The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien


Alphabetical index

Browse topics


Other editions

Tolkien news and resources

Sponsors and associates

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'.

mab (Sindarin) 'hand'; a word from the Doriathrin dialect of Sindarin, found in the name of Mablung of the Heavy Hand (whose name literally means 'heavy hand', a reference to his recovery of Beren's hand, and the Silmaril it held, after the Hunting of the Wolf). The same name was shared by Mablung of Ithilien, who was presumably named after the famous Elf of Doriath.
macil (Quenya) 'sword'. This element appears in the names of the sons of Atanatar Alcarin: Narmacil ('fire sword') and Calmacil ('shining sword'), names which occurred several times in the royal line of the Dúnedain. Its Sindarin equivalent was megil, as in Mormegil, 'Black Sword', a title of Túrin.
maeg (Sindarin) 'sharp', seen in the name of Maeglin (from maeg glîn, 'Sharp Glance').
mag (Sindarin) 'cleaver', a translation of the Quenya element maka in the name Makalaurë. In full, that name means 'Gold-cleaver', and was the original name of Fëanor's second son before he acquired a 'Sindarised' version in Beleriand, which was the more familiar Maglor. The mag- in the name Magor is etymologically related: that name means 'the sword'.
mal(l) (Elvish root) 'gold', 'golden', as for example in Mallorn ('golden tree', and also Malinalda with the same meaning). Also seen in Malbeth ('golden words'), Mallos ('golden flower'), Malduin ('golden river') and many other instances. This element is also seen in Ormal (probably 'high-golden'), the name of one of the great Lamps of the Valar that gave light to the World before the Two Trees. The plural form of this element is mel, see in Mellyrn, the proper Elvish plural of Mallorn.
man (Elvish root) 'holy', 'blessed', seen in the name of Manwë, chief of the Valar, whose name means 'holy one', and also in Aman, the 'Blessed Realm'. Both man and aman gave rise to names, such as Amandil ('devoted to Aman'), Manwendil ('devoted to Manwë') or Amanyar (the Elves of Aman).
mar (Celtic) 'disciple', 'follower', 'servant'; an element found uniquely in the archaic names used by the Brandybuck clan. The primary examples are Marmadoc (the son of Madoc Brandybuck, whose name means 'follower of Madoc', and is equivalent to modern Marmaduke), and Marmadas, 'servant (or follower) of the good one'). It possibly also appears in Marroc, though the interpretation of that name is uncertain. Not to be confused with the -mar element in Wilimar Bolger's name (which probably means 'strong'), or the mar that appears often in Elvish names, and means 'home, dwelling-place'.
mark (Old English) 'borderland', a modernisation of Old English mearc, referring especially to an outlying land that stood in defence of another. As The Mark used by the Rohirrim as the name of their own land (also seen as Riddermark, 'Mark of the Riders'). A variant is march, used for example in Fenmarch, the 'borderland of the fens' on Rohan's eastern border (Tolkien later stated that with hindsight he would have preferred to have used the form Fenmark for this region).
mathom (Old English) a modernised spelling of the Anglo-Saxon máthm or máðum, which originally simply meant a thing of value: a jewel or treasure or gift. In the Hobbit dialect, Tolkien gives mathom a more specific meaning, that of an object with no intrinsic use, but valuable or ornamental enough not to throw away. These accumulated in the homes of Hobbits, or were (in keeping with the original Old English meaning) given away as gifts. In Michel Delving there was a Mathom-house (translated 'museum') where many such items were stored and displayed.
medu (Old English) 'mead', seen uniquely in Meduseld ('mead hall'), the Golden Hall of the Kings of Rohan in Edoras.
menel (Elvish root) literally 'star-region', describing the highest and most sublime region of the sky, and usually translated 'heaven'; its further reaches were known as Tarmenel ('high heaven' or 'Over-heaven'). Seen in names such as Armenelos ('royal fortress of the heavens'), Meneldil ('devoted to heaven'), Menelmacar ('swordsman of heaven', i.e., the constellation Orion) or Meneltarma ('Pillar of Heaven', the central peak of Númenor).
