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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: KOM-KUY

KOM “gather, collect”

A root Tolkien invented to explain S. mae govannen “well met”, serving as the basis for the verb S. covad(a)- “bring together, make meet” (PE17/16, 157-158). Tolkien gave this root as both √KOB and √KOM, but some of its Quenya derivatives can only be derived from √KOM: Q. comya- “to collect” and Q. ócom- “to gather, assemble”. For Tolkien’s earlier conceptions on the foundations for mae govannen, see the entry on √BA(N).

KOR “round; [ᴱ√] be round, roll”

This was the Elvish root for round things throughout Tolkien’s life. It first appeared as ᴱ√KORO “be round, roll” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, and had Early Qenya and Gnomish derivatives like ᴱQ. korima “round” and G. corm “ring, circle, disc” (GL/26). ᴹ√KOR “round” reappeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives in both Quenya and Noldorin (Ety/KOR). √KOR “round” was also mention in etymological notes probably written in the early 1960s (PE17/184). It’s derivatives like Q. corma “ring” (LotR/953) and S. cerin “(circular) mound” (LotR/350; RC/309) appeared regularly in Tolkien’s later writings.

ᴹ√KORKA “crow”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “crow”, with derivatives ᴹQ. korko and N. corch of the same meaning; it replaced a root ᴹ√KARKA with derivatives ᴹQ. karka and N. carach (Ety/KARKA). The deleted form conflicted with contemporaneous ᴹ√KARAK “sharp fang, spike, tooth” (Ety/KARAK). This deleted form nevertheless may be connected to S. crebain from The Lord of the Rings (LotR/285), whose singular craban “bird of crow-kind” (PE17/37) might be derived from *k(a)rak-wan.

There is another primitive form ✶k(a)wāk used as the basis for “crow” in the Quendi and Eldar of 1959-60 (WJ/395), but even later this primitive form was the basis for Q. quácë “frog” (VT47/36); see the entry on √KAWAK for discussion. As a result, I think earlier ᴹ√KORKA is probably the best choice for “crow” words for the purpose of Neo-Eldarin.

KOT “hate; be wroth, quarrel, [ᴹ√]strive”

This root and similar ones were used for “strife” or “hatred” over Tolkien’s lifetime, but the exact forms varied considerably. One of its more notable derivatives was Q. ohta “war” which Tolkien introduced in the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s (PE14/45). However, the earliest precursor of this root was ᴱ√KOSO “strive” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, but its Gnomish form goth is more representative of its actual primitive form GOÞO (QL/62). At this early stage its most notable derivative was G. Gothmog/ᴱQ. Kosomoko or Kosmot “Strife-and-hatred” (PME/48; LT2/216), but in later writings N. Gothmog was given a new etymology as a combination of ᴹ√GOS “dread” and ᴹ√MBAW “oppress” (Ety/GOS, MBAW).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s the root became ᴹ√KOT “strive, quarrel”, soon revised to ᴹ√KOTH, with derivatives in both Quenya and Noldorin (Ety/KOT). One important new derivative of this roots was N. Morgoth “Black Foe”, the first time this name was given a clear etymology, though the name G. Morgoth itself dates back to the earliest Lost Tales (LT2/67). In the first version of the Tengwesta Quenderinwa (TQ1), also written in the 1930s, Tolkien gave ᴹ√KHOT “be wroth, quarrel” as the basis for ᴹQ. ohta “war” (PE18/62). The root form √KHOT also appeared in the second version of the Tengwesta Quenderinwa (TQ2) written around 1950, in one place as revision of a deleted form √KOT; the gloss likewise was changed from “be wroth, quarrel” to “hate” (PE18/85 note #72, PE18/87 and note #77).

In the Outline of Phonology (OP2), Tolkien described a new etymology for the name of Morgoth, basing it on ancient ✶Moriñgotho “Black Foe” = ✶mori + ✶ñgothō; in “modern” Quenya this came to be Q. Morños/t [þ], pronounced morgos/t (PE19/81). Although Tolkien began composing OP1 in the early 1950s, this particular section was a revision written in red ink and thus was later, and it had some additional changes in green ink which Tolkien used to revise OP2 in 1970 (PE19/81 note #65). As Christopher Gilson suggested, the new etymology was certainly connected to the following passage in the later drafts of the Silmarillion:

Then suddenly Feanor rose, and lifting up his hand before Manwë he cursed Melkor, naming him Morgoth, the Black Foe of the world. [In an author’s footnote] By that name only was he known to the Eldar ever after. (In the ancient form used by Feanor it was Moriñgotho.) (MR/295).

This new etymology might reflect a change of this root to *√ÑGOT(H), but it seems Tolkien was not fully committed to this change in the 1950s and 60s. In the Ambidexters Sentence from 1969 Tolkien switched Q. Moringotto to Morikotto before settling on Melkor (VT49/6). There is also the name S. Thuringud “Hidden Foe” from late Silmarillion drafts (WJ/256) whose final element -gud “foe” may well be derived from √KOT (*kōt(e)) as suggested by Patrick Wynne (VT49/25). Thus Tolkien seems to have vacillated on the exact form of this root frequently over his lifetime.

For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it is best to assume this root is √KOT, as this preserves the largest number of attested words as Tolkien wrote them, the only major exception being Moringotto. Likewise, I believe the ancient sense “strife, quarrel” is more compatible with attested words than “hate”.

KOY “[ᴹ√] live, have life”

Tolkien regularly used roots like √KOY for “life” words, but they were often in competition with √KUY. The earliest appearance of this root was as ᴱ√KOẎO “have life” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives such as ᴱQ. koire “life” and ᴱQ. koiva “awake” (QL/48). The corresponding Gnomish derivatives such as G. cuib “alive” and G. cuil “life” had the diphthong ui (GL/27) since [oi] became [ui] in Gnomish (PE15/13). But the Gnomish “awake” words had cwiv- such as G. cwiv- “be awake” and G. cwivros “awakening” (GL/29), and Tolkien said:

There is confusion between QIV-, QIPI-, KOI̯-(VI) or perhaps original connection. They are more confused in Qenya. Note Qenya confusion between koiva (lively, living), Qîva (awake) and similarly koivie, qîvie, liveliness, awakening, respectively (GL/29).

There are no direct signs of ᴱ√QIVI in the Qenya Lexicon, so Tolkien may have introduced or refined this notion in the Gnomish Lexicon.

In The Etymologies of the 1930s, Tolkien gave only the root ᴹ√KUY “come to life, awake”, which had both Quenya and Noldorin derivatives hconnected to both senses “life” and “awakeness” (Ety/KUY). However, in the Quenya Verbal System Tolkien gave ᴹ√KOY as the basis for “life” words (PE22/125). In the 1940s, 50s and early 60s there were quite a few Quenya “life” words that must have been derived from √KOY:

  • ᴹQ. koita- “live, be alive” (PE22/103, 125).
  • Q. coirë “spring, stirring” (LotR/1107).
  • Q. koive or koivie “life” (PE17/68).
  • Q. coimas “life-bread” (PM/404).
  • Q. coirëa “living” (PM/399).

In this same period, Tolkien continued to use derivatives of √KUY for words having to do with being “awake”, most notably in Q. Cuiviénen “Water of Awakening” (<< ᴱQ. Koivie-néni). In Common Eldarin: Verb Structure from the early 1950s he gave √KOJ as the root for “life” versus √KUJ as the root for “awake” (PE22/135).

Later, however, he seems to have changed his mind, and Quenya “life” words again started to show cui-, such as kuivie “life” in notes on The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor from the late 1960s (VT42/8). In Late Notes on Verbs from 1969, Tolkien again gave the root √KUY and the verb Q. kuita- for “live” (PE22/154, 156), and Q. cuima “animal” from these same notes was probably also based on √KUY “life”. To summarize, the conceptual development seems to be 1910s ᴱ√KOẎO “have life” (blended with ᴱ√QIVI “awake”) >> 1930s ᴹ√KUY “life, awake” >> 1940s through early 1960s √KOY “life” vs. √KUY “awake” >> late 1960s √KUY “life” (and probably also “awake”).

For purpose of Neo-Eldarin, however, I think it best to retain the distinct √KOY “life” and √KUY “awake”, especially given the appearance of coirë “stirring” in The Lord of the Rings, which must be from √KOY. These late vacillations makes almost no difference in Sindarin, since the roots √KOY and √KUY would have blended in cui- because [oi] became [ui] in Sindarin as it did in Gnomish.

KUB “hide, secrete”

A root appearing in 1969 Late Notes on Verbs with the gloss “hide, secrete” with Quenya derivatives of similar meanings, also serving as the basis of the final element of S. gurgof “traitor” < ✶gōr(i)kubā (PE22/155). Tamas Ferencz suggested this root could be used in Neo-Eldarin to replace the senses “to lie, lying” from the early root ᴱ√FURU, which likewise seems to have meant “*conceal”.

ᴹ√KUB “*mound, heap”

An unglossed root in The Etymologies of the 1930s serving as the basis for ᴹQ. kumbe/N. cum “mound, heap” (Ety/KUB). It was undoubtably a later iteration of ᴱ√KUMU “heap up” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with similar derivatives in both Qenya and Gnomish (QL/49; GL/27). This earlier root also had derivatives having to do with “burden” such as ᴱQ. kumba “burdened, laden”, but based on Gnomish words like G. gûm “burden” and G. gumriol “burdensome” (GL/43), this was probably due to blending with an otherwise unattested root *ᴱ√GUMU.

These roots were the basis of G. Cûm a Gumlaith “Mound of the First Sorrow” which later became N. Cûm-na-Dengin “Mound of Slain” (SM/312, LR/147). Eventually this name became Haudh-en-Ndengin “Mound of the Slain”, indicating that ᴹ√KUB was abandoned for this purpose. Indeed, in later writings Tolkien instead gave √KUB as “hide, secrete” instead (PE22/155).

ᴹ√KU(Ʒ) “bow”

The root ᴹ√KU(Ʒ) “bow” appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/KUƷ), most likely a later version of ᴱ√KUVU “bend, bow” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s (QL/49). One notable derivative in both periods was G. “bow, crescent” and N. “arch, crescent”, which regularly appeared as S. “bow” in later writings, for example in S. Laer Cú Beleg “Song of the Great Bow” (GL/27; Ety/KUƷ; S/209).

The probably-related root ᴹ√KUB “bow” appeared in the Quenya Verbal System of the 1940s (PE22/102); ᴹQ. nukumna “humbled (?under-bowed)” from this period may also be related (SD/246). In notes from the late 1950s or early 1960s Tolkien gave ✶kūma, Q. cúma and S. cû(f) next to Q. luva “bow, bight (not for shooting)” < √LUB “bend”, so presumably cúma/cû was “bow (for shooting)”. Finally Q. cúna “bent, curved” appeared in notes associated with the version of the Q. Markirya poem from the late 1960s, along with a verb form cúna- “to bend” (MC/222-223).

These variations make it difficult to determine what Tolkien intended the root to be, but for purposes of Neo-Eldarin I would assume a base root of √KU(Ʒ) or √KU(H) with perhaps a verbal variant √KUB based on its use in the 1940s.

KUL “golden-red; [ᴱ√] gold”

The root √KUL was connected to gold and gold-colored things throughout Tolkien’s life but gradually shifted in meaning. The earliest form of this root was ᴱ√KULU “gold” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s (QL/49), but at this early stage it was connected to actual metallic gold as much as the color, as opposed to ᴱQ. laure which was “magic” name of gold (LT1/100). In The Etymologies of the 1930s, ᴹ√KUL was first glossed “gold (metal)”, but was eventually revised to “golden-red” (replacing a rejected variant ᴹ√GUL), and metallic gold became ᴹQ. malta < ᴹ√SMAL “yellow” (Ety/SMAL) while ᴹQ. laure shifted in sense to “golden light” (Ety/GLAW(-R)).

Tolkien’s continued use of names like Q. Culúrien (S/38) and Q. culumalda “tree with hanging yellow blossoms (prob[ably] a laburnum)” (RC/626) indicate the continued validity of this root, though I suspect in later writings it primarily referred to a golden-red or orangish color.

