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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'.

wade (archaic English) from Old English waed, 'a stretch of water', used by Tolkien in the specific sense of a ford across a river. The word was perhaps influenced by the Old English verb wadan, 'stride forward', from which modern sense of 'wade', to walk through water, derives. This term appears in Entwade, a ford across the river Entwash leading between western and eastern Rohan. The Ent of the name comes from the fact that the ford crossed the river Entwash (and the river in turn was so named because it flowed out the Entwood), so in full Entwade means the 'ford across the river that flows out of the wood of the Ents'.
wain (archaic English) 'wagon', seen for example in Stonewain Valley, named for the wagons that carried the stone for the construction of Minas Anor, and also in Wainriders, the Easterling people famous for travelling in great wagons. Also seen in The Wain, a Mannish name for the constellation of the Plough or Big Dipper, which was also the medieval name for the same group of stars.
waith (Sindarin) 'people', a word describing a culture or group such as the Forodwaith ('northern people'), Tawarwaith ('forest people', the Silvan Elves) or Gaurwaith ('Wolf-men'). It was common that the name of a people following this form would translate to the lands in which they lived, so for example we have Forodwaith also used as a name for the region where the Forodwaith people lived, and similarly Enedwaith ('[land of the] middle folk') and Haradwaith (literally 'southern people', but used as a synonym for the Harad).
wash (archaic English) from Old English waesc, 'flood water', used in the river name 'Entwash' (translated from Elvish Ondoló). The '-wash' ending here represents Elvish -ló, a relatively common ending for the names of rivers flowing through shallow vales with a tendency to flood. Elsewhere the same element appears more literally as 'flood', as for example in 'Greyflood' (from Elvish Gwathló), or 'Langflood' (the Mannish name for the Great River Anduin).
(Quenya) a common name-ending signifying simply 'one' or a 'person'. It appears in the name of the Elder King Manwë ('blessed one') and his herald Eönwë (a name of unknown meaning, except for the use of this element). The ending -wë is common in the names of Elves, notably in those of the three ambassadors who travelled to Valinor in ancient times: Ingwë ('first one'), Finwë ('hair one') and Elwë ('star one'). There are numerous other examples, including Lenwë (probably 'one who turns back') or Curufinwë, ('skilled son of Finwë'). These examples all come from the early history of the Elves, but there are later uses too, notably Aranwë ('kingly one') of Gondolin, and his son Voronwë ('steadfast one'), and Voronwë was also used as a surname of Mardil, the first Ruling Steward of Gondor. This name-ending is almost exclusively masculine (and indeed is sometimes translated as 'man'), but we do have a single feminine use in Elenwë, 'star one', the lost wife of Turgon of Gondolin.
well (archaic English) the 'spring' or 'source' of a river or stream, from Old English weallen, 'rise or bubble up'. This element appears in various Mannish place-names associated with springs or streams, such as the Hoarwell (a river flowing from a 'white-grey spring') or the Langwell (literally 'long spring', but so named because it was a source of the Great River Langflood, more usually called Anduin). The word is used literally in Rivil's Well, the spring of the stream known as Rivil (of uncertain meaning). In the Shire's Tookland was a place known as Whitwell, evidently referring to a spring among the chalky white hills of that region. With the associative ending -ing, the word also appears in Wellinghall, Treebeard's Ent-house at the sources of the river Entwash.
wen (Elvish root) literally 'maiden' or 'girl', but also used in the sense 'lady', this is a common ending in feminine names, with perhaps the most prominent example being the name of Elrond's daughter Arwen. That name meant 'noble or royal lady', and in its literal sense the same name appears in Haudh-en-Arwen, ('Ladybarrow'), the grave of Haleth in the Forest of Brethil. The element wen appears twice in Morwen Eledhwen (literally 'dark (haired) maiden, Elf-maiden', though Eledhwen is commonly translated as 'Elfsheen'). Among many other examples are Eärwen ('sea maiden'), Emerwen ('sheep maiden' or 'shepherdess'), Nerwen ('Man-maiden', a name of Galadriel in her youth) and Urwen ('fire maiden' or possibly 'Sun maiden'). The same element is also seen in the name of Aragorn's grandmother Ivorwen, though here the meaning of the Ivor- prefix is obscure.
were (Old English) simply 'man', so the word werewolf literally means 'man-wolf'. Also apparently seen in Were-worms, mysterious creatures whose name seems to mean 'man-worms' or 'man-dragons'.
