Expanded Dwarvish

January 21, 2011

Crafting Guides

Tolkien was a philologist and ancient language scholar. He worked on the Oxford English Dictionary studying the source of English words and also as a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. He worked on translations and commentaries on Arthurian type legends and Beowulf. While doing all this during his day job, he also began to create languages of his own.

These languages, Quenya, Sindarin, Númenórean, and others became the foundation for the mythologies he constructed, which then became the framework for The Lord of the Rings. Without the vast compendium of legends and myths which are draped majestically behind the plot of LotR, imbuing it with a palpable feeling of reality, would LotR ever have reached the soaring popularity it now enjoys? I think not. And equally vital to that legendarium are the languages he constructed. They are the soul of those myths and legends.

clip_image002For whatever reason, the toughness of the dwarves as presented in the Silmarillion, and even in the Hobbit, enthralled me. I decided to be a Dwarf before I even knew what class I wanted to be. Unfortunately, one of Tolkien’s least developed languages was Khuzdul, or Dwarvish in the common tongue.

When I began to use the crafting system during Shadows of Angmar, I loved that we could invest them with names of our own upon a critical success. However, I did not want to use “Common” or Elvish names for my creations, I wanted to give them Dwarvish names.

I did a bit of research online and quickly discovered that there are only a handful of words and one sentence ever written in Tolkien’s Dwarvish. I found this website was the best piece of research I was able to find on Dwarvish. The author formulates an analysis of the mechanics of the language and then provides a word list with every use of Dwarvish in the texts. There were a few words here and there I could make use of, but unfortunately, this was not enough to name the axes, armor, and tools I was crafting.

clip_image004So, with trepidation, I began to add to the lexicon. I was nervous about adding onto the Lore, and worried that when I posted it some people would call for my lynching. This never happened, since I posted it in the Dwarf forums, which almost nobody reads.

The basic building block of Dwarvish is the radical. These are consonant only word bases, similar to Hebrew. Consider the common Dwarf battle-cry “Baruk Khazad, Khazad Ai Menu!” This is also the only Dwarvish sentence in any of the texts; and, translated, means “The Axes of the Dwarves, the Dwarves are upon you!” The word baruk is “axes of”, the radical of which is B-R-K. The vowels between the consonants then change to give you the different tenses. For example, burk is the singular form of the word axe.

Using the rules the author of the article had created I began to alter the words in the manner he described to create the other tenses. For instance, we know Dwarf is the word Khuzd, and the plural is Khazad, or Dwarves. So, looking at axe, we have the singular, burk, and the plural possessive baruk “axes of”. To create the plural of axe we can follow the pattern of the word dwarf, and assume axes must be barak.

I turned to my favorite tool, Excel and started a table which would hold all the words and tenses. Here is an example with the two words discussed above. The actual words Tolkien created are in black, while anything I added is in red.

English Tenses Radical
Singular Plural Plural possessive
Axe burk barak Baruk B-R-K
Dwarf Khuzd Khazad Khazud KH-Z-D

The next step was to add entirely new words. My strategy was to start with a word that was close to what I needed and alter the radicals slightly. For example, I wanted to create a word for chest, since I knew I would be creating breastplates. I searched the wordlist and decided that it would be very Dwarvish for the word to be similar to the word for beard, since a proper beard covers the chest. The word for beards is tarag with the radicals T-R-G. I also noted that head has the radicals B-N-D, so I decided most body parts must end in “d”. I surmised that the radicals for chest must be T-R-D.

English Tenses Radical
Singular Plural Plural possessive
Beards turg Tarag tarug T-R-G
Chest turd tarad tarud T-R-D

For legs I used the word Nala and made it Nalad or N-L-D. And I based foot on the word root, which is Buzun, as in the root of the mountain. This made the radical for foot B-Z-D, which meant feet is bazad.

In some cases I wanted a word to sound a certain way. I desired a sound like hauberk for “armor”, so I used the radical H-R-K and the word became hurk. For many words, like adjectives, I only needed the base word, so I just list that. Here is the completed table with all the new tenses and words I came up with, along with a brief note on how I derived some of them:

English Base Word Tenses Radical Notes
Singular Plural Plural Posses.
(Axes of)
Warlord, King Azaghal
War? Zaghal zughl zaghal zaghul
Great Bagil
dark,black,evil? dush
tool, felak F-L-K
use a tool, hew felek F-L-K
old Gamil
Fortress Gathol
Horn inbar inbur
Glass, mirror Kheled
Silver (metal) Kibil K-B-L
Silver (color) Zirak Z-R-K
Spike,tine Zigil Zigul Z-G-L
Aule Mahal
You Menu
Dark,dim azan uzn? -Z-N
in/of -u-
son of -ul
lord uzbad
Black nurg Narag N-R-G
Long Sigin S-G-N
Beards turg Tarag tarug T-R-G
Chest turd tarad tarud T-R-D derivative of beard
Path(s) nul Nala nalu
legs nuld nalad N-L-D Derivative of path
language (spoken) aglab G-L
Language (sign) Iglishmek G-L iglish is language part? mek is hand part?
Hand mulk malak maluk M-L-K mek in iglishmek, felak
Head bund banad banud B-N-D Body parts end in “d”?
Red Baraz B-R-Z
Axe burk barak Baruk B-R-K
Shoulder burd barad barud B-R-D derivative of head, axe, red
Root Buzun B-Z-N
Foot buzd bazad bazud B-Z-D Derivative of root
Armor (plural) hurk harak haruk H-R-K Wanted a sound like hauberk
Blood Bagad bagad bagud B-G-D derivative of red; ending in d
Slayer/murder zughd zaghad zaghud derivative of blood and war
orc Rukhs Rakhas Rakhus R-KH-S
Hammer furk farak faruk F-R-K Derivative of tool and Axe
Sword zurk zarak zaruk Z-R-K Derivative of Spike and axe
Troll Bukhs Bakhas Bakhus B-KH-S Derivative of Orc and Great
Uruks Narag-Rakhas Black orcs
Dwarf Khuzd Khazad Khazud KH-Z-D
Dwarvish Khuzdul
Orcish Rukhsul
Vengeance Zadush Derivative of Evil,slayer
Dwarf Vengeance Khazadush Dwarves deserve their own word for this.
Death Gholush
Flame/fire Ziraz Derivative of silver and red
Cave, underground Gundu
Excavation Dum
Rune Cirth

With this new base of Dwarvish words I carried on with making some new names for my crafted items. For the most part, I combined these into compound words. The “u” in a compound word means “of”, so helm became hurkubund, or literally, armor of head. And you should know that Dwarves call Aule, the Valar who created them, Mahal.

In most cases the literal translation is good, if not I also put the meaning, or my own translation, in the last column. Note that LOTRO limits you to 32 characters when you are naming a critical success, so I added a column to track that as well.

