New Theme! What do you think?

Study, speak, and hang out with fellow Elvish students!

Select Elvish Words 2.1: Human Being

Q. Atan n. “Man, (lit.) the Second (People)”
This is the most common Quenya word for “Man” as a species, most frequently appearing in its plural form Atani (LotR/1034). In notes on Words, Phrases and Passages from The Lord of the Rings from the late 1950s or early 1960s, Tolkien wrote:

The name Atan, pl. atani was already given in Quenya in Valinor to the “Second Kindred” whom the Eldar learned were to appear (or had appeared) in Endor. It meant “the Second”. The Sindar had no name for Men, until they arrived in Beleriand and were first found by Finrod. They borrowed the Q atan and gave it Sindarin form adan. For a long time this word therefore referred only to the three “houses” or kindreds of the “Elf-friends” or Elendili; and always tended to refer primarily to them. But when the Eldar became aware of other kinds of Men (more or less parallel to their own division into Eldar and Avari) they distinguished the Elendili as Núnatani, Dúnedain (pl. of Dún·adan) “western men” … Other men were called Hrónatani, Rhúnedain [Easterlings] (PE17/18).

Thus while Atan applied to all humans, there was a bias towards considering the Elf-friends as the “true Men”, and Atan was sometimes used only to refer to them. Tolkien typically translated this word as “Man”, but the Elvish word has no particular association with the male gender, and actually means “the Second” (S/103; WJ/403; PE17/18) being related to the word atta “two”, referring to the fact that Men were the second-born race of the children of Eru.

Conceptual Development: ᴹQ. Atan seems to have been coined in the 1940s, for example appearing in the phrase ᴹQ. atani koitar endoresse “men live in Middle-earth” in the Quenya Verbal System document from this period (PE22/125).

In the last description of this word’s origin appeared in notes from the late 1960s, where Tolkien said it was instead borrowed from the language of Men: “The name is said to have been derived from atan ‘man, human being as distinct from creatures’, a word used by that kindred which the Eldar first encountered in Beleriand” (PM/324 note #38).

However, as pointed out by Christopher Tolkien: “The statement here that Atani was derived from a word in the Bëorian language, atan ‘man’, contradicts what was said in the chapter Of the Coming of Men into the West that was added to the Quenta Silmarillion”, referring to the footnote on WJ/219 in Silmarillion drafts from the 1950s. This footnote was the same scenario as described above where Atan meant “the Second”, which is also how the origin of the word was described in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60 (WJ/386). It is this scenario that Christopher Tolkien used in the published version of the Silmarillion (S/103, 143; SI/Atani).

⚠️ᴹQ. enno n. “person, *being”
A word for “person” in Quenya Verbal System of the 1940s based on the existential verb ᴹQ. ea-, hence perhaps originally “*being” (PE22/123). It may be specifically masculine, since Tolkien gave a distinct feminine form ᴹQ. ennie.

Neo-Quenya: For purposes of Neo-Quenya, I’d use later (genderless) forms like quén “person” or námo “somebody” instead.

ᴹQ. fire n. “mortal man”
A noun in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “mortal man” derived from the root ᴹ√PHIR “die of natural causes” (Ety/PHIR).
Q. firya adj. “mortal; [ᴹQ.] human”
An adjective translated as “mortal” appearing only in the proper name Firya “Mortal” used of Men in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60 (WJ/387). ᴹQ. firya was instead translated as “human” in The Etymologies of the 1930s where it was derived from the root ᴹ√PHIR “die of natural causes” (Ety/PHIR). I would use it primarily in this second sense “human”, and for “mortal” would use Q. fírima (WJ/387).
Q. quén (quen-) n. and pron. “person, individual, man or woman; one, somebody”
A general word for “person”, any individual independent of their gender and species, since the term was “freely applied to other Incarnates, such as Men or Dwarves, when the Eldar became acquainted with them” (WJ/372). In unstressed form quen, it was sometimes used as a pronoun “one, somebody”, and was also used as the second element in compounds such as ilquen “everyone” and roquen “horseman” (WJ/363, 372).

Most likely the Elves had a bias towards themselves as the main category of persons, since they used the term Quendi “(lit.) Speakers” to refer the Elves as species, and quén seems to have originally have been a variant of that term, derived from the same root √KWEN “speak”. This word was primarily discussed in the Quendi and Eldar essay from 1959-60, which may be where the term was introduced, but it appears in other late notes as well (PE19/93).

Q. -wë suf. “ancient name suffix (usually but not always masculine)”
A suffix that “appears frequently in … Quenya names of the First Age, such as Voronwe, generally but not exclusively masculine” (PM/340). It was derived from the root √WĒ/EWE “person, being, individual”, but was sometimes also related to √WEG “live, be active” (PM/340; PE17/189-190), especially in the case of its Sindarin variant -we.

Conceptual Development: The suffix ᴱQ. -we dates all the back to the earliest versions of the Legendarium, being an element in some very stable names like ᴱQ. Manwe and ᴱQ. Finwe which Tolkien never changed after their introduction. The early basis for this suffix isn’t entirely clear, but its Gnomish equivalent G. -weg seems to be the suffixal form of G. gweg “man” (GL/44). This Gnomish variant was specifically masculine and often paired with its feminine equivalent G. -win. In the Declension of Nouns from the early 1930s, Tolkien said that ᴹQ. -we in names like ᴹQ. Finwe was a masculine suffix based on archaic ᴹQ. † “man, warrior”, but he also said that the suffix in ᴹQ. Manwe was distinct (PE21/1).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s, Tolkien said the name suffix had two different origins and meanings, ᴹQ. -we¹ “masculine” and ᴹQ. -we² “abstract”:

veo (*wegō) “man”. The latter in compound form *-wego is frequent in masculine names, taking Q form -we (< weg). This can be distinguished from -we (-wē abstract suffix) … The abstract suffix occurs in the names Manwe, Fionwe, Elwe, Ingwe, Finwe (Ety/WEG).

Thus the masculine variant of the suffix was derived from primitive ᴹ✶-wego under the root ᴹ√WEG “(manly) vigour”, while the abstract suffix was derived from unrelated abstract suffix ᴹ✶-wē.

This duality in origin seems to have continued in Tolkien’s later writings, where Tolkien variously tied the suffix to either √ “person, individual, being” (PE17/189-190) or √WEG, the latter glossed “live, be active” (PE17/189) but also “masculinity apart from sex” and thus useable in names of the Valar, though the note with this last gloss appeared was struck through (PE17/190). The last mention of this suffix is in The Shibboleth of Fëanor from 1968, where it was described as an abstract name suffix, most frequent in male names, based on √EWE “person” (PM/340), as noted above.

S. Adan n. “Man (as a species)”
The usual Sindarin word for “Man” as a species, borrowed from Q. Atan after the Sindar first encountered the men of the west (PE17/18). It often appeared in its plural form Edain “Men” (LotR/1061; PE17/117; WJ/219). Like in Quenya, this word was biased towards considering the houses of the Elf-friends and their descendants as the “true Men”, but the proper term for such men was a Dúnadan “Man of the West”, and strictly speaking Adan applied to all kinds of Men, such as the Rhúnedain “*Easterlings” (PE17/18) or the Drúedain “Woses” (UT/385). Unlike English, this word has no association with the male gender, and originally meant “the Second”, referring to Men as the second-born children of Eru. For a further discussion of its conceptual development, see the entry for Q. Atan “Man”.
S. Feir n. “Mortal, [N.] mortal man”
A term used for Men meaning “Mortal”, appearing in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60, cognate to Q. Firya of the same meaning, both derived from √PHIR which was the basis of words for natural death (WJ/387). According to Tolkien this word was borrowed from Quenya, since the Noldor had pre-knowledge of the nature of Men having learned of them from the Valar. The plural form of Feir was Fîr and its class plural Firiath, the latter also appearing in contemporaneous Silmarillion drafts (WJ/219 footnote). It is unclear why this word did not become *Fair, since ei became ai in Sindarin monosyllables. Perhaps it remained Feir because it was an adaptation from Quenya, or it could be a conceptual remnant of its Noldorin form (see below).