wich (Old English) from and original form wīc, a word for a settlement with a wide range of meanings, from 'farm' to 'village' to 'fortification'. It appears in a single place-name used in the Shire, translated from its original form via Old English as Gamwich, 'game village'.
wili (Germanic) 'will' (that is, force of character or intention) seen in the names of two Hobbits of the Bolger family: Wilibald ('bold will') and Wilimar ('strong will').
will (English) 'will' (force of character or intention, as in wili above); part of the personal name William, ultimately from Germanic Wilhelm, 'will protector' and borne by the Troll named William Huggins or simply 'Bill'. Two known Hobbits had names that also apparently represented abbreviations of William: Mayor Will Whitfoot of the Shire and Willie Banks of Bree.
win (Sindarin) uncertain, but apparently deriving from gwain, meaning 'young', 'fresh' or 'new'. The only attested use is in Dorwinion, which apparently comes from Dor gwinion ('young-land country' or 'country of the fresh land'). As this is an extremely old name with a specific connection to the making of wine, an influence of the word 'wine' or 'vine' has been suggested, at least in its original inspiration. The form gwain is also possibly present in the name Gwindor (which on this reading would be something similar to 'young lord' or 'new lord'), though the etymology of that name remains obscure.
windle (archaic English) 'winding', from the conjectural Old English word wendel, derived in turn from Old English wend, 'turn'. Seen only in the river name Withywindle ('willow-winding') and its derivative Windle-reach (where reach means 'straight course') for the lower stretch of the river.
wiseman (English) simply 'wise man', the name of Sam Gamgee's great-great-grandfather Wiseman Gamwich. The meaning may be literal, but as a real name, 'Wiseman' was sometimes given ironically, actually meaning 'fool'. Given the homely nature of some of the other names in Sam's family tree (in particular Samwise 'half wise'), this ironic interpretation is a realistic possibility.
wold (archaic English) 'upland', referring especially to a wild and unsettled region of land (the etymology of this word is complicated: in Old English wald, weald meant 'forest', but the meaning developed over time to mean 'forested hills' and later 'open upland country'). This word appears in The Wold, the northeasternmost area of Rohan between the Entwood and the Great River.
worm (from Old English) originally spelt wyrm or wurm, in Old English this word was used a general term for a whole class of writhing serpent-like creatures, including not only serpents themselves, but ranging up to Dragons and down to worms in the modern sense of the word. Tolkien's use of the word typically refers to Dragons so, for example, both Glaurung and Scatha are titled simply the Worm (and Glaurung is also called the Great Worm, as well as several other variants on that title), while Smaug is called the Worm of Dread. The same word is also used for classes of Dragons, especially the 'Long-worms' to which Scatha belonged. The word possibly also appears in were-worms (though here the intended meaning is obscure; it might suggest 'man-dragon' or 'man-serpent'). The meaning of 'serpent' or 'snake' is seen in wyrm-tunga ('snake-tongue') for a devious or deceptive person, which (in modernised form) gives rise to Gríma's surname Wormtongue. (Gríma is also called simply Worm, which presumably alludes to his fuller title, but even in Anglo-Saxon times worm could be used metaphorically for a miserable or pathetic person.)
wose (archaic English) a word developed from Old English wása, originally meaning a wild or dispossessed person. In the form wudewása (modernised 'woodwose') it came to refer to strange or supernatural beings of the forest (indeed, woodwoses of this sort are sometimes seen in heraldic designs). Tolkien uses the word as the equivalent of the Elvish Drúedain among the Rohirrim.
wraith (from Scots) as used in English, wraith means 'ghost', but in Tolkien's works the word has a more specific meaning, referring to beings dominated by a Ring of Power, and thus drawn into the 'Wraith-world', becoming an invisible and terrifying presence. The etymology of the word is highly uncertain, and various hypotheses have been put forward. Tolkien himself connected it with the word writhe, suggesting that represented an unrecorded noun form of that verb, suggesting a thing that writhes or coils. Wraith appears most often in the compound 'Ringwraiths' for the Nazgûl, Men enslaved by the Nine Rings, but it does occasionally stand alone, though still in reference to the Ringwraiths. The Lord of the Nazgûl is variously titled the Wraith-king or Wraith-lord, and the Morgul Vale that he commanded is also given the name of 'Valley of the Wraiths'.

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