The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien


Alphabetical index

Browse topics


Other editions

Tolkien news and resources

Sponsors and associates

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'.

aer (Sindarin) 'sea', used especially of the inner oceans of the World as opposed to the Outer Sea. This Sindarin word is far less commonly seen than the Quenya equivalent eär, but it appears in Belegaer (the Sindarin name for the 'Great Sea'), and also in Aerandir, the name of a mariner that translates as 'sea wanderer'.
ag (Sindarin) 'narrow', especially in the sense of something confined on either side. Its only recorded use is in Aglon, the name of a pass westward of the March of Maedhros whose name literally meant a 'narrow path' between high cliff walls. Ag- in this sense is not be confused with the more common agla-, 'glorious', which comes from a quite unrelated Elvish root.
ainu (Quenya) 'holy one' (from aina, 'holy'); an Ainu was one of the Holy Ones created by Eru Ilúvatar (with the plural being Ainur). Related is Ainulindalë ('Music of the Ainur'), the Great Song through which the universe was brought into being.
aiwë (Quenya) 'bird', especially referring to small birds. In this form it the word is only seen in Aiwendil ('bird-friend'), the name used in Aman for the being who later became the Wizard Radagast. The Sindarin equivalent was aew, seen in Linaewen, the 'lake of birds' in Nevrast.
akallabêth (Adûnaic) 'downfallen' (or fully 'she that has fallen'), a name in the native tongue of the Númenóreans for their island home after its Downfall in II 3319, also seen in translated into Elvish as Atalantë and English as 'the Downfallen'. The same name is used for the account of the Downfall created by Elendil, Akallabêth, the Tale of the Downfall of Númenor.
alata (Quenya) 'radiance', seen in Galadriel's Quenya name Alatáriel ('radiant-garlanded maiden'), and also possibly in Alatar, a name for one of the little-known Blue Wizards.
alda (Quenya) 'tree', naturally common in tree names such as culumalda ('red-golden tree') or Malinalda (the 'Golden Tree' of Valinor), and also seen in Aldalómë ('tree-twilight', a name for Fangorn Forest). The plural form was aldar, seen in Nísimaldar ('Fragrant Trees') as well as several tree-related personal names and titles (such as Aldaron and Aldarion, both meaning '(Lord) of Trees').
aldor (Old English) from ealdor, literally meaning 'elder' or 'parent', but also used to refer to the lord or chieftain of a region. This is the source of the name Aldor, given to the third King of Rohan. Aldor lived to the age of one hundred and one, ruling over Rohan for seventy-five years, so a name meaning both 'elder' and 'lord' fit its bearer well.
almare (Quenya) 'blessedness', 'good fortune', 'bliss', apparently in Almaren, '(place or isle) of the blessed', where the Valar dwelt in Middle-earth before departing into the West. The same element also seems to lie behind Almarian, the otherwise uninterpreted name of the Queen to Tar-Meneldur of Númenor.
amon (Sindarin) 'hill', from an ancient Elvish root-word am- meaning 'up'. This is naturally a very common element in the names of hills. Among numerous examples are Amon Hen and Amon Lhaw the 'Hill of Sight' and 'Hill of Hearing'; Amon Rûdh the 'Bald Hill'; Amon Sûl, literally the 'hill of wind' (but conventionally translated 'Weathertop'); and Amon Tirith the 'Hill of Guard' on which Minas Tirith was built. Amon was also occasionally used of mountains, as in Amon Uilos, 'Mount Everwhite' (a name for Taniquetil in Aman) and also in Amon Amarth, 'Mount Doom' in Mordor. The plural form of amon is emyn, used of ranges or groups of hills, as for example Emyn Beraid, the 'Tower Hills', which uses the Sindarin plurals of both amon 'hill' and barad, 'tower'.
an(d) (Sindarin) 'long', ultimately derived from an ancient form andá, and seen as both and and ann in Sindarin. Common in place-names such as Andram ('Long Wall'), Andrast ('long horn'), Anduin ('long river') or Anfalas ('long shore'). This element is also seen in the Elvish name for the Longbeard Dwarves, which was Anfangrim. Certain terms from writing also used the an- prefix, as in Angerthas ('long rune rows') or Andaith ('long mark').
anar (Quenya) 'the Sun'. This is the High-elven form of the word more commonly seen in its Sindarin version, Anor, but its Quenya spelling can be found in the traditional Elvish name of the second day of the week, Anarya or 'Sunday'. The word is also seen in the name of traditional constellation, Anarríma (uncertain, but probably something close to 'Sun's edge'), and in coranar, 'Sun-round', the Elves' name for a single solar year. The term also appears in two personal names: Anardil ('Devoted to the Sun') and, prominently, Anárion (apparently 'Sun-son') the younger son of Elendil.
