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'.

lad (Sindarin) 'plain', 'wide land', used for large, flat regions of land. Examples include Dagorlad ('Battle Plain'), Estolad (translated the 'Encampment' but literally 'camp plain'), Himlad ('cool plain'), Ladros ('plain of ?dew') or Lithlad ('ash plain'). It probably also appears in Tumhalad, though the derivation of this name is uncertain (it apparently refers to a deep valley running through a plain). A prominent derivative form was imlad ('between-plain'), a flat plain-like valley bottom with steep walls, as for example in Imladris (Rivendell). Where a plain had been purposefully cleared, the adjective laden was used, as for example in Tumladen, the hidden valley where Gondolin stood. Note that this element is not present in names ending -galad, a word with two possible derivations, neither of which is related to lad in the sense of 'plain'.
laden (Sindarin) the adjectival form of lad, 'plain' or 'wide land', laden was used of wide open spaces, especially those that had been intentionally cleared. Its most prominent use is in Tumladen, the hidden vale within which Gondolin stood, where it combines with tum 'deep valley' to create a name meaning 'wide open valley with steep sides'. Tumladen was later also used for a lesser valley in Gondor, perhaps in reference to the more famous vale of earlier times.
lalaith (Sindarin) 'laughter'. A stream running past the house of Húrin in Dor-lómin was known as Nen Lalaith ('water of laughter', from the gurgling sound it made). Húrin and Morwen had a daughter who was properly named Urwen ('fire maiden'), but who came to be called Lalaith ('Laughter'), taking her name from the stream that ran past the house.
lan(ta), lan(të) (Elvish root) 'fall', 'fallen', notably in Atalantë, 'The Downfallen', a name used of Númenor after the Downfall, and in Noldolantë, the 'Fall of the Noldor', a lament for his people made by Maglor. A related form appears in Lasse-lanta, 'leaf-fall', an Elvish name for late autumn. The same root appears in lanthir, 'waterfall' (where thir is a river or flow of water). Lanthir appears in the name Lanthir Lamath, translated as 'waterfall of echoing voices'.
largo (Italian) 'large' (also used as a musical term for 'slow' or 'broad'); it is unclear whether this is intended in any sense as the meaning of the Hobbit-name Largo (Largo Baggins was an ancestor of Frodo), but it would be a suitable punning use for a Hobbit of the Shire.
láth (Old English) from lāð, a word covering a range of related ideas from 'injury' to 'grief' to 'injustice' to 'evil'. It was often used as prefix to form negative compound words; so, for example, searu ('skill' or 'craft' in the name Saruman) had a modified version lāðsearu for one who devised evil plots. The only instance of this word used by Tolkien is in Láthspell, the name given to Gandalf by Gríma Wormtongue, and interpreted by him as 'Ill-news'. This comes from Old English lāðspel, 'bad news' or 'sad tidings' (and is incidentally the direct opposite of gospel, which means 'good news').
leithian (Sindarin) the act of freeing or being released, from a verb leithia-, 'to release'. This term is seen in the title of the Lay of Leithian, the long poetic tale of Beren and Lúthien, whose title is translated as 'Release from Bondage'.
lending (Old English) literally 'land-people' (from a genitive form of land), describing a people who lived in a land, or that land itself. Deriving from Old English, this represents a name element from the language of the Rohirrim, and thus only occurs in names used by that people. A Dunlending was the name used for a Man of Dunland ('brown land'). In Sunlending the element lending is used in subtly different way; Sunlending literally means 'Sun-land-people', but is used as a name for Anórien ('land of the Sun'), where it describes the land itself rather than the people who lived there. This fusion of the meanings 'land' and 'people' was commonplace in Elvish (with the common ending -waith being used for both) and in -lending we see a similar effect, but derived from Old English instead.
léod (Old English) 'chief' or 'prince', seen only in the name of Léod, Lord of the Éothéod and father of Eorl the Young.