mentha (Latin) 'mint', the name of a fragrant flowering herb used as a personal name by the Hobbits (or, strictly, used by Tolkien to translate an unrecorded personal name of equivalent origins). Its only appearance in the histories of the Shire is in the name of Mentha Brandybuck.
mere (archaic English) 'lake' or 'pool', from an Old English word for any body of water, ultimately derived from a root meaning 'sea' (and so 'mere' is cognate with Latin mare, 'sea'). Still seen in real lake names (as for example Windermere, the largest lake in England) and used by Tolkien to represent old lake names in the Common Tongue. Examples include the Mirrormere beneath Moria, the Shadowmere in Aman, the Beautiful Mere at Eithel Ivrin, the Twilight Meres (and their many variant names) at Aelin-uial, and the Mere of Dead Faces on the borders of Mordor. All of these examples refer to lakes or pools, but the ancient connection with the sea is evident in Meresdei (later 'Mersday'), the old name among the Hobbits for Eärenya, the day of the Sea.
merry (Old Welsh) a contraction of the name Meriadoc, chosen by Tolkien from Old Welsh as a translation of the Hobbit name Kalimac. The meaning is obscure: some sources suggest 'great one', while others connect the name to the Sea. (This obscurity is appropriate and possibly intentional, since the original Kalimac was also said to have lost its meaning.)
metta (Elvish root) 'end', seen in Mettarë, the name given to the 'end day' of several of the calendars of Middle-earth, and also in Ambar-metta 'ending of the World' in Elendil's traditional speech at his landing in Middle-earth. The Sindarin form was meth (as for example in Methedras, the last peak - literally 'end horn' - of the Misty Mountains).
minas (Sindarin) 'tower' (from a root word meaning 'prominent' or 'singular'). Most evident in Minas Anor ('Tower of the Sun') and Minas Ithil ('Tower of the Moon'), as well as the later names of those two towers, Minas Tirith ('Tower of Guard') and Minas Morgul ('Tower of [Black] Sorcery'). The ancient capital of Arnor, Annúminas ('West-tower' or 'tower of sunset'), also contains this element. Certain personal names also include minas, such as Arminas ('high tower'), Minastir ('watchtower') or Minastan (literally 'tower builder'). In some of these cases 'tower' is probably meant figuratively as 'a prominent or important thing' (for example, Minastan was the ancestor of numerous later Kings of Gondor, so his name may be intended as 'foundation of a prominent line' rather than literally 'tower builder').
mith (Elvish root) originally 'fog, mist' but by extension 'grey', especially pale grey. Identifying the intended meaning is not alway straightforward, for example the name of the metal mithril might be 'mist-glitter' or 'grey-glitter'. Its original meaning of 'mist' is rare in names and sometimes uncertain, but is probably seen in Mithrim ('mist-cool-lake') and perhaps also in Gilmith (probably 'star-mist'). The more usual meaning is 'grey', as in Mithrandir ('Grey Wanderer'), Mithlond ('Grey Havens'), or Ered Mithrin ('Grey Mountains'). The river name Mitheithel is translated 'Hoarwell' using the old English word 'hoar' meaning 'pale grey'.
mor (Elvish root) 'black' (and by extension 'dark', 'shadowy'). This is a very common element, found especially in names connected with the Dark Lord, as for example in Morgoth ('Black Foe'), Mordor ('Black Land'), Morgul ('Black magic'); and also prominent in Moria ('Black Chasm'). This root is also seen in Moriquendi, 'Dark Elves', where the old form mori is used.
muster (archaic English) a gathering of military force, historically used to count or assess soldiers. In Tolkien's work it is most closely associated with the Rohirrim, who ordered their military by geographic musters (such as the Muster of Edoras or the Muster of Westfold), with a Full Muster being traditionally counted as 12,000 Riders. In fact the word muster did not occur in Old English, and must therefore be intended as a translation of an equivalent term used by the Rohirrim, probably weapontake. Muster also occurs in two situations unrelated to Rohan: the Mustering of the Dwarves before the War of the Dwarves and Orcs, and the Shire-muster, a barely remembered military tradition amongst the Hobbits.

For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.

Website services kindly sponsored by Axiom Software Ltd and myDISCprofile.

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 2010. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry