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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'.

mab (Sindarin) 'hand'; a word from the Doriathrin dialect of Sindarin, found in the name of Mablung of the Heavy Hand (whose name literally means 'heavy hand', a reference to his recovery of Beren's hand, and the Silmaril it held, after the Hunting of the Wolf). The same name was shared by Mablung of Ithilien, who was presumably named after the famous Elf of Doriath.
macil (Quenya) 'sword'. This element appears in the names of the sons of Atanatar Alcarin: Narmacil ('fire sword') and Calmacil ('shining sword'), names which recurred several times in the royal line of the Dúnedain. Its Sindarin equivalent was megil, as in Mormegil, 'Black Sword', a title of Túrin.
maeg (Sindarin) 'sharp', seen in the name of Maeglin (from maeg glîn, 'Sharp Glance').
mag (Sindarin) 'cleaver', a translation of the Quenya element maka in the name Makalaurë. In full, that name means 'Gold-cleaver', and was the original name of Fëanor's second son before he acquired a 'Sindarised' version in Beleriand, which was the more familiar Maglor. The mag- in the name Magor is etymologically related: that name means 'the sword'.
maia (Quenya) 'beautiful', 'admirable', 'excellent'; most usually seen as the proper noun Maia (plural Maiar, 'the Beautiful') for those Ainur of a lesser order than the Valar who entered Arda alongside the Powers. It may seem strange to apply such a term to beings such as Balrogs, who formally belonged to the 'Beautiful' Maiar, and indeed for them the term Úmaiar (with negative ú- prefix) was sometimes used instead.
mal(l) (Elvish root) 'gold', 'golden', as for example in Mallorn ('golden tree', and also Malinalda with the same meaning). Also seen in Malbeth ('golden words'), Mallos ('golden flower'), Malduin ('golden river') and many other instances. This element is also seen in Ormal (probably 'high-golden'), the name of one of the great Lamps of the Valar that gave light to the world before the Two Trees. The plural form of this element is mel, see in Mellyrn, the proper Elvish plural of Mallorn.
mamil (Sindarin) 'mother', at least in Númenórean Sindarin. The word seems to be related to Quenya amil, perhaps under the influence of naneth or the less formal nana, which were the more conventional Sindarin words for 'mother'.
man (Elvish root) 'holy', 'blessed', seen in the name of Manwë, chief of the Valar, whose name means 'holy one', and also in Aman, the 'Blessed Realm'. Both man and aman gave rise to names, such as Amandil ('devoted to Aman'), Manwendil ('devoted to Manwë') or Amanyar (the Elves of Aman).
mand (Quenya) 'prison', or more broadly a place of confinement, often in association with the afterlife. Mand is seem in the name of the Vala Mandos, whose name comes from his Halls, and translates literally as 'prison fortress' or 'castle of custody'. The original root word behind mand was mband, and in Sindarin this became band, so a cognate element appears in the Sindarin name Angband (Quenya Angamando), translated 'iron prison' or 'Hells of Iron'.
mar (Celtic) 'disciple', 'follower', 'servant'; an element found uniquely in the archaic names used by the Brandybuck clan. The primary examples are Marmadoc (the son of Madoc Brandybuck, whose name means 'follower of Madoc', and is equivalent to modern Marmaduke), and Marmadas, 'servant (or follower) of the good one'). It possibly also appears in Marroc, though the interpretation of that name is uncertain. Not to be confused with the -mar element in Wilimar Bolger's name (which probably means 'strong'), or the mar that appears often in Elvish names, and means 'home, dwelling-place'.
march (archaic English) 'borderland', from Old English mearc. Commonly the word referred to an outlying region that protected the lands behind it, as in the 'March of Maedhros' guarding East Beleriand in the First Age. The Shire had two marches, a Westmarch beyond its western borders and an Eastmarch (more commonly known as Buckland) beyond the Brandywine river. Rohan also had two marches: a West-march extending beyond the Gap of Rohan, and the Fenmarch on its marshy eastern borders with Gondor. The Rohirrim typically referred to their own land as the Riddermark or simply as the Mark, which is an older variant of march.
