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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'.

i (Elvish root) 'of', seen in a wide variety of compound names such as Echad i Sedryn ('Camp of the Faithful'), Ernil i Pheriannath ('Prince of the Halflings'), Gwaith-i-Mírdan ('People of the Jewel-smiths'), Indis i·Kiryamo (translated 'the Mariner's Wife', but literally 'Wife of the Mariner'), Men-i-Naugrim ('Road of the Dwarves') or Narn i Chîn Húrin, ('Tale of the Children of Húrin'). An exception is Dor Firn-i-Guinar, where the 'i' translates as 'that' rather than 'of'.
-i (Quenya) a plural suffix, the equivalent of adding 's' to a noun in English. Prominent in Quendi and Atani, 'Elves' and 'Men' (more literally, 'speakers' and 'Second People'), and their derivatives such as Calaquendi ('Elves of the Light') or Rúatani (a name for the Drúedain). Also seen in numerous other names of peoples or groups, for example Istari ('Wizards'), Avari ('the Uwilling' or literally 'the refusers'), Elendili ('Elf-friends'), palantíri (literally 'far-seers', the Seeing-stones) and many other examples besides.
(Sindarin) 'void', 'abyss', especially in the sense of a gulf or chasm, and derived ultimately from the stem yag-, meaning 'yawn' or 'gape'. Seen only in Moria, the later Elvish name for Khazad-dûm, which translates as 'Black Chasm' or 'Black Pit'.
iath 1 (Sindarin) 'fence', seen most prominently in Doriath, from dor iâth, 'land of the fence', in reference to its protective Girdle of Melian. This element also appears in Echoriath, 'encircling fence', the Encircling Mountains that protected Gondolin. Note that -ath can also be used as a plural suffix, so some names that appear to contain this element (such as Osgiliath or Minhiriath) actually have quite different derivations.
iath 2 (Sindarin) a derivative of -ath, an ending used to form collective plurals (as, for example, in Periannath, the 'Halflings' as a people). As part of a name, this variant with preceding i is only definitely recorded in one word, giliath, 'the host of stars', which appears in both Dagor-nuin-Giliath ('Battle-under-Stars') and Osgiliath ('Citadel of the Stars'). Tangentially related is the same ending in Minhiriath (the land 'between the rivers'), though in this case the suffix -iath seems to derive from a source meaning 'two', rather than a collective plural (that is, the land was between two specific rivers, not all rivers). The use of iath as a plural is not be confused with its unrelated meaning of 'fence' (as for example in Doriath).
im (Sindarin) 'between', seen in Taur-im-Duinath, 'Forest between the Rivers', for the great wood that stretched between the rivers Sirion and Gelion. It is not seen independently elsewhere, though the Quenya version of the same word appears in Galadriel's lament in Lórien: i falmalinnar imbë met, 'the foaming waves between us'. It possibly also appears in the etymology of the word imlad for a deep dell or glen with a flat floor (a lad being a region of flat land, with im implying that it lay between valley walls).
in 1 (Sindarin) a conjunction seen in various compound names, signifying a genitive relationship (or, in short, equivalent to 'of'). Examples include Annon-in-Gelydh ('Gate of the Noldor'), Nîn-in-Eilph ('Water(lands) of the Swans'), Ost-in-Edhil ('city of the Elves') and Tol-in-Gaurhoth ('Isle of Werewolves'). Another example is Tawar-in-Drúedain, usually translated as the 'Drúadan Forest', but literally the 'forest of the Wild Men'.
in 2 (Elvish root) a word variously defined as 'inner mind' or 'heart', reflecting a person's inner desires. It is attested in the names of Húrin ('vigorous heart') and his son Túrin 'he who desires mastery'. The name of the Elf-maid Idril is given various different derivations, but one of them connects its meaning to this word (via the original stem id-) as meaning 'sweet heart' or 'beloved'.
ing (Elvish root) 'first', 'foremost', seen most prominently in Ingwë ('first one') the High King of the Elves. In the sense of 'foremost' or 'eminent', it appears in the name Ingold, which is interpreted as 'eminent among his kindred', at least as used by Men during the Third Age (though historically it had meant 'foremost of the Noldor').
ior (Sindarin) 'old', a word pronounced like English 'yore'. It appears in the names of two people of Gondor: loreth ('old woman') and Iorlas (uncertain; perhaps simply 'aged'). The word was related to an older form iaur, as for example in Iant Iaur, the 'old bridge' across the river Esgalduin in Beleriand.
írim (Quenya) írima meant 'desirable', 'lovely', 'beautiful', deriving from the word íre, 'desire'. This element appears in a single recorded name, Írimon, the birth-name of the King who would rule Númenor as Tar-Meneldur, which seems to simply mean 'beautiful one'.
isen (Old English) 'iron', the name of the important river Isen, and its associated fortress complex Isengard ('iron enclosure'). This element is also seen in the names of certain Hobbits of the Took family, such as Isengar ('iron spear') and Isengrim (uncertain, but probably simply 'iron grim').
isil (Quenya) 'the Moon' (normally capitalised Isil) derived from a root sil- meaning 'shine with a silver light'. Its most famous appearance is in the name Isildur 'Devoted to the Moon', but it also appears in certain lesser names, such as Isilya 'Moon-day', the third day of the Elves' week. The Sindarin equivalent was Ithil, which Isildur used in the names of his own province of Gondor Ithilien ('Land of the Moon') and his fortress of Minas Ithil ('Tower of the Moon').
istar (Quenya) derived from a root word ista meaning 'knowledge', an istar describes a learned person, or someone with great reserves of wisdom. In practice, the term is used exclusively for the emissaries sent by the Valar to Middle-earth in the Third Age, and in this context istar is translated into English as 'Wizard'. Indeed, the English etymology of 'Wizard' is identical, as the word originally meant simply 'wise person' or 'sage'. The plural form is Istari ('Wizards'), and the full name of the order to which these emissaries belonged was Heren Istarion, the 'Order of Wizards'.
ith (Sindarin) a suffix that serves to turn a verbal base into a noun or an adjective, effectively equivalent to the ending '-ing' for English words. Examples include the river name Sirith ('flowing'), the month name Firith ('fading, dying'), and Nen Girith ('Shuddering Water') on the borders of Brethil. This grammatical form also appears in Minas Tirith (translated 'Tower of Guard', but literally 'watching tower'). A very common use was for narrow clefts or passes, with took the stem cir- 'cut' and added -ith to create the word cirith, literally meaning 'cutting'. Among numerous examples of this usage are Cirith Gorgor, ('Haunted Pass'), Cirith Ninniach ('Rainbow Cleft'), Cirith Thoronath ('Eagles' Cleft'), and many, many others besides.
ithil (Sindarin) 'the Moon', the Sindarin equivalent of Quenya Isil. It appears most prominently in the name of Isildur's city of Minas Ithil ('Tower of the Moon'), and Ithilien ('land of the Moon') in which it stood. The only other proper name that contains it is Ithilbor (apparently 'Moon-bold'), though it also appears in a few other terms such as Ithildin (translated 'Starmoon') and Orithil ('day of the Moon').
ivann (Sindarin) the Sindarin name for the Vala more usually known by her Quenya name, Yavanna, the 'Giver of Fruits'. This form of the name occurs in Ivanneth, the Sindarin name for Yavannië, the ninth month of the year.

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