A brief history of 'and' in Elvish

Abbreviations used:

LOTR: The Lord of the Rings
LB: The Lays of Beleriand
LR: The Lost Road
SD: Sauron Defeated
PE: Parma Eldalamberon
VT: Vinyar Tengwar
GL: The Gnomish Lexicon (PE11)
QL: The Qenya Lexicon (PE12)


One would hardly expect the conjunction 'and' to be a complex issue in the creation of an artificial language. And yet, already in the earliest instances of Tolkien's creation of the Elvish languages, two themes become readily apparent: There should not just be one word for 'and', but dependent on context there should be at distinction between (at least) two; and each of the expressions for 'and' is not just a word, but via its etymology connected to other prepositions. Even 'and' has a history in the Elvish languages. When following the appearance of words for 'and' through the subsequent conceptual phases of Elvish, a third theme emerges: The most common word for 'and', ar, was already born in its 'right shape' - Tolkien was content with its sound - but its derivation posed problems with shifts and changes in the meaning of roots and in the overall system of the Elvish phonology. Thus, we get to observe various different derivations of the same word throughout the different phases of Elvish. While maybe not spectactular in itself, the development of 'and' in Elvish serves as an instructive example of the attention Tolkien paid to seemingly small details.

Goldogrin and Early Qenya

The Gnomish Lexicon (PE11) already knows two different words for 'and' - ar and li. They are explained in the lexicon as follows:

ar(2) and, too. chiefly between sentences, between nouns le being used, and between adjs. very frequently no copula [sic - Tolkien probably means 'no conjunction' here] (PE11,20)

li (le, archaic) (1) with (of accompaniment only) used between nouns = and. This is the usual way of translating 'and' in such phrases, but not before the article (=Q: ) as gontha li dessa 'boy and girl' (PE11:54)

What these rather dense notes seem to imply is the following: There are two words which translate the English 'and', ar and li. When two nouns are joined as 'A and B' such that a meaning of 'A together with B' is implied, li is the conjunction to be chosen. However, this is not done if the nouns have a definite article (presumably because the article is usually i which would lead to li i which is phonologically an uncouth combination). One the other hand, if two sentences are joined in the sense that 'A happened and B happened too' then ar is used. Tolkien indicates here that lists of adjectives would not require a conjunction, but despite the smallness of the Goldogrin corpus, we have examples to indicate that if a conjunction is used between adjectives, it would be ar:

talwi i'loss ar gwandra nan·Idril 'the beautiful white feet of Idril' (PE11:15)
talin i'lossi ar gwandron nan·Idril 'the beautiful white feet of Idril' (PE11:15)
i·fesc ar i·dusc 'a red rag to a bull' (lit. 'the irritating and the irritable') (PE11:34)

The last example may also illustrate the role of the definite article.

Partially overlapping information is found in the Qenya Lexicon. Here the root yields the preposition 'with' as implied by the GL: le 'with' (accompaniment) (PE12:52)

Two roots may potentially be related with the Gnomish ar:

ARA 'spread, extend sideways' (...) are adv. 'beside, along' ar(a) 'but' (PE12:32)
ASA ar (as-) 'to, against, next, on (wall)' (PE12:33)

Finally, the usual word for 'and' found in the QL is not derived from either of those, but employs a genuinely new root YA (which will also reappear in later stages of the development of the Elvish languages): YA ya(n) 'and' (PE12:104)

Nevertheless, in actual examples of early Elvish texts, such as 'Nienique' or 'Earendl', ar is found translating 'and' rather than yan, cf.

ar wingildi wilwarindear 'and the foam-fairies like the butterflies' (PE16:90)
ar laiqali linqi falmari 'and green wet waves' (PE16:100)

Noldorin and Qenya

The next major conceptual stage is reached with the Noldorin and Qenya of the Etymologies. Here, ar is the relevant word in Qenya to express 'and', but its rather inventive derivation (given in the Etymologies under the root AR is nothing short of jewel, illustrating again Tolkien's insight into the processes which shape languages:

AR(2) Q ara outside, beside; also prefix ar- as in Arvalin (=outside Valinor) In Q this is purely local in sense. (...) In N ar- developed a privative sense (as English 'without') probably by blending with *al- which is only preserved in Alchoron = Q: Ilkorin [LA] Thus arnediad without reckoning = numberless [NOT]. In this sense Q uses ava- as avanóte (see AWA) Hence Q ar and. (LR:348). Furthermore we learn that this last ar was first written as ar(a) (VT45:6).

