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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'.

nan (Elvish root) 'valley' (originally from a stem nad- meaning 'watered grassland', the word implies a wide fertile vale or plain, rather than a narrow cleft). Examples are Nan-tathren (literally 'vale of willows'), Laurelindórenan ('valley of singing gold', an old name for Lórien), Nanduhirion ('valley of shadowed streams'), Nan Elmoth ('vale of the star pool'), and many more besides.
nar (Elvish root) literally 'flame, fire', as for example in Narya the Ring of Fire, Narmacil ('fire-sword'), Nardol ('fire hilltop') or Telemnar (probably 'fire of heaven'). The word is often connected to the Sun, in which relation it is prominent in the name of Elendil's sword Narsil (a name which is intended to convey the light of both the Sun and the Moon). It is also often used as a reference to the Sun in names of months and seasons, as for example in Narvinyë ('new sun/fire', the first month of the year) or Narquelië ('sun/fire fading', the tenth month).
nár (Old Norse) 'corpse', one of many Dwarf names taken by Tolkien from the prophetic poem Voluspa. Nár was the companion of the ill-fated Thrór, and it was his report of his master's branded corpse that gave rise the War of the Dwarves and the Orcs, which perhaps explains why Tolkien chose this particular name. The sequence -nár- also appears in various Elvish words and names, most notably Anárion, but those are wholly unrelated to the Old Norse word, which is used solely as the name of a Dwarf.
narg (Sindarin) a contracted form of the river name Narog (literally 'torrent'); this particular form is only ever seen in the name Nargothrond, which combines narg with ost 'fortress' and rond 'cavern' to mean 'underground fortress by the River Narog'.
narog (Sindarin) 'torrent', deriving from a hypothesised ancient origin in naráka, 'rapid, violent'. The name was given to the River Narog of West Beleriand, which formed impassible rapids as it flowed through a gorge at the feet of Taur-en-Faroth. It was in the caverns above this gorge that Finrod Felagund created the stronghold of Nargothrond, of which the component Narg- is a contracted form of the river's name.
ndil (Sindarin) 'devotee' or 'loving friend', indicating great loyalty or commitment, and extremely common in personal names. Often the devotion was to the Valar or their land, as especially in Valandil ('devoted to the Valar'), and also, for example, in Amandil ('devoted to Aman'), Manwendil ('devoted to Manwë') or Aulendil ('devoted to Aulë'). Similarly, Elendil means 'devoted to the Elves' (usually translated 'Elf-friend', and also appearing in the plural as elendili). The element ndil could also indication a deep interest in an idea or thing, as in Eärendil ('devoted to the Sea'), Aiwendil ('devoted to birds'), Ciryandil ('devoted to ships'), and many other examples. In some cases, the full form was abbreviated for phonetic reasons, so names like Eärnil (equivalent to Eärendil, 'devoted to the Sea') and Mardil ('devoted to the House'), each contain worn down versions of ndil.
ndur (Elvish root) literally 'servant', but also, especially in personal names, used in the sense of devotion. Ndur is in fact the original Elvish root word, but in names it is commonly adapted to -dur or -nur to fit the needs of phonetic structure. The two most prominent uses of ndur itself are in Eärendur ('devoted to the Sea') and Valandur ('servant of the Valar'). Note that many names that apparently contain -ndur are actually based on -dur. For example, the title Arandur, while it might appear to contain -ndur, actually comes from aran ('king') + dur ('servant'). See under dur for related examples.

nen (Elvish root) 'water', a very common element in the names of rivers, lakes and even small seas. The word can be used as prefix (equivalent to English 'Lake' or 'River' before a proper name), so we have Nen Hithoel ('lake of cool mist'), Nen Lalaith ('laughing water'), Nen Girith ('Shuddering Water') and Nenuial ('Lake Evendim, or twilight'). Nen also appears combined with other elements to form the names of further lakes and rivers, such as Cuiviénen ('Water of Awakening'), Nísinen ('fragrant water'), Bruinen ('Loudwater') and many others besides. It also appears in two other important names with connections to water: Nenya, the Ring 'of Water', and Uinen ('watery-weed'), one of the Maiar of the Sea. Note that, where -nen appears at the end of a Sindarin word, it is not always related to this root. Sindarin used the ending -en to form adjectives, so words like dínen ('silent') or dirnen ('guarded') are simply grammatical constructions, and their final -nen has no connection to water.