Dwarvish # Chars. Literal Translation Meaning
Gamilhurk 9 old armor Ancient Armor
Kheled-Gamilhurk 16 Glass old armor Mirrored ancient armor
Azankheled-Gamilhurk 20 dim glass old armor Burnished ancient Armor
Hurkubund 9 armor of head Helm
Kheled-Hurkubund 16 Mirrored Helm
Kheledgamil-Hurkubund 21 Mirrored ancient helm
Azankheled-Gamil-Hurkubund 26 Burnished Ancient Helm
Hurkumalak 10 Armor of hands Gauntlets
Kheledgamil-Hurkumalak 22 Mirrored ancient Gauntlets
Hurkubazad 10 Armor of Feet Armored Boots
Kheledgamil-Hurkubazad 22 Mirrored ancient Boots
Hurkunalad 10 Armored of legs Leggings
Kheledgamil-Hurkunalad 22 Mirror ancient leggings
Hurkubarad 10 Armor of shoulders Pauldrons
Kheledgamil-Hurkubarad 22 Mirrored Ancient Shoulders
Zigilhurk 9 Spike Armor
Hurkuhaakon 11 Armor of Haakon
Haakonuhurk 12 Haakon’s armor
Haakonuhurkubund 16 Haakon’s Helm
Hurkumahal 10 Armor of Aule
Bagilhurkubund 14 Great armor of head Great Helm
Barazhagal 10 Red Warlord
Azangathol 10 Dark Fortress
Azanhurk 8 Dark armor
Turduazhagal 12 Chest of Warlord
Inburmahal 10 Horn of Aule
Hurkuzaghal 11 Armor of war
Hurkuazaghal 12 Armor of warlord Armor of the Warlord
Hurkunaladunul 14 Armor of legs of path Leggings of the path
Kheledgathol 12 Mirror Fortress
Malukzaghal 11 Hands of war
Zirak-hurkubund 15 Silver helm
Turguhurk 9 Beard Armor
Zirakhurk 10 Silver Armor
Malukbarazdush 14 Hands of red evil
Malukbagad 10 Hands of blood Bloody hands
Malukbagadush 13 Hands of blood evil Hands of blood evil
Malukrakhaszughd 16 Hands of the orc slayer
Falekumahal 11 Tool of Aule
Burkubagadush 13 Axe of blood evil Axe of bloody evil
ZigilBurk 9 Spike axe Sharp axe
FurkuMahal 10 Hammer of Aule
FurkuZaghal 11 Hammer of war
FurkuAzaghal 12 Hammer of the warlord
Rakhaszughd 11 orc slayer
Felekubanad 11 Hewer of heads Head-Splitter
Felekugathol 12 Hewer of Fortresses
Burkurakhaszugd 15 Axe of the orc Slayer
Zadush-u-Khazad 15 Vengeance of the Dwarves
ZughduBakhas 12 Slayer of trolls Troll Slayer
BagilBurk-u-Khazad 18 Great axe of the dwarves
Khazadush 9 Dwarf Vengeance
Naragburk-u-bagad 17 Black-axe of blood
Bagilnaragburk 14 Great Black axe
BagilKhazadush 14 Great Dwarf Vengeance
Zirazugund 10 Fire of cave Flame of the Underworld
Burkugund 9 Axe of cave Axe of the Underworld
Zirazdum 8 Fire delving Flame of the Underworld
Burkudum 8 Axe of Excavation Axe of the Underworld
Inbar-u-Mahal 13 Horn of Aule
Uzbad-u-bagad 13 Lord of Blood
Bagil-Gholush 13 Great death
Cirth-u-Khazad 14 Rune of the dwarves
Cirth-u-Azaghal 15 Rune of the Warlord
Cirth-u-Mahal 13 Rune of Aule

Many of the names were created during Shadows of Angmar, when the ancient mirrored armor and weapons were some of the best items in the game. But I still use this chart often to name the Legendary Items for my Dwarf characters.

Per the request in the comments:

excel_iconDwarvish Spreadsheet in Excel Format

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Avatar of Haakon Stormbrow

21 Responses to “Expanded Dwarvish”

  1. Adam Says:

    Emma and I would be very interested in that excell file! This is a superb little resource you have started! We have always tried to do similar ourselves, though given it was just for personal use we were a bit more free with adding new words! :D

    Some of our chracter names follow the known as you have: Azbarak, we we tentatively assumed to be ‘lord of axes’, given Azaghal seems to be ‘lord of war’- (war in the plural sense here as opposed to a specific war), then we made some up similar:

    Some we have made up, so we have Azaghar (lord of argument- a runekeep naturally!), and Izbaruk (commander of many axes- the lord of our kinship), since we also independantly came to baruk, being a likely plural of axes, so its awesome to see these fit even loosely into your frame work!

    great work mate!

    Reply

  2. Steward of Gondor Says:

    Brilliant. As a Hebrew student, it really appeals to me and as a lover of the Dwrven race of Tolkien (as opposed tothe Peter Jackson reimagining of them as Scottish comic relief), I’m simply awed. Thanks for taking the risk and sharing!

    Reply

  3. Shava Nerad Says:

    Awesome. My first minstrel I created in beta was dwarvish, but I ended up going hobbit on release because the initial warcries we so loud and repetitive – but my dwarvish alts have been named in obscure puns. Gari (red ginger pickle – Japanese) for a redhead. Orphi (Orpheus – Greek mythology) for a mini. Grigri (amulet/charm, New Orleans voudou). Not having a lot of language source to draw on let me be playful, but I loved how you played with the language!

    Reply

  4. Aeled Says:

    Wow! I’m more of an Elvish/Adûnaic “nut” but this is awesome. I think I only got one note (consider yourself lucky ;)): ‘C’ is not a Dwarvish letter, so if you want to port the word Cirth into Khuzdul you might want to start with Kirth.

