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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'.

oaken (English) 'made from oak-wood', seen famously in Thorin's epithet Oakenshield (gained from his use of an oak bough as a shield during the Battle of Nanduhirion). Thorin's title derives of Old Norse Eikinscialdi, which is the name of a Dwarf in the poem Voluspá.
on (Sindarin) a suffix used to form masculine names from root words. Its most prominent use took the adjective saura, 'foul, rotten, abhorrent' to create the name Sauron, meaning 'the abhorred'. Note that suffix on has other uses; it is most commonly a genitive ending (representing 'of'), and it can also be used as an intensifier, so identifying its meaning within a particular name can be challenging.
ondo (Quenya) 'stone, rock' seen in the names Ondoher ('stone lord'), Ondosto ('stone fortress') and possibly Caliondo (interpretable as 'light stone' or perhaps 'green stone'). Ondolindë ('Rock of the Music of Water') was the original name of the city better known by the Sindarin Gondolin ('Hidden Rock'). Sindarin gond as an equivalent of ondo is seen in Gondor ('land of stone') and thus in Harondor, 'South Gondor' or literally 'south stone land'. The same element is apparently part of the names of two kings who shared the name Tarondor, though with subtly different interpretations (though in neither case is the meaning known with certainty). One of these was Tarondor of Arnor, whose name seems to be literally 'king of stones' (with ondor being a plural form of ondo). The other was Tarondor of Gondor, whose name includes Ondor, an alternative form of Gondor, so in full this Tarondor has a name meaning 'king of the land of stone'.
onod (Sindarin) 'Ent', the Elvish name for one of the Shepherds of the Trees notably associated with Fangorn Forest. The simple plural for the word was Enyd, but for the whole race of Ents, the collective noun form was Onodrim, 'Ent people'. This element also appears in Onodló, translated 'Entwash', the name for the wide river that flowed out of Fangorn Forest.
or (Sindarin) 'day' (or literally 'rise', in reference to the sunrise), used as a prefix in the names of days in the Sindarin language. The week of the Elves originally had six days, extended by the Númenóreans to create a seven-day week. Those days were named Orgilion ('day of the stars'), Oranor ('day of the Sun'), Orithil ('day of the Moon'), Orgaladhad ('day of the Two Trees' or Orgaladh, 'day of the (White) Tree'), Ormenel ('day of the heavens'), Oraearon ('day of the Sea') and Orbelain ('day of the Powers'). The root meaning of or- referred to any rising or high thing, so it could also indicate the East, the direction of the rising Sun, as in Orrostar, the 'Eastlands' of Númenor. It could also be used in a more literal context so, for example, it forms the basis of the Elvish word orod for 'mountain'.
orc (Old English) 'monster, demon' a traditional name used for evil spririts and other malevolent beings, used by Tolkien as a translation of Sindarin orch, referring to a particular race of the followers of Morgoth and Sauron, of which at least some were also known as Goblins. The similarity of Old English orc to Sindarin orch is convenient to say the least, and may suggest the Anglo-Saxon word had an effect on the development of the Elvish equivalent in Tolkien's imagination; for more on the origins of the word orc, see the main Encyclopedia entry for Orcs. Apart from the name of the race of Goblins, orc is recorded in one compound form, the sword-name Orcrist ('Orc-cleaver'). Somewhat confusingly, as this is an Elvish name, the initial Orc- must represent a variation on Sindarin orch rather than Old English orc.
orn (Sindarin) 'tree', especially a tall slender tree such as a birch, though by the Third Age this was an archaic word and rarely seen except in proper names (the more usual Sindarin word for 'tree' was galadh). Seen in mallorn ('golden tree'), Huorn (uncertain, but apparently 'speaking tree'), Fangorn ('Treebeard', or literally 'bearded tree'), Hírilorn ('Tree of the Lady [i.e. Lúthien]') and probably also in Belegorn (apparently 'great tree'). The name Celeborn was given to the White Tree of Tol Eressëa, and there means 'silver tree'. More famously, the same name was born by the Lord of Lórien in the later Third Age, and it was originally also intended to mean 'silver tree'. Later writings, however, imply that Tolkien intended to change this derivation, so that Celeborn the Elf would take his name from an old word orná 'tall' (still maintaining its connection with the root for 'tree', but giving a full interpretation of Celeborn's name as 'silver-tall').
oro (Quenya) deriving from a root meaning 'rise', oro could have various related meanings depending on context; as an adjectival prefix it could mean 'rising' or 'lofty', but it could also appear as noun meaning 'lofty thing' or (most commonly) 'hill' or 'mountain'. There are several examples of this latter use, including Orocarni ('Red Mountains'), Oromet, (the '?last hill' above Andúnië) and Orofarnë (a name for the rowan, variously interpreted as 'mountain-dwelling' or 'mountain tree'). More problematic are the personal names Orophin and Oropher, neither of which are easily interpretable, but which seem to apply the more abstract meaning of 'lofty' or perhaps 'tall' rather than the literal 'mountain'. Orophin apparently incorporates a second element meaning 'hair', while Oropher perhaps includes a word meaning 'beech'. In both these cases the interpretations suggested here are necessarily speculative.
os 1 (Sindarin) a shortened form of ost, meaning 'fortress', seen in Osgiliath ('fortress of the host of stars'), Formenos ('northern fortress'), Mandos ('prison fortress') and Armenelos ('fortress of high heaven'). The same element possibly appears in Elostirion (interpretable as 'fortress watchtower of the Elves') though this is uncertain.
os 2 (Sindarin) 'seven', from a root wood otos, seen in the name Ossiriand, the Land of Seven Rivers east of Gelion.
ost (Sindarin) 'fortress', often used for fortified cities such as Fornost ('northern fortress'), Belegost ('great fortress') or Ost-in-Edhil ('fortress of the Elves'). The same word could be used of single buildings or towers, as in Angrenost ('fortress of iron', an old name for Isengard), and also in the names of the Towers of the Teeth, Narchost, ('bitter-biting fort') and Carchost ('fang fort').
othrond (Sindarin) 'underground stronghold', derived from ost, 'fortress', and rond, literally 'roofed hall', but often used of wide caverns. The word othrond applied specifically to underground dwellings that had been worked and fortified, rather than natural caves. It is seen uniquely in Nargothrond, 'underground fortress on the river Narog', where Finrod Felagund settled in Beleriand.

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