Til hamingju með afmælit

On this, the 122nd anniversary of the birth of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the Miðgarðsmál blog would like to wish him a

  • Mána ontalérë
  • Aur onnas alwed
  • Ênâd-nurt gêdul

and a

  • Zeyborzi undumi bolneg

mána “blessed”
onta– “produce, create, beget, give birth to”
ontale “production, creation, genealogical descent” — hence (presumably) birth as well
“day” (of 24 hours)
ontale+ré = ontalére, preserving the original long final vowel of *ontālē (cf. yáviére, tuilére)

aur “day” (of 24 hours)
onnas “birth” — a conjectural noun form, from the slightly less conjectural onna-, equivalent to Quenya onta– (cf. edonna– “beget”)
alwed “fortunate, prosperous”

ênâd “birth” from *aynād, from the root √YND “give birth to” (influenced in fact by both Quenya yondo and Semitic √WLD, √YLD).
nurt “24-hour day” — a word from archaic formation, from √NRT “turn”; probably referring, not to the turning of the earth on its axis, but to the apparent turning of the sun around the earth. This root has been in my notes for a while, and I can’t find which word it was originally intended to explain or remember its origin; it looks now like simply an anagram of “turn,” but I may have had something else in mind, possibly Indo-European *wert- . “Turning” itself would be anrât.
gêdul “joyful, happy,” from a noun gayad, gêd- (*gayd-). No doubt Latin gaudium had an influence here.

Orkish (The dialect used in the film of The Hobbit)
zeyborz “day,” literally “light-dark”; zey from more archaic *zil, and borz from Black Speech burz.
The suffix -i marks a noun or noun phrase that is modified by an adjective or another noun. Its origin is probably the same as the Elvish relative pronoun i or ya.
undum “birth” or “spawning” from a verb und– “procreate.” This again seems to show Elvish influence.
The Orcs do not really appreciate the concept of joy, as understood by most other creatures (a literal description of it in Orkish would amount to “madness”), much less blessedness. I was forced to use an approximation of the concept that would make sense to an Orc:
bolneg “free from pain,” from the Orkish root √bol– (cf. bolum “pain”) and the privative suffix –neg, marking an absence of something. The latter is reminiscent of Latin negare; this is a coincidence (as they say in Middle-earth). The actual source is Quendian *-enekā, from the root √nek– “deprive of.”

11 Responses to “Til hamingju með afmælit”

  1. Andrew Higgins


    Brilliant. As my current thesis work is on the Early Tolkien with a major focus on his earliest invented languages I constructed the following greetings in honour of the Professor’s birthday

    Dana Nosteg Mora Goldriel

    Dana Nosteg – from PE 11:61
    Mora – good PE 11:57
    Goldriel – a Gnomish name for the Valar Noldrin / Lirillo who I believe Tolkien modeled himself after – PE 14:12-13 having to do with singing and harps – his brother Valar was Amillo who was modeled on Tolkien’s brother Hillary.

    Well done on Hobbit DOS. I have seen it twice and need to now do a linguistic viewing – much to absorb!

    Best Andy

  2. Mark

    Absolutely lovely! I wonder if one might calque the curious Welsh expression for ‘birthday’—penblwydd, literally ‘end-of-year’—as a noun methenîn, not unlike e.g. dantilais.

  3. Tigran

    I saw The Desolation of Smaug lately.
    I have one question. Saruman spoke BS or Orkish?
    I heard “Kutmu Nagash” – the war is coming. Is that orkish?

    • David Salo

      Sauron/The Necromancer always speaks Black Speech, and any character conversing with him uses Black Speech; Black Speech is also occasionally uses as a lingua franca between evil characters of different origins, as the Orkish languages are neither sufficiently well known nor sufficiently broad in scope.

      Kutmu nakhash is Black Speech for “war is coming.” I really liked that √nakh-, I guess!

      • Ovi


        Would it be possible for you to add a new post with the Black Speech and Orkish lines from the Hobbit?

        Off topic:
        I’ve recently read some things about Ancient Mesopotamia and I came across a list of Babylonian kings from the Kassite Dynasty. It seemed to my ears that the Kassite language (we only have some word list in it, no unitary texts) sounded very Orkish. As an example, there is one Kassite king named “Nazi-Bugash”. Also, Hattic seems to have this quality, though to a lesser extent. Perhaps you could find inspiration in the vocabulary of these languages for new Orkish or Black Speech words.

        • David Salo

          I don’t really know anything about the Kassite language, and it wasn’t a direct influence on my version of Orkish — though I agree that some of the Kassite names sound a bit like it, in fact, possibly more like my Gundabad Orkish than anything found in The Lord of the Rings! Part of it has to do with the frequent ending -ash, which is a 3rd person ending in Gundabad Orkish, and most likely a masculine nominative singular ending in Kassite. A name like Ur-Zigurumash has a resemblance that goes beyond that however, being reminiscent of Sauron’s Adûnaic name Zigûr, which I in fact reused in Black Speech because of its phonetic suitability — and because, as we know, the Dark Lord never allowed himself to be referred to as Sauron by his minions. One major difference is that, as transcribed, Kassite has only the vowels a, i, u, while o is frequent in Gundabad Orkish. I think that the similarities are basically coincidental.

  4. Nicolás

    Great post, David!

    I would have gone with Quenya: “Alassea nostare” or “Merin alassea nostare len”. And likewise for Sindarin: “Aur onnad veren” or “Aur en-onnad veren”, maybe use “gelir”? Would these be unacceptable? A bit too literal?

  5. david

    In Dutch we could birthday, verjaardag what means “to-age–day” (literally; the better translation would be day-that-you-age-a-year-older)
    Roots are verjaren and dag, and we use birthday (geboorte dag) exact datum of someone’s birth. We are only language how use and ander word on exception of Flamisch, so it is possible to use it as variation.

  6. Charlie

    Bol (боль) is an actual Polish and Russian word for pain. Is this a coincidence?

    • David Salo

      I wasn’t aware of it; but I certainly had in mind the Eldarin root √ŋgwal-, which becomes Sindarin baul, bol- in the Orc-name Boldog. Quite possibly Tolkien was aware of the Slavic word and made use of it.

  7. Daviyd Viljoen

    OK so we now have a good way to say ‘Happy Birthday’
    But what about ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ (?Aur Naneth alwed? ?aur e-Naneth Alwed?)

    Off topic:
    I got ‘A Gateway to Sindarin’ a few days back, I find it well written and very complete (for a poorly attested language). I don’t know why, but I like Sindarin more then Quenya.

    I have a bit of trouble understanding the book properly as I am not a linguist!


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