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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'.

gala (Elvish root) 'thrive', 'be healthy, happy, prosperous'. This root word is attested in The Etymologies in volume V of The History of Middle-earth, though whether it appears in any extant names is open to question. The only real candidate is Galador (possibly - very speculatively - 'thriving brother'). Though gala as a combination of letters does appear in many other names, in all those other cases the etymology derives from either galad ('shining, radiance') or galadh ('broad, spreading tree').
galadh (Sindarin) 'tree', especially a tree with broadly spread branches and dense foliage (as opposed to a more slender tree, for which the word orn was more usual, though this distinction was not rigidly imposed). The dh in this word's spelling represents a voiced th sound (as in English 'these' or 'lathe'). The fourth day of the Elves' week was named Orgaladhad ('day of the Two Trees'), modified by the Númenóreans to Orgaladh ('day of the (White) Tree'). The chief city of Lórien was Caras Galadhon ('fortress of trees'), and the people of that land were known as Galadhrim ('Tree-people'). The element galadh also appears in Galadhon, the name of Celeborn's father, with a meaning that is not completely certain, but seems to be 'of the trees'. Galadh is very occasionally seen in the modified form galad, specifically in the name of the Ent Bregalad, translated as 'Quickbeam' (where beam is used in its older sense of 'tree'). (Galad much more usually means 'radiance', as in Gil-galad or Galadriel - though in Galadriel's case her relationship with Lórien and its Galadhrim meant that her name was sometimes rendered Galadhriel.) See also galath beliow.
galath (Sindarin) 'tree', especially a tree with broad, spreading branches. The usual Sindarin word here would be galadh (see above), with dh representing a voiced 'th' sound as in 'clothe' or 'bathe'. Where the word occurred in combination with a following unvoiced 'th', however, the sounds were combined, giving rise the galath with an unvoiced final south (that is, the word rhymes with English 'path' rather than 'bathe'). We have only two examples of this situation, and in both the combination is with thil, which can mean 'shine silver' or 'Moon' depending on context. One of these examples is Galathilion, the Tree made by Yavanna in the image of Telperion of the Two Trees, whose name means something like 'scion of the shining silver tree'. The only other example is Galathil, who was the brother of Celeborn, and the names of both brothers seem to be variations on 'silver tree'.
gam (Old English) derived from gamen, meaning a sport or game, and found in the Hobbit village-name of Gamwich ('game village'). This gave rise to the nickname 'Gamwichy', from which the form 'Gamgee' is ultimately derived. These Old English names are translations of original Hobbit names: Galbasi for the village, and Galpsi as the actual form of 'Gamgee'.
gammidgy (modernised Old English) a familiar form meaning 'of Gamwich' that arose within a family of Hobbits who originated in Gamwich (whose name means 'game village'). Hamfast of Gamwich was the first of these, and when his son Wiseman removed to Tighfield he gained Gamwich as a surname. This evolved to Gammidge and hence to Gammidgy ('Old Gammidgy' was a nickname given to Wiseman's son Hob Gammidge). Over time this evolved further to produce Gamgee by the later years of the Third Age. (Note that these names are all anglicised forms; the actual name of the village of Gamwich was Galabas, and so the name 'Gammidgy' represents the original Galbasi, the form which would have been used by the Shire-hobbits themselves.)
gand (Old Norse) from gandr, meaning 'wand' or 'staff'. In the long list of Dwarf names known as the Dvergatal in the Völuspá, one of the Dwarves listed is Gandálfr, 'Wand-elf' or 'Elf of the Wand'. In early draft versions of The Hobbit, the anglicised version Gandalf was used for one of the Dwarves, with their Wizard companion being named Bladorthin. Later revisions saw these names changed, so that the Wizard acquired his much better known name of Gandalf.
gar (Elvish root) literally 'possess', from which derive two variant forms seen in proper names: (i) 'lord', 'noble' (that is, 'one who holds property'), in Beregar ('valiant noble'); and (ii) 'land' (as in 'possessed place') in Losgar ('place of flowers'). Sense (ii) is etymologically connected with the stem that gives rise to Arda (as the realm in the keeping of Manwë). Not to be confused with the common element -gar seen in Mannish names, especially among the Hobbits, which means 'spear', and is unrelated to this Elvish source.
