From Tolkien Gateway

Iglishmêk was a Dwarvish language of silent gesture-signs.[1][2]

Considered far more elaborate and organized than the Elvish systems (mátengwië), iglishmêk was a secondary language which Dwarves started learning almost as soon as their spoken one. This was used for secret communication amongst themselves when dealing with strangers, and unlike the uniformity of their spoken language (Khuzdul), iglishmêk varied greatly between Dwarvish communities. The gestures were very swift and subtle and could hardly be detected, let alone understood, by uninitiated onlookers. They were no more willing to teach this than their spoken language, but some Noldorin loremasters were allowed to learn enough to understand.[3]

Examples[edit | edit source]

  • "I am listening" = slight raising of right-hand forefinger, followed by a similar raising of the left-hand forefinger.[2]
  • "Listen!" = slight raising of both forefingers simultaneously.[2]

Etymology[edit | edit source]

Magnus Åberg has theorized that the word iglishmêk is composed of *'igal (*"language", as in aglâb) and *shimak (*"gesture").[4]

Inspiration[edit | edit source]

The concept of communication by signs used by non-deaf users is very similar to the monastic sign languages created by Christian monks in order to keep mandatory or voluntary silence.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar", p. 395
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, "From Quendi and Eldar, Appendix D" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 39, July 1998, pp. 5, 10
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar: Appendix D. *Kwen, Quenya, and the Elvish (especially Ñoldorin) words for 'Language'", p. 397
  4. Magnus Åberg, "An analysis of Dwarvish", Forodrim.org (accessed 1 April 2012)
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