mark (Old English) 'borderland', a modernisation of Old English mearc, referring especially to an outlying land that stood in defence of another. As The Mark used by the Rohirrim as the name of their own land (also seen as Riddermark, 'Mark of the Riders'). A variant is march, used for example in Fenmarch, the 'borderland of the fens' on Rohan's eastern border (Tolkien later stated that with hindsight he would have preferred to have used the form Fenmark for this region).
mathom (Old English) a modernised spelling of the Anglo-Saxon máthm or máðum, which originally simply meant a thing of value: a jewel or treasure or gift. In the Hobbit dialect, Tolkien gives mathom a more specific meaning, that of an object with no intrinsic use, but valuable or ornamental enough not to throw away. These accumulated in the homes of Hobbits, or were (in keeping with the original Old English meaning) given away as gifts. In Michel Delving there was a Mathom-house (translated 'museum') where many such items were stored and displayed.
medu (Old English) 'mead', seen uniquely in Meduseld ('mead hall'), the Golden Hall of the Kings of Rohan in Edoras.
mehtar (Quenya) 'warrior', ultimately from a stem mak- meaning 'sword', so a mehtar was etymologically a 'swordsman'. This element appears in the name of the constellation Telumehtar ('Swordsman of the Sky', known in modern times as Orion), a name that was also given to King Telumehtar Umbardacil of Gondor. A later King of Gondor, in fact Telumehtar's grandson, was named Calimehtar, translated as 'bright warrior'.
melk (Quenya) 'mighty'. This root appears in Melkor, the original name of the first Dark Lord. In full that name derived from Melkórë, combining words for 'mighty' and 'rising', and is usually interpreted 'he who arises in might'. In older works the variant Melko appears, and that form of the name simply means 'mighty one'.
men (Elvish root) an element with a broad range of meanings, deriving from a root meaning 'go', the term could be used for words relating to direction (as in 'way', 'path' or 'road') or more generally for a place or wide region. The directional sense is rare, but is seen in Men-i-Naugrim, the 'Dwarf-road' that ran through Mirkwood (and also presumably for Dwarf-roads in general, though it is only attested for this particular case). The sense of a place or a wide region is more common, and is used especially to express broad areas based on compass directions: Formen ('the North'), Rómen ('the East'), Harmen or Hyarmen ('the South') and Númen ('the West'). From these derive several proper names, such as Númenor ('land in the West'), Rómendacil ('victor over the East') or Hyarmendacil ('victor over the South'). Men was also used for regions of the high airs, giving rise to Menel ('region of the stars') for the high heavens, and also Ilmen (probably 'starlight region') for the same high region of the airs.
menel (Elvish root) literally 'star-region', describing the highest and most sublime region of the sky, and usually translated 'heaven'; its further reaches were known as Tarmenel ('high heaven' or 'Over-heaven'). Seen in names such as Armenelos ('royal fortress of the heavens'), Meneldil ('devoted to heaven'), Menelmacar ('swordsman of heaven', i.e., the constellation Orion) or Meneltarma ('Pillar of Heaven', the central peak of Númenor).
mentha (Latin) 'mint', the name of a fragrant flowering herb used as a personal name by the Hobbits (or, strictly, used by Tolkien to translate an unrecorded personal name of equivalent origins). Its only appearance in the histories of the Shire is in the name of Mentha Brandybuck.
mere (archaic English) 'lake' or 'pool', from an Old English word for any body of water, ultimately derived from a root meaning 'sea' (and so 'mere' is cognate with Latin mare, 'sea'). Still seen in real lake names (as for example Windermere, the largest lake in England) and used by Tolkien to represent old lake names in the Common Tongue. Examples include the Mirrormere beneath Moria, the Shadowmere in Aman, the Beautiful Mere at Eithel Ivrin, the Twilight Meres (and their many variant names) at Aelin-uial, and the Mere of Dead Faces on the borders of Mordor. All of these examples refer to lakes or pools, but the ancient connection with the sea is evident in Meresdei (later 'Mersday'), the old name among the Hobbits for Eärenya, the day of the Sea.
mereth (Sindarin) 'feast', seen in Mereth Aderthad, the 'Feast of Reuniting' made by High King Fingolfin to reunite the Elves soon after the Return of the Noldor. The same word appears in Merethrond, the Great Hall of Feasts (or literally 'feast-hall') in the Citadel of Minas Tirith.
