Elvish and other
foreign words in The Hobbit

(with some suggestions concerning their possible meanings at the time of writing)

by Ninni M. Pettersson


To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit the Mellonath Daeron held a meeting where we discussed the Elvish and other foreign words that occur in that book. The list of words below, and the suggestions made as to their possible meanings, is thus the result of the efforts of the whole guild. I have only compiled it.

The most important text in trying to understand the Elvish words of this period is of course 'The Etymologies' written in the later part of the 1930s and published in The Lost Road and Other Writings, and this has been used extensively when producing the list below.

Note that we have excluded the names of Gandalf and the dwarves. These are known to have Old Norse inspiration and have been extensively discussed elsewhere. TolkLang have discussed them at several occasions over the years for example.

Elvish and other foreign words in The Hobbit

Azog (Added to chapter 1 in the 1966 edition.)
Probably Orkish.

Bladorthin (Chapter 12)
Could perhaps be Noldorin? For bla(d) cf. Bladorwen, the Gnomish name for Palúrien in the Gnomish Lexicon (written c. 1915-18) said to mean "the wide earth, the world and its plants and fruits, Mother Earth", and Bladorion the name during the 1930s for the great northern plain later called Ard-galen (no direct translation of this name is known). A connection with orthin, Doriathrin plural of orth (see the root ÓROT- "height, mountain" in Etym) is perhaps too far-fetched, but not impossible.

Bolg (Chapter 17)
Could possibly be of Germanic origin and thus related to the hobbit surname Bolger, but there could also exist some connection with the Orc-captain Boldog 'Torment-slayer' in 'The Lay of Leithian' written 1925-31. (See the roots NGWAL- and NDAK- in the Etym.)

Carc (Chapter 15)
Possibly from a language specific to the ravens of the Lonely Mountain.

Carrock (Chapter 12)
This is probably from Old Welsh carrecc 'rock'.

cram (Chapter 13)
Noldorin. "cake of compressed flour or meal . . . used on long journeys" (See the root KRAB- "press" in Etym.)

Dorwinion (Chapter 9)
The strong wine of Dor-Winion is mentioned in 'The Lay of the Children of Húrin' written 1920-25. In the last paragraph of the 'Quenta Silmarillion' written in the later part of the 1930s a reference is made to "the undying flowers in the meads of Dorwinion". Nowhere is any translation given, or any indication of exactly what language it is presumed to be. Possibly relevant roots in Etym. are NDOR- "dwell, stay, rest, abide", and GWEN- "greenness, youth, freshness", with the ending -ion found in many names of geographic regions, e.g. Eregion and Dorthonion.

Elrond (Chapter 2)
Ilkorin. "Elrond = starry-dome, sky" (See the root EL- "star" in Etym.) "Ilkorin rond domed roof, hence Elrond (vault of heaven)" (See the root ROD- "cave" in Etym.)

Esgaroth (Chapter 12)
Ilkorin. "Ilk. esgar reed-bed. Cf. Esgaroth Reed-lake because of reed-banks in west." (See the root ESEK- in Etym.)

Galion (Chapter 9)
Could perhaps be Noldorin. Possibly relevant root in Etym. are GALA- "thrive, prosper, be in health", or GAL- "shine". The element -ion is perhaps Noldorin "son" (see the root YO, YON- "son" in Etym.), but it could also be a general masculine suffix, cf. morion "the dark one" mentioned in Fíriel's song in 'The Lost Road' written c. 1936.

Girion (Chapter 12)
Could perhaps be Noldorin. Cf. the root GIR- "quiver, shudder" in Etym. which gives Noldorin giri. For -ion see Galion.

Glamdring (Chapter 2)
Noldorin. See the roots GLAM- "shouting, confused noise" and DRING- "beat, strike" in the Etym.

Golfimbul (Chapter 1)
Unknown language, but probably suggested by Old Norse göll 'din' (cf. Noldorin glamm 'shouting', glam- 'orc-' under the root GLAM- in the Etym.) and fimbul-, the first element of a few compounds, meaning 'extreme, excessive, powerful' and related to Old English fífel 'giant, monster' (cf. fimbulvetr 'the great winter' in 'Vafþrudnismál' in The Elder Edda).

Gondolin (Chapter 2)
Noldorin. "Gondolind, -inn, -in heart of hidden rock" (See the root DUL- "hide, conceal" in Etym.)

Gram (Chapter 1)
Possibly an Old English word with the meaning "angry, hostile".

Gundabad (Chapter 17)
Unknown language, but could perhaps be of Germanic origin, cf. the Burgundian king Gundobad. (According to the much later text 'Of Dwarves and Men' written c. 1969 this is originally a Khuzdul name.)

mithril (Added to chapter 13 in the 1966 edition.)
In Etym. the root MITH- means "white fog, wet mist" with a late addition of mith "grey". Relevant is also the root RIL- "glitter".

Moria (Chapter 1)
Noldorin. "Moria = Black Gulf" (See root YAG- "yawn, gape" in Etym.)

Orc (Chapter 7 and added to chapter 5 in the 1951 edition.)
From Old English, cf. orcnéas 'demon-corpses' in Beowulf.

Orcrist (Chapter 2)
Noldorin. Under the root KIRIS- "cut" in Etym. is found the Noldorin word crist "a cleaver, a sword". See also the roots ÓROK- "goblin" and RIS-1 "slash, rip".

Radagast (Chapter 7)
A much debated name! It could be of Slavic origin, it could be of Germanic origin, plausible arguments have been advanced on TolkLang for both alternatives. (A very late note on the Istari (see Unfinished Tales) says that it is a name of uncertain meaning derived from the language of the Men of the Vales of Anduin.)

Roäc (Chapter 15)
Possibly from a language specific to the ravens of the Lonely Mountain.

Ya hoy! Ya-harri-hey! (Chapter 6)
Possibly anglicised Orkish. Cf. the shouts Ya hoi! Ya harri hoi! given by the orcs in the chapter 'The Choices of Master Samwise' in The Two Towers.