Elven customs

From Tolkien Gateway

The Elves had various Customs they practiced.


Spouses can choose each other long before they are married and be betrothed. The betrothal is subject to parental approval unless the parties are of age and intend to marry soon, at which point the betrothal is announced at a meeting of the two houses, during which the couple exchange rings. The betrothal lasts at least a year, and is revocable by the return of the rings (but is rarely broken). After their formal betrothal, the couple appoints a time for the wedding when at least a year has passed.

Marriage is celebrated at a feast of the two houses. The spouses return their betrothal rings and receive others worn on their index fingers. The bride’s mother gives the groom a jewel to be worn, but the marriage is only achieved with its consummation. Technically, only the words exchanged by the bride and groom (including the speaking of the name of Eru) and the consummation are required for marriage.

Naming conventions

The following traditions were practiced among the Noldor; other Eldar had slightly different conventions. Naming conventions are complex, as both parents named the child, and the Elves often chose additional names for themselves later, or were given names by others.


The Noldor were typically given one name (an essë) at birth. This name was given by the father, therefore called the Father-name.[1] The name was often derived from the father's or the mother's own name. The most prominent example for this are Finwë and his descendants:

  • Finwë gave to his oldest son Fëanor the name Curufinwë (skilled Finwë), to his middle son Fingolfin the name Ñolofinwë (Wise Finwë), and to his youngest son Finarfin the name Arafinwë (Noble Finwë).[2]
  • Many of Finwë's descendants bear the fin element in their names, such as Fingolfin, Finarfin, Fingon and Finrod.

Fëanor in turn also gave to all his sons names based on Finwë, with slight derivation:

  • His eldest son Maedhros was given the name Nelyafinwë (third Finwë), the second son Maglor was named Canafinwë (strong-voiced Finwë), the fourth son Caranthir was named Morifinwë (dark Finwë) and the youngest son Amras was named Telufinwë (last Finwë).[3]

The prefixes are partially based on physical appearance and skills and thus might be added some time after birth.


When the children had become older, they received a second name from their mother, the amilessë. They often described the physical appearance of the child or a character trait. As an example, Galadriel's amilessë was Nerwen, meaning man-maiden due to her height, physical strength and pride. Celegorm's amilessë was Tyelkormo, meaning "hasty-riser" referring to his quick temper (Celegorm is the Sindarin rendering of the name). Sometimes the mother-name divulged details about an Elf's fate or strong characteristics, such as the name Fëanor (spirit of fire) or the mother-name of Amrod Umbarto (the Fated), then called amilessi tercenyë ("mother names of insight"). These names were rarely given, but considered extremely important.


As the Noldo grew older, he or she chose a third name, called a cilmessë, or "chosen name". This name reflected the Noldo's unique linguistic tastes.[1] It was not used by those who did not know the Noldo well and would be considered rude to do so, and for this reason no example for a cilmessë is known, as they wouldn't appear in historical records and tales. In those cases, the Father-name (which remained the official name throughout the Noldo's life) would be used.


The epessë or the "after-name" was the fourth type. The after-name was given later in life (not necessarily by the Elf's kin), as a title of admiration and honour.[1] In some circumstances, the epessë was chosen by the Elf himself or herself. A typical example of an epessë is Galadriel. Galadriel is the Sindarin rendering of Alatáriel, the latter being the Telerin epessë originally given to her by Celeborn, meaning "Maiden Crowned by a Radiant Garland".

Special cases

Due to the Noldor's migration to Middle-earth, where they abandoned their native language and adopted Sindarin, there are a few more complex cases. Many of the original names have been rendered into Sindarin, but not translated entirely correct. In other cases two names have been merged, creating a new epessë. For example Maedhros, the oldest son of Fëanor, was called Russandol (copper-top) by his brothers, due to his auburn hair.[3] His mother name was Maitimo (well-shaped one). Maedhros is the combination of both names.

Another very special case is Amrod. His mother-name was Umbarto, meaning the fated. His father Fëanor was disturbed by this name and changed it to Ambarto.

Sindarin Name Quenya father-name Quenya mother-name epesse
Feanor Curufinwe Feanaro
Fingolfin Nolofinwe Aracano
Finarfin Arafinwe Ingalaure
Maedhros Nelyafinwe Maitimo Russandol
Maglor Kanofinwe Makalaure
Celegorm Turkafinwe Tyelkormo
Caranthir Morifinwe Carnistir
Curufin Curufinwe Atarinke
Amrod Pityafinwe Ambarto -> Umbarto
Amras Telufinwe Ambarussa
Fingon Findekano
Turgon Turukano
Aredhel Írissë Ar-Feiniel
Argon Arakáno
Finrod Findaráto
Angrod Angarato Angamaitë
Aegnor Ambarato Aikanaro
Galadriel Artanis Nerwen Alatariel