- "It takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish..."
- ― Treebeard
The sonorous, rumbling and ancient language of the Ents, a language quite unlike those used by Elves or Men. Entish was a slow and thoughtful language for a slow and thoughtful people, in which words and names told the story of the things they described. This is perhaps part of the reason for the Ents' shyness about names, considering their own Entish names to be private things only to be told to trusted friends.
Ents are not hasty creatures, they take their time; even their language is "unhasty". In fact, their language appears to be based on an ancient form of Common Eldarin, later enriched by Quenya and Sindarin, although it includes many unique 'tree-ish' additions. There are actually two different languages:
- Old Entish. Originally, the Ents had a language of their own, described as long and sonorous; it was a tonal language (like Chinese). It is unknown if a non-Ent could even pronounce Old Entish correctly: it was filled with many subtle vowel shades, and was very longwinded. Only Ents spoke Old Entish; not because they kept their language a secret, as the Dwarves did with Khuzdul, but because no others could master it. It was quite an alien language to all others. The Huorns and trees of Fangorn forest could understand Old Entish and converse with the Ents and each other with it. The only extant sample, a-lalla-lalla-rumba-kamanda-lindor-burúme, the word for hill (or possibly even just part of the name of a specific hill), was described as a very inaccurate sampling. Even the Elves, master linguists, could not learn Old Entish, nor did they attempt to record it due to its complex sound structure. The grammar structure of Old Entish was also quite bizarre, often described as a lengthy, long-winded discussion of a topic. There may not even have been a word for yes and no: such questions would be answered by a long monologue on why the Ent in question did or did not agree with the Ent who asked the question. The Ent Quickbeam was regarded as a very "hasty" Ent for answering a question before another Ent had finished: the end may only have been another hour away. Ents as a rule would say nothing in Old Entish unless it was worth taking a long time to say. For everyday language function, they usually resorted to "New" Entish.
- "New" Entish (Never named as such in the text). Due to contact with the Elves, the Ents learned much from them. The Ents found the Elvish language Quenya to be a lovely language, and adapted it after their fashion to everyday use. However, they basically adapted Quenya vocabulary to Old Entish grammatical structure. Thus, unlike Old Entish, the individual words of "New Entish" that characters such as Treebeard spoke were easily translatable. However, in context they formed lengthy run-on sentences of redundant adjectives that could still stretch well over an hour in length. For example, when Treebeard essentially wanted to tell Merry and Pippin, "There is a shadow of the Great Darkness in the deep dales of the forest", he literally said in New Entish "Forest-golden-leaves, deep-dales-winter, forest-many-shadowed, deep-valley-black". Unlike Old Entish, a non-Ent conceivably could speak "New" Entish. Even when speaking the Common Speech, Westron, Ents fell into the habit of adapting it into their grammatical structure of repeating compound adjectives used to express fine shades of meaning.
Treebeard boasted to Merry and Pippin about the strength of the Ents. He said that they were much more powerful than Trolls, which Morgoth (in the Elder Days or First Age) supposedly made as imitations of the Ents, but did not come near to their power. He compares this with how Orcs were Morgoth's imitation of Elves.
The Elvish name for Ents is Onodrim, singular Onod.