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Select Elvish Words 1.75-1.752: Rain, Rainbow

1.75 Rain

Q. mistë n. “drizzle, [ᴹQ.] fine rain”
A word for “drizzle” (PE19/101) or “light rain” (Ety/MIZD) from primitive ✶mizdē, illustrating how ancient zd became st in Quenya.

Conceptual Development: The earliest precursor of this word was ᴱQ. mirde “mist” derived from primitive ᴱ✶mẓđē in the Early Qenya Phonology of the 1910s (PE12/14). In Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s, this became ᴱQ. mie derived from primitive ✶míye as a cognate to ᴱN. midh “mist, drizzle” (PE13/150). In The Etymologies of the 1930s it was ᴹQ. miste “fine rain”, already with the derivation given above and with cognate N. mîdh “dew” (Ety/MIZD). The form miste reappeared in the Outline of Phonology from the early 1950s with the same derivation and Sindarin cognate S. míð but with gloss “drizzle” (PE19/101).

Q. rossë n. “(fine) rain; [ᴹQ.] dew; *spray, ⚠️[Q.] foam”
An element meaning “foam” (or perhaps “*spray”) in the name Q. Elerossë “Star Foam” cognate of S. Elros in notes from the late 1960s (PM/349), or “rain” in the name of the waterfall Q. Raurossë “Roaring-rain” cognate of S. Rauros in notes probably from the 1950s (PE19/99). In The Etymologies of the 1930s, Tolkien gave ᴹQ. rosse “fine rain, dew” as a derivative of the root ᴹ√ROS¹ “distil, drip” (Ety/ROS¹).

Neo-Quenya: For purposes of Neo-Quenya, I would assume this word means a light rain or a continuous spray of water, or the remnants of such water in the form of dew, in other words any persistent collection of small droplets of water either in the air or on the ground, for example from light rain, morning dew or falling mist off a waterfall. This seems to be in keeping with most of its attested glosses.

For more ordinary or heavier rain, I’d use ulo instead, or for a drizzle I’d use mistë, and would reserve rossë only for a light mist-like rain. For a floating mist or fog, I’d use hísë or (if thicker) hiswe. Thus of precipitation, I’d have ulo > mistë > rossë > hísë in decreasing ranks of density, where hísë “mist” is light and/or cold enough not to longer fall. But I think rossë can refer to “already fallen” droplets in the form of dew as well.

Q. ul- vb. “to rain”
An impersonal verb for “rain” attested only in its future form uluva “it is going to rain, it will rain” (PE22/167). Its aorist form is probably *ule “[it] rains”, its past form probably *úle “[it] rained”, and its perfect *úlie “[it] has rained”; as an impersonal verb, no explicit subject is required in Quenya. It is clearly derived from the root √UL “pour (out), flow” (WJ/400; PE17/168) and it seems that its primitive form originally meant “pour” (PE22/133), but elsewhere Tolkien gave the Quenya verb for “pour, flow” as ulya- (Ety/ULU).

Conceptual Development: In the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, the verb for “it rains” was (3rd-singular) ᴱQ. uqin from the early root ᴱ√UQU “wet” (QL/98). This verb reappeared as uqe or úqe “it rains” in the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s, having become an impersonal verb (PE14/56, 85). Another impersonal verb for “to rain” appeared in Quenya Verbal System of the 1940s: ᴹQ. kelya “(it) sends running down = it rains” from the root √KEL (PE22/114). The form uluva mentioned above appeared in Late Notes on Verbs from 1969 (PE22/167).

Neo-Eldarin: Based on attested forms I would limit ul- for “rain” as an impersonal verb only, and for “pour” would use ulya-. Interestingly, the Noldorin word for “rain” is eil [ᴺS. ail] from ᴹ✶ulyā-, so I think Quenya and Sindarin/Noldorin made different choices for which ancient verb became impersonal “rain”.

Q. ulo n. “rain”
A noun for “rain” in Late Notes on Verbs from 1969 given as {ulla >>} ulo in the phrase ulo úva “rain (unwelcome) is coming”, clearly related to the impersonal verb ul- “to rain” appearing in its future form on the same page: uluva “it will rain” (PE22/167).

Conceptual Development: In the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, the noun for “rain” was ᴱQ. úqil, likewise related to the contemporaneous verb ᴱQ. uqin “it rains” (QL/98).

N. eil- vb. “to rain”
An impersonal verb appearing as N. eil “it is raining” in The Etymologies of the 1930s derived from primitive ᴹ✶ulyā- (> œil > eil) under the root ᴹ√ULU “pour, flow” (Ety/ULU; EtyAC/ULU). This verb is abnormal in that its final a disappeared rather than surviving as it usually did for derived verbs, giving eil rather than **elia- or **eila-. However, as an impersonal verb there would never be any pronominal suffix to help preserve the final a by analogy, which probably explains the vowel loss.

Conceptual Development: The verb for “rain” in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s was G. ubra-, probably related to G. ub “wet, moist, damp” (GL/74).

Neo-Sindarin: Unlike Noldorin, the diphthong ei became ai in Sindarin in both final syllables and monosyllables, so if adapted to Sindarin this verb would be ᴺS. ail “it is raining”. Any inflected forms would restore the eil- however, such as (hypothetical) past and future forms *eilant “it rained” and *eilatha “it will rain”.

S. ross n. “rain; spray, ⚠️spindrift, foam”
The best known Sindarin word for “rain” (MR/155; Ety/ROS¹), also used for “spindrift, spray” (PM/368) and “foam” (PE17/121), derived from the root √ROS (PM/368).

