Elvish languages are constructed languages used by Elves in a fantasy setting. The philologist and fantasy author J. R. R. Tolkien created the first of these languages, including Quenya and Sindarin.

Tolkien's Elvish languages

Main article: Elvish languages (Middle-earth)

The philologist and high fantasy author J. R. R. Tolkien created many languages for his Elves, leading him to create the mythology of his Middle-earth books, complete with multiple divisions of the Elves, to speak the languages he had constructed. The languages have quickly spread in modern-day use. His interest was primarily philological, and he stated that his stories grew out of his languages.[1] The languages were the first thing Tolkien created for his mythos, starting with what he originally called "Qenya", the first primitive form of Elvish. This was later called Quenya (High-elven) and is one of the two most complete of Tolkien's languages (the other being Sindarin, or Grey-elven). The phonology and grammar of Quenya are influenced by Finnish, while Sindarin is influenced by Welsh.[2]

Internal history of Tolkien's Elvish languages
Primitive Quendian
the tongue of all Elves at Cuiviénen
Common Eldarin
the tongue of the Elves during the March
combined languages of the Avari (at least six), some later merged with Nandorin
the language of the Ñoldor and the Vanyar
Common Telerin
the early language of all the Lindar
also Vanyarin Quenya, daily tongue of the Vanyar
Exilic Quenya
also Ñoldorin Quenya, colloquial speech of the Noldor
the language of the Teleri who reached the Undying Lands; a dialect of Quenya
language of the Sindar
languages of the Nandor, some were influenced by Avarin

Tolkien conceived a family tree of Elvish languages, all descending from a common ancestor called Primitive Quendian. He worked extensively on how the languages diverged from Primitive Quendian over time, in phonology and grammar, in imitation of the development of real language families.[3] In addition to Quenya and Sindarin, he sketched several other Elvish languages in far less detail, such as Telerin, Nandorin, and Avarin.

In addition to Tolkien's original lexicon, many fans have contributed words and phrases, attempting to create a language that can be fully used in reality.[4]

Other Elvish languages

Since Tolkien, others have invented Elvish languages in their own fiction. Some have borrowed sounds, forms, and whole words from Tolkien's Elvish languages.[5]

Elvish languages
Language Creator Setting Based on Notes
The Ancient Language Christopher Paolini The Inheritance Cycle Old Norse, Tolkien[5] Used by elves and by the riders and other magic users to cast spells. It was the language of the now extinct Grey Folk. One cannot lie in the Ancient Language and one is bound by what one says in it.
Ellylon and Hen Llinge (Elder Speech) Andrzej Sapkowski The Witcher saga Welsh, Irish, French and English [6][7]
Eltharin Warhammer Fantasy Has its own font.[8] Includes Fan-Eltharin, the language of the Wood Elves; Tar-Eltharin, the language of the Sea Elves and High Elves; Druhir, the language of the Dark Elves
Elvish Gael Baudino Strands series Romance languages [9]
Elvish Warcraft universe Superficially resembles Tolkien's Elvish Darnassian, Nazja, and Thalassian[10] are considered the modern elvish tongues spoken by the modern Kaldorei, the Naga, and the highborne (respectively), while Elvish itself is an ancient tongue no longer used as a primary language. It is assumed that Elvish is the language from which Darnassian evolved; Darnassian then branched into Nazja, spoken underwater by the Kaldorei that followed Queen Azshara after the sundering, and later on, Thalassian, spoken by the highborne and Blood Elves.
Gnommish Artemis Fowl series Letter-substitution cipher for English[11] Sometimes read in a spiral.
Ehlnofex The Elder Scrolls The Elves, or Mer, use languages derived from ancient Ehlnofex, including Dunmeris, Pyandonean, Orcish (Orsimeris) and Bosmeris.[12]
Shiväisith David J. Peterson Thor: The Dark World Finno-Ugric[13] The language of the Dark Elves. Written in Todjydheenil runes, based on Nordic runes.
Övüsi David J. Peterson Bright [14]
Hen Llinge (Elder Speech) David J. Peterson Netflix's The Witcher [15]


  1. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey; Tolkien, Christopher (1981). The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. United Kingdom: George Allen & Unwin. Letter No. 165. ISBN 0-04-826005-3.
  2. ^ From a letter to W. R. Matthews, dated 13–15 June 1964, published in Parma Eldalamberon (17), p. 135.
  3. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien, "Tengwesta Qenderinwa", Parma Eldalamberon 18, p. 72
  4. ^ Solopova, Elizabeth (2009). Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J. R. R. Tolkien's Fiction. New York City: North Landing Books. "Invented Languages". ISBN 978-0-9816607-1-4.
  5. ^ a b "More of the 'Rings' magic". USA Today. 20 January 2004.
  6. ^ Ruszkowski, Marek (2004). Wielojęzyczność w perspektywie stylistyki i poetyki. Wydawnictwo Akademii Swiętokrzyskiej. p. 98. ISBN 83-7133-232-7.
  7. ^ "Projekt słownika Starszej Mowy". Archived from the original on 24 March 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  8. ^ "Fantasy Fonts: Eltharin". Windswords. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  9. ^ Barret, David V. (December 1994). "Music and Magic: Interview with Gael Baudino". Interzone Science Fiction and Fantasy. 90: 19–22.
  10. ^ "Can You Speak Different Languages In Wow? [World of Warcraft]". I Love Languages. Archived from the original on 1 March 2022. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  11. ^ Colfer, Eoin (4 October 2004). The Artemis Fowl Files. Artemis Fowl series. Hyperion Books. ISBN 0-786856394. OCLC 55981971.
  12. ^ "Translation Dictionary". Imperial Library. Retrieved 1 March 2022. Ehlnofex - the language of the Ehlnofey ... Aldmeri - the language of the Aldmer, the first elves. Most other languages, like Dunmeri and Nedic, stem from here. Very similar to Ehlnofex, but more stable in meaning. ...
  13. ^ "Counting in Shiväisith". Of Languages and Numbers. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  14. ^ Peterson, David J. "Övüsi Pronunciation Guide" (PDF). Dedalvs. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  15. ^ Wahlgren, Yens (2021). The Universal Translator: Everything you need to know about 139 languages that don't really exist. The History Press. p. Pt 65. ISBN 978-0750995924.