Tolkien Names: Naming Your Children in Elvish

Fiona, aka ‘dreamingfifi,’ the creator of the fantastic Tolkien-based website Merin Essi ar Quenteli, leads us through the complex, magical world of Tolkien-inspired names and beyond, offering some savvy caveats and lists of Elven names that could appeal even to non-fantasy fiction fans.

I’m a linguist and the owner of Merin Essi ar Quenteli!,* a website devoted to providing translations in Tolkien’s languages for Lord of the Rings RPGs (Role Play Games) and fanfiction. Most of the time, I deal with requests for characters’ names, so I find myself dealing with some interesting problems when being asked to make names for real world, our world, children.

When I make a name for a character, there is no uncertainty. I already know that the Noldorin Son of an Exile will grow up to lead a battalion of warriors in a brave clash with Morgoth’s troops, and win the love of a fair Doriathrin maiden. I know that his favorite color with be the greenish brown found on fish-scales, because he loves to fish. I know that I will have to give the names in both the Exilic dialect of Quenya and in the Exilic dialect of Sindarin; one version to use with his Exiled parents, the other to use with his Sindarin neighbors.

When naming children… I know the child’s parents are fans of The Lord for the Rings, that the child’s parents think that Elven languages are pretty, and just about nothing (beyond gender) about the child. I have to take into account a completely different set of cultural and phonetic rules, that don’t match and often contradict the Elven rules. Here is a little guide for dealing with these problems, and a list of Elven names (using Tolkien’s languages), for we nerds out there. This guide could also be applied to naming children in any fantasy/sci-fi language out there.

First, three questions you need to ask yourself:

Will you and your spouse still be a fan of that series in 20 years? If you’ve already been a fan for ten years, you probably still will be by the time your kid’s heading off to college. But otherwise, hold off on giving your child a fan-name.

Are you prepared to deal with explaining to all those people who don’t “get it” what your child’s name means? Even with famous, popular series, like The Lord of the Rings, most people won’t be able to recall anything but vague details. Most people (and by most, I mean “the vast majority”) will not care that your child’s name means “the musical rustling of leaves” in the Woodland dialect of early 3rd age Sindarin, and will start thinking, “poor kid” as soon as they hear the words, “I named him/her in Elvish.”

Are you sure your child will want to have anything to do with your obsessions? Think about it. You aren’t the one who will have to live with this name attached to you for the rest of your life. Your child is. Your child might be one of those majority that doesn’t “get it”.

Not scared away from fantasy names yet? Good! That wasn’t my intention. Let’s move on. There’s a few do/don’t to get out of the way.

Do consult several linguists studying the conlang (constructed language) before ransacking a dictionary. On your own, you could come up with something that sounds cool, but is meaningless garble. You are trying to pay homage to the fandom, so do it right. There are plenty of linguists that are willing, able, and eager to help you out.

Do make certain that the name is pronounceable with little to no practice. Most people aren’t going to have a language coach helping them sound out the name correctly. Choose names that are two-three syllables long, and that don’t have any sounds that English (or your native tongue) doesn’t have. Also, look as the way the name is spelled. How would someone, making assumptions about the pronunciation based on the spelling systems of your language, say the name, and is that acceptable?

Don’t use the name of a famous character. I mean it. Don’t. As a nerd, you probably already know that children can be terribly cruel. Don’t make your kid hate you because you named him/her Frodo or Arwen. If you’re choosing a character’s name, go obscure, like Gildor, Lúthien, Beren, or Ioreth.

In the end, I think that the most tasteful way to give your child a fantasy-name is to choose one that sounds like it could be a normal name that fits into your language and culture, but is your private reference that only the ones who “get it” will notice. With that in mind, I put together a small list of such names from Tolkien’s mythology that would fit in amongst English names. If you would like to find some more, feel free to browse my website. Enjoy!

One small note: You’ll notice that the genders of the names are often different for Elvish versus English. That’s because English has very different phonetic rules about what “sounds masculine” and what “sounds feminine”, mostly regarding “A” at the end making feminine names in our language and being genderless in Elven languages.

Female

  • Alma – Good Fortune/Wealth/Flower (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Anna – Gift (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Áriel – Dawn Daughter (Quenya: Female, English: Female)
  • CalenGreen One (Sindarin: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Candis – Bold Bride (Sindarin: Female, English: Female)
  • Cellin – Flowing Music (Sindarin: Genderless, English: Female)
  • ElenStar (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • EstelHope, also Aragorn’s childhood name (Quenya and Sindarin: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Haleth – Tall/Hidden/Exalted One, also the name of the first queen of the Drúedain (Sindarin: Female, English: Female)
  • Helin – Violet/Pansy (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Lia – Thread (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Linda – Beautiful Sounding One (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Malina – Yellow/Golden One (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Mariel – Daughter of the Homeland (Quenya: Female, English: Female)
  • Melisse – Lover (Quenya: Female, English: Female)
  • Meren – Festive/Joyous One (Sindarin: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Merilin – Nightengale (Sindarin: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Míriel – Treasure Daughter, also the name of Fëanor’s Mother (Quenya: Female, English: Female)
  • Nessa – Youthful One, also the name of the Valie (goddess) of joy (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • PiaLittle One (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Rína – Crowned One (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Ronda – Solid/Firm One (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Tára – High/Lofty/Tall/Wise One (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Vanesse – Beauty (Quenya: Female, English: Female)
  • Varanda – Sublime One (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)
  • Wista/Vista – Air (Quenya: Genderless, English: Female)

 Male

*Editor’s note: This means ‘I desire names and phrases’ in Quenya)

Fiona describes herself as “a starving college student at the University of Montana, majoring in Linguistics, Teaching English as a Second Language, and minoring in Japanese.” She has been a Tolkien fan since 1999, and making Elven names since 2002.  You can find many, many more choices at her site.

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22 Responses to “Tolkien Names: Naming Your Children in Elvish”

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Nephele Says:

August 29th, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Great blog, Fiona! You’ve selected an equally great collection of Elvish names, too! I especially like the Elvish names that are similar to some familiar baby names — but with prettier meanings to them. Your website is a treasure trove of undiscovered baby name gems!

Andrea Says:

August 30th, 2010 at 1:33 am

Arwen and Eowyn are both in use. There were 81 girls named Arwen last year and several more called Arwyn. Eowyn and Aowyn also was given to several dozen little girls. People have always named kids after characters from books and at least those are fairly pretty names after admirable characters. I interviewed a Montessori teacher last month whose 4-year-old is named Arwen after a family friend who had been given the name because of the books. It’s been in use for decades since the friend is an adult.

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August 30th, 2010 at 6:24 am

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Nephele Says:

August 30th, 2010 at 7:03 am

The enduring quality of some of these names probably has much to do with their similarity to actual Welsh names (Welsh being one of the languages on which Tolkien based his Elvish languages).

“Arwen,” in fact, is an actual Welsh name (as well as an Elvish name). It’s the feminine equivalent of “Arwyn,” in Welsh meaning “fair; fine” (literally, “covered in white” or “smile”). In Welsh, feminine names end in “-wen” and masculine names end in “-wyn”.

On the other hand, “Eowyn” is a feminine name derived from Old English and meaning “horse joy.”

Fiona is the linguistics major, though, so she may be able to explain it better.

Noelle Says:

August 30th, 2010 at 7:56 am

If I had a daughter, and plenty of guts, I would call my daughter Loriën Luthien Arwen, nm Lola. But I don’t have the guts so I would problably stick to Elanor.

http://www.legitbabenames.wordpress.com Says:

August 30th, 2010 at 9:22 am

This was a great entry. I know a Miriel (who was named for a character in one of the Tolkien books) and a baby Luthien. I think all these names are quite usable, a none of the people I know with “Tolkien” names seem to have problems. From this list I love:

•Estel
•Helin
•Malina
•Melisse-I know a Melisse, not sure if she was named for Lord of the Rings or not
•Merilin
•Míriel
•Vanesse
•Wista

•Athëo
•Dorion
•Gîl
•Lëo
•Mélo
•Miro –
•Órion
•Poldo
•Romon
•Russo
•Thurin

pippa Says:

August 30th, 2010 at 9:50 am

You forgot Peregrin! We are actually far from being Tolkien fans but this name happens to be a family name on my husbands side and is at the top of our list for a boy. We didn’t know about the Tolkien connection until someone mentioned to us that Pippin Took’s full name is actually Peregrin.

pippa Says:

August 30th, 2010 at 9:52 am

Ooops! I see you have limited this post to elves only. Shows how much I know! 😉

Linelei Says:

August 30th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Love this blog! I’m a big Tolkien fan, and got pretty nerdy about it all when I was 12/13. In fact, the name I use on this and many other sites, Linelei, is Elvish. I’m not an expert, and it was a long time ago, and I’m sure it wasn’t as high a quality site as yours, Fiona, but I made it up from a (I think) Sindarin dictionary, and it meant (it was a long time ago, so again, I think) “song from a dream”.

But I love it so much that I’ve used it for practically everything ever since. I’ve even considered using Sindarin or Quenyan names for future children, so your site is definitely getting a bookmark!

spotlightstarlit Says:

August 30th, 2010 at 1:53 pm

This is incredible Fiona! I love it!

Callon has to be my favorite and I think it works well with many rising choices.

Blessings,

Bella <3

Jennie Says:

August 30th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I’m not the biggest LOTR fan, but I do think that Elvish is a beautiful language, and I’m so glad Tolkien took the time to invent the whole language, rather than just bits and pieces for the books. Beautiful names!

P.S. We grammar nerds must point out that your sentence should read “for us nerds out there” since it is the object of a preposition phrase. 🙂

Jennie Says:

August 30th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

*prepositional phrase. Grrr… even grammar nerds make mistakes!

literaturegeek Says:

August 30th, 2010 at 9:48 pm

I love this topic. As some namers out there know I have given each of my children their middle names from what ever book we were reading at the time we find out I am pregnant. LOTR happens to have been the last book. We seriously looked at peregrin/pippin but decided that it might be too femme. We ended up choosing Rohan instead and are very happy with our choice. Keep up the good work Fiona

Dove14 Says:

August 31st, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Wonderful! Thanks for this! Your website is definitely getting bookmarked!

P.S. literaturegeek — What a wonderful idea! I’d love to know what your other children’s middle names are!

Hannah Says:

September 15th, 2010 at 7:47 pm

I know a girl names Eowyn, and nobody teases her. I am going to named my daughter Rebecca Arwen. Elvish names are soo cute!

Arwen Says:

September 16th, 2010 at 11:22 am

My name is Arwen (hi, Arwen), but I escaped most ribbing in school, aside from it rhyming with Darwin. Ooh, take that evolutionists! But I pre-date the movies by 20-some-odd years. I finally met another Arwen last year; she was 3 and had a classmate named Arwen, too.

The only drawbacks I faced was never finding my name on those cool cereal box license plates or gift-shop mugs, and never being able to use my first name as a login name _anywhere_. Ever. Otherwise, almost no one catches my name as being sourced. They just think it’s a pretty combination of syllables.

Awesome that you’re really delving into the languages! I can only add to keep the name simple. “Arwen” is easy to go by (in the States) because it isn’t a million syllables and has no circumflex, accent, fada, umlaut, etc… Nothing wrong with marks, but using them for the sake of looking cool is less than ideal for the kiddo.

Lauren Says:

September 23rd, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Are there any LoTR names that start with K? It’s one of my favorite letters.

Charity Says:

October 7th, 2010 at 9:29 pm

If you’re a LOTR fan and really like the elvish names, try looking in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. If you want the names but don’t want the whole history of Middle Earth, just look at the index in the back of the book. My favorites from Middle Earth are:

Arwen
Belmarie- extremely obscure, found in one of the poems
Elanor- name of a flower, Sam Gamgee’s 1st daughter
Elenna- name for the island of Numenor, means “starward”
Galadriel
Kementari- “queen of earth”, sounds sci-fi and tribal at the same time
Laurelin- the golden tree of Valinor
Lorien- best known as the forest of Celeborn and Galadriel
Melian- ancient immortal Middle Earth queen
Nienna- a queen of the Valar (they’re sort of like ME’s demigods or angels)

For boys I like:
Faramir
Manwe- greatest Valar, like ME version of the archangel Michael
Namo- Valar in charge of the underworld
Ranger- not really a name, but more usable than Aragorn
Rohan- the horse kingdom
Sam
Ulmo- ME version of Neptune, Lord of the Sea

The “Encyclopedia of Arda” online also has a ton of names and other info.

Elenath Says:

October 8th, 2010 at 9:46 am

Actually… I think this site might be better. It has more info on the characters and the names.

http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Main_Page

megamoolah Says:

October 15th, 2010 at 4:22 am

Awesome! Somebody wastalking about this on our public tv station last night. I still had my Tivo running from the previous show, so I recorded it – I’ll try to put it up on good ole youtube.com and post a linkon your bloggy blogg!

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Ravin Says:

May 5th, 2016 at 6:56 pm

We named both our children after Tolkien characters–both names we chose were less common ones: Lúthien and Elessar. We also gave them more ordinary middle names in case they decide their parents were insufferable geeks and want to go by something else. We (and especially my husband) were Tolkien fans LONG before the movies were ever released.

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