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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'.

cabed (Sindarin) 'leap' (pronounced kabed) in Cabed-en-Aras, 'Deer's Leap', a deep gorge on the River Teiglin that was said to be narrow enough for a deer to leap across. It was into this same gorge that Niënor Níniel threw herself in despair, after which its name was changed to Cabed Naeramarth, 'Leap of Dreadful Doom'.
cal(a) (Elvish root) 'shine', pronounced kal, seen in names such as Calmacil 'shining sword' or Calmindon 'shining tower'. Closely related is cala, 'light', seen for example in Calacirya ('Pass of Light') or Calaquendi ('Elves of the Light'), and also calen 'bright', from which the Elvish word for 'green' was derived.
calen (Sindarin) 'green' (pronounced kalen) in Calenardhon, the 'green province' of Gondor, and also probably in Calenhad (perhaps meaning 'green mound'). The spelling of this word mutates depending on context, and it is often seen in the form galen, as for example in Parth Galen ('green lawn') or Tol Galen ('Green Isle').
cam (Sindarin) 'hand' (derived ultimately from a root kab- meaning 'hollow', so the full sense is 'hollowed hand'; that is, a hand holding or receiving something). Seen in Beren's title Camlost ('Empty-handed'), in which it implies that Beren's missing hand had held a Silmaril. A variant form appears in another title of Beren, Erchamion, meaning 'one-handed'.
carach (Sindarin) 'jaws' (pronounced 'karach') only seen in this specific form in Carach Angren ('iron jaws') the Elvish name for the Isenmouthe of Mordor. The word is ultimately derived from the root carak-, meaning 'fang', seen in various forms (for example in Carchost, 'fang fort', which stood just a few miles to the north of Carach Angren).
caran (Sindarin) 'red, ruddy' (pronounced 'karan') only seen in this specific form in Caranthir, 'ruddy faced', the quick-tempered fourth son of Fëanor. This was the Sindarin form of Caranthir's original name, Carnistir, derived from Quenya carnë, 'red'. Though caran doesn't appear in that precise form elsewhere, it is seen in the etymology of Caradhras. derived from caran rass, 'red horn'.
caras (Silvan Elvish) 'fortress', especially a fortress surrounded by a defensive moat; the word (which was pronounced ka'ras) could be simplified to mean simply 'city' (and is therefore analogous to elements like -burg or -borough in English place-names). This is a rare example of a word from a Silvan dialect, and its only known application was in Caras Galadhon, the 'City of the Trees' at the heart of Lórien.
carl (archaic English) 'man', but implying a servant or low-ranking individual. The name appears twice in the genealogies of the Cotton family; one early member was simply known as 'Carl', and Farmer Cotton's youngest son shared the name. Etymologically related was Old English Ceorl, and that form of the name was preserved in Rohan.
carr (Mannish) a word used by Beorn to name the rocky river island he called the Carrock (and also apparently used for other lesser formations of the same kind). The origin of the name is not directly explained, but plausibly carr comes from an Old English word for 'rock' or 'stony place'. Alternatively, this element might come from Old Norse, with the meaning of 'wetland' or 'river', in which case Carrock would simply mean 'river rock'.
cel (Elvish root) 'go', 'run' (pronounced kel); commonly associated with the flow of rivers, and so often seen in river-names, as for example Celduin (the River Running), Celon (directly from Sindarin celon, meaning literally 'river') and Celos (approximately 'swift stream'). Not to be confused with the very common, but unrelated, element celeb, which means 'silver'.
celeb (Sindarin) 'silver' (pronounced keleb) most prominently seen in Celeborn ('silver tree'), not only the name of Galadriel's consort but also of an actual tree, the White Tree of Tol Eressëa. A common element in Elvish personal names, it also appears in the name of Celeborn's daughter Celebrían ('silver queen', or literally 'silver crown-gift'), as well as Celebrimbor ('silver fist'), Celebrindal ('silver foot') and Celebrindor ('silver ?lord'). The same element is also seen in several geographical names, notably the mountain Celebdil ('Silvertine'), the river Celebrant (literally 'silver course', but translated 'Silverlode') and the stream Celebros ('silver spray').
