Select Elvish Words 1.54-1.542: Star, Starlight

Select Elvish Words 1.54-1.542: Star, Starlight

1.54 Star

Q. †él n. “star”

An archaic or poetic word for star (WJ/362), somewhat common in compounds but in ordinary speech typically appearing as elen. It was derived directly from the primitive root √EL “behold”, the basis for other star words (PM/340; WJ/360).

Conceptual Development: This word first appeared as poetical ᴹQ. él “star” in The Etymologies of the 1930s, already with the derivation given above, though in this document the root ᴹ√EL meant “star” (Ety/EL), a common gloss for the root in later writings as well.

Q. elen n. “star”

The most common Quenya word for “star”, mentioned very frequently, derived from an extended form ✶elen of the root √EL “behold” (PE17/67; WJ/360, 362). Its usual plural form is eleni, but it has an archaic plural †eldi sometimes used in verse, the result of the Ancient Quenya sound whereby [ln] became [ld] after the ancient plural underwent the Quenya syncope, ✶elenī > AQ. elni; its normal modern plural form eleni was actually a reformation from the singular (PE17/57, 151; WJ/362).

Conceptual Development: This word first appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s, though in the original entry for the root ᴹ√EL Tolkien said it was poetical and gave variants ellen and elena (Ety/EL).

Q. elenya adj. “adjective referring to the stars, *of the stars, stellar”

An “adjective referring to the stars” mentioned in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60, hence “*of the stars” or “*stellar” (WJ/362), replacing the more ancient adjective form ✶elenā which after various sound changes became confused with Q. Elda “Elf” (WJ/360, 362). As a proper name, Q. Elenya happens to be the Elvish name for “Saturday”, more literally “*Star-day” (LotR/1110).

Q. elvëa adj. “starlike”

An adjective meaning “starlike” (MC/223), appearing in its plural form elvië in the version of the Q. Markirya poem from the 1960s, in the phrase Q. rámainen elvië “on wings like stars” (MC/222). It is apparently a combination of archaic Q. †él “star” with an adjectival variant of Q. ve “like”.

ᴱQ. letinwesse n. “constellation”

A word appearing as ᴱQ. letinwesse “constellation” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with initial element ᴱQ. le “with” (QL/52), along with ᴱQ. tinwe “star” and the abstract noun suffix ᴱQ. -sse².

Neo-Quenya: Since all these elements survived in later iterations of Quenya with basically the same meanings, I think ᴺQ. letinwessë can be used as-is in Neo-Quenya despite its age.

Q. meneldil n. “astronomer, (lit.) *lover of the heavens”

A term for “astronomer” appearing in a 1967 letter to Mr. Rang, a combination of the word Q. menel “the heavens” with the suffix -(n)dil “-lover”, so more literally “*lover of the heavens” (though specifically “love” as in “deep interest in”). It also appeared as the proper name Q. Meneldil, the third king of Gondor (LotR/1038).

Q. nillë [ñ] n. “silver glint; Valinorian imagines [images of real stars]”

A rather obscure term given as {ille >>} ñille for the “Valinorian imagines”, false stars made in imitation of the real ones created by Varda along with the dome over Valinor (Nur-menel) which protected that land from the spies of Melkor (PE17/22; MR/388). Whether this idea survived as part of the Legendarium is unclear, but this word also happens to be the closest equivalent to S. gil or gail, the usual Sindarin word for “star”, both derived from the root √(Ñ)GIL.

ᴹQ. tingilya n. “twinkling star”

A noun glossed “a twinkling star” in The Etymologies of the 1930s with variants tingilya and tingilinde, combining elements of the roots ᴹ√TIN and ᴹ√GIL, themselves both the basis for other star words (Ety/GIL, TIN; EtyAC/GIL).

Q. tinwë n. “spark, [apparent] star”

A word that technically means “spark”, but was often applied to stars as well (PE17/66, RGEO/61), derived from the root √TIN “spark(le)” (MR/388; PE17/22).

Conceptual Development: ᴱQ. tinwe was used for “star” all the way back in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, where it was also derived from the root ᴱ√TINI “twinkle” (QL/92). In The Etymologies of the 1930s it appeared as ᴹQ. tinwe “spark (star)” with the primitive form ᴹ✶tinmē under the root ᴹ√TIN “sparkle, emit slender (silver pale) beams” (Ety/TIN); the gloss was corrected from “sparkle (star)” to “spark (star)” by Carl Hostetter and Patrick Wynne in their Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies (EtyAC/TIN). The word and its derivation appeared numerous times in Tolkien’s later writings, making it exceptionally stable in his mind.

ᴱQ. titinwe n. “small star, sparkle of dew, *small sparkling thing”

A word appearing as ᴱQ. titinwe “small star, a sparkle of dew” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, derived from the early root ᴱ√TINI “twinkle” (QL/92). It seems to mean “*small sparkling thing”, and is a diminutive of ᴱQ. tinwe.

Neo-Quenya: I think this work can be salvaged as ᴺQ. titinwë based on the later word Q. tinwë, which still means both spark and star.

S. †êl n. “star”

A Sindarin word for “star” that is largely archaic and poetic, and is mainly used as element in names like Elrond (Let/281; WJ/363; Ety/EL); the more usual word for “star” in ordinary speech was gil (RGEO/65). However, the collective form elenath is still used in common speech to refer to the entire host of stars (WJ/363). The plural of êl is elin, as this word was derived from ancient ✶elen, and the final n that was lost in the singular was preserved in the plural. In some cases Tolkien posited a restored analogical singular elen from the plural form (PE17/24, 67, 139), but this isn’t in keeping with the notion that the word was archaic, so I would ignore this for purposes of Neo-Sindarin.

Conceptual Development: This word and its root first appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s, where N. el “star” was derived from the root ᴹ√EL of similar meaning, but was “only [used] in names” (Ety/EL). It seems Tolkien introduced the root to give a new etymology for names like N. Elrond and N. Elwing, which initially appeared under the root ᴹ√ƷEL “sky” (Ety/ƷEL).

S. gil [ñg-] n. “star; (bright) spark, silver glint, twinkle of light”

The usual word for “star” in Sindarin which replaced archaic/poetic êl; it originally meant “(bright) spark” (RGEO/65; VT42/11). It was derived from the root √(Ñ)GIL meaning “shine (white)” (PE17/152) or “silver glint” (MR/388; PE17/22).

Conceptual Development: This word first appeared as G. gail “a star” in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/42), derived from the early root ᴱ√Gil- (GL/38). In the Early Noldorin Grammar Tolkien said ᴱN. gail meant “sign, token, heavenly body” (PE13/123); earlier in this document he gave it the gloss {“life” >>} “sign” (PE13/120 and note #6). In Early Noldorin Word-lists written somewhat later, gail again simply meant “star” (PE13/143), and it was used this way in the Nebrachar poem from around 1930 (MC/217).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien gave it as N. geil “star” from primitive ᴹ✶gilya under the root ᴹ√GIL “shine (white or pale)” (Ety/GIL; EtyAC/GIL). Christopher Tolkien incorrectly marked geil as a plural form in The Etymologies as published in The Lost Road (LR/358), but Carl Hostetter and Patrick Wynne corrected this in their Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies (VT45/15). Remnants of this 1930s derivation can be seen in the forms geil/gail in notes from the 1950s, derived from ancient ✶gilyā “silver spark” (PE17/30, 152). Mostly, however, Tolkien represented this word as gil in later writings, including in The Lord of the Rings Appendix E (LotR/1113).

Possible Etymology: The etymology of gil is complicated by Tolkien’s vacillation with the singular form gail (†geil) < ✶gilyā, where the diphthong ai is the result of a-affection of the base vowel from i to e, which after i-intrusion produced ei and this diphthong became ai as usual in final syllables and monosyllables: gilyā [ >*geli(a)] > geil > gail. Signs of this etymology can be seen in the class plural giliath as in S. Dagor-nuin-Giliath “Battle-under-Stars” (S/106).

With this alternate derivation, the plural form would still be gîl, since the ancient plural -ī prevented a-affection, and the prefixal form likewise would have been gil- (PE17/152). However, this derivation conflicts with Tolkien’s usual presentation of the singular form as gil. In some places Tolkien gave a primitive form like ✶(ñ)gillē (PE17/23) or a Sindarin form gill (PE17/50), but I think it is best to assume primitive *gili- to explain singular gil and class-plural giliath.

N. gildin n. “silver spark”

A noun in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “silver spark”, a combination of the root ᴹ√GIL and ᴹ√TIN (Ety/TIN). Presumably this refers to stars, since both roots also have derivatives referring to stars.

S. tîn n. “spark, sparkle, twinkle of stars”

A word for “spark, sparkle, twinkle of stars” appearing as an element in S. ithildin “moon-star” (PE17/39, 66). Tolkien sometimes gave it the form tĭn (PE17/39) and sometimes tîn (PE17/66). It was derived from the root √TIN “sparkle, spark” (PE17/66). Primitive ✶tĭnĭ “spark” from Common Eldarin: Noun Structure of the early 1950s may be its ancient form (PE21/80).

In one place Tolkien gave the form tim “spark” as another name for (apparent) stars, but its final m is hard to explain (MR/388; PE17/22). In notes associated with The Shibboleth of Fëanor from 1968 Tolkien said “In the Northern dialect, however, in final position only, C.E. tw > dw, dw > ðw, thw > þw, nw became b, v, f, m” (VT41/8). Thus, tim may be the North Sindarin equivalent of Q. tinwë. However, in the document where it appeared, it was clearly marked “S” for Sindarin. This form could also be a remnant of Gnomish or Ilkorin tim (see below).

Conceptual Development: The earliest precursor of this word was G. tim “spark, gleam, (star)” in the Gnomish Lexicon of 1910s, derived from the early root ᴱ√tin- (GL/70), cognate to ᴱQ. tinwe (QL/92). In the Gnomish period, final [nw] became [m], as discussed by Roman Rausch in his Historical Phonology of Goldogrin (HGP/§2.7). This was not true later, since in The Etymologies of the 1930s, N. tinw “spark, small star” was the cognate for ᴹQ. tinwe and the form tim was Ilkorin, all of these under the root ᴹ√TIN “sparkle” (Ety/TIN). In his later writings, Tolkien had the forms tin, tîn and tim, as noted above. Thus while the root and basic meaning of this word were quite stable, its form went through a number of variations.

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I’d use the form tîn since short vowels generally lengthened in monosyllables. I think properly it has the meaning “spark(le)” but metaphorically can apply to stars. For the ordinary word for “star”, I’d use gil.

1.542 Starlight

ᴹQ. éle n. “star-ray, beam, flashing of [?starry] light”

A word in The Etymologies of the 1930s under the root ᴹ√EL “star” with an unclear gloss “flashing of [?starry] light” (Ety/EL). It also appeared in 1930s notes on Tengwar with the gloss “star-ray, beam” (PE22/23).

Q. silmë n. “starlight; [ᴹQ.] silver [light], ⚠️moonlight, light of Silpion”

A word for “starlight” and also the name of tengwa #29 [i] (LotR/1123), clearly derived from the root √SIL.

Conceptual Development: The earliest hint of this word was in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s where ᴱQ. silmea seems to be an adjective meaning “*lunar” (QL/56). ᴱQ. silme also seems to be an adjectival element “gleaming, silver” in ᴱQ. silmerána “gleaming moon, silver moon” from the Oilima Markirya poem and its drafts from around 1930 (MC/220; PE16/75). In The Etymologies of the 1930s ᴹQ. silme was derived from primitive ᴹ✶silimē “light of Silpion, †silver” under the root ᴹ√SIL “shine silver” (Ety/SIL) and thus seems to mean “moonlight”. Indeed, silme had the gloss “moonlight” in notes on The Feanorian Alphabet from the 1930s and 40s (PE22/22, 51), where it was already the name of tengwa #29. It became “starlight” in Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings, however (LotR/1123), and elsewhere “moonlight” was isilmë (MC/223).

N. gilith n. “starlight, *region of the stars”

A word in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “starlight” under the root ᴹ√GIL “shine (white or pale)” with variant forms Gilith and {?Gilwen >>} Gilfen (Ety/GIL; EtyAC/GIL). Elsewhere in The Etymologies, Tolkien compared gilith to N. gwilith “air as a region” and equated it to ᴹQ. Ilmen (Ety/WIL), so it seems Tolkien also intended it to mean “region of the stars”, though Gilfen is more likely as the direct cognate of ᴹQ. Ilmen.


Submitted by Atwe Tue, 01/04/2022 - 09:16

How did I miss letinwesse when I was looking for words for a constellation? And what's even better it provides an attested example of le- used as an equivalent of con-, which to date one has had to translate as ó-. It's a welcome variation.