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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'.

ta (Sindarin) an element designed to represent 'high' or 'lofty' in Sindarin. It occurs uniquely in Taniquetil ('high white peak'), with the intention of keeping the sounds of that mountain's original name while translating that name into meaningful Sindarin elements.
tan(o) (Quenya) 'smith', 'craftsman', 'builder', seen in Artano ('high smith', a name claimed by Sauron in the Second Age) and Mahtan (probably 'skilled smith', the teacher of Fëanor). This element also seems to appear in the name of the Gondorian nobleman Minastan, which is interpretable as 'tower-builder'. Not to be confused with the unrelated and very common atan, meaning simply 'Man'.
tar (Quenya) literally 'high', 'lofty', seen for example in Tarcil, 'High Man', Tareldar, 'High Elves', or Tarmenel, 'High heaven'. This element often implies royalty, and is often seen in the names of kings and queens, particularly the earlier Rulers of Númenor (from Elros Tar-Minyatur to Tar-Ardamin, and latterly Tar-Palantir).
tasar (Quenya) 'willow', seen in Nan-tasarion and Tasarinan, two names both meaning 'valley of willows' used for the willow woods that grew around the confluence of the rivers Sirion and Narog. The Sindarin equivalent was tathar, hence Nan-tathren, another name for the same region.
taur (Sindarin) 'forest', usually used for especially large forests. Examples include Taur e-Ndaedelos ('Forest of the Great Fear'), Taur-en-Faroth ('Forest of the Hunters'), Taur-im-Duinath ('Forest between the Rivers') and Taur-nu-Fuin ('Forest under Nightshade'). Also seen in Tauron ('Lord of Forests'), a title of Oromë. Like the Quenya equivalent taurë, this word originated in a common root tawar-, still seen in occasional names such as Tawarwaith ('Silvan Elves', or literally 'forest people').
tehta (Quenya) 'a written mark', from a root tek- meaning 'write or draw'. Most commonly seen in the plural form tehtar, referring to the collection of marks added to Elvish script to denote vowel signs, modified sounds and so on. The Sindarin equivalent was apparently teith, though this is not recorded in actual use. From the same tek- root came the Quenya word tengwa, 'letter, character', hence the plural Tengwar, the common name for the letters of the Fëanorian writing system.
telem (Elvish root) 'silver', a derivation of Quenya telpë (which is also recorded in the old form telempë). This is unusual formation only seen in certain contents, but found in the Elvish names of two Kings of Númenor, Tar-Telemmaitë ('King silver fist') and Tar-Telemnar ('King silver fire'). Telemnar, apparently with the same meaning, was also the name of a late King of Gondor.
teler (Elvish root) 'last, hindmost', a name given to members of the large clan of Elves who were last of the Three Kindreds on the Great Journey out of Cuiviénen. From this comes the collective Teleri for this entire people, and the adjective Telerin used to describe them or their language.
telume (Quenya) 'the heavens' envisaged as a dome arching over the Earth, seen in two constellation names: Telumehtar 'swordsman of the heavens' and Telumendil 'devoted to the heavens'.
thain (Modernised Old English) from þegn, a military leader in the service of a king or lord. For historical reasons, in modern English the normal spelling is 'thane', but a direct transliteration of the Old English word would be 'thain', and that is the form preferred by Tolkien. This is the source of the title 'Thain' given to the nominal leader of the Shire (originally a military commander serving in place of the King, but merely titular by the end of the Third Age). The same element is seen in the name Éothain, a follower of Éomer, whose name translates as 'horse-thain' ('thain' here implies that he was himself a commander, but of lesser rank than Éomer).
thar (Elvish root) 'across' or 'beyond'. Thargelion ('beyond Gelion') was the name given to the land eastward of Beleriand beyond the river Gelion, while Tharbad ('cross-way') was the site of an important Bridge on the North-South Road through Eriador. A variation on this element appears as athrad for 'crossing' or 'ford' in names like Sarn Athrad ('Ford of Stones').
