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Select Elvish Words 4.75: Death (Sindarin)

4.75 to Die; Dead; Death

S. fern n. and adj. “dead person; [N.] dead (of mortals)”
An adjective in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “dead (of mortals)” under the root ᴹ√PHIR “die of natural causes”, used as a plural noun in the name Dor Firn i Guinar “Land of the Dead that Live” (Ety/PHIR). The continued appearance of the name Dor Firn-i-Guinar in later versions of The Silmarillion (S/188) indicates its ongoing validity.
S. fir- v. “to fade, *die”
A verb for “to fade” implied by the noun firith “fading”, a period of the year in late autumn (LotR/1107). It also appears to mean “die” given related words fíreb “mortal” (WJ/387) and firin or firen “mortal, dying” (PE17/101). Its ancient root √PHIR had nothing to do with death, so these meanings were probably borrowed from Quenya; see Q. fir- “to die” and Q. fírië “death” for discussion. As such, the Sindarin verb fir- probably applied only to the natural death of mortals, also used metaphorically when applied to inanimate things to mean “fade”. The pre-Quenya verb for “to die” seems to be [N.] gwanna- “to die, (lit.) depart”; see that entry for discussion.
S. fíreb adj. “mortal”
An adjective meaning “mortal”, more literally “those apt to die”, a Sindarin adaptation of Q. fírima of the same meaning, both based on the root √PHIR having to do with natural death (WJ/387). It was also used as Fíreb to refer to Mortal Men, a variant of Feir of similar meaning. Tolkien said “Fíreb as compared with Fírima shows the use of a different suffix, since the S equivalent of Q -ima (*-ef) was not current” (WJ/387).
S. firin adj. “dying, ⚠️mortal; [N.] human”
An adjective glossed “mortal, dying” with variant forms firin or firen appearing as an element in alfirin “immortal” (PE17/101).

Conceptual Development: The adjective [N.] firen had the gloss “human” in The Etymologies of the 1930s under the root ᴹ√PHIR (Ety/PHIR).

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin I would use this adjective largely for “one in the process dying”, and for “mortal” I’d use fíreb.

⚠️ᴱN. gurdh- v. “to die”
A verb for “die” in Early Noldorin Grammar of the 1920s with present form gwardh indicating vowel gradation (PE13/132), so that it was likely based on the early root ᴱ√GWṚÐṚ (QL/104) with a/u variations due to the different developments of long syllabic vs short .

Conceptual Development: The verb G. gor-“die” appeared in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s related to gurthu “death” (GL/41, 43), thus also based on the early root ᴱ√GWṚÐṚ (QL/104).

Neo-Sindarin: S. gurth “death” survived in Tolkien’s later writings, so in theory the Gnomish verb gor- could be salvaged as a derivative of the later root √ÑGUR “die”. However, gor- already serves various functions in Sindarin, so I’d stick with the later verbs fir- and [N.] gwanna- for “to die”.

S. gurth [ng-] n. “death”
The usual Sindarin word for “death”, derived from the root √ÑGUR of similar meaning (UT/39; Ety/ÑGUR).

Conceptual Development: This word dates all the way back to the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/43), anchored by well established names like Gurthang or Gurtholf(in), the name of Túrin’s sword. Tolkien experimented with various alternate forms over the years, such as G. urthu (GG/14), G. gurthu (GL/43), ᴱN. gurdh (PE13/146) and N. guruth (Ety/ÑGUR), but kept coming back to gurth as the basic form.

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I would use this word for death in general and especially violent death, as opposed to the more euphemistic [N.] gwanath or gwanu “death”, more literally “departure”.

S. guru [ng-] n. “death”
A Sindarin word for “death” derived from primitive ✶ñgurū (PE17/87), unusual in that its primitive ancient vowel u did not vanish. In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien had variant forms [N.] gûr and gurw “death” marked with a “?”, both derived from Old Noldorin nguru and indicating some uncertainty on the exact phonetic developments (EtyAC/ÑGUR). Elsewhere in The Etymologies Tolkien said that [N.] guru was “Death as state or abstract”, as opposed to [N.] gwanw or gwanath for the “act of dying” (Ety/GWAN).

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I would assume guru was for death as an abstraction or principle, and for the death of individuals I would use either gurth or gwanu/gwanath; see those entries for discussion.

S. guruthos [ng-] n. “dread of death, death-horror, shadow of death, [N.] fear of death”
A word for the fear of death in the phrase le nallon sí di’nguruthos, translated “here overwhelmed in dread of Death I cry” or more literally “to thee I cry here beneath-death-horror” in The Road Goes Ever On published in 1967 (RGEO/64), also translated as “to thee I cry now in the shadow of (the fear of) death” in a 1958 letter to Rhona Beare (Let/278). In notes from the late 1950s or early 1960s, Tolkien identified the elements as guru “death” and thoss “fear” (PE17/87), based on the roots √ÑGUR and √THOS (PE17/95).

Conceptual Development: The form N. {gurthos >>} guruthos “fear of death” appeared in the margin of The Etymologies next to the entry for the root ᴹ√GOS “dread” where the word’s final element was probably N. gost “dread, terror” (EtyAC/GOS). As such, its initial element when the word was first introduced was probably N. guruth “death” (Ety/ÑGUR).

N. gwanath n. “death (act of dying)”
There were a couple of words for “death” under the root ᴹ√WAN “depart” in The Etymologies of the 1930s, with forms N. gwanath and gwanw, the latter from primitive ᴹ√wanwē (Ety/WAN). Tolkien specified that these words referred to the “act of dying”, as opposed to guru which was “Death as a state or abstract”. These death-words from ᴹ√WAN may originally have been euphemistic, or perhaps they refer to the departure of Elvish spirits to Valinor.

Neo-Sindarin: Most Neo-Sindarin writers adapted N. gwanw as ᴺS. gwanu to better fit Sindarin spelling conventions, as suggested in Hiswelókë’s Sindarin Dictionary (HSD). I would use the words gwanath and gwanu only for the death of individuals, and mainly for deaths that are natural or peaceful. For violent deaths I would use gurth instead, and for the process of death or Death as an abstraction I would use guru as noted above.

N. gwann adj. “dead, (lit.) departed”
An adjective in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “departed, dead” derived from primitive ᴹ✶wannā under the root ᴹ√WAN “depart” (Ety/WAN).

Conceptual Development: Tolkien used a number of similar words for “dead” in his earlier writings. In the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s Tolkien had G. gwarth “dead (only of persons)” from primitive ᴱ✶gwṝþa (GL/44), and in Early Noldorin Word-lists he had ᴱN. {gwarth >>} gwardh “dead”, probably of similar derivation (PE13/146). In The Etymologies itself Tolkien also had N. goren “dead (of elves)” under the root ᴹ√ÑGUR, but this word was deleted (EtyAC/ÑGUR).

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I would use the word gwann primarily in the sense “dead”, and for “departed” would use the related word gwanwen (WJ/378).

N. gwanna- v. “to die, depart”
A verb in The Etymologies of the 1930s appearing in its (Noldorin) infinitive form gwanno with the gloss “depart, die” and derived from primitive ᴹ✶wanta- under the root ᴹ√WAN “depart” (Ety/WAN). Its origin could be euphemistic or could refer to the departure of Elvish spirits to Valinor.

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin I was use this as the normal verb for “to die” among Elves, and limit S. fir- to the death of mortals.

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