Primitive elvish


root. excellent, admirable, beautiful; make [art]; suitable, useful, proper, serviceable; right

A root appearing in Tolkien’s later writings with a variety of glosses: √MAY “make (in artistic sense as ποιήτης [Greek: make, create])” in Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957 (PE17/145, 163), {√MAGA >>} √(A)MAY “suitable, useful, proper, serviceable; right” in Definitive Linguistic Notes (DLN) from 1959 but this note was crossed through (PE17/172), √MAY “excellent, admirable” elsewhere in DLN (PE17/172), again as √MAY “excellent, admirable” in notes contemporaneous to the Quendi and Eldar essay from 1959-60 (PE17/150, 163) and finally as √MAY “beautiful” in notes from the late 1960s (VT47/18).

Two notable derivatives of √MAY were S. mae “well” (PE17/17, 163) and Q. Maia (PE17/163; VT47/18), but elsewhere these two words were derived from the root √MAG “good (useful)” (PE17/16, 162; PE19/46, 62, 75, 94). In the aforementioned notes from the late 1960s, however, Tolkien said “maga was distinct from maʒa and maya” (VT48/18). For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would assume the root √MAY was distinct from √MAG, having the meaning “excellent, admirable, beautiful” and by extension the creation of beautiful things such as art, to allow the retention of 1957 words like Q. maitar “artist” (PE17/163).

A possible precursor to this root is unglossed ᴱ√MAẎA from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. mai “too much” and ᴱQ. maira “excessive, strong” (QL/60); perhaps a more extreme version of its later sense “excellent”. The entry also included ᴱQ. mairu “(horse ?); mane, flowing hair”, but Tolkien marked this word with a “?”, perhaps indicating he was unsure it was from this root (QL/60).


  • mai “well”
    • S. mae “well; excellent, admirable” ✧ PE17/016; PE17/017
  • Māya ✧ VT47/18
    • Q. Maia “(angelic) spirit, the Beautiful” ✧ PE19/075; PE19/094
  • Q. mai “well, well; [ᴱQ.] too much” ✧ PE17/162
  • Q. mai- “excellent, admirable, excellent, admirable; *well, happily” ✧ PE17/163
  • Q. amya- “excellent, admirable” ✧ PE17/163
  • Q. Maia “(angelic) spirit, the Beautiful” ✧ PE17/163; PE17/163; PE17/163
  • Q. maina “thing of excellence, treasure” ✧ PE17/163
  • Q. maira “admirable, excellent, precious, splendid, sublime” ✧ PE17/163; PE17/163; PE17/172
  • Q. mairë “work of high and beautiful art, the process of producing a work” ✧ PE17/163
  • Q. mairëa “beautiful (of things made by art)” ✧ PE17/163
  • Q. maitar “artist; poet” ✧ PE17/163
  • S. ein- “excellent, admirable” ✧ PE17/163
  • S. mae “well; excellent, admirable” ✧ PE17/163
  • S. maen “a treasure” ✧ PE17/163
  • S. maer “good, excellent, fair, good, excellent, fair; [N.] useful, fit, good (of things)” ✧ PE17/162; PE17/163; PE17/163
  • S. maeron “artist, poet” ✧ PE17/163

Element in

  • Q. maita- “to make with art, design, compose” ✧ PE17/163


  • (A)MAY ✧ PE17/146; PE17/172 ((A)MAY)
  • maya ✧ VT47/18
  • may ✧ VT47/18
Primitive elvish [PE17/145; PE17/146; PE17/150; PE17/162; PE17/163; PE17/172; VT47/18] Group: Eldamo. Published by