Primitive elvish


root. *live, have life, [ᴹ√] live, have life

Tolkien regularly used roots like √KOY for “life” words, but they were often in competition with √KUY. The earliest appearance of this root was as ᴱ√KOẎO “have life” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives such as ᴱQ. koire “life” and ᴱQ. koiva “awake” (QL/48). The corresponding Gnomish derivatives such as G. cuib “alive” and G. cuil “life” had the diphthong ui (GL/27) since [[g|[oi] became [ui]]] in Gnomish (PE15/13). But the Gnomish “awake” words had cwiv-, cwib-, or cwip- such as: G. cwiv- “be awake”, G. cwivros “awakening”, and G. cwimp “alert” (GL/28-29). Tolkien said:

> There is confusion between QIV-, QIPI-, KOI̯-(VI) or perhaps original connection. They are more confused in Qenya. Note Qenya confusion between koiva (lively, living), Qîva (awake) and similarly koivie, qîvie, liveliness, awakening, respectively (GL/29).

There are no direct signs of ᴱ√QIVI or ᴱ√QIPI in the Qenya Lexicon, so Tolkien may have introduced or refined this notion in the Gnomish Lexicon.

In The Etymologies of the 1930s, Tolkien gave only the root ᴹ√KUY “come to life, awake”, which had both Quenya and Noldorin derivatives connected to both senses “life” and “awakeness” (Ety/KUY). However, in the Quenya Verbal System Tolkien gave ᴹ√KOY [√KOJ] as the basis for “life” words (PE22/125). In the 1940s, 50s and early 60s there were quite a few Quenya “life” words that must have been derived from √KOY:

  • ᴹQ. koita- “live, be alive” (PE22/103, 125).

  • Q. coirë “spring, stirring” (LotR/1107).

  • Q. koive or koivie “life” (PE17/68).

  • Q. coimas “life-bread” (PM/404).

  • Q. coirëa “living” (PM/399).

In this same period, Tolkien continued to use derivatives of √KUY for words having to do with being “awake”, most notably in Q. Cuiviénen “Water of Awakening” (<< ᴱQ. Koivie-néni). In Common Eldarin: Verb Structure from the early 1950s he gave √KOJ as the root for “life” versus √KUJ as the root for “awake” (PE22/135). In notes from 1957 Tolkien said √KUY meant “awake not live” (NM/274).

Later, however, he seems to have changed his mind, and Quenya “life” words again started to show cui-, such as kuivie “life” in notes on The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor from the late 1960s (VT42/8). In Late Notes on Verbs from 1969, Tolkien again gave the root √KUY and the verb Q. kuita- for “live” (PE22/154, 156), and Q. cuima “animal” from these same notes was probably also based on √KUY “life”. To summarize, the conceptual development seems to be 1910s ᴱ√KOẎO “have life” (blended with ᴱ√QIVI and ᴱ√QIPI “awake”) >> 1930s ᴹ√KUY “life, awake” >> 1940s through early 1960s √KOY “life” vs. √KUY “awake” >> late 1960s √KUY “life” (and probably also “awake”).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it is best to retain the distinct √KOY “life” and √KUY “awake”, especially given the appearance of coirë “stirring” in The Lord of the Rings, which must be from √KOY. These late vacillations makes almost no difference in Sindarin, since the roots √KOY and √KUY would have blended in cui- because [[os|[oi] became [ui]]] in Sindarin as it did in Gnomish.


  • etkoiru- “to come to life” ✧ PE22/136
  • koiru- “to come to life” ✧ PE22/136
  • koitā- “to bring to life” ✧ PE22/136
    • ᴺS. cuida- “to bring to life, enliven, energize”
  • ᴺQ. coina “alive, living”
  • Q. coirë “stirring, early spring, stirring, early spring; [ᴱQ.] life”
  • Q. coirëa “living, living, [ᴱQ.] lively, alive”
  • Q. coita- “*to live, be alive, have life, [ᴹQ.] to live, be alive, have life”
  • ᴺQ. coiva “lively, living; awake”
  • Q. coivië “life, life, [ᴱQ.] liveliness; awakening”
  • S. cuia- “to live”
  • S. cuina- “to be alive”
  • ᴺS. cuith “[biological process of] life, the vital principle; living body”

Element in


  • KOJ ✧ PE22/136
Primitive elvish [PE22/136] Group: Eldamo. Published by