celebrin (Sindarin) 'of silver' or 'silvery' (the adjectival form of the noun celeb, pronounced kelebreen). This adjective appears in the names Celebrindal, 'Silver-foot' and Celebrindor (full meaning uncertain, but perhaps 'silver lord'). A mutated form of the same word is seen in the name of the great jewel-smith Celebrimbor, whose full name meant 'silver fist'.
celer (Sindarin) 'lamps' (pronounced keler) in Rath Celerdain, the 'Lampwrights' Street' of Minas Tirith. This is the plural of calar, a portable lamp (so an individual lampwright would be a calardan, with celerdain being the plural). The word for 'lamp' derives from the common name-element cala (pronounced kala) meaning 'light'.
certa (Quenya) 'rune', pronounced kerta. Seen uniquely in certar ('runes') which was simply the plural form. This word only occurred in Exilic Quenya (that is, Quenya as it was spoken by the Exiles in Middle-earth); it was thought to be an adaptation of the Sindarin word for 'rune', which was certh (plural cirth). All these forms probably derived ultimately from a root meaning 'cutting', as a reference to runes being carved into wood or stone.
chel (Elvish root) 'ice', 'frozen', where the initial 'ch' sound is pronounced as in German 'Bach'. In this particular form the root is found only in Forochel, 'frozen north', the name of the great cape and icebay of northern Middle-earth. The root appears more commonly in the form hel, as in the star-name Helluin, 'ice blue', or Helcaraxë, the 'Grinding Ice'. Contrary to appearances, this root is not present in the name Anglachel, whose ending derives from lach el, 'flaming star', and has no connection to chel as in 'ice'.
chithing (Old English) 'growing, sprouting', from a modernised spelling of cíþ, 'grow, sprout, blossom'. The name was used for the fourth month on the calendar of Bree, the spring month approximately equivalent to modern April. The same month in the Shire Calendar was known as Astron, with an entirely unrelated derivation.
chubb (archaic English) from 'chub', the name of a proverbially fat and lazy river fish; hence by association 'chubby' and related terms in modern English. This connection with fatness and laziness was deliberately implied by Tolkien in the name of the Hobbit family of Chubb, and that of the related Chubb-Baggins family.
cir (Elvish root) 'cut', 'slash', pronounced keer, this element is generally used metaphorically, though it has literal applications in circa 'sickle' (as in the constellation of the Valacirca, the 'Sickle of the Valar') and cirth (runes designed to be cut into stone or wood). Less literally, it tended to be used of narrow passes or valleys 'cut' into the landscape, as for example the Calacirya ('Pass of Light') or the very common cirith for a steep-sided valley or pass. It was also used for ships (seen as 'cutting' through the water), as for example in Círdan ('Shipwright') or (with slightly variant spelling) Cair Andros the island known as the 'Ship of Long-foam'.
cirith (Sindarin) literally a 'cutting', when used in a place-name, cirith denotes a narrow cleft or pass. Cirith is pronounced with a hard c sound, hence kirith rather than 'sirith'. There are numerous examples, including Cirith Forn en Andrath ('northern pass of the long climb', usually translated simply 'High Pass'), Cirith Gorgor ('Haunted Pass'), Cirith Ninniach ('Rainbow Cleft') and Cirith Thoronath ('Eagles' Cleft'). In the mountains of the Ephel Dúath was a high pass originally called simply Cirith Dúath ('pass of shadows') but later, after the coming of Shelob, it became known as Cirith Ungol ('cleft of the spider').
cirya 1 (Quenya) 'ship'. Pronounced keerya, this is one of a range of Elvish words deriving from a root kir- meaning 'cut' (here imagining a vessel cutting through the water). This element was commonly seen in the names of Dúnedain with a naval connection, of whom the earliest recorded example was Ciryatur ('ship lord'), the admiral who defeated Sauron at the Battle of the Gwathló. A later King of Númenor took the name Tar-Ciryatan ('king shipwright', where Ciryatan represents the Quenya equivalent of Sindarin Círdan). In Gondor, King Tarciryan (probably 'lord of ships') gave rise to a line of Ship-kings, including Ciryandil ('devoted to ships') and his heir Ciryaher ('ship lord'). Much later, King Telumehtar Umbardacil had a son named Arciryas, with uncertain meaning, but probably translating as something like 'noble seaman'. This use of cirya is not to be confused with the alternative (but etymologically related) meaning of 'cleft', as seen in Calacirya.
