√ER root. “one, single, alone”
This root, the basis for the word “one”, was established early and retained its meaning throughout Tolkien’s life. It appeared all the way back in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910 as ᴱ√ERE “remain alone”, and was the basis for ᴱQ. er “one” and ᴱQ. eressea “lonely” (QL/36). These words retained their forms and meaning for the entirety of Tolkien’s life, most notably in Q. Tol Eressëa “Lonely Isle” whose form and meaning were likewise introduced very early and never changed.
The contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon also had a variety of words derived from this root, such as G. er “one” and G. ereth “solitude” (GL/32). This root appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√ERE “be alone, deprived” with both Quenya and Noldorin derivatives (Ety/ERE). The root continued to appear in Tolkien’s later writings, variously glossed as “one”, “alone” or “single”.
One interesting feature of this root was the limitations of its use as a number. In some 1968 notes on river names Tolkien said:
[S.] Erui. Though this was the first of the Rivers of Gondor it cannot be used for “first”. In Eldarin er was not used in counting in series: it meant “one, single, alone” (VT42/10).
In accompanying notes, Tolkien gave:
1 “single” (non-serial) ER; “one, first of a series” MIN (VT42/24).
Thus the root for “one” when counting the first of a series was √MIN, whereas √ER could only be used of things that were isolated or unique.
References ✧ Let/384; PE22/158; SA/er; VT42/10, 24; VT47/16-17
ᴹ√ER root. “be alone, deprived”
Reference ✧ Ety/ERE ✧ ERE “be alone, deprived”
ᴱ√ERE root. “remain alone”
References ✧ LT1A/Eriol, Tol Eressëa; QL/36