(EN) – A Tolkien Dictionary | Robert Ireland


First, let it be established that the author of this dictionary is not a grammarian – he is a student of etymologies. In any language unraveling the source of words, and thereby their subtle meanings, is not just a matter of formula, but often requires creative insight – not just insight into language forms but also into human nature.

This approach is complicated by the languages of J.R.R. Tolkien because his languages are fabricated; that is to say, they did not evolve amongst an historical population over a long period of time; their forms were not tested by an evolving citizenry, their ambiguities not resolved by common usage. The languages of Middle-earth are the product of one mind over a period of a lifetime. Consequently there arises duplication of forms, gaps of nuances of meaning plus creative leaps for the sake of poesy.

Two sources are used primarily here to unravel some of the enigmatic names present in Tolkien’s writing; 1/ the Appendix to The Silmarillion [referred to hereafter as ‘Appx‘], the latest etymological gleanings concerning the Elven tongues at the time of the writing of The Lord of the Rings [hereater referred to as LOTR]; 2/The Etymologies [referred to hereafter as ‘Etym‘], a source appearing in The Lost Road, Part Three, compiled by Christopher Tolkien and published by Del Rey Books, © 1987 – Volume 5 of The History of Middle-earth series.

At times Etym perfectly explains the forms in the Appx, at other times they all but contradict one another. Between Tolkien’s earliest writing and the writing of LOTR he codified the Elven languages in Etym, changing many forms from his earlier ‘lexicons’. Yet the staggering demands of the sweeping Lord of the Rings forced the changing and addition of even more forms, so that even Etym can only be …

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