Primitive elvish


root. close, end, complete, come to an end

Tolkien used words beginning with tel- or tyel- for “end” and these were intermixed with “roof” words, but the exact arrangements evolved over Tolkien’s life. In the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, the base root was ᴱ√TELE “cover in” with derivatives like ᴱQ. tel (teld-) “roof” and ᴱQ. telimbo “canopy; sky”, along with a vocalic extension ᴱ√TEL+U “to finish, close, end, complete” with derivatives like verb ᴱQ. telu- of the same meaning and ᴱQ. telwa “last, late” (QL/90-91). Both the base root and its extension had derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon such as G. teld “roof” vs. G. telu “end” (GL/70).

In the Early Qenya Word Lists of the 1920s, however, Tolkien gave the words ᴱQ. talle “ended” and ᴱQ. talma “end” (PE16/143, 144) versus ᴱQ. telu- “cover, roof” and ᴱQ. telume “firmament” and (QL/134, 142). Indeed, in The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien had unglossed ᴹ√TEL with the vocalic extension ᴹ√TELU having derivatives like ᴹQ. telme “hood, covering” and ᴹQ. telume/N. telu “roof (of heaven)” (Ety/TEL). The primitive verb form ✶telu- “roof in” appeared in Quendian & Common Eldarin Verbal Structure (EVS1: PE22/98) from the 1930s and again in Common Eldarin: Verb Structure from the early 1950s (EVS2: PE22/135), and finally one more time with the gloss “roof in, put the crown on a building” in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60 (WJ/411).

The “end” words went down a different route. In The Etymologies Tolkien gave ᴹ√KYEL “run out, come to an end” as an etymological variant of ᴹ√KEL “go, run (especially of water), ✱flow”; ᴹ√KYEL had derivatives like ᴹQ. tyel- “to end, cease” and ᴹQ. tyelima “final” (Ety/KEL, KYEL). Tolkien mentioned this etymological variation of √KEL “flow” vs. √KYEL “cease, come to an end” in both the first and second version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa from the 1930s and around 1950 respectively (TQ1: PE18/58; TQ2: PE18/103), and the two variants were also mentioned in the Quenya Verbal System of the 1940s (PE22/114). However, in Common Eldarin: Verb Structure of the early 1950s Tolkien gave √TEL “close, end, complete” with vocalic extension telu “roof in” (PE22/135), a paradigm repeated in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60, though with a bit less certainty:

The stem ✱TELE, the primary sense of which appears to have been “close, end, come at the end” ... This was possibly distinct from ✱tel-u “roof in, put the crown on a building”, seen in Q telume “roof, canopy” ... But ✱telu may be simply a differentiated form of ✱TELE, since the roof was the final work of a building (WJ/411).

The conceptual development seems to be 1910s ᴱ√TELE “cover” vs. ᴱ√TEL-U “end” >> 1920s ✱ᴱ√TALA “end” vs. ᴱ√TELU “cover” >> 1930s-1950 ᴹ√KYEL “end” vs. ᴹ√TEL(U) “✱cover” >> early 1950s √TEL “end” vs. √TELU “roof in”. Thus Tolkien ultimately came full circle back to his original root forms, but with reversed meanings.

See also the root √TELES for discussion of the conceptual shifts in the derivation of Q. Teleri “Hindmost”.


  • telu- “to cover over, roof in” ✧ PE22/135
  • ᴺQ. tel “end”
  • Q. tel- “to end, finish (intr.)” ✧ WJ/411
  • Q. telda “last, final” ✧ WJ/411
  • Q. Teler “Last-comer, Hindmost” ✧ SA/tel
  • Q. telma “conclusion, anything used to finish off a work or affair, conclusion, anything used to finish off a work or affair; [ᴹQ.] ending” ✧ WJ/411
  • Q. telu “last, last; end (fate), close”
  • ᴺQ. telwa “late, last”
  • Q. telya- “to finish, wind up, conclude (trans.)” ✧ WJ/411
  • ᴺS. tel- “to end, finish, be done”
  • ᴺS. telf “conclusion, ending, anything used to finish off a work or affair”
  • ᴺS. telia- “to finish, conclude”

Element in

  • TELES “come at rear, end a line or series, come at rear, end a line or series; [ᴹ√] hindmost, tarrier” ✧ PE22/135
  • telet- “to stop (up)” ✧ PE22/135 (telet)
  • TELU “roof in, put the crown on a building”


  • tel- ✧ SA/tel
  • Tele ✧ WJ/392
  • TELE ✧ WJ/411; WJ/411
Primitive elvish [PE22/135; SA/tel; WJ/392; WJ/411] Group: Eldamo. Published by


verb. cover in, roof over

Primitive elvish [PE 22:135] Group: Mellonath Daeron. Published by


noun. foot


  • TAL “foot; *flat; [ᴱ√] support”


  • Q. tál “foot, foot; [ᴹQ.] bottom, [ᴱQ.] lowest part”
  • Os. tal
    • S. tâl “foot; [lower] end”


  • tal ✧ PE21/75
Primitive elvish [PE19/102; PE21/73; PE21/75] Group: Eldamo. Published by