cirya 2 (Quenya) 'cleft, pass', pronounced keerya. This word evolved from an older form kilya, and is seen uniquely in Calacirya, the 'Pass of Light' in Eldamar. Not to be confused with the rather more common usage of cirya meaning 'ship', which derived from ancient kirya rather than kilya. (Though they may seem unrelated, both cirya 'cleft' and cirya 'ship' are etymologically connected, as described under cir above.)
coirë (Quenya) 'stirring' or 'awakening', a name used by the Elves for one of their six seasons, specifically the one that ran from the end of winter (hrívë) to the beginning spring proper (tuilë). The name came from an ancient stem meaning 'awaken' or 'come to life', and the Sindarin equivalent echuir also developed from the same root. Related is the name Cuiviénen, the 'Water of Awakening' where the first Elves awakened into the world.
corsair (English) 'pirate', and especially a privateer or raider acting in service to a state (as with the Corsairs of Umbar). The word comes from Latin cursarius, originally meaning 'runner' or 'courier', evolving over time to mean 'traveller' or 'explorer' until it eventually developed its modern definition.
cot (archaic English) 'cottage', 'humble dwelling' (from Old French cote, a 'hut' or 'cottage'). Tolkien uses the word to translate the Shire-dialect word hloth, meaning a small Hobbit-hole of one or two rooms. The word appeared in the names of Hobbits who dwelt in such humble smials, Cottar and his son Cotman. From them descended an entire family whose name referred to a collection of these small Hobbit-holes, the Cotton (effectively 'cot town') family. This represents a translation of a family name that would have been Hlothran to the Shire-hobbits themselves.
cram (Sindarin) a word (also spelt cramb) derived from the Elvish root krab-, 'press', and describing a cake of pressed flour or meal that remained edible for long periods, used as travelling rations especially by the Lake-men. The word cram, used to describe a piece of dough, is found in some English dialects, though it is not known whether that term played any part in the coining of this Elvish word.
craven (archaic English) 'coward' (as a noun) or 'cowardly' (as an adjective), derived from Middle English cravant, which originally meant 'defeated' or 'conquered'. The word was used mockingly of Morgoth, who (it was said) was afraid to leave the safety of his stronghold of Angband.
crick (perhaps Celtic) an element seen only in Crickhollow, the name of a village in Buckland. This name was said to be so ancient that its meaning had been forgotten by the Bucklanders, but in real place-names crick is most commonly derived from Celtic crûg, a mound or hill, or occasionally from creig, also Celtic, meaning a rock or cliff.
criss (Sindarin) 'cleft' or 'cut', only seen in one word in the canonical works, Crissaegrim (literally 'cleft-peak-host') a region of the Encircling Mountains of Gondolin. Related is crist, literally 'cutter', used especially of swords and found in the name Orcrist ('Orc-cleaver').
crop (archaic English) from Old English cropp, 'plant', especially upper sprout or growth of a plant. This old word is seen in stonecrop, the English name for plants of the genus Sedum that thrive in stony or rocky conditions.
(Sindarin) 'bow' (that is, a weapon used to fire arrows), related to Quenya meaning 'arch' or referring to other objects with a crescent shape. This word appears in several names connected to the great archer Beleg Strongbow, including his surname 'Strongbow', which translates Elvish Cúthalion. The land he founded with Túrin was known as Dor-Cúarthol ('Land of Bow and Helm', referring to Beleg's great bow Belthronding and Túrin's Dragon-helm). After Beleg's death, his friend Túrin made a song in his memory that he named Laer Cú Beleg, 'Song of the Great Bow', where Beleg was not only the name of the slain Elf, but also an Elvish word for 'great'.
culu (Quenya) 'golden-red'. Pronounced kulu, this element is seen in Culúrien (probably simply 'the golden', a name of the Golden Tree Laurelin), and also in culumalda ('red-golden tree'), the name of the trees growing at Cormallen, which were named from the colour of their leaves.
curu (Elvish root) 'skilled', 'crafty', found in the Curufinwë ('skilled [son of] Finwë'), which was the original name of Fëanor, and also in the variant Curufin, the name that Fëanor chose for his own fifth son. Also prominent in Curunír, 'Man of Skill', which was the Elvish name of the Wizard more familiar from the Mannish equivalent, Saruman.

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