Conceptual Development: Probably the first precursor to this word was ᴱN. fion “man, human being” from Index of Names for The Lay of the Children of Húrin compiled in the early 1920s (PE15/62), also appearing with the gloss “mortal man” in Early Noldorin Word-lists of the same period (PE13/143). In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien gaven N. {fîr “man, mortal” >>} feir pl. fîr “mortals” under the root ᴹ√PHIR “die of natural causes” (Ety/PHIR; EtyAC/PHIR), hence with basically the same form, meaning and etymology as it had in later Sindarin.

S. pen pron. “one, somebody, anybody; ⚠️[N.] Elf”
A Sindarin pronoun with the sense “one, somebody, anybody” appearing in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60, also used as a suffix in words like orodben “mountaineer” and rochben “rider” (WJ/376), originally “*mountain-person” and “*horse-person”. It was thus more narrow in scope than its Quenya cognate quén “person”. Hints of this word can be found in other late writings, such as in the final element in Morben (PE17/141; EtyAC/MOR), originally “Dark-elf” but later expanded to include any people who are not among the Celbin “*Light folk”, which applied to “peoples in alliance in the War against Morgoth” (WJ/377).

Conceptual Development: In The Etymologies of the 1930s, N. penn meant “Elf” in the compound N. Morbenn “Dark-elf”, though this word was rejected (EtyAC/MOR). The word N. penn, plural i-phinn “the Elves” also appeared in notes on Ælfwine’s spelling from around 1937-8 (PE22/67). This Noldorin form was thus a cognate of ᴹQ. Qende “Elf”, though elsewhere the usual cognate was N. penedh (Ety/KWEN(ED)); see the entry on S. penedh for further discussion. However, the later Sindarin pronoun/suffix “had no special association with Elves” (WJ/376).

S. -we suf. “person, being, individual; [N.] masculine suffix”
A name suffix in Sindarin, largely used in names adapted from Quenya, such as Manwe or Bronwe, the latter an adaptation of Q. Voronwë. However, the true cognate of the Quenya name suffix -wë is -u, as in S. Elu the later form of Elwë. This -u is not an active name suffix in Sindarin, though, and survives only in a few ancient names like Elu.

Conceptual Development: In the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s this suffix was G. -weg and was used broadly in names such as G. Manweg (GL/56) as well as an agental suffix in words like G. finweg “craftsman” (GL/35). This early version seems to be the suffixal form of G. gweg “man” (GL/44). The suffix was often paired with its feminine equivalent G. -win such as G. gothweg “warrior” vs. G. gothwin “amazon” (GL/42), or G. faronweg vs. G. faronwin for a male and female “foreigner” (GL/34).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s this suffix became N. -we derived from primitive ᴹ✶-wega under the root ᴹ√WEG “(manly) vigour”, which in Noldorin was distinct in origin from ᴹQ. -we which was (mostly) based on an ancient abstract suffix ᴹ✶-wē (Ety/WEG). Pure Quenya names like Finwe retained their form when used in Noldorin, but there were also some native Noldorin names with this suffix such as N. Bronwe < ON. Bronwega.

Tolkien revisited this suffix in various notes from the late 1950s and gave it a similar origin, with the caveat that all of the “native” names from the stories had become adaptations from Quenya. As Tolkien described it in Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957:

In Sindarin adoption of Quenya names (as Voronwe > Bronweg) -we was sometimes used to represent -we, which historically had become w or u (as in Elu = Elwe). But this S -we is of distinct origin, √WEG-, live, be active. Hence *wego(n), living creature: Q weo, veo, S gwê. Cf. *weg-tē, activity, occupation (PE17/189).

In an earlier but rejected version of this note, Tolkien instead gave the root form as √WEK with Sindarin suffix -weg, perhaps a brief flirtation with restoring the Gnomish form of the suffix (PE17/190).

Speak, Friend!