meriadoc (from Old Welsh) uncertain; possibly 'great one' or 'sea brow'; Meriadoc Brandybuck seems to have taken his forename from the legendary British ruler Conan Meriadoc son of Gerontius, who sailed from Britain was was said to have founded the land of Brittany. The ultimate derivation of the name is not established with certainty; it can be read as 'great one' (so Conan would have been simply 'Conan the Great') but it is commonly associated with Old Welsh meriadeg, combining words for 'sea' and 'brow', presumably in reference to Conan's conquests overseas.
merry (from Old Welsh) a contraction of the name Meriadoc, chosen by Tolkien from Old Welsh as a translation of the Hobbit name Kalimac. The meaning is obscure: some sources suggest 'great one', while others connect the name to the Sea. (This obscurity is appropriate and possibly intentional, since the original Kalimac was also said to have lost its meaning.)
metta (Elvish root) 'end', seen in Mettarë, the name given to the 'end day' of several of the calendars of Middle-earth, and also in Ambar-metta 'ending of the world' in Elendil's traditional speech at his landing in Middle-earth. The Sindarin form was meth (as for example in Methedras, the last peak - literally 'end horn' - of the Misty Mountains).
mickle (Old English) from micel, meaning 'large' or 'great'. This particular spelling is only seen in Mickleburg ('great city' or 'great fortress') representing a Mannish translation of Belegost, the name of a Dwarf-city in the Blue Mountains. The Michel is Michel Delving ('great delving' or 'great excavation') is derived from the same Old English origin.
midge (from Old English) a small biting fly or gnat, from an Old English form mycg, meaning 'gnat'. Midgewater Marshes, eastward of the Bree-land, were so named for the swarms of these small flies that infested them.
min (Elvish root) from an ancient root mini- meaning a thing that stands alone, the syllable min acquired a range of meanings related to this idea of singularity. It can mean 'prominent' or 'towering' in either a literal or a figurative sense, and these meanings can sometimes overlap, making names difficult to decipher. Examples include Minalcar ('prominent glory'), Minohtar, 'prominent warrior'), Mindolluin ('towering blue head') and Min-Rimmon (the 'peak of Rimmon', where Rimmon is not easily interpretable). The original root also gave rise to several connected terms that appear in Elvish names, notably minas ('tower'), mindon ('watchtower') and minya ('first'). This last case can appear in abbreviated form to give another meaning of min: Minuial means 'first twilight' (the twilight of dawn).
minas (Sindarin) 'tower' (from a root word meaning 'prominent' or 'singular'). Most evident in Minas Anor ('Tower of the Sun') and Minas Ithil ('Tower of the Moon'), as well as the later names of those two towers, Minas Tirith ('Tower of Guard') and Minas Morgul ('Tower of [Black] Sorcery'). The ancient capital of Arnor, Annúminas ('West-tower' or 'tower of sunset'), also contains this element. Certain personal names also include minas, such as Arminas ('high tower'), Minastir ('watchtower') or Minastan (literally 'tower builder'). In some of these cases 'tower' is probably meant figuratively as 'a prominent or important thing' (for example, Minastan was the ancestor of numerous later Kings of Gondor, so his name may be intended as 'foundation of a prominent line' rather than literally 'tower builder').
mindon (Sindarin) originally a 'lone prominent hill', but especially one with a watchtower; hence the word commonly came to be used for the tower itself. The word derives from two separate roots: mini-, 'prominent, alone' and -tun, 'hill, mound' (with the equivalent Quenya form being minitunda). The most famous of these structures was the Mindon Eldaliéva ('tower of the Eldar') that stood in Tirion on the peak of the hill of Túna. (This is a linguistic oddity, a survival of the time when the language that would become Sindarin was envisaged by Tolkien as the language of the Noldor, hence its unexpected application outside Middle-earth.) Another example is seen in the Calmindon or 'Light-tower' of Rómenna in Númenor which, despite the word's original etymology, in fact stood on an island rather than a hill.