and (Sindarin) 'region, country, land' is an ending for place-names, also seen in the variant forms -end and -ond. In the form -and it is most commonly seen in two old, but important, names: Beleriand ('country of Balar') and Ossiriand ('Land of Seven Rivers'). In common use the final -d was sometimes lost, and thus the formal Sindarin name Rochand ('horse land') evolved over time to form the name Rohan.
andúnië (Quenya) 'sunset', from an original root ndú- meaning 'sink' or 'go down', and associated with the West as the direction of the sunset. The word gave its name to a city and port in Númenor, named Andúnië because it stood on the western shores of the island.
ang (Sindarin) 'iron', prominent in the name of Morgoth's fortress of Angband ('Hells of Iron'), and also in names such as Anghabar ('iron mine'), Anglachel ('iron of the flaming star'), Angrist ('iron cutter') or Gurthang ('Iron of Death'). The genitive form is angren ('of iron'), which was the Sindarin name of the River Isen, also found in Carach Angren ('jaws of iron') in Mordor. The plural form was eng, as in Ered Engrin ('Iron Mountains'). The related Quenya form was anga, as in Angamaitë ('iron fist') and Angaráto ('iron champion'), the son of Finarfin whose name was translated into Sindarin as Angrod.
annon (Sindarin) 'gate', used most prominently in Morannon, the 'Black Gate' of Mordor, and also in Annon-in-Gelydh, the 'Gate of the Noldor' in Nevrast. Gandalf referred to the West-gate of Moria as annon edhellen, 'gate of the Elves' (The Fellowship of the Ring II 4), and the stream that ran from that gate was called the 'Gate-stream', or Sirannon in Elvish.
anor (Sindarin) 'the Sun', after which a day of the week was named Oranor ('Sunday'). Elendil's second son was named Anárion (incorporating anar, the Quenya equivalent of anor), and from his association with the Sun came the name of his tower Minas Anor ('Tower of the Sun'), and Anórien ('Sunland') where the tower stood. The same element is seen in the flower name elanor, translated 'sun-star', after which Sam Gamgee named his eldest daughter.
ar(a) (Elvish root) 'noble, royal', a very common element in the names of both people and places, as for example Arwen ('noble maiden'), Arnor ('royal land'), Armenelos ('royal fortress of the heavens'), Aredhel Ar-Feiniel ('noble Elf, noble White Lady') and many others besides. Ar- was adopted into Adûnaic, where it formed the royal prefix of the later Kings of Númenor, from Ar-Adûnakhôr ('King, Lord of the West') onwards. It was also used as a royal prefix by the Kings of Arthedain from the time of Argeleb I (probably 'silver king'), and this usage was continued by the Chieftains of the Dúnedain down to the time of Aragorn II ('kingly valour').
arda (Quenya) 'bounded region' or 'realm', prominently used as a name for the whole World (and thus implying that the World is the 'realm' of Manwë the Elder King). It also appears in a few derived names, such as Ardamir ('Jewel of the World'). The Sindarin equivalent is gardh, seen only in Lisgardh, the land of reeds at the Mouths of Sirion.
arken (Old English) a modernisation of Old English eorcan, meaning 'holy', in the name of the Arkenstone, the glittering jewel of Erebor (it's notable that the Old English name for the Silmarils is given as eorclanstánas, 'holy stones', which would follow an identical derivation to Arkenstone). A closely related root seems to appear in the name Erkenbrand (possibly meaning 'precious - or possibly even holy - sword').
aros (Sindarin) 'bloody', from an adjective iaros. The name was given to the river Aros that flowed along the borders of Doriath because of its reddish colour (presumably due to iron deposits near its source). The same element appears in Arossiach, literally the 'crossing of the bloody river', a ford on the river's upper course.
arth (Sindarin) 'land, realm', a rare formation stemming from gardh a place that is owned or possessed. The only definitely identifiable use is Arthórien, from gardh-thúrian, 'hidden realm', which was originally a name for Doriath as a whole, and later applied to part of its eastern borderlands. Arth- is also plausibly present in Arthedain (which therefore translates as 'realm of the Edain', though this is not explicitly attested).
azan (Khuzdul) 'dark, dim', a word from the language of the Dwarves used in the sense of 'overshadowed' in the name Azanulbizar, 'valley of dim streams', for the vale that lay in the shadow of the Mountains of Moria. The name is usually translated into English using the more archaic form 'Dimrill Dale'.

For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 2010, 2018, 2020. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

Website services kindly sponsored by Discus from Axiom Software Ltd.
Our interactive DISC interpretation service explains the key features of some of the more common DISC profile shapes.
The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry