Things of Middle-earth
Meaning: see text below
Description:"So, though there was still some store of weapons in the Shire, these were used mostly as trophies, hanging above hearths or on walls, or gathered into the museum at Michel Delving. The Mathom-house it was called; for anything that Hobbits had no immediate use for, but were unwilling to throw away, they called a mathom. Their dwellings were apt to become rather crowded with mathoms, and many of the presents that passed from hand to hand were of that sort."
(LotR: FotR: Prologue: I - Concerning Hobbits)
On the origin and meaning of the word:
"This assimilation also provided a convenient way of representing the peculiar local hobbit-words that were of northern origin. They have been given the forms that lost English words might well have had, if they had come down to our day. Thus mathom is meant to recall ancient English máthm, and so to represent the relationship of the actual Hobbit kast to [Rohirric]* kastu. "
(LotR: RotK: Appendix F: II - On Translation)
precious thing maððum (m)
(Source: Wordcraft: New English to Old English Dictionary and Thesaurus by Stephen Pollington, published by Anglo-Saxon Books, UK, 1999 *Ref. provided by Branwyn)
máðum, máðm, mádm , máððum es; m. A precious or valuable thing (often refers to gifts), a treasure, jewel, ornament: _ Gylden mádm, sylofren sincstán, searogimma nán, middangeardes wela módes eágan ne onlýhtaþ, Bt. Met> Fox 21, 40; Met. 21,20. Máððum óðres weorþ gold monsceal gifan treasure shall change hands, gold must be given, Exon. 91b;... [follow the source link for more]
(Source: Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary)
Quotes from Tolkien's text relating to the word mathom:
"He [i.e. Meriadoc] also wrote a short treatise on Old Words and Names in the Shire, having special interest in discovering the kinship with the language of the Rohirrim of such 'shire-words' as mathom and old elements in place names."
(Prologue: Note on the Shire Records)
"The Westron or Common Speech has been entirely translated into English equivalents. All Hobbit names and special words are intended to be pronounced accordingly: for example, Bolger has g as in bulge, and mathom rhymes with fathom."
(LotR: RotK: Appendix E - Writing and Spelling: I - Pronunciation of Words and Names)
"...in the time of Frodo there were still some traces left in local words and names, many of which closely resembled those found in Dale or in Rohan. Most notable were the names of days, months, and seasons; several other words of the same sort (such as mathom and smial) were also still in common use, while more were preserved in the place-names of Bree and the Shire."
(LotR: RotK: Appendix F: I -The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: Of Hobbits)
More descriptive quotes from Tolkien's text pertaining to mathom(s):
"His sword, Sting, Bilbo hung over his fireplace, and his coat of marvellous mail, the gift of the Dwarves from the Dragon-hoard, he lent to a museum, to the Michel Delving Mathom-house in fact."
(LotR: FotR: Prologue: IV - Of the Finding of the Ring)
"Not, of course, that the birthday-presents were always new, there were one or two old mathoms of forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district; but Bilbo had usually given new presents, and kept those that he received."
(LotR: FotR: Book One: Chapter I -A Long Expected Party)
"'...Bilbo had a corslet of mithril-rings that Thorin gave him. I wonder what has become of it? Gathering dust still in Michel Delving Mathom-house, I suppose.'" [Gandalf, responding to a question from Sam]
(LotR: FotR: Book Two: Chapter IV - A Journey in the Dark)
Contributors: ~Nessime 1/26/05