lin(d) (Elvish root) 'sing', 'chant', 'create music'. Its most prominent use is probably in the name Lindon ('land of music'), named for the singing of the Elves who lived there in the First Age. The same element appears in numerous other names, including Ainulindalë ('Music of the Ainur'), Lindar ('the Singers'), Ondolindë ('Rock of the Music of Water') and lómelindi ('dusk-singers', the Elvish name for nightingales). It may also appear in linnod (possibly 'seven-chant'), the name given to a rhythmic pattern used in Elvish verse.
ling (from Old Norse) derived from lyng, referring to various plants growing on heaths or moors, especially the plant more usually known as heather.
lith (Sindarin) 'ash' or 'dust', in Ered Lithui, the 'Ashen Mountains' that bordered Mordor to the north, and Lithlad, the 'plain of ash' that lay at their feet. Also seen in Anfauglith ('Gasping Dust'), the name given to the once-green plain of Ard-galen after its destruction in the Dagor Bragollach, and in its alternative name Dor-nu-Fauglith ('Land under Choking Ash').
lithe (Old English) a modernisation of liðe, 'mild, gentle, warm', which was used by the Anglo-Saxons to refer to the time around Midsummer (one name for June was liðamōnað, 'mild month'). In the Shire Calendar, Lithe was used for the days before and after Midsummer, which were collectively known as the Lithedays, and to which an Overlithe or additional Litheday could be added in a leap year. The months preceding and following Lithe were respectively named Forelithe and Afterlithe (and this follows the Anglo-Saxons, for whom another name for June was ǣrra liða ('before Lithe') while July was æfterra liða ('after Lithe'). The Bree-landers also used Lithe in their calendar, but there it referred to the entire month preceding Midsummer, with the following month being given its own name, Mede (from mǣd, 'meadow').
lómë (Elvish root) 'night', 'gloom', 'darkness', 'shadow', and thus commonly also used for 'dusk' or 'twilight'. From the former sense come two names for Fangorn Forest, Aldalómë ('tree-shadowed') and Tauremornalómë, ('forest of dark shade'), as well as the Quenya name for the land of Hithlum, Hísilómë ('mist-gloom' or 'mist-shadowed'). From the sense of 'twilight' comes Maeglin's original name Lómion ('Child of the Twilight') and also lómelindi, the Elvish name for nightingales, with the literal meaning of 'dusk-singers'. (This element is not to be confused with the similar lóm, notably in Dor-lómin; that word means 'echo', and is unrelated to lómë in the sense discussed here).
lómin (Sindarin) 'echoes', the plural form of lómen, 'echo'. When Morgoth came ashore in Middle-earth after stealing the Silmarils, Ungoliant set upon him, and he let out a great cry that shook the earth and reverberated through the air. In later years it was said that any noise made in that place would wake the echoes of the cry of Morgoth, and the place was named Lammoth, the 'Great Echo'. Inland from that shoreland waste lay a range of mountains and a land sheltering beyond. They took their names from Sindarin versions of the word for 'echoes', becoming known as Ered Lómin ('mountains of echoes') and Dor-lómin ('land of echoes') respectively. Lómin in this sense is not to be confused with lómë ('gloom', 'twilight') which had quite different etymological origins (though due to the assocation of Dor-lómin with the Mountains of Shadow that ran along its southern border, these separate meanings became somewhat intertwined).
lónë (Quenya) 'island'; at least, this seems to be the final intended meaning of the word, though its history is a complex one. It occurs uniquely in Avallónë, and Tolkien's idea of the meaning behind that name changed considerably over time. It was originally coined to reflect Arthurian Avalon (a Celtic name meaning 'apple land'), but Tolkien invented his own Elvish etymology, suggesting that the name originated from the island's proximity to Valinor. Over the following years, the derivation evolved (at one point the name meant 'haven of the gods') before settling on 'outer isle' as a reference to the Lonely Isle of Tol Eressëa. The most recent sources use Avallónë not as a name for the island as a whole, but rather for a haven on that island, but the meaning of lónë as 'island' seems to have been preserved.