thengel (Old English þengel) 'leader', 'ruler', and hence 'prince' or 'king'. Thengel was the sixteenth King of Rohan and father of to Théoden, and as the youngest child (and only son) of King Fengel his name probably means 'prince' in context. Combined with the noun-forming suffix -ing, this name gave rise to Thengling as a follower or descendant of Thengel. The word is related to þegn, and thus to the modernised form 'Thain' used for the traditional leader of the Shire-hobbits.
theo (Old English) 'people', 'folk', derived from Old English théod (which was the common form among the Rohirrim). In this form it appears only in the name of Theobald Bolger, where the -bald element means 'bold', 'daring'.
thond (Sindarin) 'root', 'source', seen only in Morthond, the river whose name translates as 'Blackroot'. The name was given because the source of the river lay in the dark caverns of the White Mountains inhabited by the Dead.
thoron (Sindarin) 'Eagle' (ultimately derived from a stem thor-, meaning to swoop or leap downwards). The Lord of Eagles in the First Age was Thorondor (derived from Quenya Sorontar, implying 'Eagle king'). Thoron is also seen Thorongil ('Eagle of the Star'), Thorondir (open to interpretation, but apparently 'Eagle Man'), and also in Cirith Thoronath, the 'Eagles' Cleft' north of Gondolin.
thráin (Old Norse) 'one who desires' or 'one who craves'; this is a Dwarf name found in the Old Norse poem Völuspá, deriving ultimately from the verb Þreyja (pronounced approximately 'thraya') meaning to desire something intensely. Tolkien gave the name to two Kings of Durin's Folk: Thráin I who founded Erebor, and Thráin II who was driven out of the Lonely Mountain by Smaug. In his later years, Thráin II conceived a desire to return to Erebor - driven in part by the Ring of Power that he bore - which perhaps accounts for Tolkien's selection of this particular name.
thrift (Old Norse þrift) originally 'prosperity' but now more usually 'frugality', and a name given to a low-growing pink flower. The reason the flower gained this name is unclear, though some sources suggest that the plant is unusually frugal in conserving its water supply.
thrór (Old Norse) perhaps 'one who thrives'; one of many Dwarf names originating in the Dvergatal, 'account of Dwarves' the Old Norse poem Völuspá. The meaning of the name is not established with certainty, but it seems to derive from þrór, 'thrive'. If so, the name is well suited to a character who led his people to a new home and built a thriving kingdom - thriving, at least, until it was sacked by a Dragon.
thurin (Sindarin) 'secret', the name chosen for the incognito Túrin in Nargothrond by Finduilas. Also seen in Thuringwethil, 'woman of secret shadow', the name of a bat-like servant of Morgoth.
tir (Elvish root) 'watch', especially in the sense 'watch over, guard'. It appears most prominently in Minas Tirith ('Tower of Guard'), the name given to Minas Anor after the capture of Minas Ithil by the Nazgûl (and in fact coming from earlier Minas Tirith that guarded the Pass of Sirion in the First Age). The same element appears in Tirion (literally 'watchtower'), the city of the Elves in Aman, and in Elostirion ('?walled watchtower of the Elves') on the Tower Hills. The Seeing-stones were known in Elvish as palantíri, Stones that 'watch from afar', and a similar usage appears in Tar-Palantir, the name of a later King of Númenor implying that the Ruler was 'far-sighted'. The tir element is also seen in Elentirmo ('Star-watcher') and less certainly in Tar-Minastir (perhaps 'King watchtower') and potentially also Hyarmentir, a mountain in Aman whose name can be interpreted 'southern watch'.
tol 1 (Elvish root) ultimately from tollo, 'island', used especially to refer to islands with steep shores. Seen in many island names, such as Tol Brandir (probably 'isle of the steep tower'), Tol Eressëa ('Lonely Isle'), Tol Galen ('Green Isle'), Tol Uinen (the isle of Uinen in the bay of Rómenna), Tol-in-Gaurhoth ('Isle of Werewolves') and many others.
tol 2 (archaic English) 'toll', a payment for crossing a bridge or using a road. A tolman would be one who collected these tolls, hence the name Tolman, used by several members of the Cotton family (notably Farmer Tolman Cotton), and also given by Sam Gamgee to his youngest son, Tolman Gamgee. Note that this describes the origin of the name in English, but it is not suggested that any of these Hobbits actually collected tolls. Indeed, as used by Shire-hobbits, the name may simply have been selected for its phonetic similarity with names of other members of the same family. Tol in this limited sense is not to be confused with the widely used Elvish tol meaning 'island' (see tol 1 above).
