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The Etymologies were published at the end of the Lost Road (LR/341-400). This document is one of most extensive collection of Elvish words available. It was composed between 1937 and 1938, shortly before Tolkien began work on The Lord of the Rings. It was clearly a work in progress, with ongoing changes to individual entries.
At this stage, Tolkien still conceived of the language that would become Sindarin as the native language of the Noldor, and it is labeled Noldorin (N) in the Etymologies. Tolkien referred to the older version of this languages as Old Noldorin (ON). He sometimes referred to the contemporary language as Exilic Noldorin (EN) or simply Exilic. For simplicity, the references in this lexicon use the abbreviation N in all such cases. The native language of the elves of Beleriand is called Ilkorin (Ilk) at this stage, with various dialects such as Doriathrin (Dor).
The Etymologies were transcribed in LR by Christopher Tolkien. They were revisited by Carl Hostetter and Patrick Wynne in VT45-46, in a pair of articles titled “Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies”, referred to in this lexicon as EtymAC. The EtymAC articles indicates several places where Christopher Tolkien’s interpretations of his father’s difficult handwriting probably needs to be corrected. These corrections are indicated by the symbol “»»”.
Being primarily a linguistic work, the Etymologies used phonetic spellings for words. It includes the etymology (roots and primitive forms) of most words. The “>” symbol is in most cases used to indicate etymological derivation, but in a few case Christopher Tolkien used it to indicate changes Tolkien made in the text. Textual changes are always indicated by “>>” in this lexicon. Where Tolkien lists multiple forms of the same word, the first instance is often a more primitive form while the second is the newer form. This is especially common of N. (Noldorin) and ON. (Old Noldorin) entries.
References are by the root element of words, as listed in LR. The numerical value indicates the position of the word within the entry.