êl (“star”) + bereth (“queen, spouse of a king”) No lenition: original name Elenbarathi yielding Elmbereth, where triconsonantal lmb > lb.
noun. star queen/lady
theon.'Star-queen'. On the mythological association of Varda with stars, see PE17:22. Same meaning as Q. Elentári. Rarely Bereth. Formed later, Elbereth would prob. have been given such forms as Bereth (in)-elin or Bereth (in)gîl. >> Bereth (in)-elin, êl, elen
feminine name. Queen of Stars, (lit.) Star-queen
The Sindarin name of Varda, a compound of êl “star” and bereth “queen”, that is: “Star-queen” (LotR/378, RGEO/66). The Quenya equivalent of this name is Elentári. This name was of ancient derivation, from ✶elen-barathī > elmbereth > Elbereth, as shown by the fact that the initial [b] in the second element did not lenite to [v] (MR/387, PE17/22).
Possible Etymology: In the 1930s, N. Elbereth was likewise derived ✶el(en)-barathī (Ety/EL, BARATH). This 1930s derivation worked through a combination of i-affection and i-intrusion, with the resulting ei > e as often happened in unstressed final syllables in Noldorin of the 1930s:
- ✱elen-barathī > elem-berethi > el(e)mbereith > N. elbereth.
This derivation no longer works in Sindarin of the 1950s and 60s, however, since [[s|later [ei] became [ai] in final syllables]] in Sindarin and did not reduce to e. Thus we should have ✶barathī > ✱✱beraith. One possibility is that Tolkien transferred this derivation to the root √BER “marry”: in The Road Goes Ever On published in 1967, Tolkien said “bereth actually meant ‘spouse’, and is used of one who is ‘queen’ as spouse of a king” (RGEO/66). This theory was first proposed to me by Elaran in a private Discord chat in November 2018, and I find it very compelling; it neatly resolves the phonological problem if bereth is derived from ✱berettē or something similar.
Conceptual Development: In the earliest Lost Tales, this name was G. Timbridhil “Queen of Stars” (GL/71, LT1A/Tinwetári), which reappeared in The Etymologies from the 1930s as N. Timbreðil (Ety/TIN). Tolkien revised the name to N. Elbereth “Star Queen” (Ety/EL, Ety/BARATH), which appeared in the narratives starting with the Lord of the Rings drafts from the 1940s (RS/68).
Before giving this name to Varda, Tolkien used the name Ilk. Elbereth for the youngest child of Dior (Ety/BER), but he changed that name to Elrûn (later S. Elurín). Tolkien also used the name N. Elbereth for one of the sons of Elrond before renaming him S. Elrohir (WR/297).
- Q. Elentári “Queen of the Stars, Star-queen” ✧ LotRI/Elbereth; PE17/022; RGEO/66; SI/Elbereth; MR/388
- ✶elen-barathī “star-queen” ✧ MR/387; PE17/022
- S. a Elbereth Gilthoniel “o Elbereth who lit the stars” ✧ LotR/0238; LotR/0729; PE17/022; RGEO/63; RGEO/64; RGEO/64
Word Gloss êl “star” bereth “queen, spouse; supreme, sublime”
Development Stages Sources ✶elen-barathi > elmbereth > Elbereth [elenbarathī] > [elembarathī] > [elembarathi] > [elemberethi] > [elembereth] > [elmbereth] > [elbereth] ✧ MR/387 ✶elen-barathī > el-mbereth > Elbereth [elenbarathī] > [elembarathī] > [elembarathi] > [elemberethi] > [elembereth] > [elmbereth] > [elbereth] ✧ PE17/022
- El-bereth ✧ PE17/023
a tiro nin, fanuilos
o guard me, Elbereth
Word Gloss a “O!” tir- “to look (towards), watch (over), guard, to look (towards), watch (over), guard; [G.] to look (out) for, watch for, await, expect” nin “me” Fanuilos “Bright (Angelic) Figure upon Uilos”
- [A tiro nin, Fanuilos] ✧ Let/278; RGEO/64
- A tiro nin, Fanuilos ✧ LotR/0729; RGEO/64
- A tiro nin, Fanuilos! ✧ PE17/021; PE17/021
- A tíro nin Fanuilos ✧ PE17/094