nessa (Elvish root) as the name of one of the Valier or Queens of the Valar, Nessa has two possible meanings. One early source explains the name as simply 'young', while a later conjecture interprets the name as describing a woman with particular vigour and strength. There are two recorded names that are apparently derived from Nessa, but in neither case is the meaning absolutely clear. The tree Nessamelda can be interpreted as 'beloved of Nessa', while the Númenórean woman Nessanië has a name clearly meant to invoke dedication to the Vala, but with an exact meaning that is elusive, though 'Nessa's tear' is one possible interpretation.
nesse (Middle English) probably 'land' or 'lands', though the exact meaning is obscure. It occurs historically in the name Westernesse ('western lands') used in the medieval story of King Horn, and is probably related to the archaic word ness meaning a headland or promontory. Tolkien adapted it as a Mannish translation of Númenor ('western land'), and also used it as a suffix in Elvenesse or Elfinesse, both meaning 'lands of the Elves' and representing a translation of Elvish Eldamar (also sometimes translated 'Elvenhome').
nibin (Sindarin) 'small', especially in the senses of 'weak' or 'petty'. Nibin is a plural, used for groups or collections of small people or things; the singular form being niben. All recorded examples of this element are found in variations of the name for the Petty-dwarves, the small Dwarvish people exiled from the Dwarf-cities of the East. The plural for a group of these people was Nibin-noeg ('petty Dwarves' or 'small Dwarves'), while the form for a single Petty-dwarf would be Niben-nog. For the entire people, the form was slightly different, Nibin-Nogrim, 'petty Dwarf people', using a word related to Naugrim for 'Dwarves' as a whole. An alternative plural form Noegyth Nibin is also sometimes seen, which is simply an alternative rendering of 'petty Dwarves'.
nim (Sindarin) 'white' or 'pale', seen for example in Nimloth ('white blossom'), Nimrodel (uncertain, but probably 'lady of the white cave'), or Nimbrethil ('white birches'). Also seen in Ered Nimrais (literally 'white horn mountains', but universally translated as simply 'White Mountains') and Barad Nimras ('tower of the white horn'). An older variant, nimphe, is seen in the name of the great pearl Nimphelos.
nimphe (Sindarin) an old form of nim, meaning 'white' or 'pale', seen only in the name of the famous pearl Nimphelos. The full meaning of the name is not explained, but it perhaps incorporates los 'snow', and so in full means something akin to 'pale as snow'.
ning (Sindarin?) a term of uncertain meaning, which appears (uniquely in an Elvish name) in Nenning, the name of the river than ran through the Haven of Eglarest. It possibly derives from ninn, meaning 'slender' or 'narrow', and if this speculation is correct, then the river name Nenning would mean something like 'narrow water'. This river name actually originated as a possible name for the Silverlode in The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien briefly considered but rejected in that context. From that draft source, it is not absolutely clear that the name was meant to be Elvish, and it is therefore possible that the name may not have a full etymology in the usual sense.
nîr (Sindarin) 'tear' or (in verbal senses) 'weep'. In this form, the word is seen only in names connected to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, usually translated 'Unnumbered Tears' (though in fact Nirnaeth also contains naeth, 'lamentation'). Nír derives ultimately from a root nei-, which also gives rise to Niënor's alias Níniel, meaning 'Tear-maiden', as well as the name of the Vala Nienna.
nísi (Sindarin) 'fragrant', in Nísimaldar ('Fragrant Trees', a region in Númenor) and Nísinen ('fragrant water', a lake on the river Nunduinë above Níisimaldar).
nol (Quenya) 'wise', prominent in Noldor (literally 'wise ones', but often translated 'Deep Elves'), the second clan of the Eldar who were famed for their love of learning and lore. Also seen in Nolondil ('devoted to wisdom') and indirectly in Noldolantë ('Fall of the Noldor'). The word came from an original root ngol- (sometimes spelt ñol-, and pronounced approximately nyol) which is seen in the name Fingolfin ('Finwë, wise Finwë'). From this source originated an Elvish word for magic: ngolo or golo, which in turn developed into gûl, as seen in names like Morgul ('black magic') or Dol Guldur ('hill of dark magic').
noldo (Quenya) 'wise person, wise one', an extension of nol above. Though theoretically describing any wise person, in practice the term is used as a proper noun, Noldo, describing one of the clan of the Deep Elves originally led by Finwë. The name is more commonly seen in its plural form, Noldor, referring to the deep lore and craft of this people. For examples and derivatives, see nol above.
