√PHIN¹ root. “clever, skillful; neat, fine, delicate; skill, dexterity”
This root has a long history in Tolkien’s Elvish languages, always having to do with clever and skillful things in association with the name Q. Finwë. It first appeared as unglossed ᴱ√FINI in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. finie “cunning” and ᴱQ. finwa “acute, sagacious” (QL/38). It also had derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon such as G. fim “clever; right hand”, G. fimlios “skillfulness”, and G. finthi “idea, notion” (GL/35). It reappeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s with the gloss “nimbleness, skill” and derivatives like ON. phinde “skill” and ON. phinya “skillful” (Ety/PHIN).
The root appeared a number of times in Tolkien’s later writings, as √PHIN- “skilful, neat, clever (especially applied to hands and fingers)” (PE17/17), √PHĪ/PHINI “skill, dexterity” (PE17/119), and √PHĬN “clever, fine, delicate” (PE17/119). In both The Etymologies and in later writings Tolkien made a point that this root was distinct from √SPIN from which various “hair” words were derived (Ety/PHIN; PE17/17), though in one place Tolkien gave that root also as √PHIN- (PM/340).
References ✧ PE17/17, 119, 151, 181
ᴹ√PHIN root. “nimbleness, skill”
References ✧ Ety/IS, KUR, MBAR, PHIN, RAUTĀ, WEG
ᴱ√FINI root. “*cunning”
References ✧ LT1A/Finwë; QL/38