mir (Elvish root) from mîr (pronounced 'meer'), a word usually translated 'jewel' or 'gem', but more broadly referring to any treasured or precious thing. The literal meaning of 'jewel' or 'treasure' is seen in Elendilmir, the royal gem of Elendil, and in Nauglamír, the golden Necklace of the Dwarves. The element also appears in Mírdain, 'Jewel-smiths', used especially of the followers of Celebrimbor in Eregion. The word is also often used figuratively of jewel-like things such as stars (as in Remmirath, the 'Netted Stars', but literally the 'netted host of jewels') or berries (as in Carnimírië or 'red-jewelled' the Quenya name for the red-berried rowan tree). Mîr is a very common element in personal names, for example in Míriel ('jewel daughter' or 'precious daughter'), and it was particularly popular as a name-ending, especially among the Dúnedain. Prominent among numerous instances would be Boromir ('faithful jewel') and Faramir (where Fara- is obscure), as well as cases like Ardamir ('jewel of the world'), Castamir (perhaps 'helm jewel'), Vardamir ('jewel of Varda'), and many, many other examples besides.
mirk (Germanic) 'murk', 'gloom'; used in the name Mirkwood, which appears in Old Norse as myrkviðr, in turn derived from Germanic mirkwidu. In full the compound Mirkwood therefore refers to a forest filled with gloom and shadow, a suitable name for the darkened forest that had been Greenwood the Great until the coming of Sauron to Dol Guldur.
mith (Elvish root) originally 'fog, mist' but by extension 'grey', especially pale grey. Identifying the intended meaning is not alway straightforward, for example the name of the metal mithril might be 'mist-glitter' or 'grey-glitter'. Its original meaning of 'mist' is rare in names and sometimes uncertain, but is probably seen in Mithrim ('mist-cool-lake') and perhaps also in Gilmith (probably 'star-mist'). The more usual meaning is 'grey', as in Mithrandir ('Grey Wanderer'), Mithlond ('Grey Havens'), or Ered Mithrin ('Grey Mountains'). The river name Mitheithel is translated 'Hoarwell' using the English word 'hoar' in an archaic sense meaning 'pale grey'.
mitta (Quenya) 'between', 'within'. The only direct use of this element in a name is in Mittalmar, in reference to the central regions of Númenor. This name is equivalent to 'Inlands', and though the full derivation is not known, this does not seem to be a direct translation. It perhaps incorporates mar as 'home', so Mittalmar would be 'within the home(lands)'. Alternatively the name may merge mitta with talmar ('roots' or 'foundations') in reference to the mountain of the Meneltarma that rose out of the central plains of the Mittalmar.
mor (Elvish root) 'black' (and by extension 'dark', 'shadowy'). This is a very common element, found especially in names connected with the Dark Lord, as for example in Morgoth ('Black Foe'), Mordor ('Black Land'), Morgul ('Black magic'); and also prominent in Moria ('Black Chasm'). This root is also seen in Moriquendi, 'Dark Elves', where the old form mori is used.
mouthe (from Old English) a word derived from múð, meaning an 'opening', used of geographical features such as the mouths of rivers. This element appears in Isenmouthe, a translation from Elvish Carach Angren, 'jaws of iron'. While the translation is not completely literal, the connection between 'jaws' and muð for 'mouth' mirrors the sense of the original Elvish name.
muil (Sindarin) a word used in the Sindarin of Doriath to signify a cluster of concepts around 'twilight', 'shadow' or 'vagueness'. It only appears in a single place-name, that of the hills of the Emyn Muil that rose on either side of the Great River Anduin above the Falls of Rauros. In that context, muil is translated 'drear', so the full name Emyn Muil translates as the 'drear hills' (where 'drear' is apparently meant in the sense of 'bleak').
muster (archaic English) a gathering of military force, historically used to count or assess soldiers. In Tolkien's work it is most closely associated with the Rohirrim, who ordered their military by geographic musters (such as the Muster of Edoras or the Muster of Westfold), with a Full Muster being traditionally counted as 12,000 Riders. In fact the word muster did not occur in Old English, and must therefore be intended as a translation of an equivalent term used by the Rohirrim, probably weapontake. Muster also occurs in two situations unrelated to Rohan: the Mustering of the Dwarves before the War of the Dwarves and Orcs, and the Shire-muster, a barely remembered military tradition amongst the Hobbits.

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