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Discussing: Elvish naming conventions

Elvish naming conventions

I have been curious about this for a while but I was never sure who to ask. In the Appendices to LOTR, Tolkien described Quenya as an "Elven-latin". In that case, would Sindarin elves ever have Quenya names in the way that many English names come from the Latin? Or do the two languages never overlap? Please bear with me as I am not overly familiar with either, and am fairly new to Tolkien's works.

Also, are there particular masculine or feminine endings for either Sindarin or Quenya names? (I might have to post this to the list and see what comes up...)



Re: Elvish naming conventions

Quenya was like Latin in that it had become a language of lore long before the dawn of the Third Age. If you have read the Silmarillion, you will remember that Elu Thingol had banned the use of Quenya in his kingdom of Doriath after he learned of the kinslaying at Alqualondë. Thereafter most of the Noldor (many of whom already knew Sindarin anyway) adopted the language of the Grey-elves as their daily language. Even in Gondolin, Sindarin was the everyday tongue. Quenya became the language of songs and tales.

The people of Doriath had little love for most of the Noldor, and especially after the sack of Doriath by the sons of Fëanor, I doubt that the language was taught to any of their people. This would probably be especially true in Mirkwood.

“… before the building of Barad-dûr many of the Sindar passed eastward, and some established realms in the forests far away, where their people were mostly Silvan Elves. Thranduil, king in the north of Greenwood the great, was one of these.”
The Second Age, Appendix A, Return of the King

“Oropher had come among them with only a handful of Sindar, and they were soon merged with the Silvan Elves, adopting their language and taking names of Silvan form and style. This they did deliberately; for they (and other similar adventurers forgotten in the legends or only briefly named) came from Doriath after its ruin and had no desire to leave Middle-earth, nor to be merged with the other Sindar of Beleriand, dominated by the Noldorin Exiles for whom the folk of Doriath had no great love. They wished indeed to become Silvan folk and to return; as they said to the simple life natural to the Elves before the invitation of the Valar had disturbed it.”
Unfinished Tales Appendix B The Sindarin Princes of the Silvan Elves

Do the two languages overlap – well, not exactly. They are related in that both are descended from a common Eldarin language, and someone who knows how can derive Sindarin words from Quenya words (and vice-versa) – but it takes a lot of studying to do that!

Masculine and feminine endings for words and names: yes, a few. In Sindarin “-ion” can mean “son” or “son of.” Hence “Legolas Thranduilion.” It is also used as a general masculine ending, as in “Thalion.” For feminine endings we have “-wen” as in “Arwen” and “–iel” (meaning “daughter” or “maiden”) as in “Galadriel.” Many names though, don’t have specific endings.

I have not studied Quenya yet, so I cannot say for sure about endings on Quenya names. I do know hat the Noldorin Exiles had both Quenya and Sindarin names. Also, Tolkien wrote about Elvish naming customs in his essay “Of the Laws and Customs Among the Eldar” which is published in Morgoth’s Ring. If you don’t have it, let me know, and I will look it up and give you more details in a later post. It deals specifically with the Noldor and their customs.

Hope this helps,



Re: Elvish naming conventions

Thanks very much for the insight! If you could look up that essay for me, I would be much obliged. I'm sure that would be a great help to others on site as well.



Re: Elvish naming conventions

Even in Gondolin, Sindarin was the everyday tongue.
Save in the house of Turgon where Quenya was still used as a daily speech.
On another note: I have always wondered how common it was for the children of a Noldor/Teleri marriage to have names in the fashion of Telerin. Since Finarfin actually learned the language of his wife, I have always wondered what it was like for other marriages between the sea-elves and the deep elves of Aman. Any ideas? And what about the Nandor in Mirkwood/Lorien? Shortly after the arrival of the Sindar, did they still give their children names in Nandorin or did they adopt Sindarin right away? The two languages were both languages of the third group of the Eldar, the Nelyar and thus I conclude that they must have been far more closely related than Quenya and the dialects of Sindarin were at the time the Noldor arrived in Beleriand. Any thoughts?