ᴹ√KUM “void”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “void”, with derivatives like ᴹQ. kúma “void” and N. caun “empty” (Ety/KUM). It was probably also the basis of ᴹQ. kumba in ᴹQ. saurikumba in Lord of the Rings drafts from the 1940s, unglossed but probably “*foul-bellied” (SD/86).

*√KUN(DU) “to lead; lord”

This root appears The Etymologies in the extended form ᴹ√KUNDU, from which ᴹQ. †kundu, N. †cunn “prince” and N. Felagund “Lord of Caves” were derived. In later writings (PE17/113, 117), Tolkien explored the possibility of connecting Felagund to the names of Fingon and Turgon, deriving all three from a primitive form ✶kondō (<< ✶kundō) and using a new form of this root: √KON (<< √KUN). He even went so far as to change the first of these names to Felegond with an “o” (PE17/118).

However, in still later writings (PM/345), Tolkien established that the element -gon “lord” in S. Fingon and Turgon was ultimately derived from Q. cáno “commander”. In the same text, he revised the etymology of S. Felagund so that it was derived from a Khuzdul name Kh. Felakgundu “Cave-hewer” (PM/352), as described in The Silmarillion index (SI/Felagund). These revisions make it likely that Tolkien abandoned the form √KON.

The later status of earlier √KUN is unclear, however. √KUN might have been rejected along with √KON, or Tolkien may have restored it. As evidence of its restoration, †cund remained as an element in two older (Sindarin?) names: Baragund and Belegund. Furthermore, its Quenya derivative Q. cundo appears as an element in the later name Q. Carma-cundo, albeit with a new gloss “guardian”.

If we accept the restoration of √KUN, its Quenya derivative cundo “prince, lord, guardian” could be considered valid, possibly along with the verb cunya- “to rule”. Its Sindarin derivative †cund “prince” should probably be considered archaic, however, replaced by the time of the Third Age with caun¹.

KUR “have power, strength, ability inherent physically or mentally; skill, [ᴹ√] craft”

This root was associated with craft and skill for much of Tolkien’s life. The earliest iteration of the root was unglossed ᴱ√KURU whose Qenya and Gnomish derivatives mostly had to do with magic, such as ᴱQ. kuru “magic, wizardry” and G. curu “magic” (QL/49, GL/28). It appeared again in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√KUR “craft” with derivatives like ᴹQ. kurwe “craft” and N. curu “cunning”. It was mentioned again in notes associated with the Shibboleth of Fëanor from 1968 with the gloss “skill” and various derivatives similar to the 1930s. Its final mention in published material is from Late Notes on Verbs from 1969:

“can” = have power, strength, ability inherent physically or mentally. √KURU. Cf. *kurwē “power, ability”, S curu in curunír “wizard”, us[ually] applied to exceptional powers espec. of mind, ability to make one’s will effective. It thus approaches some uses of our “magic”, esp. when applied to powers not understood by the speaker, but it does not even then (except perhaps when the word was used by Men) connote any alteration or disturbance of the “natural order”, which to the Eldar were either “miracles” performed by agents of the One or counterfeits by delusion (or by means other than miraculous which impressed the uninstructed as supernatural) (PE22/155).

This last note reconciles the connection between this root and “magic”, in that some powers of the mind that Elves perceive as natural skill would seem to Men to be magical, and in this sense it is the basis for words like S. curunír “wizard”.

ᴹ√KURUM “*left”

A (Noldorin-only?) root in The Etymologies of the 1930s whose derivatives have to do with “left” such as N. crom “left” and N. crumui “left-handed” (Ety/KURÚM). It seems this root had some “sinister” connotations, much like English/Latin uses of left, such as N. crumguru “wiley, sinister, guilty” (EtyAC/KUR). Left also had negative connotations in Tolkien’s earlier writings, such as G. gôg “clumsy; left (hand)” (GL/40). However, in the Ambidexters Sentence from 1969, Tolkien declared that Elves were ambidextrous and had no negative associations with “leftness”. I would recommend against using the root √KURUM for the purposes of Neo-Eldarin, sticking to more neutral ᴹ√KHYAR instead.

KUY “live; [ᴹ√] awake, come to life”

A root Tolkien used in the 1930s through 1960s, sometimes meaning both “live” and “awake” and sometimes just “awake”. See √KOY for further discussion.

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