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S. (h)lô n. “flood, fenland” (Category: Mud, Mire)

S. (h)lô, n. “flood, fenland; ⚠️[G.] pool, lake” (Category: Mud, Mire)

A noun that served as the final element in various river names. Tolkien was uncertain whether the primitive form of this word began with simple l- or s-prefixed sl-, hence the variation between and hlô. In notes on Words, Phrases and Passages from The Lord of the Rings from the late 1950s or early 1960s, Tolkien said the non-suffixal form of this word was lhô “flood” (PE17/96). In notes from 1966-67 he gave a bewildering variety of derivations for this word, but mostly represented it as lhô in various attempts to connect it to the river name S. Lhûn (PE17/136-137; VT48/27-28).

In notes on The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor from the late 1960s, while discussing the river name S. Gwathló Tolkien said:

The element -ló was also of Common Eldarin origin, derived from a base (s)log: in Common Eldarin sloga had been a word used for streams of a kind that were variable and liable to overflow their banks at seasons and cause floods when swollen by rains or melting snow; especially such as the Glanduin (described above) that had their sources in mountains and fell at first swiftly, but were halted in the lower lands and flats. *sloga became in Sindarin lhô; but was not in later times much used except in river or marsh names. The Quenya form would have been hloä (VT42/9).

Tolkien rejected this etymology, however, replacing it with the following:

was derived from Common Eldarin base LOG “wet (and soft), soaked, swampy, etc.” The form *loga produced S. and T. loga; and also, from *logna, S. loen, T. logna “soaking wet, swamped”. But the stem in Quenya, owing to sound-changes which caused its derivatives to clash with other words, was little represented ... the Quenya form of S. would have been **loa, identical with Q. loa < *lawa “year”; the form of S. loen, T. logna would have been **lóna identical with [Q.] lóna “pool, mere” (VT42/10).

This final etymology appears to be the last one Tolkien wrote on the topic; later in the same document he used the form in discussions of the river name S. Ringló (VT42/13-14). As for the meaning of the word, it seems it applied both to wide rivers with a tendency to flood their banks, as well as fenlands or wetlands in general.

Conceptual Development: As an element in river names, -lo first appeared in the river names N. Gwathlo and N. Ringlo in Lord of the Rings drafts (TI/304; WR/287). G. “pool, lake” from the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s is possible precursor (GL/54).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I prefer the pre-1968 form of the word lhô, as this is both more distinctive and also allows us to salvage Q. hloa of similar meaning.

References ✧ PE17/96, 136-137; UT/263; VT42/9-10, 13-14; VT48/27-28





soft-mutation; lh-mutation   ✧ PE17/96
-lo suffix   ✧ PE17/137; VT48/28
-lo suffix “deep of water” ✧ PE17/137
-ló suffix   ✧ VT42/9
-lō suffix   ✧ PE17/137; VT48/28

Element In



N. #lo n. “flood” (Category: to Flow)

See S. (h)lô for discussion.

Reference ✧ TI/304 ✧ “flood”

Element In

G. n. “pool, lake” (Category: Lake, Pond)

Reference ✧ GL/54 ✧ “a pool, lake”