Re: Elvish naming conventions

And what about the Nandor in Mirkwood/Lorien? Shortly after the arrival of the Sindar, did they still give their children names in Nandorin or did they adopt Sindarin right away? The two languages were both languages of the third group of the Eldar, the Nelyar and thus I conclude that they must have been far more closely related than Quenya and the dialects of Sindarin were at the time the Noldor arrived in Beleriand.

Apparently, the languages differed a lot.

From Ardalambion:

* "although the dialects of the Silvan Elves, when they again met their long separated kindred, had so far diverged from Sindarin as to be hardly intelligible, little study was needed to reveal their kinship as Eldarin tongues" (UT:257)

* Some of the Sindar that came to Thranduil's realm escaping the destruction of Doriath adopted the Nandorin tongue and took names of Silvan form and style, just like the Noldor had adapted their Quenya names to Sindarin centuries earlier. These Sindar "wished indeed to become Silvan folk and to return, as they said, to the simple life natural to the Elves before the invitation of the Valar had disturbed it" (UT:259).

(I think Ardalambion missed something here; either it took the Sindar well over 3000 years to cross Eriador, or the author of the page meant "*Oropher's* realm" - possibly even Oropher's daddy's realm, if you ignore the possibility that Oropher *himself* was a refugee of Doriath - aagh, must stop nitpicking!)

* Yet Sindarin somehow sneaked into even the Silvan communities: "By the end of the Third Age, the Silvan tongues had probably ceased to be spoken in the two regions that had importance at the time of the War of the Ring: Lórien and the realm of Thranduil in northern Mirkwood. All that survived of them in the records was a few words and several names of persons and places" (UT:257).

For an analysis of Nandorin, and a very short wordlist, go to Ardalambion

And a potential nuzgul thrown in for free: "Nimrodel would only speak the Silvan tongue even after it had fallen into disuse in Lórien; see UT:241"

Gives the above, I would expect names to be given in either Nandorin or in Nandorised Sindarin. 'Legolas' may even be an example of the latter, as the 'pure' Sindarin form would be Laegolas.

(UT = Unfinished Tales)



Re: Elvish naming conventions

The father-names of Finarfin's sons Findaráto and Angaráto, and possibly also the father-name of their younger brother Aegnor, Ambaráto, were Telerin in form (Shibboleth), but I doubt if this was a common occurrence. Finarfin, son of a Vanyarin mother, was not a full Noldo, so he may not have been representative. Generally, the Noldor are a proud lot and I doubt whether any Feanorians would ever call their children by Telerin names - if they'd marry a Sea-elf at all. (See Caranthir's attitude towards the sons of Finarfin in Ch. 13 of Quenta Silmarillion.)



Re: Elvish naming conventions

Wow, I had not checked on this discussion in a while but it has grown! Thanks to Ithildin for alerting me that the Tolkien material on this subject had been posted I'm sure I'll come back in future and use this as a reference.



Re: Elvish naming conventions

A question that's been bothering me for a while, regarding mother-names and father-names - was this a purely Noldorin custom, or did other Elves have it too? In the former case, did the Noldor in Endor drop the custom eventually? We have mother- and father-names for lots of Noldor born in Aman, but not for those born in Middle-Earth (feel free to correct me). As far as I know, Elrond is only Elrond, Celebrían only Celebrían - no other names.
And regarding the Quenya-Sindarin issue, somehow I think the Fëanorions spoke Quenya to the very end...



Re: Elvish naming conventions

In Quenya, adjectives mostly end in "a".
The feminine names are mostly formed by replacing the "a" with an "e". Eg. Ancalima "the brightest", and Ancalime "The brightest one" would be the feminine form. Names often end in "nis/dis(woman)" or "wende(maiden)" too.
Masculine names often end in "o" or "on", so Saura=foul, putrid, and Sauron=the foul, putrid one (male). The feminine form would be Saure. This is the reason for the short forms of the names of the Sons of Feanor. Pityafinwe(Pityo) Kanafinwe(Kano) Other endings include "ner/der(man)" or "we"
Hope this helps.