nóm (Mannish) 'wisdom', a rare example of a word from the native tongue of the Bëorians. Nóm was the name given to Finrod Felagund by Bëor and his followers, who also used the extended term Nómin ('the Wise') for Finrod's people. Tolkien's choice of the word Nóm was influenced by the word 'gnome' (in the sense of a wise being), a term commonly used for the Noldor in earlier incarnations of the Silmarillion tales. His use of 'Gnomes' for the Noldor was later abandoned, but an allusion to that old tradition survives in this Mannish word.
nor 1 (Elvish root) a derivation of the root word ndor, meaning 'stay' or 'abide', from which came Quenya nóre, 'land', and thus the -nor ending in the names of many lands and regions. This ending is seen most prominently in names such as Valinor ('land of the Powers'), Númenor ('land in the West'), Ennor ('Middle-earth') or Arnor ('land of the King').
nor 2 (Sindarin) a word connected to Anor, the Sindarin name for the Sun, and variously interpreted as 'hot', 'fire' or 'flame' depending on context. Its most prominent use is in Fëanor ('Spirit of Fire'), and it is also seen in Aegnor (variously interpreted as 'sharp flame' or 'fell fire'). In both these cases, the names were adapted to Sindarin from Quenya, where the original 'fire' ending was náro. Sindarin nor is possibly also seen in Baranor (of uncertain meaning, but interpretable as 'eager flame') and potentially also in the otherwise mysterious Ragnor. The adjectival form Nórui ('hot' or 'sunny') was used as the Sindarin name for the month of June. This use of nor is not to be confused with the common place-name ending -nor, meaning 'land', which is unrelated (see nor 1 above).
nor 3 (archaic English) an archaic or poetic abbreviation of the word 'north'. Its most prominent appearance is in the translation of the name Fornost ('northern fortress'), rendered as Norbury. The same element is also seen in Norland, an equivalent of 'Northerland' seen in Bilbo Baggins' Song of Eärendil. This use of nor- appears only in Mannish names (those rendered using English name elements) and should not be confused with the various different Elvish uses of nor.
nu (Sindarin) 'beneath', 'under'. This term is normally seen in compound place-names, perhaps most notably Taur-nu-Fuin, 'Forest under Nightshade', a name for the dark woods of Dorthonion, and later used of Mirkwood. Within Mirkwood were the Emyn-nu-Fuin, the 'hills under nightshade', better known as the Mountains of Mirkwood. The term nu is also seen in Mar-nu-Falmar, 'home beneath the waves', a name for Númenor after its Downfall, and in Dor-nu-Fauglith, 'land under choking ash', another name for the desert of Anfauglith. The original root for this element was related to ndú-, 'go down', 'sink', and as applied to the setting Sun, 'west'; thus nu is indirectly connected to words such as Númenor, 'land in the west' or more literally 'land in the direction of the setting Sun'.
nuin (Sindarin) 'under', 'beneath' in Dagor-nuin-Giliath ('Battle-under-Stars'). This is a variation on nu above combining with an article, so formally nuin giliath this context means 'under the stars'.
númen (Quenya) 'west', this word derived originally from the roots ndú meaning 'go down, set' and men meaning 'place', so númen literally meant 'setting place' (that is, towards the direction of the sunset). The primary example of its use is in Númenórë or Númenor, 'west land', the great island of the Dúnedain that lay far to the west of Middle-earth in the Great Sea. In the name Númendil ('devoted to the West'), númen is a reference to the Uttermost West, Aman, the home of the Valar even further west beyond Númenor. This double meaning caused consternation when the twentieth Númenórean King chose a name for himself that translated to Tar-Herunúmen ('King, Lord of the West'), as this was held by some to be a blasphemous reference to Aman.
nûr (probably Sindarin) as in the name Núrnen, has two possible definitions. Earlier sources gave the meaning as 'sad' (which archaically had an association with 'dark'), while later sources connect it to a word for 'death'. The ending -nen meant 'water', so Núrnen in full mean 'sad water', 'dark water' or 'dead water'. It is perhaps notable that nûr as 'sad' is not elsewhere attested, whereas it can be linguistically associated with a root word for 'death', which perhaps explains Tolkien's change of emphasis. The region around the Sea of Núrnen was known as Nurn, a name that is not explained, but presumably represents a worn-down version of the name of the Sea. Nurn would therefore represent 'sad land' or 'dead land' (though the latter fits awkwardly with the fact that we know that Sauron's servants grew food in this region).

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