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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'.

sack (English) 'large bag', from Old English sacc or sæc. This element appears in the Hobbit family names Sackville and Sackville-Baggins where it carries its normal English meaning (representing a translation from an original name used in the Shire). 'Sackville' must have originated as a place-name, implying that the family originated in a town or village well known for the manufacture of sacking (though no such place is recorded in the Shire). The use of 'sack' also implies a connection with the 'bag' of the name Baggins, emphasised when Camellia Sackville married Longo Baggins and gave rise to the Sackville-Baggins family.
sarn (Sindarin) 'stone', used especially for smaller individual stones or pebbles. Seen in Sarn Athrad, the 'Ford of Stones' across the river Gelion, and in the half-translated Sarn Ford across the Brandywine on the Shire's southern borders. The treacherous rapids of Anduin were known as Sarn Gebir, which translates as 'stone spikes'. A related form of the word is seen in Serni, a river of Gondor, whose name meant 'shingle'. The name Gondor, incidentally, contains gond, which also meant 'stone', but as opposed to sarn this was used for larger rocks or for the concept of stone in general.
saur (Quenya) from an adjective saura meaning 'foul, rotten, corrupt', seen in Sauron (a name that is universally translated 'the abhorred'). The Sindarin equivalent was thaur, seen in the Sindarin form of Sauron's name, Gorthaur (with prefixed gor for 'dread, terror').
sharkû (Orkish) 'old man', a very rare example of a word from an Orkish dialect used in Isengard for the Wizard Saruman. When Saruman was later expelled from his tower of Orthanc and took control of the Shire, a version of the name was retained among the ruffians who served him, who called him 'Sharkey'.
sinda (Elvish root) '(pale) grey', in Sindar ('grey people', 'Grey-elves') and their language Sindarin. This old form came from a root *thindi 'pallid, wan' and evolved over time among the Sindar. The surname of their lord Elwë was originally Sindacollo ('Greycloak') but this developed into Singollo and ultimately into Thingol, the form used during his time as King of Doriath in the First Age. The old word sinda is rare in later usage, and the Sindarin word mith (originally 'mist', but later adapted to mean '(pale) grey') is a much more common alternative.
silvan (archaic English) 'of the woods', the original form of an adjective still found in modern English, but now more usually spelt sylvan (though 'silvan' is truer to the Latin origins of the word). Seen in 'Silvan Elves', an approximate translation of Elvish Tawarwaith (literally 'forest people') used of a branch of the Nandor who settled in the forests on either side of the Great River Anduin.
sîr (Elvish root) 'river, stream' from an original root sir- meaning 'to flow'. As a separate word, it formed a general identifying prefix for rivers (as in Sîr Angren, the River Isen, or Sîr Ninglor, the Gladden River). This element is common within actual river-names, especially Sirion, the great river of Beleriand, and in names such as Siril (which literally means 'rivulet'), Sirith (literally 'flowing') or Sirannon ('Gate-stream'). It also appears in Ossiriand ('Land of Seven Rivers'), and in mutated form -hir- in names like Minhiriath ('between the rivers [Baranduin and Gwathló]') or Nanduhirion ('valley of dim streams', the Dimrill Dale).
sméagol (Old English) interpreted by Tolkien as 'burrowing, worming in', used as the original name of the creature named Gollum, from the Old English verb sméagean. That word can be taken as 'burrow', but it equally meant 'penetrate', in both a literal way, and also metaphorically as in 'examine' or 'gain insight'. These might also be seen as relevant to Sméagol's growth as a character, but Tolkien's choice of this name was doubtless also influenced by his wish to rhyme the name with that of Sméagol's friend Déagol, whose name meant 'secret'.
star (Quenya) translated 'lands', this form is only ever used in the names of the five outer regions or promontories of Númenor (the Andustar, Forostar, Hyarnustar, Hyarrostar and Orrostar, translated respectively 'Westlands', 'Northlands', 'Southwestlands', 'Southeastlands' and 'Eastlands'). The etymology of this element is highly uncertain, but it may suggest either 'surrounding lands' or 'promontories' (it is perhaps notable that the central region of the Númenor, the Mittalmar, is differently derived).

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