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MAK root. “cut, hew with a sharp edge; kill, slay; forge metal”

MAK root. “cut, hew with a sharp edge, [ᴹ√] cleave; sword, fight (with a sword); ️[√] forge metal; ⚠️kill, slay”

This root was the basis for “sword” words throughout Tolkien’s life, but the meaning of the root itself shifted over time. The first appearance of this root was as ᴱ√MAKA¹ in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, unglossed but with derivatives like ᴱQ. mak- “slay”, ᴱQ. makil “sword”, and ᴱQ. makka “slaughter” (QL/57-58). The root was also given the gloss “slay” in a section of the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon along with etymologies of names of the various Valar, but this section was deleted (GL/18). Derivatives of this root appeared elsewhere in the Gnomish Lexicon, however, such as G. mactha- “slay, kill” and G. magli “a great sword” (GL/55). Thus, the meaning of this root in the earliest period seems to be “slay”.

The root ᴹ√MAK appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s, but the entry went through quite a few revisions. The gloss apparently was “cleave” >> “kill, cleave with sword” >> “sword, or verbal [stem] fight with sword, cleave” >> “sword, or as verb-stem: fight (with sword), cleave” (EtyAC/MAK; Ety/MAK). Thus the 1930s root was more directly connected with swords and wielding swords, and its derivatives included ᴹQ. makil/N. magol “sword” and ᴹQ. mahta-/N. maetha- “fight” (Ety/MAK).

In Tolkien’s later writings, the words for “sword” remained nearly the same: Q. macil and S. megil (PE17/130, 147), but the gloss of the root √MAK varied considerably based on whatever linguistic puzzle Tolkien was trying to solve at that particular moment. In notes associated with the Quendi and Eldar essay from 1959-60, its gloss was very similar to that from The Etymologies: “cut, hew with a sharp edge” (VT39/11). In notes associated with The Shibboleth of Fëanor from 1968 Tolkien glossed {m(b)aka- >>} maka- as “forge metal” as part of a new etymology of the name S. Maglor as an adaptation Q. Makalaure “Forging Gold” (PM/353; VT41/10). In notes on Eldarin Hands, Fingers and Numerals from the late 1960s Tolkien gave √MAK “strike” as the basis for ✶makwā > S. mâb “hand”, but this idea was rejected immediately (VT47/19). This was part of Tolkien’s rather surprising decision to abandon the long-standing root √MAP (VT47/20 note #13); elsewhere in these notes he said √MAK meant “kill, slay” as it did in the 1910s (VT47/20).

Lokyt suggested in a Discord chat from 2018 that there may be a common underlying meaning for all these glosses, referring to “the movement one does when chopping with a tool”. Assuming this is true, the other associations of the root (“sword; slay; fight; forge”) may be the result of a narrowing of the meaning of the root in more specific contexts. While it is hard to know whether Tolkien himself interpreted the root this way, I think this is the best way to treat the root for purposes of Neo-Eldarin, as it allows us to retain the largest array of derivatives of the root.

References ✧ VT39/11; VT41/10; VT47/19-20

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ᴹ√MAK root. “sword; fight (with a sword), cleave”

See √MAK for discussion.

References ✧ Ety/MAƷ, MAK; EtyAC/MAK, MOR

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ᴱ√MAKA¹ root. “slay”

See √MAK for discussion.

References ✧ GL/18; LT1A/Makar, Telimektar; QL/57

Glosses

Related

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