Re: Elvish naming conventions

On the assumption that most Edain names came from Sindarin originally, I am looking for woman's name and/or affectionate nickname, with a meaning on the order of 'bold one' or 'impetuous one' or even 'reckless.' I have found some possible words, but -as always- being ignorant of mutations, etc. don't know what to do with them.

Given that this is for the Second Age in Eriador, I can imagine there would be some garbling of the sounds for the groups of men that are not in frequent contact with the Elves.

Can these be made into names or nicknames?
alag - rushing or impetuous
Asgar (ascar) - violent, rushing, impetuous
bertha - v. to dare
celeg adj. swift, agile, hasty

Thanks in advance for any help with this.




Re: Elvish naming conventions

Suilad Lyllyn,

Actually, Im not sure what language folk of Eriador would have spoken in the Second Age. The original tongue of the Edain strongly resembled the speech of the Avari Elves with borrowings from Khuzdul. After they met Felagund, “In Beleriand, Men eagerly learnt Sindarin, ‘but their own speech was not forgotten, and from it came the common tongue of Númenor’ (Silmarillion chapter 17).” [From Ardalambion article on Adûnaic.]

“In the Second Age, the Adûnaic of Númenor was spoken in the forts and havens that the Númenóreans maintained upon the coast of Middle-earth, "and mingled with many words of the languages of lesser men it became a Common Speech that spread thence along the coasts among all that had dealings with Westernesse. (Appendix F).” [From Ardalambion article on Westron. ]

There must have been plenty of Men still speaking mannish tongues in order to produce Westron during the Third Age, for it was this common mannish language, enriched by the Númenóreans with Adûnaic and Sindarin words that eventually became Third Age Westron. So even if they spoke Sindarin, there would probably be mannish influences in their language.

As for Sindarin options, I think the endings –iel, -wen, and possibly –eth could be used interchangeably with any of those root words; the limiting factor is how it sounds.
For example:
Asgariel, Asgarwen, Asgareth

For bertha- I would recommend the participle – berthol (daring)
Bertholwen, Bertholiel - daring maid/woman.

The hardest part is coming up with combinations that actually sound acceptable to English ears...

As for hypothetical dialectical changes – I don’t know enough about the mannish tongues to give accurate guidance as to what form the changes would take, and when making arbitrary changes one can accidentally alter the meaning of the name. But from what I can tell, according to the article on Ardalambion, in Adûnaic “feminine gender is associated with -th, -l, -s, -z” at the end of nouns and also “-i” appears to be a feminine ending. Also in Adûnaic, mîth means ‘little girl,’ kali woman and phel may mean daughter. So, taking a quantum leap out into thin air – and assuming some Adûnaic (or other mannish tongue) influence we might come up with such suggestions as:

Hope some of this is helpful,



Re: Elvish naming conventions

This is very helpful, Ithildin.

Many of the names given for the three houses of Men in the Sil seem to come from Sindarin. I'm postulating descendants of the House of Hador, so even if they don't speak Sindarin, I figure they'd name their children after ancestors, and use similar names. This gives me lots of Handir, Hathil, Dorlas, etc., but not too many women.

The language of the Second age men left in Eriador was supposed to be related to Andûnaic, but not the same. My characters have not had enough contact with Númenoreans to have learned it from them.

If I can impose on you a bit further - do you have any information on what one do to make a name a nickname or 'pet' name?