What this means is that the same root AR gave 'and' in Qenya, which can be, as we have seen above, readily take the meaning 'with', whereas the meaning in Noldorin is just the opposite - here ar- means 'without'. The key to this remarkable development is that the original meaning of the root is something like 'side by side' - from where the Qenya meaning arose. Applied to places and regions, a region which is 'beside' another region is also 'outside' of it. And then a similar development took place in Elvish as in English: In English, 'without' was originally the opposite of 'within', implying 'outside of something' - but it acquired a meaning of lack of a thing later on. Thus, the Noldorin meaning ar- 'without' can be explained.

And yet, in one of the few examples of Noldorin we have, ar readily translates 'and':

lheben teil brann i annon ar neledh neledhi gar godrebh 'five feet high the door and three may walk abreast' (Tolkien - Artist and Illustrator)

Also in the King's Letter which marks the early development from Noldorin to Sindarin, we see ar readily appearing as 'and' in a number of examples, linking lists of nouns as well as sentences. Maybe this should be seen as a late loanword from Quenya?

aran Gondor ar Hîr i Mbair Annui 'King of Gondor and Lord of the Westlands' (SD:128)
Ar e anîra ... 'And he desires...' (SD:128)
ar Meril bess dîn; ar Elanor, Meril, Glorfinniel, ar Eirien sellath dîn; ar Iorhael, Gelir, Cordof, ar Baravorn, ionnath dîn 'and Rose his wife; and Elanor, Rose, Goldilocks, and Daisy his daughters; and Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Hamfast, his sons' (SD:128)
A Pherhael ar am Meril 'To Samwise and Rose' (SD:128)

We also have a few examples in the Qenya of this time, most impotantly from Fíriel's Song and from the dream fragments Alboin receives. None of these examples shows anything unexpected.

ar antaróta mannar Valion 'and he gave it into the hands of the Lords' (LR:72)
ar ilqa ímen 'and all that is in them' (LR:72)

Sindarin and Quenya

By the time the development of the languages reaches the state they exhibit in LOTR, not much is changed in Quenya. Here the word for 'and' remains ar as exemplified by the oath Aragorn speaks at his coronation:

Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar 'In this place I will abide, and my heirs' (LOTR)

However, there has been a change in the development from Noldorin to Sindarin. In Sindarin, the word for 'and' appears now as a as exemplified by two examples in LOTR and also Lúthien's Song:

pedo mellon a minno 'Speak, friend, and enter' (LOTR)
Daur a Berhael 'Frodo and Sam' (LOTR)
loth a galadh '*flower and tree' (LB:354)

However, in the 'Ae Adar', the word is back to ar:

ar díheno ammen i úgerth vin 'and forgive us our sins' (VT44:21)

From the contemporary versions of the Quenya 'Ataremma' and 'Aiya María', it is evident that the word for 'and' remains ar, but that there is a Quenya preposition as 'with' which can form compounds with pronouns:

ar aistana 'and blessed' (VT43:28)
aselye 'with you' (VT43:28)

The latter may also be relevant in the Sindarin caption

Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth 'The debate of Finrod and Andreth'(MR:303)

which was written around 1959. It is very instructive to follow the explanations Tolkien gives himself for some of these forms in 'Words, Phrases & Passages in The Lord of the Rings' (PE17). In short, his problem was to find a derivation which can account for Q: ar and S: a while leading to a consistent phonology. Potentially, the roots AR, AS and AD would result in Quenya ar. At this stage, Tolkien seems to have discarded the root AR as used in the Etymologies which carried an intensified meaning instead (PE17:147). This leaves the other two possibilities, and Tolkien tried both. In the discussion of a minno we find the following paragraph which shows that the idea at this point was that both Sindarin a and Quenya ar derive from a common root AS from which also a Quenya preposition 'with' is formed. In addition, Tolkien introduced the idea that this a would lead to mutation of the following word. At least no lenition was seen previously with ar as used in the 'King's Letter' as ar Hîr, ar Meril or ar Baravorn indicate. The resulting implications of the new roots for Sindarin in terms of the mutation induced on the following word are rather complex (and given in abbreviated form here):

a 'and' (< as(a) = Q ar): in S this a leaves the initials b,d,g,m,n,s unchanged; but changes p,t,c > f,th, ch; and aspirates vowel (a hannon 'and gate') and r,l > rh, lh (...)

however this was immediately modified to a derivation from a root AD:

a 'and' (< ad(a) = Q az > ar) in S this a leaves the initials b,d,g,m,n,s unchanged; but changes p,t,c > f,th, ch; adt > att. (...)

However, he rejected this idea as well, noting that the phonology he outlined would not be able to account for a Berhael (which would come out as **a Ferhael instead). Subsequently he noted that Old Sindarin has a form ath (PE17:41) and made a new try with

a 'and' (< ad(a) Q ar N a(ð), a, að before vowel, with soft mutation(PE17:41)

While this would not account for ah as found in the 'Athrabeth', by the time it was written it was compatible with all published forms, so Tolkien was free to give the same explanation for his later use of ar in Quenya:

ar (< ad) usual Quenya word for 'and' (originally a preposition 'beside') (PE17:70)

However, once he was on the problem, he came back to some old ideas and started to elaborate the whole concept considerably. In the following paragraphs, we learn that there are as many as three different words which can translate the English 'and'

This root is indeed found later:

ADA 'alongside, by the side of' (PE17:145)

Finally, a very puzzling translation of 'and' is found in the 'Notion Club Papers' within the 'Avallonian Fragments'. Here we find

o 'and' (SD:246)

which has not appeared previously. This is not repeated in the version of the fragments reproduced in SD:310 however - here ar appears as expected.

Late revisions

While following the publication of LOTR, the etymology of Q: ar seems to have been the root ADA, Tolkien did not remain content with the idea and eventually changed back to a different etymology. But an equally interesting concept is the introduction of -ye which may also be inspired by Early Qenya ya(n) which was, after all, never really used much in texts. The new form is apparent from

imbi Menel Kemenye 'between Heaven and Earth' (VT47:11)

and Tolkien provides a nice explanation for this form in a short paragraph which also outlines his contemporary ideas how 'and' is expressed in the other Elvish languages.

-ye 'and' added to second of pair (...). In Q. still normally used of pairs usually associated as Sun, Moon; Heaven, Earth (...) But in general use replaced by ar (as) 'beside' (...) as also gives in S. 'and' a, etc. In S. ye- is lost but in T. ye could be used as usually in pairs or prefixed and appears before each item of a list. (..) (VT47:31)

Thus, finally the root AS is again the origin of Quenya ar and Sindarin a. This is also confirmed by a note dating from a similarly late period which mentions Common Eldarin as with Sindarin reflex ah , realized as a before consonants (VT43:30).


Tracing the history of 'and', one comes to the impression that ar was a word which very much fit Tolkien's requirements. Whatever else changed, he opted for keeping the word and changed its etymology instead various times. In addition, Tolkien was well aware that a language could have different words for 'and', dependent on the situation. He worked out such a scenario for his Elvish languages more than once. But in all longer samples of Elvish texts known so far, there is not much to see of these more involved ideas. Whenever he was not specifically thinking and writing about the usage of 'and', a simple ar or a in Sindarin would enter the text instead. In this sense, tracing the development of words for 'and' reveals much more about the process of Tolkien's language invention than it helps in understanding the languages as exemplified by text samples.


Notes and cross-references provided in various discussions in VT and PE by Bill Welden, Patrick H. Wynne, Carl F. Hostetter and Christopher Gilson have been extremely helpful in preparing this article.


[1] 'I Lam na Ngoldathon' by J.R.R. Tolkien, Parma Eldalamberon 11, edited by Christopher Gilson, Carl F. Hostetter, Patrick Wynne, and Arden R. Smith
[2] 'The Qenya Phonology and Lexicon' by J.R.R.Tolkien, Parma Eldalamberon 12, edited by Christopher Gilson, Carl F. Hostetter, Patrick Wynne, and Arden R. Smith
[3] 'Early Elvish Poetry and Pre-FĂ«anorian Alphabets' by J.R.R. Tolkien, Parma Eldalamberon 16, edited by Christopher Gilson, Carl F. Hostetter, Patrick Wynne, Bill Welden and Arden R. Smith
[4] The 'Etymologies' and 'The Lost Road' in 'The Lost Roand and Other Writings', edited by Christopher Tolkien
[5] Addenda and Corrigenda to the 'Etymologies' part I , Vinyar Tengwar 45, edited by Patrick H. Wynne and Carl F. Hostetter
[6] Addenda and Corrigenda to the 'Etymologies' part II , Vinyar Tengwar 46, edited by Patrick H. Wynne and Carl F. Hostetter
[7] 'Words, Phrases & Passages in The Lord of the Rings' by J.R.R. Tolkien, Parma Eldalamberon 17, edited by Christopher Gilson

Thorsten Renk

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