Conceptual Development: The earliest precursor to this word may be G. {nôs >>} G. noss or noth “rain” in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/60), likely derived from the early root ᴱ√NOSO or ᴱ√NOTO which had Qenya derivatives of similar meaning (QL/67). The Etymologies of the 1930s instead had N. rhoss “rain” derived from the root ᴹ√ROS¹ “distil, drip” (Ety/ROS¹), as seen in names from this period such as N. Celebros “Silver-rain” (Ety/ROS¹; LR/140), N. Silivros “Glimmering Rain” (Ety/ROS¹; LR/210), and N. Rauros “Rush-rain, Roar-rain” (TI/285).

In later writings Tolkien began to translate S. ross as “foam”, in names like S. Cair Andros “Ship of Long Foam” (LotR/1115; PM/371), S. Elros “Star-foam” (PM/349; Let/448) and S. Celebros “Foam-silver” (WJ/151). This word and its root gave Tolkien considerable difficulty, and in a 1968 essay labeled The Problem of Ros (PM/367-371), Tolkien first gave their meaning as “spray, spindrift”, but then explored the possibility that they were instead loan words from Bëorian. However, he was forced to abandon this line of reasoning when he remembered that S. Andros “Long-foam” has appeared in The Lord of the Rings appendices as a Sindarin word.

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I would use the noun ross mainly with the sense “rain”. I would use gwing for “foam, spindrift”. However, to preserve words like Cair Andros, I would also allow the use of ross for any more or less continuous “spray of water”, such as with waterfalls as indicated by the name Rauros “Roaring Spray” (RC/327).

S. rost adj. “rainy”
A word for “rainy” appearing as an element in the name Dimrost “Rainy Stair” (S/220; WJ/151), apparently an adjectival form of ross “rain”.

1.752 Rainbow

ᴹQ. helyanwe n. “rainbow, (lit.) sky-bridge, *sky-joining”
A noun in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “[lit.] ‘sky-bridge’, rainbow”, a combination of ᴹQ. helle “sky” and ᴹQ. yanwe “bridge, joining” (Ety/ƷEL).

Conceptual Development: Early Qenya “rainbow” words from the 1910s were mostly tied to Qenya forms of the name {G. Cris a Teld Quing Ilon >>} G. Cris Ilbranteloth “Gully of the Rainbow Roof”: either ᴱQ. iluqin(ga) “*(lit). sky bow” = ilu + qinga “bow” or ᴱQ. ilweran(ta) “(lit.) bridge of heaven” = ilwe + ranta “bridge” (QL/42). Only ᴱQ. {ukko >>} ukku “rainbow” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s was unrelated to this name, being derived from the early root ᴱ√UQU “wet” instead (QL/98).

The form helyanwe from The Etymologies (with cognate N. eilianw) was probably connected to the name of that same pass had in the early 1930s: Cirith Helvin “Rainbow Cleft” (SM/146, 193). In later writings, Tolkien changed the Sindarin name of the pass to S. Cirith Ninniach “Rainbow Cleft” (S/238; WJ/299), but gave no Quenya equivalent.

Neo-Quenya: For purposes of Neo-Quenya, I’d stick with helyanwe as the best available word for “rainbow”. In later writings, yanwë no longer meant “bridge” (that became Q. yanta), but it still meant “joining” (VT49/45), and so this word could be used unmodified with a literal sense of “*sky-joining”.

S. ninniach n. “rainbow”
A noun for “rainbow” in the name Cirith Ninniach “Rainbow Cleft” (S/238). Ninniach “rainbow” is perhaps a combination of the S. nîn “watery” and S. iach “ford”, perhaps a metaphorical ford of water across the sky.

Conceptual Development: The name Cirith Ninniach (and hence the word for “rainbow”) went through quite a few changes. The earliest iteration of the name was G. Cris a Teld Quing Ilon “Gully of the Rainbow Roof” (PE15/21) so that quing ilon “*bow of heaven” was “rainbow”, but this was quickly revised to G. Cris Ilbranteloth which was the form used in the early narratives (LT2/150, 202). G. ilbrant “rainbow” appeared in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s with variant ilvrant (GL/50). By popular etymology, this was connected to G. brant “bow”, but that was not correct (GL/24). The second element was actually G. rantha “bridge” (GL/65), and the b came from its initial element G. ilbar “heaven[s]” (GL/50), so it literally meant “*heaven-bridge”.

In Silmarillion drafts from the 1930s, the name of the pass was changed to N. Cris-Ilfing >> Cirith Helvin “Rainbow Cleft” (SM/141, 146). Both ilfing and helvin have unclear etymologies, but they are probably early iterations of N. eilian(w) “rainbow, (lit.) sky-bridge” from The Etymologies of the 1930s, a combination of ᴹ√ƷEL “sky” with N. ianw “bridge” (Ety/ƷEL, YAT), with variant elianw (EtyAC/YAT). Cirith Ninniach “Rainbow Cleft” emerged in Silmarillion revisions from the 1950s-60s (WJ/256, 299).

Neo-Sindarin: Noldorin eilian(w) “sky-bridge” might be adapted into Neo-Sindarin as ᴺS. eiliant using later S. iant for “bridge”, as suggested in Hiswelókë’s Sindarin Dictionary (HSD), but I see no reason not to just use attested S. ninniach for “rainbow”.

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