gardner (abbreviated English) a contraction of 'gardener', recalling Sam Gamgee's original occupation and used in the Shire as a surname for him and for members of his family (especially his eldest son Frodo Gardner) after his return from the Quest of Mount Doom.
gelion (Sindarin) 'merry singer', derived from a root meaning 'joy' or 'triumph'. This old Elvish name was at one time given as a derivation for the name of the river Gelion (and its tributaries, the Greater Gelion and the Little Gelion). Based on later writings, Tolkien appears to changed his mind about the derivation of this river's name (instead basing it on Dwarvish Gabilán, 'great river'). The name also appears in Thargelion, the land eastward 'beyond Gelion'.
gil (Sindarin) 'star', from a root meaning 'shine with white light'. This element appears in a great many names, not least the names of certain stars themselves (such as Borgil, 'constant star', or Gil-Estel, 'Star of High Hope'). It is also common in personal names or titles, as for example Gil-galad ('Star of Radiance'), Gilthoniel ('star-kindler'), or Thorongil ('Eagle of the Star'). The plural form giliath ('host of stars') is seen in Osgiliath ('Citadel of the Stars') and Dagor-nuin-Giliath ('Battle-under-Stars'). Note that the element el also means 'star', and also very prevalent in Elvish names.
gil (Sindarin) a 'sparkling, shining' thing, or a 'gem', from the same root, 'shine with white light', as gil 'star' above. This usage is rare (the more usual word for a gem or jewel is mír) but it appears in the name of Gilraen, the mother of Aragorn. That name incorporates gil as a shining jewel with raen, 'netted', to describe a 'tressure', a jewelled headpiece worn by Gilraen that was composed of a net of shimmering gems.
gimil (Adûnaic) 'star', one of relatively few known name elements in the native language of the Númenóreans. It appears in the names of several members of the royal line, including one King, Ar-Gimilzôr ('king star-fire'). Other examples include Gimilzagar ('Star-sword') and Gimilkhâd (where the meaning of the final -khâd element is obscure).
glǣm (Old English) 'gleam', 'radiance', 'splendour'. Glǣmscrafu 'caves of radiance', was the name used by the Rohirrim for the shining caverns that ran behind Helm's Deep in the White Mountains. That name is an almost direct translation of Elvish Aglarond, which could also be translated 'cave(s) of radiance', though in this context the name is usually rendered as 'Glittering Caves'.
glir (Sindarin) 'song' or 'poem', seen in this form only in Glirhuin, the name of a seer and poet of Brethil (the -huin ending of this name is obscure).
glóin (Old Norse) perhaps 'glowing or shining one', appearing as the name of two Dwarves. The name comes from the long list of Dwarf names known as the Dvergatal ('Dwarf-tale' or 'Dwarf-list') within the ancient poem Vǫluspá or the 'Prophecy of the Seeress'. Its etymology is not completely sure, but it seems to be connected with the Old Norse word for 'glow' or 'shine' (in Tolkien's work, Old Norse represents the northern language of Men in Middle-earth).
glor (Sindarin) 'gold', 'golden', as for example in Glóredhel ('Golden Elf'), Glorfindel ('Golden-haired Elf') and Sîr Ninglor ('River Goldwater', referring to the Gladden River). Glor is a compressed form of glaur, the Sindarin word for gold, and is related to the Quenya word laurë (as in Laurelin, the Golden Tree of Valinor).
gollum (onomatopoeic) an imitation of a throaty swallowing sound made by Sméagol, especially when he was frightened or angry, and from which he took his more common name of Gollum.
gon (Sindarin) a derivative of gonn or gond, meaning 'stone', and especially referring to rocks or large stones, or stone used as a building material. Apart from Gondor (which derives from gond dor, 'land of stone'), the most prominent use of this form is probably in Argonath ('two royal stones', but here gon is used of statues, not simple rocks). The element is also seen in seregon, a red-flowering plant whose name translates as 'blood of stone'. As an ending in names, this is a somewhat problematic term, but in general names ending in -gon are not meant in this sense (specifically, in Fingon and Turgon, -gon means 'commander', from an entirely different linguistic source). There are a few uncertain cases (such as Argonui, Hirgon or Targon) where the names may or may not be intended to contain a word for 'stone'.
