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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: NE-NEY

NE “scent”

A root glossed “scent” appearing in notes on the words and phrases in The Lord of the Rings from the late 1950s or early 1960s, serving in its extended form nes- “sweet smelling” as the basis for Q. alanessë and S. galanes > galenas “tobacco” = “*sweet smelling growth” (PE17/100). It might be connected to ᴹ√NEÑ “*nose” from the The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/NEÑ-WI). Elsewhere the basis for “sweet smelling” seems to be [Q.] nis- (UT/167-8).

ᴹ√NE “*in”

A rejected root in The Etymologies of the 1930s with a strengthened form *ndē̆ serving as the basis for the prefix in N. nestag- “insert”, possibly related to ᴹ√NED “middle” (EtyAC/NĒ̆). The strengthened form may have been replaced by the root ᴹ√(N)DI “in” (EtyAC/NDI), but in later writing ✶ndī was given the meaning “beneath, not touching, under” (PE17/95). Despite the rejection of the root, the verb N. nestag- “insert” remained unmodified under the root ᴹ√STAK (Ety/STAK), and there is further evidence for the ne- prefix in the verb N. neledh- “enter” appearing on the 1936 draft of Thror’s Map from this same time period (TAI/150).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it is worth retaining this (Noldorin and Sindarin-only?) prefix ne- “in”.

NEB “turn towards (speaker); [ᴹ√NIB] face, front”

A root glossed “turn towards (speaker)” appearing in notes on the words and phrases in The Lord of the Rings from the late 1950s or early 1960s serving as the basis for nef “on this (the speaker’s) side” (PE17/27). It replaced a deleted form √NIB, indicating it likely replace the root ᴹ√NIB “face, front” from The Etymologies of the 1930s which had derivatives like Dor. nef “face”, Dor. nivra- “to face, go forward”, and N. nîf “front, face” (Ety/NIB); the last of these could still be derived from √NEB > nēb > S. nîf.

NEG “ooze, drip”

This root served as the basis for honey words and (in earlier writings) for bee words. Its earliest form is unglossed ᴱ√NEHE in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s where it had derivatives like ᴱQ. nekte “honey” and ᴱQ. nier “honey bee” (QL/65). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon the root was given as neg- with derivatives like G. neglis “honey” and G. nio “bee” < ᴱ✶nēgu, with another (feminine?) form nios (GL/59-60).

The root ᴹ√NEG reappeared unglossed in The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives like ᴹQ. nehte and N. nîdh “honeycomb” (EtyAC/NEG). It appeared in the Outline of Phonology from the early 1950s with the gloss “ooze, drip” (marked by Tolkien with a “?”) and derivatives Q. nehtë/T. nettë “honey” and S. nîdh “juice” (PE19/91).

NEK “narrow”

A root appearing in notes on words and phrases from The Lord of the Rings from the late 1950 or early 1960s, serving mainly as the basis for S. naith “angle” (PE17/55). It was also mentioned in a discussion of the death of Isildur at the Gladden Fields, again as the basis for S. naith among other words, where the root √NEK was glossed “narrow” (UT/281-2, note #16). In The Etymologies of the 1930s, N. naith was derived from ᴹ√SNAS or ᴹ√SNAT, but the precise derivation was unclear, and in any cases seems to have been replaced by Tolkien with a more straightforward derivation from √NEK.

The root √NEK also appeared in Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957 with the gloss “deprive”, serving among other things as the basis for S. neithan “one deprived” (PE17/167), which was the name adopted by Túrin after he became an outlaw (S/200). The root appeared again in notes on Elvish numbers from the late 1960s glossed as either “divide, part, separate” (VT47/16) or “divide, separate” (VT48/9), where it served as the basis for √ENEK “six” as the dividing point between the lower and upper set of numbers in the Elvish duodecimal system.

It is not clear whether Tolkien intended all these various meanings for the root √NEK to be connected. For purposes of analysis, I’ve split √NEK¹ “narrow” from √NEK² “separate; deprive”, but conceivably the sense “narrow” could be a semantic extension of “separate” or vice-versa.

NEL “three; [ᴱ√] point”

This root served as the basis for Elvish words for “three” for much of Tolkien’s life. However, in its earliest appearance in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, ᴱ√NELE was glossed “point” with derivatives like ᴱQ. neldor “beech”, ᴱQ. nele “tooth” and ᴱQ. nelt “corner”, while the derived numeral was ᴱQ. nelde “four” (QL/65). The contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon also had G. nel “point, end, tip, jutting end” (GL/60), and G. deldron “beech” was almost certainly derived from a strengthened form of the root ndel- (PE11/8; GL/30). ᴱQ. nelde “three” first appeared in the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s (PE14/49, 82).

