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The Firstborn at Lake Cuivienen by Peter Xavier Price

elen (pl. eleni or eldi) means "star" in Quenya.[1]

The Edain, however, equated elen and elda ("Elf"), so in some situations elen translates as "Elf".

Etymology[edit | edit source]

PQ Root EL.[2]

It is said traditionally to come from the exclamation ele! ("behold"), being the first word the first Elves spoke at Cuiviénen, when they saw the stars.[3]

Other forms[edit | edit source]

  • elenna = "to a star": allative, also a name for Númenor.[4]
  • elelli = "stars": partitive plural[5]
  • elenion = "of stars": pl. genitive[6]
  • elenillor = "from stars": pl. ablative[7]

Seen in[edit | edit source]

With the meaning "Elf"[edit | edit source]

  • Elendil = "Friend of the Elves"
  • Elessar = "Elf-stone"
  • Elesser = Variant of Elendil

Examples[edit | edit source]

Inspiration[edit | edit source]

El means "deity" in some Semitic languages, and is a common element in many Hebrew names, as happens with Elvish names. Dante Alighieri in his De vulgari eloquentia suggests that the word El was the first sound emitted by Adam: While the first utterance of humans after birth is a cry of pain, Dante assumed that Adam could only have made an exclamation of joy, which at the same time was addressing his Creator.[8] Verlyn Flieger explains that "neither Tolkien's ele nor its derivative el, functions in his protolanguage as a name of God. Nevertheless, both are names for the first light, which suggests God's emanation. The similarity of the fictive first utterance of Tolkien's Elves to Dante's deduced first utterance should not go unremarked".[9]


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names", elen
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", EL
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar", p. 360
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, Cirion and Eorl
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 127
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 297, (dated August 1967), p. 385
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, "A Secret Vice", Markirya
  8. Marianne Shapiro, De Vulgari Eloquentia: Dante's Book of Exile (1990), p. 50
  9. Verlyn Flieger, Splintered Light (revised edition), "9. Perception=Name=Identity", p. 179, note 2