    Also you may want to take a look at http://www.elvish.org/gwaith/movie.htm while not going much into etymology it contains translations from the movies, Khuzdul included.

    Reply

  5. Leathermartini Says:

    I’m fascinated by this. I’ve studied Hebrew and Aramaic (and am currently studying Ugaritic, a related Semitic language) and from the description of what’s there in canon, it’s very likely a similar structure.

    If you want a couple notes from RL Semitic studies, what you have labeled as “Possessive” is referred to as “construct” state. Nouns (and nounal forms) have to states: absolute (words that aren’t linked to the word behind them) and construct (words that do link to the ones behind them). Thus, rather than “of” (or using a genitive case if you’re used to Greek), you put the first word(s) in construct and end in an absolute form.

    Something else that may help, all three Semitic languages I’ve studied often have nouns that are derived by adding a consonant to the verbal root/radical. (e.g., /sh-p-t/ gets a /m/ added in Hebrew turning shapat (he judges) into mishpat (judgement).) Something similar might be going on here, but I’ve not dug into your chart yet.

    Reply

  6. Keir Says:

    If you should want to add your own additions it certainly would be worth looking through Christopher Tolkien’s books that are collections of Tolkiens notes. There’s a lot of Numenorean linguistics in several of the volumes and it is related to dwarvish and would serve as a good source of inspiration.

    Reply

  7. Thored Says:

    Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!

    Reply

  8. Steve Says:

    I’ve long wanted to see this done with Quenya and Sindarin, where we have a great deal more in discussion by Tolkien on the Grimm’s Law shifts from other Indo-European languages, such that by using Indo-European roots, we should be able, using your method, to construct quite a bit of vocabulary.

    I notice that the construct form has the vowel change to u, and that reminds me of the Khuzdul for son -uil. As in Balin Fundinuil. That actually makes sense as the possessive or construct. “Khuzdul” – of the Khazd or son of Khazd. BTW is there -no- sound between the middle and last consonant, or is it a schwa?

    I don’t know that you should invent triconsonantal roots out of thin air. If JRRT ever gave any indications of the sound shifts from other languages, I think that ought to be followed as closely as possible.

    Reply

    • Aeled Says:

      No sound between two consonants as far as *I* know. (But more or less based on the fact that there is no need for a sound)

      As to creation out of thin air, we don’t have a language Khuzdul might have evolved from. There is no other way unless you borrow from Elvish which you might do in certain cases but not all of them.

      Reply

  9. Grucho Says:

    From a one Dwarf fan to another thank you. This is an excellent resource for anyone who is interested in the languages of Middle Earth!

    Reply

  10. shipwreck Says:

    Most impressive, sir!

    Reply

  11. Avatar of John
    John Says:

    I think I will be making use of your work for my upcoming album! https://www.facebook.com/lonelymountainband

    Reply

  12. Avatar of The Dwarrow Scholar
    The Dwarrow Scholar Says:

    I hadn’t seen this before, but can see you put quite a bit of work into this, great stuff!

    There are a few things which aren’t quite in line with the neo-khuzdul created by David Salo (-affixes, plurals, etc…), but then again, no one ever said his version was the (only) correct one.

    I’ve made several documents that analyse the neo-khuzdul created by Salo and others, including work on affixes and rules on declination, feel free to have a look. Would love to discuss your work and mine one of these :)

    Cheers

    Reply

  13. Sade Says:

    Well-met!
    I just stumbled upon this article, in search of info regarding Khuzdul Turbine’s used in LotRO…

    This is a wonderful work, with good thinking behind it. Thank you! :)

    However, there -is- one thing to nitpick…
    ‘Cirth’ is not a Khuzdul word. Cirth is the plural of ‘certh’, rune, in Sindarin, from Old Sindarin *kirta, root KIR “cut”.
    Certh is the base from which are derived the Sindarin words ‘certhas’ (runic alphabet), and angerthas (long runes), in names of ‘styles’ like Angerthas Daeron, Angerthas Moria.
    In the handful of Khuzdul words we do know, there is no word for ‘rune’. Closest we have would be the apparent radicals Z-R-B, to write, inscribe, giving us Mazarbul, ‘of records’. And in-game ‘kâtub’, used to signify ‘word(s)’.

    Other than that, this is a wonderful work, as stated.

    Yours,
    Sade

    Reply

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