Re: Elvish naming conventions

I agree that Sindarin origin for names is likely – even if they did not speak Sindarin as their daily language. As to a lack of attested feminine names – sometimes you can make names by just using a feminine ending on the root of a known masculine name. Handir (hand + dir - 'intelligent man') could become Hanniel, Hannwen, or Hanneth. (The ‘nd’ combination in Sindarin usually becomes ‘nn.’ In Handir it doesn’t change because the second element of the compound begins with ‘d’ anyway.) Argh... I can’t seem to say anything without going into complicated linguistic explanations... The rules of mutation and such in Sindarin can be somewhat tricky at times.

Many Sindarin names, however, were not specifically masculine or feminine. And not all had specific meanings either – especially as used by Men. FYI, some commonly used masculine endings are -on (masc. ending for proper nouns) and -ion (son/son of) and -dir (man-any race).

As to making a nickname – well, the ending -eg is considered by some to be a ‘diminutive’ suffix meaning ‘little,’ which could be used like we sometimes use -ie in English. Unfortunately it doesn’t sound as cute to our English ears... Nevertheless, it could produce such ‘pet’ names as Asgareg or Bertholeg/Bertheg.

Also mell and muin mean ‘dear’ and lend means ‘tuneful, sweet.’ So maybe, Asgarvell, Alagvuin, or Bertholend? And beren means ‘bold’ so maybe, Berelend, or Muinveren?

I hope you can find something you can use in all of this...



Re: Elvish naming conventions

Thanks again, Ithildin, most useful and informative!




Re: Elvish naming conventions

(hopes this is the right discussion)

Can anyone help me with a Sindarin name meaning roughly "the scarred woman"? It would be a "name of choice" an elven woman takes after a certain incident. The closest I found is the Quenya "hastaina" (marred), with the feminine epesse being Hastaine, but since I'll be writing in first-age Beleriand, Quenya would probably not be a good idea ;)

Thanks in advance to anyone who can help,

Beth Winter



Re: Elvish naming conventions


What sort of scarring are we talking about -- burns, sword wounds? I came up with one that I rather liked -- Eithannenwen, or something to that effect, which could mean either "pricked/stabbed maiden" or "scorned maiden" (assuming that she is mocked because of her injury) -- but, of course, this would only work if it is a stab wound that you have in mind.




Re: Elvish naming conventions

The "scorned" double-meaning doesn't really chime in with my character concept, though the character's Sindarin is shaky enough that I might just use that - thanks Hm, if she doesn't know much about Sindarin naming customs, she might just leave it at Eithannen...

The character's an Avari, and she chooses the name because she essentially abandoned her old life. She'd choose something fearsome, something that'd leave no doubt she's here for business; her scars are something she wears as a memento of sorts. I wanted it to be a parallel to Maedhros choosing his Sindarin name as a remix of his Quenya names rather than the direct translation route most of the Noldor took.

The injuries I had in mind would be stabs and scratches from claws. The most prominent one being a deep scratch-scar across one cheek that starts in the middle of her nose, and ends at one ear - with the upper half of that ear missing.



Re: Elvish naming conventions

What about Rhimmen or Rhimmenwen - "Scratched [maiden]"?



Re: Elvish naming conventions

Oh, cool!

I'll either go with this one, or Taithen (providing this is the proper adjective form of Taith, mark) - I like the double meaning of it also being the Welsh word for journey. Hm. Might even make her give her name as Rhimmen first, and then have one of the other characters amend it to Taithen, as something less offensive...

Thank you so much!



Re: Elvish naming conventions

You could form a very loose extrapolation with -en or -ren, I think, but it wouldn't have the sense of "marked" -- that would be a participle of the verb "mark." Taithen / Taithren, rather, would mean something like "mark-ish," "mark-y." To remedy this, I would add "maiden" or "woman" to the end -- -wen, -vess, -dhess, -dhî -- or perhaps just call her Taith, even.

That's really neat about it having a meaning in Welsh, too!



Re: Elvish naming conventions

Taithrenwen it is, with Taith and Hastaine (among the Quenya-speaking Noldor) as nicknames.

Thank you for all your help! I do hope you won't mind being listed in the Author Notes as a life-saviour




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