In the first layer of The Etymologies of the 1930s, this root was glossed “point, triangle” (EtyAC/NEL), but Tolkien changed the gloss of ᴹ√NEL to “three” and gave it two extended roots ᴹ√NELED (also “three”) and ᴹ√NELEK “tooth” (Ety/NEL, NELEK). In this revised paradigm, probably “tooth” was derived from the sense “triangle”. In The Etymologies of the 1930s, Ilk. neldor “beech” was still derived from this root, but was said to refer to the “three trunks” of Hirilorn.

In later writings from the 1950s and 60s, the gloss of √NEL was consistently “three” (WJ/421; VT42/24; VT47/10-11), and the extended form √NELED “three” appeared regularly as well (VT42/24; VT47/11). √NELEK “tooth” also appeared in several documents from the 1940s and 50s (PE19/58; PE21/56, 71).

NEN “water”

A root connected to water and (to a lesser extent) rivers for much of Tolkien’s life. It first appearance was as ᴱ√NENE “flow” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, though Tolkien marked both the root and the gloss with a “?”; it had derivatives like ᴱQ. nen “river, †water” and ᴱQ. nēnu “yellow water lily” (QL/65). Under this entry Tolkien noted that “nen water is perhaps different from nen river, which is from neře” (QL/65); elsewhere in QL Tolkien gave ᴱ√NERE² or ᴱ√NEŘE [NEÐE] as the basis for nen (nend-) “river”, a root he said was often confused with ᴱ√NESE “give to feed; feed, pasture; graze” (QL/66). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon he had G. nenn “(1) water, (2) river” and G. nendil “water fay” which were probably a blending of NENE and NEÐE, as well as G. nern “brook” from *nere¹ (GL/60), probably corresponding to ᴱ√NERE² from QL.

In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien had unglossed ᴹ√NEN with derivatives like ᴹQ. nén/N. nen “water” and ᴹQ. nelle “brook” (Ety/NEN), whereas ᴱ√NERE² and ᴱ√NEÐE from the 1910s seems to have been abandoned. The primitive form √NEN or nē̆n “water” continued to appear regularly in Tolkien’s writings from the 1940s, 50s and 60s (PE17/52, 167; PE19/102; PE21/64, 79).

ᴹ√NEÑ “*nose”

An unglossed root in The Etymologies of the 1930s appearing as both independent ᴹ√NEÑ (EtyAC/NEÑ-WI) and extended ᴹ√NEÑ-WI (Ety/NEÑ-WI), with derivatives like ᴹQ. nengwe/N. nem “nose” (Ety/NEÑ-WI). Similar forms meaning “nasal” appear in the first version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa from this same time period (TQ1: PE18/30, 46). This root is probably an updated version of primitive ᴹ✶nengǝ “beak, nose” in the Declension of Nouns from the early 1930s (PE21/26).

ᴱ√NESE “give to feed; feed, pasture; graze”

A root in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s glossed “give to feed; feed, pasture, etc.; graze”, with derivatives like ᴱQ. nesse “herb, grass, fodder”, ᴱQ. nesta- “feed” and ᴱQ. nes (ness-) “mead, valley, land”, the last of these transferred from ᴱ√NEŘE (QL/66). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon it had derivatives like G. nesta- “put to grass, graze, pasture, feed”, G. nethron “herd”, and G. ness “water meadow, long grass” (GL/60). There is little sign of this root in Tolkien’s later writing, with the possible exception of S. ness “headland” (UT/28) the might be a remnant of G. ness.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it best to derive pasture and grazing words from ᴹ√NAD.

NET “trim, pretty, dainty”

A root element Tolkien gave unglossed in notes on Eldarin Hands, Fingers and Numerals from the late 1960s serving primarily as the basis for extended √NETER “nine”; Tolkien explicitly contrasted it with √NETH “sister”, used for the finger-name of the fourth and ninth fingers but not etymologically related “nine” (VT47/11-12). However in somewhat earlier versions of these notes from 1968, Tolkien glossed √NET as “trim (pretty, dainty)” and derived the finger name Q. nettë “little girl” directly from this root along with other words like Q. netil “trinket” and netya- “trim, adorn” (VT47/33).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it is worth retaining the “pretty, dainty” sense of this root, though not necessarily connecting it to “nine”, which can simply be from unrelated √NETER.