took (Anglicised Hobbit-speech) an anglicisation of tûk, supposed by the members of that clan to translate as 'daring' (though there is some doubt about the accuracy of this interpretation). Seen in the family name Took of the Thains of the Shire, as well as the name of at least one related family, the North-tooks, and also in place-names such as Tookbank and Tookland.
tor (Possibly Sindarin) a stem listed as meaning 'brother'; it is unclear whether this used in any proper names, though it potentially appears in the otherwise unexplained Erestor. This can be interpreted as something like 'lone brother', either as a literal brother or a sworn fellow or associate. The use of tôr for 'brother' is unconventional (for a name based on this stem we would probably expect toron) and so this interpretation should be considered highly speculative.
trahald (Northern Mannish) 'burrowing, worming in' in the language originally spoken in the northern Vales of Anduin, and later by the Rohirrim. Trahald is significant as being the 'true' form of Gollum's original name, which is usually translated as Sméagol (following a similar meaning derived from an Old English root). In the sense of 'burrow' as a noun, this name is also related to the word smial for a Hobbit-hole, which in the tongue of the Northmen was known as a trahan.
troll (English, from Old Norse) a name that originally meant 'monster' in a general sense, especially of a magical or supernatural kind. It is used more specifically by Tolkien to translate the Sindarin word torog, referring to a particular kind of creature in the service of the Enemy. The name is often seen in compounds such as Cave-troll, Hill-troll, Snow-troll and so on, and also in Troll-hole, a den or refuge used by Trolls. There is a single recorded place-name incorporating this as an element: Trollshaws, a name in archaic English that translates as 'Troll woods'.
tu (Sindarin) literally 'muscle', and more figuratively 'physical strength', this name element is pronounced as 'too'. It occurs (apparently uniquely) in the name Tuor, which derives from a compound 'strength' and gor 'vigour'.
tuck (anglicised Hobbit-speech) a variant rendering of the Hobbit family name Tûk (elsewhere commonly modernised as Took). This element appears only in the name Tuckborough 'fortified place of the Tooks', the chief village of the Tookland in the Shire. The reason for the change in spelling is uncertain, but it is presumably intended to harmonise the word with typical English place-names.
tûk (archaic Common Speech) a family name used by the later Thains of the Shire. Tûk was the original spelling used in the Shire, but the spelling is usually modernised to the more familiar Took. By the end of the Third Age, the original meaning of this name had been forgotten, but the family themselves claimed that it derived from an old word tūca (or a variant), said to mean 'daring'.
tulk (Valarin) a shortening of tuluk-ha, 'yellow, golden', seen uniquely in the name of the Vala Tulkas. His original Valarin name was said to be Tulukhastāz, translated as 'golden-haired', though this became shortened by the Elves to the more familiar Tulkas. (Note that earlier sources give a quite different interpretation of tuluk as an Elvish root meaning 'strong' or 'steadfast', but the Valarin source was invented considerably later and can be taken to supersede this older meaning.)
tum (Sindarin) 'valley', used especially of notably deep valleys. Seen in the name Tumladen, translated 'level vale' (that is, a deep valley with a flat and even bottom). The original Tumladen was the wide valley within the Encircling Mountains where Gondolin stood, but the name was also used of a similar but lesser valley in Gondor.
tur (Elvish root) originated as a noun meaning 'mastery, command, control', but in personal names it almost universally derives from the form túró denoting 'master' or 'lord'. This element occurs twice in Túrin Turambar, where Túrin implies one who desires or is destined for lordship, while Turambar means 'master of fate'. The same element is seen in Turgon (probably 'lord commander'), and in its plural form in Fëanturi 'Masters of Spirits', the two brothers among whose various names were Nurufantur ('Death-spirit-master') and Olofantur ('Dream-spirit-master'). In the names of Men, -tur is often seen as an affix indicating royalty or lordship, as in Tar-Minyatur ('King, first lord'), Falastur ('Lord of the Coasts'), Ciryatur ('shipmaster' or 'admiral'), and many other examples besides.

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