haired), their home of Dunland and their language Dunlendish. This element appears only in those names, and is not to be confused with the dun- in Dunharrow (which means 'hillside') or the common Elvish dûn, meaning 'west'.
dún (Sindarin) 'west' (as a separate word, accented dûn) seen in this form only in Dúnedain ('Men of the West') and its singular Dúnadan. Dûn derives from the same root as annûn ('sunset', implying 'west') seen for example in Henneth Annûn ('Window of the Sunset'). The names Dúnharg and Dúnhere are derived from Old English, and do not contain this element.
durin (Old Norse) a proper noun; one of the Dwarves named in the Völuspá (and there spelt Durinn). Interpretation is uncertain, but the name may mean 'one who sleeps'. If so, it be appropriate for Tolkien's Durin, who slept for many centuries until after the Elves had awoken in Middle-earth. The same name was also borne by six descendants of the original Durin, and appears in numerous related forms (Durin's Axe, Durin's Bridge, Durin's Folk, Durin's House, Durin's Stone, Durin's Tower, and many others besides).

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