NETER “nine”

A root for “nine” introduced in The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/NÉTER), replacing earliest words for “nine” such as ᴱQ. olme(t) and ᴱQ. hue from the 1910s and 20s. The root continued to appear in Tolkien’s later writings, and in his notes on Eldarin Hands, Fingers and Numerals from the late 1960s he explored several possible origins for this root: connected to the finger name Q. nettë “little girl” derived from the root √NET “dainty” (VT47/33), based on the counting term Q. nete “one more” as in “nete, nete, nete, 10” (VT47/15-16), or simply as an independent invention of its own (VT47/12).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it is easiest to assume √NETER its own root without any deeper etymology.

ᴱ√ŊETE “catch, get”

A root in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s given as NETE “catch, get”, with derivatives like ᴱQ. nete- “get” and ᴱQ. enget “a hap” (QL/66). A parenthetical comment indicates the true root is ŊETE, as supported by the derivative enget.

Neo-Eldarin: As the only attested Quenya word for “get”, the word net- “to get” is popular in Neo-Quenya despite its early creation. I think it worth positing a strengthened Neo-Eldarin (Quenya-only?) root ᴺ√Ñ(G)ET to retain this word.

NETH “(young) woman, female person; sister; fresh, lively, merry; [ᴹ√] young”

This root had a variety of meanings over Tolkien’s life. It first appeared as ᴹ√NETH “young” in The Etymologies of the 1930s with various Quenya and Noldorin derivatives of similar meaning, the most notable being the name ᴹQ. Nessa (Ety/NETH). In rough notes probably from around 1959, Tolkien redefined √NETH or √NES to mean “feminity apart from sex”, contrasted with √WEG or √WEƷ for masculinity, but he abandoned this line of reasoning deciding that √ simply meant “person” independent of gender (PE17/189-190).

In notes on Eldarin Hands, Fingers and Numerals from the late 1960s, Tolkien again redefined √NETH, this time as the basis for Elvish “sister” words, either specifically meaning “sister” (VT47/12, 26, 34), meaning “(young) woman” (VT47/15, 32, 39) or perhaps “fresh, lively, merry” (VT47/32), the last of these probably a callback to its 1930s meaning “young”. In notes from 1959-60, however, the name Q. Nessa was disconnected from the root, derived instead from ✶Neresā meaning “she that has manlike valour or strength” (WJ/416).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it best for √NETH to retain its essential 1930s meaning “young, fresh, lively”, but with an association to young women as described in Tolkien’s notes from the 1960s, and thus by extension “sister” as named from the perspective of the parents.

ᴹ√NEY “tear”

Tolkien used similar forms throughout his life for Elvish words connected to “tears”, the most enduring being Q. Nienna “Lady of Pity and Mourning” and S. nirnaeth as in Nirnaeth Arnoediad “[Battle of] Tears Unnumbered”. The first manifestation of this root was as ᴱ√NYE(NE) “bleat” and ᴱ√NYEHE “weep” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, though Tolkien considered moving all the derivatives of ᴱ√NYE(NE) to ᴱ√NYEHE (QL/68). Nonetheless it seems the distinction survived in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon which had both nı̯e and nı̯eχe as primitive forms (GL/59-60). Early derivatives include ᴱQ. nyé “bleat” and ᴱQ. nyéni “she-goat” along with ᴱQ. nyére/G. nîr “grief” and ᴱQ. nie/G. nîn “tear”, the last of these appearing in G. Nínin-Udathriol, the earliest name of S. Nirnaeth Arnoediad.

The root reappeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√NEI̯ “tear” (Ety/NEI), though Tolkien considered and rejected alternate roots ᴹ√NEÑ (EtyAC/NEI) and ᴹ√NEI̯(ET) “moist” (NEI̯(ET)), the latter becoming the primitive word ᴹ✶neiti > ᴹQ. níte “moist, dewy” and N. nîd “damp, wet; tearful”. Other derivatives include ᴹQ. nie “tear”/N. nîn “tear” (same as the forms from the 1910s) as well as N. nírnaeth “lamentation” (Ety/NEI). Tolkien’s continued use of Q. Nienna (S/28) and S. nirnaeth (S/192) in later versions of the Silmarillion indicate this root’s ongoing validity.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think some of the Quenya nye- forms from the 1910s might be salvaged as alternate vocalization from n(e)ye- < √NEY.

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