gond (Sindarin) 'stone', 'rock', seen most prominently in the names Gondor ('Stone-land') and Gondolin ('Hidden Rock'). This element also occurs in a modified form in Gonnhirrim, 'Masters of Stone', an Elvish name for the Dwarves.
gor (Sindarin) 'fear' or 'dread', seen in its pure form in Gorthaur (a name of Sauron combining the words for 'dread' and 'abombinable') and Gorthol ('Dread Helm'). An example of a compound form is seen in Cirith Gorgor (translated as 'Haunted Pass', but literally 'pass of deadly fear'). Gor combined with ngoroth 'horror' to produce gorgoroth, 'great fear, terror', seen in both Ered Gorgoroth ('Mountains of Terror') and the Plateau of Gorgoroth in Mordor. The name Nan Dungortheb is a special case with a complex evolution and etymology; in its older forms it used gor in the sense of 'fear', and was translated 'Vale of Black Horror', but Tolkien later came to prefer 'Valley of Dreadful Death' as its meaning. The exact derivation of this later translation is somewhat unclear; it may continue to use gor to imply 'dread', or it may use gorth for 'death'. Note that, despite their reputation, gor in the sense of 'fear' does not appear in Tyrn Gorthad, the Barrow-downs; rather, this is also an instance of gorth to mean 'death'.
gorn (Sindarin) literally 'impetuous', though in the case of Aragorn (apparently the unique case of this element appearing in a personal name), it was said to be intended as 'valour'. In full, then, Aragorn means 'kingly valour'.
goth (Elvish root) A form of the word coth, 'enemy', that appears in the name of Morgoth ('Dark Enemy' or 'Black Foe [of the World]'). This form was possibly influenced by an alternative meaning of goth, 'dread' or 'terror', which perhaps appears in one interpretation of Gothmog (on this reading, 'dread enforcer'). This element is linguistically difficult; it is Sindarin in form, but was given by Fëanor before he encountered the Sindar (the explanation for this peculiarity lies in the evolution of Tolkien's linguistic structure; for simplicity, the element is here simply listed as an 'Elvish root').
grim (Old English) as used by the Anglo-Saxons, this word had a rather broader array of meanings than in modern English, covering such concepts such as being 'fierce', 'cruel', 'savage', 'wild', 'bitter' or 'painful'. It came originally from a root-word meaning 'angry', which was perhaps connected with an even older word for 'thunder'. In Rohan it appeared in the name of the warrior Grimbold (simply 'grim' + 'bold'), as well as the name of Théoden's sword Herugrim ('fierce sword') and the place-name Grimslade (probably 'glade of [a person named] Grim'). Related languages outside Rohan also used the word, so for example Beorn's son was named Grimbeorn ('fierce bear'). Among Hobbits, who also shared a linguistic heritage with the Rohirrim, there were several members of the Took family with names derived from this source. These included Adalgrim ('noble' + 'grim'), Hildigrim ('battle fierce') and Isengrim ('iron' + 'grim').
gríma (Old English) 'mask', and by extension used to denote hidden or secret things, and so a suitable source for the name of Gríma Wormtongue, the treacherous advisor to King Théoden of Rohan.
grind (archaic English) 'protective fence', seen only in the name Grindwall, a landing place on the Withywindle that was protected from the surrounding Old Forest by a 'grind' that walled it off from the threatening trees.
gul (Sindarin) 'magic', 'sorcery', most obviously seen in Morgul ('black magic') and its derivatives, such as Minas Morgul ('tower of black magic'), Morgul-king (a name of the Lord of the Nazgûl), Morgulduin ('river of black magic') and so on. Also seen in Dol Guldur ('hill of dark magic'). The Black Speech -gûl (meaning 'wraith' or 'phantom' in Nazgûl) is possibly derived from this Sindarin element.

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