Tolkien Gateway

Uncommon words

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Many uncommon, archaic, and obsolete words are found in [[J.R.R. Tolkien]]'s works. At present the definition of these can be confusing and leads to misunderstanding the statement presented by Tolkien. The solution is to list any words that might not be recognized by readers:
 
Many uncommon, archaic, and obsolete words are found in [[J.R.R. Tolkien]]'s works. At present the definition of these can be confusing and leads to misunderstanding the statement presented by Tolkien. The solution is to list any words that might not be recognized by readers:
  
:(''Page numbers refer to The History of Middle-earth Volume I: The Book of Lost Tales, Part I'')
+
:(''Page numbers refer to'' [[The Book of Lost Tales Part 1]])
  
 
: '''abide''' - put up with, tolerate; await;
 
: '''abide''' - put up with, tolerate; await;
Line 243: Line 243:
 
: '''leech''' - healer
 
: '''leech''' - healer
 
: '''leechcraft''' - an old name for the practice of medicine, from the ancient belief that blood-sucking leeches had a healing effect
 
: '''leechcraft''' - an old name for the practice of medicine, from the ancient belief that blood-sucking leeches had a healing effect
: '''[[legendarium]] - term coined by Tolkien to mean [[Arda]], in all of its mythological entirety
+
: '''[[legendarium]]''' - term coined by Tolkien to mean [[Arda]], in all of its mythological entirety
 
: '''lets upon''' gives on to, opens on to, 237
 
: '''lets upon''' gives on to, opens on to, 237
 
: '''lief''' gladly, willingly, 181; '''liever''' more gladly, more willingly, rather, 112, 181
 
: '''lief''' gladly, willingly, 181; '''liever''' more gladly, more willingly, rather, 112, 181
Line 330: Line 330:
 
: '''rue''' - regret, repent of
 
: '''rue''' - regret, repent of
 
: '''rumour''' - sound
 
: '''rumour''' - sound
: '''ruth''' - matter of sorrow, calamity, 207; distress, grief, 214; remorse, 217; in the greatest ruth was that to [the [[Valar]]] thereafter 235 the sense is unclear: ‘matter of sorrow or regret’, or possibly ‘harm, ill’.
+
: '''ruth''' - matter of sorrow, calamity, 207; distress, grief, 214; remorse, 217; in the greatest ruth was that to [the [[Valar]]] thereafter 235 the sense is unclear: ‘matter of sorrow or regret’, or possibly "harm, ill".
 
: '''sable''' - heraldic term for black
 
: '''sable''' - heraldic term for black
 
: '''sallow''' - having yellow or pale brown skin
 
: '''sallow''' - having yellow or pale brown skin

Revision as of 05:40, 2 May 2009

Many uncommon, archaic, and obsolete words are found in J.R.R. Tolkien's works. At present the definition of these can be confusing and leads to misunderstanding the statement presented by Tolkien. The solution is to list any words that might not be recognized by readers:

(Page numbers refer to The Book of Lost Tales Part 1)
abide - put up with, tolerate; await;
abjure - renounce, turn away from
abroad - in the open, at large
adamant - diamond, or (more generally) any very hard substance
afield - away, especially from home
aforetime - in earlier times
aghast - terrified, amazed
agin - a dialect word meaning "against", "next to"
aloof - hanging over ones head
amiss - not as things should be
an - if, 63, 155, 165, 171, 183, 201, 204, 211, 221, 235
anon - soon; ever and anon often
apace - quickly
argent - silver
arrassed - covered with arras (rich figured tapestry), 6
assuage - soften, lessen, soothe
astonied - stunned, astonished, 124, 207
aught - anything
bade - old past tense of "bid", pronounced "bad"
baldric - a shoulder-belt for carrying horns, swords, etc
bannock - flat bread-cake
barrel - the long, cylindrical part of a key
baseborn - ignoble, illegitimate
bason formerly a common spelling of basin, 182 etc.
bay - (of a dog) bark or howl
bebother - bring trouble upon
befall - happen, occur
belie - give a false impression
benighted - in, or overtaken by, darkness
bent - open place covered with grass, 27
beset - attacked, assaulted by enemies
besom - a stiff broom made out of sticks and twigs
besotted - made drunk
besotted2 - obsessed, entranced
besought - old past tense of beseech
bier - platform for carrying a coffin or body
billow - (large) wave
bivouac - temporary camp, without tents
blazoned - painted or inscribed (an heraldic term)
bond - storage of wine, etc, until duty has been paid; out of bond released from this
booby - stupid person
boon - favour, gift
brakes thickets, 113
brazen - made of brass
brood - children
brood2 - related creatures
brook - tolerate, accept
buckler - a small round shield, held in one hand
bulwark - a defensive structure
burg - a fortress, or a fortified town
burgeon - come forth, bud, begin to grow quickly
burnished - polished
cairn - a mound of stones or rocks, used as a marker, memorial or tomb
carcanet - jeweled necklace
carouse - drink heavily
carven - old form of 'carved'
cataract - waterfall
cesspool - a pool of waste-water or sewage
chalcedony - a precious form of quartz: onyx, agate and cornelian are all types of chalcedony
champ - (of a horse) munch on the bit, showing eagerness
charger large dish, 214
chime - agree with, be in harmony with
circlet - a thin band of precious metal, worn on the head
clamant - clamorous, noisy, 37
clave - old past tense of cleave, in the sense 'stick, adhere'
clomb - old past tense of climb, 132
cloven - split into two
coëval - born at the same time
cob - spider (the name survives in the term 'cobweb')
coffer - strongbox, especially for holding valuables
comely - pleasant-looking
commons - shared food; short commons insufficient food
compass - accomplish, achieve
conclave - a meeting, or the place where a meeting is held
concourse - large group of people; crowd
confines - borders; borderlands
confusticate - a nonsense word, probably not intended to have a meaning (though its Latin roots can be interpreted 'beat with a cudgel')
constellate formed into a constellation, 218
cools - coolnesses, 75
cony - rabbit
coomb - short valley in the side of a hill or mountain
coop - cage, imprison
corbel basket, 208
corslet - a piece of armour covering the body, but not the arms or legs
cot - a small shelter; the origin of the word 'cottage'
counsels - words of advice
covet - be jealous of, desire
covetice - (inordinate) desire, 126; covetousness, 161-2
cozen - lie to, cheat, deceive
craven - coward
crocks - items of crockery: plates, dishes, etc.
culvert - a channel carrying water beneath a thoroughfare
cumbrous - awkward, inconvenient
cunning-handed - deft, artful, dexterous
curdle - turn sour
dainty - morsel, delicacy
damask - steel and iron specially welded to make a serpentine pattern
darkling - dark (poetical)
daunt - intimidate
declaim - speak or recite passionately
deem - consider, conclude
defile - ruin, corrupt
defray - pay for
dell - small valley
descry - catch sight of, especially something difficult to see
devices - things, especially situations, devised or engineered
dingle - deep hollow, usually shaded with trees
dissemble - hide one's true intentions
divers - numerous and various
dolven - delved, dug out
doom - fate (as opposed to modern usage, doom in this sense is not necessarily bad)
dotard - a person who has lost their wits, especially through old age
doughty - strong, powerful
draught - drawing or pulling force
draught2 - a drink drawn from a barrel or storage jar
drear - dismal, gloomy
dregs - sediment found at the bottom of wine, tea, etc. To "drink to the dregs" is to completely drain a cup or (metaphorically) fully involve oneself
dry - (of bricks or stone) laid without mortar
durstn't - dare not
dwimmer-crafty - skilled in the arts of magic
eaves - the fringe of a forest (from the resemblance of the overhanging forest canopy to the eaves of a house)
eld - old age, 57, 247, 258
ell - a measure of length, usually equivalent to 45 inches or 114 cm
embattled - of a fortress, having battlements
embattled2 - of an army, fortified against attack (this is the dictionary definition, but in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's usage seems to mean simply 'in battle')
embrasure - beveled door or window frame cut into a wall
encompass - surround
ere - before
errantry - journeying in search of adventure
espy - catch sight of
essay - attempt
esteem - consider to be of worth; esteem too lightly underestimate
et - a variation of "ate", common in British rural dialects
etten - eaten - see "et"
ewer - large, wide-mouthed water jug
eyot - a small island, especially found in a river
faggot - bundle of sticks used as firewood
fain gladly, 41, 166; disposed, desirous, 218; fain of well-pleased with, 126, 235
falter - waver, lose courage
fane temple, 33, 37
fare - travel, go on a journey
fastness - secure fortress
fawn - cringe, grovel
fealty - allegiance and service to a lord
feign - pretend
fell - merciless, terrifying
fell2 - animal's hide
fell3 - moorland hill
fender - a metal frame placed around a fireplace
fetter - chain, shackle
fey - 31. The old senses were ‘fated, approaching death; presaging death’. It seems very unlikely that the later sense ‘possessing or displaying magical, fairylike, or unearthly qualities’ (O.E.D. Supplement) was intended.
field - background color on a flag or shield in heraldry.
figured - marked with drawings or writing
firth - An inlet of the sea at a wide river estuary
flagon - large jug or mug, usually used to hold wine or beer
flammifer - in Latin, flammifer means 'fiery', but Tolkien's usage is likely meant to suggest 'flame-bearer', as a reference to the blazing Silmaril borne by Eärendil.
flank - the exposed side of an attacking or marching army
flittermice - bats, 34
flotsam - floating wreckage; flotsam and jetsam items washed up by the sea, or a flood (also used figuratively)
flummoxed - bewildered, disconcerted
footpad - a thief (historically, a "footpad" was a highwayman who had no horse)
forbear - hold back from
forebode - foresee (especially something that is evil)
forespeak - foretell, predict
foreswear - swear not to do something
forgo - let go, do without
forlorn - abandoned, desolate
forsake - desert, turn away from (the past tense is forsook)
forsooth - in truth, actually
fortnight - a period of two weeks
fosse - a defensive trench or ditch
founder - sink, after taking on water
fraught - full (of)
freshet - a stream, or (strictly) a flood of fresh water
furlong - one eighth of a mile (220 yards), or about one fifth of a kilometre
gaffer - a word meaning both "old man" and "foreman": its use as the nickname of Hamfast Gamgee is probably mean to combine both meanings.
gainsay - contradict
gallop - boil and bubble
game - crippled
gammer - old woman
garth - an enclosed garden or yard
ghyll - deep ravine
gibbet - A gallows built to display the body of an executed criminal
gimlet - A sharp boring tool, similar in general design to a corkscrew; see like gimlets see sharply
girdle - belt or cord used especially to confine clothing
girdle2 - something which surrounds or encircles; girdle of Arda the central regions of Arda, equidistant from the far north and south
girt - bound or attached with a belt
glede - burning coal or cinder
gloaming - the twilight of evening
glower - scowl, frown
go - move, in the phrase all the creatures that go 247
goggle - stare with round eyes
gorcrow - carrion crow
graven - engraved, carved
greened - made green from the mosses and lichens on a tree's trunk
grot - old form of "grotto"; an ornamental or picturesque cavern
guileful - treacherous, deceitful
gunwale - the top edge of a boat's side, pronounced (and sometimes spelt) 'gunnel'
habergeon - a mail-coat without sleeves
hale - robust, strong of body
hame - hide, pelt
hang - to leave food, especially game, in the open until it becomes 'high' or tender
harbour - succor, assistance
hardly - with great difficulty
hardly2 - only just
harry - ravage
haste - hurry, rush
hauberk - mail-coat
headstall - a covering for a horse's head, used as an alternative to bridle and bit
hearken - listen, pay attention
heed - thought, consideration
heedless - careless of danger
hence - from here
hew - chop, slice
hither - to here, to this place; hither and thither in various directions
hither2 - nearer, closer
hoar - grey- or white-haired
hobble - limp, walk with difficulty
hock - the middle joint of a horse's or pony's leg
houseleek - a fleshy plant that grows on the walls and roofs of houses, 101
hue - form or shape
hummock - a small hill or knoll (in The Lord of the Rings, "hummock" is used metaphorically to describe the shape made by the palantír beneath Gandalf's cloak)
hunter's moon - the full moon of mid- to late October
hythe - a small harbour or haven, especially on a river
ill - evil, wrong
inaureoled surrounded with a halo, 230 (the word is only recorded in the O.E.D. in a poem by Francis Thompson, 1897).
jacinth - blue, 27
jetsam - items thrown overboard from a ship, and later washed ashore
keen - sharp
kerb - a raised edge to a road or path
kindle - set fire to, begin to burn
lampads - 29. The word is only recorded in the O.E.D. (first used by Coleridge) of the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne of God in the Book of Revelation, iv.5.
lave - wash, bathe
lay - a poem that is meant to be sung
league - a measure of distance, usually considered to be equivalent to three miles
leaguer - an encampment or encampments, especially for defensive purposes
leave - permission
lee - shelter, especially from wind and weather
leech - healer
leechcraft - an old name for the practice of medicine, from the ancient belief that blood-sucking leeches had a healing effect
legendarium - term coined by Tolkien to mean Arda, in all of its mythological entirety
lets upon gives on to, opens on to, 237
lief gladly, willingly, 181; liever more gladly, more willingly, rather, 112, 181
lissom - lithe, supple
loath - reluctant
lob - spider (seen, for example, in the name Shelob)
loth - reluctant [a variation on loath above]
louver - a domed structure built on a roof with side-openings to allow smoke to escape
lustihead vigour, 105
malefactor - one who commits an evil act
mantle - cloak, cover
mar - spoil or damage beyond repair
march - share borders
marchwarden - border guard
mark - notice, detect
marshal - place in proper order
mattock - a primitive weapon, originally a farming tool, perhaps best described as a double-headed battle-hoe
maw - jaws and throat, especially of a ferocious animal
mayhap - perhaps
mead - an alcoholic drink made from honey
mead2 - meadow
meed - requital, 112
mere - lake or pond
mew - a type of gull
midge - tiny airborne biting insect; not unlike a mosquito, but much smaller
minished reduced, diminished, 165, 235
mischance - accident
misgive - fill with doubt or suspicion
moonshine - fantastic ideas
muster - collect, assemble
nethermost - lowest, deepest
nicety - precision, exactness; weigh to a nicety measure exactly
nigh - near; well nigh, wellnigh almost, very nearly
nightshade - probably simply "darkness" (the literal use of this word appears to be unique to Tolkien - in : historical English, it is only used figuratively as the name of a poisonous plant)
noisome - foul-smelling, poisonous
nook - corner, recess
obeisance - bowing or kneeling in submission
oft - often
or ... or either ... or, 137, 241
or yet apparently means ‘already’, 185
ostler - stable-keeper
ousel blackbird, 43 (now spelled ouzel, in Ring-ouzel and other bird-names).
oust - take possession of another's lands, property, title, etc.
outworn - exhausted
overbear - defeat by weight of numbers
pallid - pale
panoply - full suit of armour
parapet - defensive wall built to protect troops
parley - discuss terms of peace or cease-fire
passward - something granting passage of a guard
pate - head, mind
pent - restricted, confined
penthouse - the area beneath a sloping roof, especially as a later extension to an existing building
perforce - having no choice, being forced
pinion - a bird's wing, and especially the tip
plash - splash
pleasance - "A pleasure-ground, usually attached to a mansion; sometimes a secluded part of a garden, but more often a separate enclosure laid out with shady walks, trees and shrubs..." (O.E.D.) This sense is present in pleasa(u)nces 75, 125, but in rest and pleasance 69 the sense is "enjoyment, pleasure"; in nor did he have lack of pleasance 64 either meaning may be intended, but I think probably the former.
portage - transporting a boat overland
pled old past tense of plead, 186
plenilune - the time of full moon, 231 (see Letters p. 310).
portent - omen, sign
postern - a back- or side-entrance
pricks - (spurs his horse), rides fast, 122. Oromë pricks over the plain echoes the first line of The Faerie Queene, A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine.
profound - deep
prosy - dull, contented with the commonplace
provender - food
puissant - powerful, influential
purloin - steal
quaff - drink deeply
quail - give way to, be intimidated by
raiment - clothing
rearguard - that part of an army set to cover its rear ranks, especially in retreat
recked - troubled, cared, 200
rede - counsel, advice, 156, 203, 245; plan, 201; redes counsels, 126
redound - contribute to, advance
redress - setting right
reft - past tense of the old word reave, to take by force
rent - past tense of rend, to tear or split
repair - go often
respite - relief, calm interval
revelry - merrymaking
rick - a stack, especially of hay
rill - a small stream
rondured - (in golden-rondured) 28. Rondure "circle, rounded form"; rondured is not recorded.
rude - simple, primitive
rue - regret, repent of
rumour - sound
ruth - matter of sorrow, calamity, 207; distress, grief, 214; remorse, 217; in the greatest ruth was that to [the Valar] thereafter 235 the sense is unclear: ‘matter of sorrow or regret’, or possibly "harm, ill".
sable - heraldic term for black
sallow - having yellow or pale brown skin
saps - deep diggings, 111
sate - old past tense of sit, 56, 112, 169, 203, 213, 217
save - except
seamews - seagulls, 133
selenites - inhabitants of the Moon, 231
semblance - appearance
shade - ghost or phantasm
shallop - 215. This word had precise applications to particular kinds of boat, but here apparently means ‘open boat propelled by oars and sail’.
shank - leg; especially that part between the knee and ankle
share - 27, 32. share=ploughshare, but used here of the blade of a scythe.
sheaf - bundle or cluster of stalks
shoal - a particularly shallow part of a river- or sea-bed
shore - slice, tear (an old past tense of "shear")
shun - refuse
sister-son - nephew
sledge-blows blows as of a sledge, a large heavy hammer, 79
slot - track followed by a hunter
slowcoach - someone who moves slowly, or is often late
sluggard - slow or lazy person
smite - strike, attack (the past tense is smote)
snuff - sniff deeply
sojourn - temporary stay
sooth - true, truthful
sortie - an attack launched by a besieged force
spinney - group of trees, or small wood
sprent past participle of the lost verb sprenge ‘sprinkle, scatter’, 215
sprite(s) spirit(s), 75, 100, 124, 213
stead - place, position
stem - block, hold back
stock - the trunk or stump of a tree; stock and stone inanimate things
stoop - in falconry, to swoop on prey
straightway - immediately, directly
strait - narrowly confining
straitly - narrowly, tightly
strand - shore, shoreline, especially a beach
stricken - struck; (as an adjective) damaged, broken
suaded - persuaded, 69, 181
succour - give aid
sunder - divide, separate
surname - an additional name indicating some quality or ability (as distinct from modern usage, surname in this context has no connection with family)
sward - region of short grass, lawn
swart - dark-skinned
swarthy - dark-skinned
swath - a strip of grass that has been flattened or mown
swoon - faint
tarn - mountain lake
tarry - pause, wait
thanksgiving- festival of giving thanks, as in a prayer
thenceforward - from that time on
thither - to or in that place
thraldom - slavery
thrall - slave
thrawn - twisted, misshapen
thrawn2 - obstinate, stubborn
throe - violent agony
throve - old past tense of 'thrive'
thwart - foil, stop
tidings - news
tipsy - slightly drunk
tithe - one tenth
toils - trap, snare
toothsome - pleasantly appetising
tors - rocky hill-tops
toss-pot - drunkard
tracery - complex interlinked ornamentation
traffic - trade
trammels - nets, traps
traverse - travel through or across
trillups - 115, trillaping 117. This word is not recorded in any dictionary available to me.
trove - found treasure
truncheon - a wooden shaft used as a weapon, or part of a weapon
tryst - an arranged meeting; break tryst fail to attend a tryst
tumult - noisy disturbance
tunic - a loose, short-sleeved garment
tuppence - two pence, a very small amount of money; not care tuppence have no interest
turnkey - jailer
tussock - clump of grass
twine - twist strands together into a rope
umbel - long flower, as in hemlock or parsley
unblazoned - an heraldic term: plain, undecorated
umbraged - (in wide-umbraged) 27, 32. Umbraged ‘shaded, shadowed’, but here in the sense ‘shadowing’, ‘casting a shade’.
ungentle - rough, coarse
unquiet - anxious, concerned
unsated - unsatisfied
unsullied - pure, uncorrupted
upbraid - criticise
upheave - push or force upwards
vale - the valley of a river
varmint - pest, bothersome person or animal
vassal - servant, bondsman
vie - struggle with, be rival to
vigil - watchfulness; hold vigil make devotion
viol - an old instrument, usually with six strings, similar to a violin but held in a vertical position like a 'cello
waif - homeless person
wain - wagon; The Wain the constellation of the Plough or Big Dipper
wan - pale
wards - the "teeth" of a key
ware - old form of aware
waver - shimmer, flicker
waver2 - show indecision
wax - grow stronger; increase
waylay - intercept, prevent from going forward
wayward - uncontrollable, unpredictable
web(s) - woven fabric, 56, 74, 101 (also used in senses "webbed feet" 137, ‘cobwebs’ 78, etc.)
wellnigh - almost, very nearly
weregild - a payment in compensation for a death (literally "man-gold")
wheedle - coax, persuade
whelm - engulf, cover
whence - from where
whereat - for which reason
wherefore - for what (or which) reason
whet - sharpen
whickering - 231 (whickering sparks). The verb whicker meant to laugh or titter, or of a horse to whinny, but the O.E.D. cites a line from Masefield the wall-top grasses whickered in the breeze, and the 1920 Supplement to the Dictionary gives a meaning "to make a hurtling sound", with a single citation where the word is used of a thunderbolt "whickering through the sky". In the 1962 version of The Man in the Moon the word flickering occurs in this verse.
whitethorn - hawthorn, 77
whither - to which place
wildered - perplexed, bewildered, 181, 183, 199, 262
wile - trick, deceit
wizened - of shriveled appearance
wold - an upland region of moorland
wont - customarily, regularly; wont to err thus regularly make mistakes of this kind
worrit - worry
worst - defeat
wrack - devastation, ruin, 198 (cf. (w)rack and ruin).
wrack2 - clouds being driven by a strong wind?
wraith - ghost, apparition
wreathe - engulf, surround (especially of vapour or fire)
wrest - take by force
writhen - writhing, twisting
wroth - angry
yammer - wail, weep
yoke - wooden harness for oxen; under the yoke under complete control
yonder - over there
yore - long ago
zenith - highest point