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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'.

val (Quenya) an element derived from the root bal-, describing things of great power (hence for example Valar, 'Powers'). Only certainly seen in this form (without any suffix or modifier) in Valmar, the name of the city of the Valar, which was itself derived from Valimar (literally 'home of the Powers'). Arguably, it might also be seen in Araval, the name of the thirteenth King of Arthedain, which could be translated 'powerful King'. Despite appearances, it is not contained in the Eagle name Landroval, whose final element comes from rofal, meaning 'great wing'.
vala (Quenya) 'Power' as a noun, most commonly seen in the plural form Valar, referring to the 'Powers' of the world residing in the West beyond the Great Sea. From this source derived various words associated with the Valar, including Valanya ('day of the Powers'), Valaquenta ('tale of the Powers'), Valacirca ('Sickle of the Powers', referring the constellation of the Plough or Big Dipper) and Valaróma (literally 'Power-horn', the hunting horn of the Vala Oromë). The personal name Valandil ('devoted to the Powers') derives from this source, and Valacar ('power helm') is clearly related, though the intent of the allusion is less clear in this case. Linguistically connected was Valarauko, 'demon of power', which was the Quenya form of the name that became Balrog in Sindarin.
vali (Quenya) a plural form of Vala 'Power', seen prominently in Valinor ('Land of the Powers') the home of the Valar in the West, and also in Valimar ('home of the Powers', sometimes seen in the form Valmar).
vanya (Quenya) 'fair' or 'light', especially in the sense of 'golden-haired'. In the plural form this name was given to the Elvish people known as the Vanyar (the 'Fair Elves', in the specific sense of 'fair-haired' rather than necessarily 'beautiful'). In The Hobbit, the Vanyar are given a passing mention as the 'Light-elves', where 'light' may also be an interpretation of vanya (though they were also the most dedicated of the Elves to the Light of Aman, so the association here is uncertain).
variag (possibly Old Norse) the name used for one of the warlike people of Khand is never explicitly explained, but its source is possibly historical: Variags was one name used for a real people related to the Vikings. More usually called Varangians, these people were associated with lands of western Russia and the Black Sea. If this connection is valid, then the ultimate source is probably Old Norse Væringjar, meaning something like 'those sworn to serve'.
ville (French) 'town', seen in the Hobbit family name 'Sackville'. That family evidently came from a town famous for the making of sackcloth (though if a placed named Sackville existed in the Shire, we know nothing of its location or its history).
vingi (ultimately Mannish) 'spray, foam', from the language of the Bëorian Men of Beleriand. It was chosen by Eärendil for the ship in which he sailed to the West, which he called in Quenya form Wingelótë, 'Foam-flower', but is commonly given in Mannish form as Vingilot. The first element, wingë or vingi, was chosen to reflect the name of Eärendil's wife, Elwing ('Star-spray'), who was named for the glistening of starlight on the spray of a waterfall.
vinyë (Quenya) 'new', seen in this specific form only in Narvinyë, 'new Sun', the Quenya name for the first month of the year. More common is the related form vinya-, as in Vinyamar, 'new home' or Vinyalondë, ('New Haven').
voron (Quenya) 'steadfast', 'enduring', notably in Voronwë, 'steadfast one' or 'he who endures', the sole survivor of a fleet sent out by Turgon of Gondolin. Voronwë is also seen as the surname of Mardil the first Ruling Steward of Gondor, where 'faithful one' is probably a more relevant rendering. The adjectival form Voronda was used as a title of Elendil 'the faithful', and the same element is seen in Vorondil, the name of Mardil's father, which means something like 'steadfast servant' or 'faithful devotee'. The Elvish root of this name element is bor(ón), connecting it with other names such as Boromir.

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