Valarin - like the glitter of swords

Also called: Valian, and (in Quenya) Valya or Lambë Valarinwa


The Valar had made their own language, undoubtedly the oldest of all the tongues of Arda. They did not need a spoken language; they were angelic spirits and could easily communicate telepathically. But as the Ainulindalë tells, "the Valar took to themselves shape and hue" when they entered Eä at the beginning of Time. They became self-incarnate. "The making of a lambe [language] is the chief character of an Incarnate," Pengolodh the sage of Gondolin observed. "The Valar, having arrayed them in this manner, would inevitably during their long sojourn in Arda have made a lambe for themselves" (WJ:397). There was no doubt that this was indeed the case, for there were references to the language of the Valar in the old lore of the Noldor.
          When the Eldar arrived in Valinor, the Valar and the Maiar quickly adopted Quenya and sometimes even used it among themselves. Yet Valarin was by no means displaced by Quenya, and it could still be heard when the Valar were having their great debates. "The tongues and voices of the Valar are great and stern," Rúmil of Tirion wrote, "and yet also swift and subtle in movement, making sounds that we find hard to counterfeit; and their words are mostly long and rapid, like the glitter of swords, like the rush of leaves in a great wind or the fall of stones in the mountains." Pengolodh is less lyrical, and also less courteous: "Plainly the effect of Valarin upon Elvish ears was not pleasing." (WJ:398) Valarin employed many sounds that were alien to the Eldarin languages.
          Nonetheless, Quenya borrowed some words from Valarin, though they often had to be much changed to fit the restrictive phonology of High-Elven. From the Silmarillion we remember the Ezellohar, the Green Mound, and Máhanaxar, the Ring of Doom. These are foreign words in Quenya, adopted and adapted from Valarin Ezellôchâr and Mâchananaškad. The names of the Valar Manwë, Aulë, Tulkas, Oromë and Ulmo were borrowed from Valarin Mânawenûz, A3ûlêz, Tulukastâz, Arômêz and Ulubôz (or Ullubôz). So is the name of the Maia Ossë (Ošošai, Oššai). The names Eönwë and possibly Nessa also seem to be adopted from Valarin, though the original forms of the names are not recorded.
          Sometimes a Quenya word derived from Valarin does not mean exactly the same as the original word. Quenya axan "law, rule, commandment" is derived from the Valarin verb akašân, supposedly meaning "He says" - "he" being none other than Eru Himself. The Vanyar, who were in closer contact with the Valar than the Noldor, also adopted more words from their tongue, like ulban "blue" (original Valarin form not given). But the Valar themselves encouraged the Elves to translate Valarin words into their own fair tongue rather than adopt and adapt the original Valarin forms. And so they often did: The names Eru "the One = God", Varda "the Sublime", Melkor "He who arises in Might" and several others are one hundred percent Elvish, but also translations of the Valarin names. See WJ:402-403 for a full list of such translated words and names.
          By mysterious routes, Valarin also influenced other tongues than Quenya. It is interesting to note that the Valarin word iniðil "lily, or other large single flower" appears in Adûnaic (Númenórean) as inzil "flower" (as in Inziladûn "Flower of the West", UT:227). How could a Valarin word get into Adûnaic? Via Elves, possibly even Vanyar, visiting Númenor? Via Khuzdul, if Aulë put this word into the tongue he devised for the Dwarves? There is little doubt that the speech of the ancestors of the Edain was heavily influenced by Dwarvish. There is no record of any Vala ever visiting the Númenóreans and speaking to them directly, and even if one did, he would certainly use a language they could understand, not Valarin.
          Anthony Appleyard has pointed out that one word in Sauron's Black Speech, nazg "ring", seems to be borrowed from Valarin naškad (or anaškad? The word is isolated from Mâchananaškad "Ring of Doom", so we cannot be sure of its exact form). As a Maia, Sauron would know Valarin.
          Was pure Valarin ever heard outside the Blessed Realm? Melian the Maia would know it, but she obviously did not have many opportunities to speak it during her long incarnation as Queen of Doriath. Much later, in the Third Age, the Istari would know Valarin; one may speculate that they would speak it among themselves. When Pippin took the palantír from sleeping Gandalf, it is recorded that the wizard "moved in his sleep, and muttered some words: they seemed to be in a strange tongue" (LotR2/III ch. 11). Could this be Valarin, the Maia Olórin slipping into his native tongue when asleep? (But from an "external" point of view, it is not even certain that Tolkien envisioned any distinct Valarin tongue at the time LotR was written; see below.)


Tolkien's ideas about the tongue of the Valar changed over time. His original concept was that Valarin was the ultimate ancestor of the Elvish tongues - that Primitive Elvish arose when the Elves attempted to learn Valarin from Oromë at Cuiviénen (see LR:168). This idea was later rejected; in the published Silmarillion, the Elves invented speech on their own before Oromë found them. For a while, the entire concept of a Valian language was abandoned: In 1958, in a letter to Rhona Beare, Tolkien stated that "the Valar had no language of their own, not needing one" (Letters:282). But soon after, in the essay Quendi and Eldar from about 1960, the Valarin language reappeared, though it was now conceived as being very different from the Elvish tongues and most certainly not their ancestor (WJ:397-407). As noted above, Quenyarized Valarin words appear in the published Silmarillion: Ezellohar, Máhanaxar.
          In earlier sources we find Elvish etymologies for the names now explained as borrowings from Valarin. For instance, the name of Aulë, god of craft, is derived from a stem GAWA "think out, devise, contrive" in the Etymologies (LR:358). The Valarin name A3ûlêz entered later.
          It has been suggested that Tolkien's inspiration for Valarin was ancient Babylonian; some feel that the general style of Valarin is reminiscent of such words as "Etemenanki", the name of the great tower (ziggurat) of Babylon. However, such views are purely conjectural, and we may rightly ask why Tolkien would use Babylonian as a model for the language of the gods of his mythos. More likely he simply aimed for a very peculiar style, since this is supposed to be a language wholly independent of the Elvish language family, and moreover a tongue developed and spoken by superhuman beings.


Valarin employs a great number of sounds, and Tolkien also used exceptionally many special letters to spell it. There are at least seven vowels, a, e, i, o, u (long and short), plus æ (as a in English cat) and a special, open variety of o, probably midway between the English vowels a, o as in card and sore. There are quite a few spirants: ð (as th in the), þ (as th in thing), 3 (not in English; the spirant equivalent of g, spelt gh in Orkish ghâsh), and ch as in German or Welsh ach (that Tolkien actually represents with the Greek letter chi in his spelling of Valarin). The plosives include voiced b, d, g and unvoiced p, t, k. The digraphs ph, th, bh presumably represent aspirated plosives, i.e. p, t, b followed by h. There are at least three sibilants, z, s and š, the latter like sh in English she. Two nasals, m and n, are attested. Valarin also has the vibrant r and the lateral l, plus the semivowels y and w.

Most words are of the pattern (V)CVCV...etc, with few consonant clusters, though br, lg, ll, gw, šk, st are attested medially.

A plural infix -um- occurs in Mâchanâz pl. Mâchanumâz "Authorities, Aratar". That is all we can say about Valarin grammar. (See, however, ayanûz in the wordlist below concerning a possible inflexional ending.)

The word dušamanûðân "marred" would seem to be a passive participle by its gloss; if we had known the verb "to mar", we could have isolated the morphemes used to derive such participles. However, the sole attested verb is akašân, said to mean "he says". Presumably this word can be split into a root "say" and affixes meaning "he" and "present tense", but we cannot isolate the morphemes with any shadow of confidence.

As pointed out by Rúmil, words, especially names, tend to be rather long, up to eight syllables as in Ibrîniðilpathânezel "Telperion".

All the known names of various Valar end in -z: A3ûlêz "Aulë", Arômêz "Oromë" (see the wordlist concerning the spelling), Mânawenûz "Manwë", Tulukastâz "Tulkas", Ulubôz or Ullubôz "Ulmo". Other names do not have this ending, not even the name of the Maia Ossë (Ošošai, Oššai). But perhaps significantly, the words ayanûz "ainu" and Mâchanumâz "Aratar" have the same ending. In the entry for ayanûz in the wordlist below, it is suggested that some kind of inflexional ending is present in this word.

The only thing we can say about syntax is that adjectives seem to follow the noun they describe: Aþâraphelûn Amanaišal "Arda Unmarred", Aþâraphelûn Dušamanûðân "Arda Marred".


Long vowels are indicated by means of circumflexes (^); the source uses macrons instead. A sound corresponding to German ach-Laut is spelt with the Greek letter chi in the source; here the digraph ch is used instead. In the source, the back-spirant often spelt gh by Tolkien is spelt by a special letter similar to the number 3, which is used here. The Vanyarin colour-words nasar "red" and ulban "blue" were derived from Valarin, but as the original forms are not given, they are not included in this list.

          A3ûlêz name of unknown meaning, altered to produce Quenya Aulë. (WJ:399)
          amanaišal "unmarred" (WJ:401)
          aþar "fixed time, festival" (adopted into Quenya, becoming asar in the Noldorin dialect with the general change þ [th] > s). (WJ:399) Cf. aþâra.
"appointed" (cf. aþar) (WJ:399) In Aþâraigas, said to mean "appointed heat" and used of the Sun, and Aþâraphelûn, supposedly meaning "appointed dwelling", but used in the same sense as Quenya Arda (this meaning of this word, itself of purely Elvish origin, was influenced by Aþâraphelûn). Aþâraphelûn Amanaišal "Arda Unmarred", Aþâraphelûn Dušamanûðân "Arda Marred". (WJ:399, 401)
          akašân supposedly means "He says" with reference to Eru; the source of Quenya axan "law, rule, commandment". (WJ:399)
          Arômêz (in the source, the letter ô has a diacritic indicating that it is open and a-like) a name adapted to Quenya as Oromë and to Sindarin as Araw. (WJ:400) According to Elvish folk etymology, Oromë meant "horn-blowing" or "horn-blower", but the original Valarin name simply denotes this Vala and has no etymology beyond that (WJ:401).
          ašata "hair of head", also just šata. (WJ:399)
          ayanûz "ainu" (WJ:399; the Quenya word ainu is indeed adopted and adapted from Valarin). Compare PM:364, where Tolkien states that in the Valarin language, ayanu- was "the name of the Spirits of Eru's first creation". Are we to infer that ayanu- is the stem of the word, implying that in ayanûz, the lengthening of the final vowel and the suffixing of -z indicate some kind of inflexion - say, nominative singular?
          Dâhan-igwiš-telgûn probably the Valarin name of Taniquetil; see WJ:417. The Quenya name is partly an adaption, partly a "perversion" motivated by folk etymology: Taniquetil may be interpreted "high white point", though this is not good Quenya. More common, but probably less accurate spelling: Dahanigwishtilgûn.
          delgûmâ a Valarin word the exact meaning of which is not given. (WJ:399) It is, however, stated that it influenced Quenya telumë "dome, (especially) dome of heaven" (LR:391 stem TEL, TELU), which was altered to telluma "dome", especially applied to the "Dome of Varda" over Valinor; also used of the domes of the mansion of Manwë and Varda upon Taniquetil. The former meaning seems to be relevant in Namárië: Vardo tellumar...yassen tintilar i eleni... "Varda's domes...wherein the stars tremble..." (LotR1/II ch. 8)
          dušamanûðân "marred" (WJ:401)
          Ezellôchâr "the Green Mound", incorporating a Valarin word for "green" that is not given as such, but was adopted into Vanyarin Quenya as ezel, ezella (WJ:399). Adapted to Quenya as Ezellohar (likely becoming *Erellohar in the Exilic Noldorin dialect with the general change z > r).
          Ibrîniðilpathânezel Valarin name of Telperion (WJ:401), etymology not given, but the name seems to incorporate iniðil "flower" and possibly ezel "green" (see Ezellôchâr above). David Salo suggests the interpretation *"Silver-flower leaf-green", which if correct would imply the existence of the elements ibri "silver" (or "white"?) and pathân "leaf".
          igas "heat", tentatively isolated from Aþâraigas "appointed heat" (q.v.)
          iniðil "lily, or other large single flower" (the source of Quenya indil, and evidently also Adûnaic inzil) (WJ:399)
          mâchanâz, pl. mâchanumâz "Authorities", used of the greatest Valar, called Aratar in Quenya. The Valarin word was also adapted to Quenya as Máhan pl. Máhani.
          machallâm properly one of the seats of the Valar in the Ring of Doom, the source of Quenya mahalma "throne" (WJ:399, cf. UT:305, 317)
          mâchan supposedly means "authority, authoritative decision" (WJ:399). The source of Quenya Máhan, one of the eight chiefs of the Valar, though the translation Aratar was more usual. It is an element in Mâchananaškad "Doom-ring", Ring of Doom, adapted to Quenya as Máhanaxar or translated as Rithil-Anamo. (WJ:401)
          Mânawenûz "Blessed One, One (closest) in accord with Eru". In Quenya reduced and altered to produce Manwë. (WJ:399)
          mirub- "wine", an element also occurring in mirubhôzê- (supposedly the beginning of a longer word) = Quenya miruvórë, miruvor, the name of a special wine or cordial, rendered "mead" in the translation of Namárië in LotR, where this word occurs (yéni ve lintë yuldar avánier...lisse-miruvóreva, "the long years have passed like swift draughts of the sweet mead", LotR1/II ch. 8) Likely, the word was originally adapted as *miruvózë, becoming miruvórë in the Noldorin dialect with the general change of z > r. It would remain *miruvózë in Vanyarin. RGEO:69 confirms that miruvórë was "a word derived from the language of the Valar; the name that they gave to the drink poured out at their festivals".
          naškad (or anaškad?) an element tentatively isolated from Mâchananaškad and possibly meaning "ring", cf. Black Speech nazg.
          Næchærra (not capitalized in source) the original Valarin name that was adapted to Quenya as Nahar, Oromë's horse, supposedly onomatopoeic after his neighing. (WJ:401)
          Ošošai, Oššai a name supposedly meaning "spuming, foaming", adapted to Quenya as Ossai > Ossë, Sindarin Yssion, Gaerys. (WJ:400)
          Phanaikelûth (sic, not **Phanaikelûþ) supposedly means "bright mirror", used of the moon (WJ:401)
          phelûn "dwelling", tentatively isolated from Aþâraphelûn, q.v.
          rušur "fire" (also uruš) (WJ:401)
          šata "hair of head", also ašata (WJ:399)
          šebeth (sic, not **šebeþ) "air" (WJ:401)
          tulukha(n) "yellow" (WJ:399). Adapted to Vanyarin Quenya as tulka.
          Tulukhastâz (sic - read Tulukhaštâz?) is supposedly a compound containing tulukha(n) "yellow" and (a)šata "hair of head", hence "the golden-haired". Adapted to Quenya as Tulkas. (WJ:399)
          Tulukhedelgorûs Valarin name of Laurelin, etymology not given, but the word apparently incorporates a form of tulukha(n) "yellow" (WJ:401)
          ulu, ullu "water" (WJ:400, 401). In Ulubôz, Ullubôz.
          Ulubôz, Ullubôz a name containing ulu, ullu "water", adapted to Quenya as Ulmo and interpreted "the Pourer" by folk etymology. (WJ:400)
          uruš "fire" (also rušur) (WJ:401)

Ardalambion Index