Elvish Naming Customs: 1. Elvish Naming Customs

Reader Toolbox   Log in for more tools

1. Elvish Naming Customs

Author’s Notes
This information is summarized by Ithildin from: “Of the Laws and Customs Among the Eldar,” Morgoth’s Ring pp 214-217

This portion of the "Laws and Customs" essay (penned by JRRT possibly in the late 1950’s) pertains specifically to Noldorin customs, though the wording suggests that the customs may possibly extend to other Eldar with the exception of Essecilmë. I highly recommend the entire essay, as it deals with many other aspects of elvish belief and custom in addition to those I have attempted to summarize here.


Essecarmë – Name-Making
This ceremony took place soon after the child’s birth, and in it the father announced the name he had devised for the child to kin on both sides of the family. This name was considered the child’s ‘true name’ and remained unchanged throughout life (except as the language itself evolved and changed over the ages).
It seems that this name remained the person’s 'official' name even when other names replaced it in general use.

Essecilmë – Name-Choosing (apparently primarily a Noldorin custom)
Noldor children had the option of choosing a name for themselves when they achieved mastery of the language. “The ceremony could not take place before the child was deemed ready and capable of lámatyávë, as the Noldor called it: that is the individual pleasure in the sounds and forms of words.”
This seldom occurred before the age of 7 and usually Essecilmë ceremonies occurred around the end of the 10th year.

This name expressed some personal characteristic of the person, something more individual than physical features. Though rarely done, an additional name could be chosen at a later date if desired. Each name became part of the Noldo’s 'full title,' the “sequence of all the names that had been acquired in the course of life.”

The chosen name was considered a ‘true name’ (as opposed to a ‘nickname’) but unlike the father-name, the chosen name would be considered private ‘property’ and would be used only by immediate family and the closest of friends. It would be considered presumptuous or insulting for someone to use it without permission.

In the early ages, these names were usually ‘freshly devised’ however as ages went on (and more names were available) they were more often chosen from existing names, though the name might be modified in some way. Essecilmë ceremonies were never frequent and became more rare as the ages wore on.

Anessi – Given (added) Names
The most important of the anessi would be the mother-names: The amilessi tercenyë (mother-names of insight) and of foresight, amilessi apacenyë. These were bestowed upon the child when the mother perceived by insight some “dominant feature of the child’s nature;” or if through foresight she perceived the child was destined for some special fate. The essi tercenyë (names of insight) were highly regarded, and sometimes replaced the father-name and chosen name in general use, though the father-name (and chosen name when applicable) were always considered the true/official name(s). These were public names if placed after the father-name in the full title. The amilessi tercenyë were more common (and more often came into public use) in the early years of the Eldar when father-names were usually a modification of the father’s name.

Other anessi could be given by anyone, and might not even be recognized by the person unless they were adopted or self-given. They pertained to some deed or event or some prominent feature of body or mind. These given names or nicknames were not considered true names, though some achieved wide general use. They were seldom included in the full title and if by wide general use they were, they came at the end.

Fëanor (son of Finwë):
Father-name: Finwion (later modified to: Curufinwë ‘when his talent was revealed’) (1)
amilessi tercenyë (mother name of insight) – Feanáro ‘Spirit of Fire’
Chosen name: Feanáro (in honor of his mother whom he never saw) (2)
Fëanor = blend of Quenya ‘Feanáro’ and Sindarin ‘Faenor’

Elwë – lord of the Teleri
Anessë– (given name): Sindicollo ‘Grey-cloak’
Sindarin form: Elu Thingol
Commonly called Thingol by others,
However, ‘Elu’ or ‘Elu-thingol’ would have been the proper title in his own realm.


(1) This ‘modification’ seems to conflict with the earlier statement that the father-name “remained unchanged throughout life.”

(2) According to this essay, apparently it was reported but not known for certain if Fëanor in fact took his amilessë tercenyë as his chosen name.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Ithildin

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Research Article

Rating: General

Last Updated: 02/16/03

Original Post: 01/18/03

Go to Elvish Naming Customs overview


No one has commented on this story yet. Be the first to comment!

Comments are hidden to prevent spoilers.
Click header to view comments

Talk to Ithildin

If you are a HASA member, you must login to submit a comment.

We're sorry. Only HASA members may post comments. If you would like to speak with the author, please use the "Email Author" button in the Reader Toolbox. If you would like to join HASA, click here. Membership is free.

Reader Toolbox   Log in for more tools