lóni (Old Norse) (probably) 'still one', one of many Dwarf-names taken by Tolkien from the Old Norse Dvergatal in the Völuspa saga, and given to one of the companions of Balin slain in Moria. There are several possible interpretations (various sources suggest 'fighter', 'shining one' or even 'sea pool') but probably the most likely derivation is from Old Norse lón, meaning 'still', 'unmoving' or 'lazy'.
lór (Quenya) from the word lórë, meaning 'dream', or less commonly 'slumber'. In Valinor, the Vala Irmo maintained a garden named Lórien ('dreamland', which also came to be applied to Irmo as a personal name). Within the garden of Lórien was a lake named Lórellin ('lake of dreams' or 'lake of slumber') where the Vala Estë slept. The name Lórien was also given by Galadriel (who had lived at one time in Valinor) to her forest home in Middle-earth. That version of the name Lórien also had an extended form Lothlórien, variously translated 'Dreamflower' or 'Lórien of the Blossom'. Galadriel's choice of name was doubtless influenced in part by the land's old name of Lórinand, but here lór- has a quite different meaning, deriving instead from laurë for 'gold', so Lórinand was the 'Valley of Gold', not the 'valley of dreams'. A related term to lór also occurs in Gandalf's original name of Olórin, though that name derived more specifically from olóri, referring to the clear mental visions of the Elves.
lóriel (Sindarin) 'golden', referring especially to the colour rather than the metal, a derivative of the common root (g)lór for 'gold'. This particular form is seen only in the name Rathlóriel, translated 'Goldenbed', the name given to the river Ascar after the treasure of Doriath was sunk into its waters.
lórin (Sindarin) 'golden', 'of gold', an adjectival form of lór, 'gold'. Hador of Dor-lómin was commonly titled Lórindol, literally 'Goldenhead', but also translated 'Golden-haired' (this choice of name was perhaps also influenced by the Dragon-helm that he wore, which was decorated with gold). The same element is seen in Lórinand 'Valley of Gold', an old name for the land of Lórien.
lost (Sindarin) 'empty', seen in Beren's title Camlost, 'Empty-handed'. This form derives from the same root as loth, 'empty', in the name of the wide and empty plain of Lothlann.
loth (Sindarin) an element derived from lhoth, 'empty', seen uniquely in the name Lothlann, the 'wide and empty' plain to the north of the March of Maedhros. Not to be confused with the more common name element loth, 'flower, blossom', which is unrelated to this term.
lune (originally Sindarin) 'blue', a version of the Sindarin name Lhûn adjusted to be more readily used by Westron-speakers, and especially Hobbits. The name seems to have originally come from the Blue Mountains (Ered Luin in Elvish), and indeed these were sometimes known as the Mountains of Lune. From the northern heights of these mountains sprang a river, known in Elvish as Lhûn or 'blue', and in Westron as Lune. The name also appears in the terms 'Firth of Lune' and 'Gulf of Lune', referring to the wide inlet where the river Lune ran into the Great Sea. (There are in fact two real rivers named Lune in northern England, but their names are not etymologically connected to their namesake in Middle-earth.)
lung (Sindarin) 'heavy, weighty', recorded only in the name Mablung ('weighted hand'). That name originally belonged to an Elf of Doriath, who famously recovered Beren's severed hand and, being surprised by the weight of the Silmaril that the hand still held, dropped it to the ground. Thus Mablung of Doriath became known to history as 'Mablung of the Heavy Hand'. The name was shared by a Ranger of Ithilien, a Man who lived long after the time of the original Elf named Mablung.

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

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 2010, 2015, 2018, 2020-2024. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

Website services kindly sponsored by Discus from Axiom Software Ltd.
The Discus DISC report is available in more than thirty languages, covering all of the world's largest demographics.
The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry