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Tengwar Names

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All characters and symbols used with the Tengwar had unique names or designations. The letters themselves had names that contained the sound represented by each tengwa; whenever permitted in the structure of the language, the sound would always come first in the name. Since the assignment of sounds depended on which mode was used, there was a different set of names for each mode. But the Quenya “full names” were most often used when a particular name for each letter-shape, rather than its sound, was required. All diacritics and punctuation also had particular names, but only a few of the names for diacritics are known, and none for punctuation [AppE].

The Quenya Names

The Quenya names given in AppE were designated “full names” — presumably because they were full, actual Quenya words. Unless otherwise noted, the Quenya names given below are these “full names”.

The Etymologies provides additional names for some tengwar, while also giving names for characters not elsewhere named. In Etym the tengwar were omitted, but they were later published in ACE (Arden R. Smith provides an invaluable overview of the tengwar material in Appendix III of that work). As presented here, the spelling of the names and sound values are normalized to follow the orthography of The Lord of the Rings.

In the listing below, the sign < signifies “developed from”, that is, the pronunciation of the name changed because of sound-development within the language. The symbol << means “replacement for”, i.e. one name was replaced by another because of a conscious decision (often motivated by a change in the usage of the tengwa).

Numbered tengwar

These tengwar are all listed in The Tengwar Table. The numbers correspond to those used by Tolkien in that table.

The first four tengwar give their names to the four series of the tengwar table, the tincotéma, parmatéma, calmatéma, and quessetéma. In the Classical mode, they contain dentals, labials, velars, and labiovelars, respectively.

  1. tinco metal. Universally used for t.
  2. parma book. Universally used for p.
  3. calma lamp. Used for c/k in the Classical mode.
  4. quesse feather. Used for qu in the Classical mode.
  5. ando gate. Used for nd in the Classical mode.
  6. umbar fate. Used for mb in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name ampano building, associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for mp.
  7. anga iron. Used for ng in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name Ancale Sun, apparently associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for nc.
  8. ungwe spider’s web. Used for ngw in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name anquale (correction for unquale) agony, apparently associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for nqu.
  9. súle < thúle spirit. Usually represents th. In Quenya it could apparently represent s where this sound had developed from th (see the Classical mode). ACE gives the name silme silver light (but see silme).
  10. formen north. Universally used for f. ACE gives the name Finwe.
  11. aha rage << harma treasure. Used for h in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name híse mist.
  12. hwesta breeze. Used for hw in the Classical mode.
  13. anto mouth. Used for nt in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name asto dust, associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for st.
  14. ampa hook. Used for mp in the Classical mode.
  15. anca jaws. Used for nc in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name ohta war, associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for ht.
  16. unque a hollow. Used for nqu in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name usque reek, associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for squ.
  17. númen west. Used for n in the Classical mode.
  18. malta gold. Used for m in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name umbar fate, apparently associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for mb.
  19. noldo < ñoldo deep-elf. Originally used for initial ñ /ŋ/ in the Classical mode. The sound later merged with n. ACE gives the name anga iron, apparently associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for ng.
  20. nwalme < ñwalme torment. Originally used for initial ñw w/ in the Classical mode. The sound later developed into nw. ACE gives the name ungwe gloom, apparently associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for ngw (but see ungwe above).
  21. óre heart (inner mind). Judging by its name, apparently used for weak medial r, but see the Classical mode. ACE gives the name númen west, apparently associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for n.
  22. vala angelic power. Used for v in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name Manwe, apparently associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for m.
  23. anna gift. Usually represents an absent consonant; see the Classical mode. ACE gives the name ñolwe wisdom, apparently associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for ñ /ŋ/.
  24. vilya < wilya sky. Probably used for v < w, but may also represent medial w; see the Classical mode. ACE gives the name winge foam (which would develop into vinge).
  25. rómen east. Used for r in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name Rana Moon.
  26. arda region. Used for rd in the Classical mode.
  27. lambe tongue. Used for l in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name lamba tongue.
  28. alda tree. Used for ld in the Classical mode.
  29. silme light. Used for s in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name Silpion.
  30. silme nuquerna silme reversed. Used for s in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name róma horn, apparently associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for r (and is regarded as a variant of Rana).
  31. esse name << áre < áze sunlight. Used originally for z in the Classical mode. The sound later merged with r, and the tengwa was then reapplied to ss and given a new name.
  32. *esse nuquerna esse reversed << áre nuquerna < *áze nuquerna áre/áze reversed. Only the name áre nuquerna is actually given, but we may assume that the name of the tengwa followed the same development as that of its non-reversed counterpart. Áre nuquerna occurs in two slightly different forms, both shown here.
  33. hyarmen south. Used for hy, and later h, in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name hyalma shell.
  34. hwesta sindarinwa grey-elven hwesta. Apparently intended to represent the grey-elven pronunciation of hw (see the Mode of Beleriand). ACE gives the name hwinde eddy.
  35. yanta bridge. Used for consonantal i in the Classical mode. ACE gives the name yatta isthmus.
  36. úre heat. Used for consonantal u in the Classical mode.

Unnumbered tengwar

The following tengwar are not included in the The Tengwar Table.

halla tall. Originally used for breath h in the Classical mode. In the Mode of Beleriand it represented a hiatus caused by a lenited g, and was in this function called gasdil stopgap [ACE, Appendix III].

vaia < waia envelope. Presumably used for v < w. Cf. vilya. This tengwa is found in ACE, and so far nowhere else.

The tyelpetéma

Quenya also made use of a palatal series, the so-called tyelpetéma. As described in AppE, “the palatals were represented by a Fëanorian diacritic denoting ‘following y’ (usually two underposed dots)”. Edouard Kloczko has published a list of names for this series, which he received in correspondence with Christopher Tolkien (henceforth CCT). These tengwar are based on the tincotéma. Usually they have the diacritic positioned above each tengwa rather than below it, except when the tengwa has a raised stem. However, in his letter Christopher notes that the names are given in a number of different formulations, and concludes that he cannot determine which were finally decided upon.

A few other tengwar, all with names containing y and all featuring the two-dot diacritic, are published in ACE. It can be noted that all these have the two dots superimposed. Very likely many of the characters from both CCT and ACE are incompatible with Tolkien’s ideas when The Lord of the Rings was published (nor are the sources likely to be compatible with each other).

In CCTIn ACE
tyelpe silver. Used for ty. Both ACE and CCT agree on this name, and it also occurs as the naming tengwa of the palatal series (tyelpetéma) in AppE.
indyo grandson. Used for ndy (but see nyelle below).
istyar wizard, lore-master. Used for sty (but see intya below).
intya guess, notion. Used for nty. istyar scholar, learned man. Apparently used for sty.
ehtyar spearman. Used for hty. Note that this character, unlike all others in the series, is based on a tengwa of the velar calmatéma rather than the dental tincotéma.
nyelle bell. Used for ny [CCT] (but see arya below). ACE gives the name indyo grandchild, descendant, apparently associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for ndy (but see indyo above).
arya day. According to CCT, arya may have the shape of either óre or rómen with a palatal diacritic. This is the only case where one source gives the same name to two distinct letter-forms. ACE gives the name nyelle bell for the letter based on óre, apparently associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for ny (but see nyelle above).
alya rich. Used for ly.

Carriers and vocalic tengwar

ACE also provides names for a few characters that represent vowels in some Tengwar modes. In other modes, some of these serve as carriers of ómatehtar.

telco leg. This tengwa is made up of just one stem, or telco. It was used as carrier for short vowels in the Classical mode (and many others). But since the diacritic for the vowel a could in Quenya be omitted, it follows that the carrier may in itself represent a. This is probably why the tengwa was also called Anar sun. Equipped with an acute accent it was called Elwe, when used for e. Equipped with a superimposed dot it was called Ingwe, when used for i.

ára dawn. The long counterpart of telco, this tengwa was used as carrier for long vowels in the Classical mode. Since the diacritic for a could be omitted, the carrier may in itself represent á. Equipped with a superimposed dot it was called íre desire, when used for í.

osse terror. The name is associated with a mode where the tengwa stands for o. In the Mode of Beleriand, the tengwa is used for a.

The Westron Names

The names used in Westron are given in the Numenian mode chart as reported by Jim Allan. Allan and R. Stencel disagree on the reading of one character: where Stencel reads oha, Allan has aha.

These names were probably specific to the Westron mode as used in Gondor, since the so-called “northern variety” used somewhat different sound-values.

Names of the Tehtar

Only a few tehta designations are known. The tehtar are often named after their shape rather than their pronunciation. [ACE]

tecco stroke. Often used for e or i. When this tehta was used in “full writing” to mark a vowel tengwa as long, it was referred to as andatehta long-mark. The Sindarin translation andaith probably became widely known as a result of its usage in the Mode of Beleriand; the Quenya form andatehta might have been most closely associated with the Quenya full mode.

tixe dot. Often used for i or e. When placed above a tengwa, it was called amatixe over-dot, and when placed below, it was known as unutixe under-dot (sic! nuntikse in Etym is an editorial error). When used as an indicator that the tengwa was not followed by any vowel (see the Classical Mode), the underposed dot was called putta or pusta.

sa-rince *s-flourish. Used for following s in many Tengwar modes, and commonly known as s-curl or s-hook. In Noldorin (and Sindarin?) it was called gammas *(s-)hook.

thinnas shortness. Apparently used to indicate that a vowel is short, though no samples of usage have been published. Since the name is not Quenya, the tehta was probably invented for the Mode of Beleriand or another Grey-elven mode.