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'.

wain (archaic English) 'wagon', seen for example in Stonewain Valley, named for the wagons that carried the stone for the construction of Minas Anor, and also in Wainriders, the Easterling people famous for travelling in great wagons. Also seen in The Wain, a Mannish name for the constellation of the Plough or Big Dipper, which was also the medieval name for the same group of stars.
waith (Sindarin) 'people', a word describing a culture or group such as the Forodwaith ('northern people'), Tawarwaith ('forest people', the Silvan Elves) or Gaurwaith ('Wolf-men'). It was common that the name of a people following this form would translate to the lands in which they lived, so for example we have Forodwaith also used as a name for the region where the Forodwaith people lived, and similarly Enedwaith ('[land of the] middle folk') and Haradwaith (literally 'southern people', but used as a synonym for the Harad).
wash (archaic English) from Old English waesc, 'flood water', used in the river name 'Entwash' (translated from Elvish Ondoló). The '-wash' ending here represents Elvish -ló, a relatively common ending for the names of rivers flowing through shallow vales with a tendency to flood. Elsewhere the same element appears more literally as 'flood', as for example in 'Greyflood' (from Elvish Gwathló), or 'Langflood' (the Mannish name for the Great River Anduin).
(Quenya) a common name-ending signifying simply 'one' or a 'person'. It appears in the name of the Elder King Manwë ('blessed one') and his herald Eönwë (a name of unknown meaning, except for the use of this element). The ending -wë is common in the names of Elves, notably in those of the three ambassadors who travelled to Valinor in ancient times: Ingwë ('first one'), Finwë ('hair one') and Elwë ('star one'). There are numerous other examples, including Lenwë (probably 'one who turns back') or Curufinwë, ('skilled son of Finwë'). These examples all come from the early history of the Elves, but there are later uses too, notably Aranwë ('kingly one') of Gondolin, and his son Voronwë ('steadfast one'), and Voronwë was also used as a surname of Mardil, the first Ruling Steward of Gondor. This name-ending is almost exclusively masculine (and indeed is sometimes translated as 'man'), but we do have a single feminine use in Elenwë, 'star one', the lost wife of Turgon of Gondolin.
well (archaic English) the 'spring' or 'source' of a river or stream, from Old English weallen, 'rise or bubble up'. This element appears in various Mannish place-names associated with springs or streams, such as the Hoarwell (a river flowing from a 'white-grey spring') or the Langwell (literally 'long spring', but so named because it was a source of the Great River Langflood, more usually called Anduin). The word is used literally in Rivil's Well, the spring of the stream known as Rivil (of uncertain meaning). In the Shire's Tookland was a place known as Whitwell, evidently referring to a spring among the chalky white hills of that region. With the associative ending -ing, the word also appears in Wellinghall, Treebeard's Ent-house at the sources of the river Entwash.
were (Old English) simply 'man', so the word werewolf literally means 'man-wolf'. Also apparently seen in Were-worms, mysterious creatures whose name seems to mean 'man-worms' or 'man-dragons'.
wili (Germanic) 'will' (that is, force of character or intention) seen in the names of two Hobbits of the Bolger family: Wilibald ('bold will') and Wilimar ('strong will').
will (English) 'will' (force of character or intention, as in wili above); part of the personal name William, ultimately from Germanic Wilhelm, 'will protector' and borne by the Troll named William Huggins or simply 'Bill'. Two known Hobbits had names that also apparently represented abbreviations of William: Mayor Will Whitfoot of the Shire and Willie Banks of Bree.
windle (archaic English) 'winding', from the conjectural Old English word wendel, derived in turn from Old English wend, 'turn'. Seen only in the river name Withywindle ('willow-winding') and its derivative Windle-reach (where reach means 'straight course') for the lower stretch of the river.
wiseman (English) simply 'wise man', the name of Sam Gamgee's great-great-grandfather Wiseman Gamwich. The meaning may be literal, but as a real name, 'Wiseman' was sometimes given ironically, actually meaning 'fool'. Given the homely nature of some of the other names in Sam's family tree (in particular Samwise 'half wise'), this ironic interpretation is a realistic possibility.
wold (archaic English) 'upland', referring especially to a wild and unsettled region of land (the etymology of this word is complicated: in Old English wald, weald meant 'forest', but the meaning developed over time to mean 'forested hills' and later 'open upland country'). This word appears in The Wold, the northeasternmost area of Rohan between the Entwood and the Great River.
wose (archaic English) a word developed from Old English wása, originally meaning a wild or dispossessed person. In the form wudewása (modernised 'woodwose') it came to refer to strange or supernatural beings of the forest (indeed, woodwoses of this sort are sometimes seen in heraldic designs). Tolkien uses the word as the equivalent of the Elvish Drúedain among the Rohirrim.

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

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 2010, 2018-2020. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

Website services kindly sponsored by Discus from Axiom Software Ltd.
We have been developing and providing DISC psychometric reports for 26 years! Find out more about us at Discus Online.
The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry