eldanoun. Elf, Elf, (lit.) one of the Star-folk, Elven, one of the Star-folk, Elves in general
The most common Quenya word for “Elf”. Its literal meaning is “one of the Star-folk” (WJ/374), a name given to them by Oromë (S/49) and derived from the same primitive root √EL as Q. elen “star”. Strictly speaking, this term excludes the Avari who chose not to journey to Valinor, so that the proper term for all of Elvenkind is Q. Quendë “one of the Elven race”. The Elves of the West rarely encountered the Avari, however, so that term Elda was ordinarily broad enough to describe all Elves.
Conceptual Development: This word dates back to the earliest stages of Tolkien’s languages. At its first appearance, ᴱQ. Elda was glossed “a beach-fay” (QL/35), but was soon extended to describe all Elves (LT1/113). In Tolkien’s earliest writings the word was not given a clear etymology. In the Lhammas “Account of Tongues” from the 1930s (LR/168-180), Tolkien gave ᴹQ. Elda the sense of “one who departed” (LR/169), as opposed to the ᴹQ. Lembi “Lingerers” who remained behind (precursors of the Avari). With this sense, Elda was derived from ᴹ√LED “go, fare, travel” (Ety/LED).
Tolkien soon revised the etymology of Elda so that it was derived instead from ᴹ√ELED “star-folk” (Ety/ELED). In some later writings, he considered both etymologies of this word to be valid, so that Elda was blending of both “star-folk” (from √EL) and Q. Eldo “marcher” (from √LED or √DEL¹), as discussed in the “Quendi and Eldar” essay from 1959-60 and elsewhere (WJ/362-3, PE17/139). However, the sense “star-folk” is probably better known.
In some notes from 1957, Tolkien considered deriving this word from a variant root √DEL² “fair” so that its meaning would be “the fair” (PE17/151), but this seems to have been a transient idea.
eldaof the stars
elda 1. originally adj. "of the stars", but wholly replaced (WJ:362) by: 2. noun (Elda) = one of the people of the Stars, (high-)elf, an Elf (SA:êl, elen, Letters:281, ELED, ÉLED; notice that Tolkien abandoned a former etymology with "depart"), chiefly in the pl. Eldar (WJ:362, cf. GAT(H), TELES).The primitive form Tolkien variously cited as ¤eledā / elenā(Letters:281, PE17:152) and ¤eldā(WJ:360). Partitive pl. Eldali (VT49:8), gen. pl. Eldaron (WJ:368, PM:395, 402);dative pl.eldain "for elves", for Eldar (FS); possessive sg. Eldava "Elf's" (WJ:407); possessive pl. Eldaiva (WJ:368), Eldaivë governing a plural word (WJ:369). The word Eldar properly refers to the non-Avari Elves only, but since Eldar rarely had any contact with the Avari, it could be used for "elves" in general (in LT1:251, Elda is simply glossed "Elf"). See also Eldo. The plural form Eldar should not require any article when the reference is to the entire people; i Eldar refers to a limited group, "(all) the Elves previously named"; nevertheless, Tolkien in some sources does use the article even where the reference seems to be generic (i Eldar or i-Eldar, VT49:8).
Eldo noun, archaic variant of Elda, properly one of the "Marchers" from Cuiviénen, but the word went out of use (WJ:363, 374)
Eldarin adj. derived from Elda: "Eldarin, Elvish" (Silm, ÉLED). Also in the longer form Eldarinwa (pl. Eldarinwë in VT47:14, in the title Eldarinwë leperi ar notessi, "The Eldarin fingers and numerals")
elenaof the stars
elena adj. "of the stars" (SA:êl, elen); also elenya
vanimeldathe highest word of praise for beauty
vanimelda adj., said to be "the highest word of praise for beauty", with two interpretations that were apparently considered equally valid and simultaneously true: "beautiful and beloved" (vanima + melda, with haplology), i.e. "movingly lovely", but also "elven-fair" (fair as an Elf) (vanima + elda). The word was also used as the second name of Arwen. (PE17:56, Second Edition LotR1:II ch. 16).
Elendil masc. name"Star-friend", "Lover or student of stars", applied to those devoted to astronomical lore. However, when the Edain used this name they intended it to mean "Elf-friend", confusing elen "star" and elda "elf" (WJ:410). (This idea that the name was misapplied seems to be late; Tolken earlier interpreted the name as an ancient compound Eled + ndil so that the meaning really was "Elf-friend"; see Letters:386. See also NIL/NDIL in the Etymologies, where Elendil is equated with "Ælfwine", Elf-friend.) Allative Elendilenna "to Elendil" (PM:401); Elendil Vorondo genitive of Elendil Voronda "Elendil the Steadfast" _(CO) Pl. Elendili the Númenórean Elf-friends (Silm)_; the variant Elendilli in SD:403 would seem to presuppose a stem-form Elendill- not attested elsewhere. Tar-Elendil a Númenorean king, UT:210.