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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'.

ui (Elvish root) refers to plants with long and trailing leaves, and especially to seaweed. This element is seen in the name of the Maia Uinen ('water-weed'), probably derived from the legend that her hair spread throughout all the waters of the World. Related are two derivative forms, Uinendili ('devotees of Uinen') and Tol Uinen (the 'isle of Uinen' in the bay of Rómenna).
uial (Sindarin) 'twilight', referring to either dawn or dusk, which were individually known as minuial ('first twilight') and aduial ('second twilight'). As a place-name element, this was perhaps most strongly associated with the region around Nenuial (literally 'twilight water' but translated 'Lake Evendim') and its surrounding hills of Emyn Uial ('twilight hills' or 'Hills of Evendim'). Uial is also seen in Aelin-uial ('Meres of Twilight'), the region of fenland formed by the River Sirion to the southwest of Doriath.
ul (Khuzdul) 'of', as for example in the Dwarvish name of the valley of Azanulbizar ('streams of shadow'). It could also be used as a genitive ending, and as such it occurs in the name of the language Khuzdul itself, which translates as '(language) of the Dwarves'. Further, ul was also used to form patronymics, so for example the runes on the tomb of Balin in Moria named him Balin Fundinul, or 'Balin son of Fundin'.
ungol (Sindarin) 'spider'. In place-names this was usually a reference to the monstrous spider Shelob, hence the pass where she lurked in the heights of Ephel Dúath was Cirith Ungol, 'cleft of the spider'. Similarly, her lair was Torech Ungol, translated 'Shelob's Lair', but literally 'lair of the spider'. Related is the name Ungoliant for the even more monstrous spider of the Elder Days (who was in fact Shelob's mother), though here the etymology is complicated by the fact that it evolved over time in Tolkien's imagination. Ungoliant's name originally derived from a variation on ungwë liantë, 'gloomweaver', where ungwë meant 'gloom', so the later word ungol for 'spider' came from Ungoliant's name, rather than the other way around.
uruk (Black Speech) 'Orc', 'Goblin', one of a range of related terms in different languages which seem to have evolved ultimately from the Elvish stem órok-. The powerful soldier-Orcs of the later Third Age were known simply as Uruk-hai ('Orc-people'), semi-anglicised using the English plural suffix as Uruks, of which the literal translation is simply 'Orcs'.

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