|Created by||J. R. R. Tolkien|
|Setting and usage||Middle-earth, the setting of the novel The Lord of the Rings, the secret and private language of the Dwarves.|
|Sources||Influenced primarily by Hebrew in phonology and morphology and other Semitic Languages|
|ISO 639-3||None (
Tolkien noted some similarities between Dwarves and Jews: both were "at once natives and aliens in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue…". Tolkien also commented of the Dwarves that "their words are Semitic obviously, constructed to be Semitic." Tolkien based Dwarvish language on the Semitic languages. Like these, Khuzdul has triconsonantal roots: √Kh-Z-D "dwarf", √B-N-D "head", √Z-G-L "silver (colour)". Also other similarities to Hebrew in phonology and morphology have been observed.
Although only a very limited vocabulary is known, Tolkien mentioned that he had developed the language to a certain extent. It is unknown whether such writings still exist.
In the fictional setting of Middle-earth, little is known of Khuzdul (once written Khuzdûl), the Dwarves kept it secret, except for place names and a few phrases such as their battle-cry:
Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!
The highest level of secrecy applied to Dwarves' real personal names, with the exception of the Petty-dwarves. The personal names of all Dwarves in Tolkien's stories are "outer-names" either from another language (Dalish) or nicknames/titles. Dwarves do not even record their true names on their tombstones. The runes written on Balin's tomb in Moria can be transliterated to read
Balin, son of Fundin, lord of Moria.
According to the Lhammas, Khuzdul is a language isolate, the sole member of the Aulëan language family, not related to the Oromëan languages spoken by Elves. Aulëan was named from the Dwarvish tradition that it had been devised by Aulë the Smith, the Vala who created the Dwarves.
It is said in The Silmarillion that Aulë, the creator of the first Dwarves, taught them "the language he had devised for them," which implies that Khuzdul is technically, in reality and fictionally, a constructed language. It is also said that because of the Dwarves' great reverence for Aulë their language remained unchanged, and all clans could still speak with each other without difficulty despite the great distances that separated them. Due to their reverence for their cultural heritage, the Dwarves did not learn Khuzdul as a cradle-speech, as this might mutate the language over time. Instead, Dwarves carefully learned Khuzdul through reverent study as they matured, to make sure that their language was passed down unaltered from one generation to the next. The changeability of Khuzdul versus other languages was compared to "the weathering of hard rock and the melting of snow".
For everyday usage, the Dwarves commonly speak the primary language of the region they are living in, i.e. the Common Speech (Westron), though their pronunciation may have a Khuzdul accent. There were many similarities between Khuzdul and the native tongues of Men of the Far-East of Middle-earth. This is because in the early days of Middle-earth, Men of these regions had friendly contact with the Dwarves, in which "were not unwilling to teach their own tongue to Men with whom they had special friendship, but Men found it difficult and were slow to learn more than isolated words, many of which they adapted and took into their own language".
Adûnaic, the tongue of Númenor, retained some Khuzdul influences and said to have influenced its basic structure. The Common Speech (Westron) later evolved out of Adûnaic, thus explaining why some words etymologically have Khuzdul roots.
Khuzdul is usually written with the Cirth script, with two known modes used, Cirth Moria and Cirth Erebor.
Besides their aglâb, spoken tongue, the Dwarves used a sign language, or iglishmêk. According to The War of the Jewels, it was learned simultaneously with the aglâb from childhood. In a noisy Dwarvish smithy, the ringing of hammers against anvils was often too loud to allow verbal communication. The Dwarvish sign language was much more varied between communities than Khuzdul, which remained "astonishingly uniform and unchanged both in time and in locality". Tolkien only gave a few examples of the Iglishmêk sign language in his unpublished notes. The command to "Listen!" involved a slight raising of both forefingers simultaneously. The acknowledgment "I am listening" involved a slight raising of the right-hand forefinger, followed by a similar raising of the left-hand forefinger.
The following phonemes are attested in Tolkien's Khuzdul vocabulary.
Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal Plosive b t d k ɡ ʔ1 Aspirated Plosive tʰ kʰ (ɡʰ)2 Fricative f s z ʃ (ɣ)2 h Nasal m n Trill (r) 3 ʀ 3 Approximant l j
Only one diphthong is attested in Khuzdul: ai [ai], as seen in ai-mênu.
1 Often at the start of words that begin with a vowel, often not written in the Latin alphabet, but has its own rune in Angerthas Moria.
2 Supposedly in Azaghâl, 'gh' [ɣ] is used to represent this sound in Black Speech and Orcish, but wasn't said of Khuzdul. Could also be [ɡh] or [ɡʰ].
3 Alveolar trill [r] a later variant in pronunciation, the uvular trill [ʀ] being the original Khuzdul pronunciation.
4 No examples found, Tolkien explicitly states these were frequent in Khuzdul, and have their own Cirth runes. Possibly in between incompatible consonant formations or current vowels in known corpus.
Khuzdul features a 'CV(C)(C)' syllable structure. Words that begin with either a vowel or diphthong have a glottal stop at the beginning to fill the place of an initial consonant. Words can not start with a consonant cluster, and are found in medial or final positions of a word. It is unknown what all the consonant clusters are, few are attested as shown in the corpus above, but presumably are more flexible and varied than of the consonant clusters found in the Elvish languages, as the language was said to be "cumbrous and unlovely" (Silmarillon ch. 10) to the elves, with Tolkien describing it as having a cacophonous quality.
Tolkien wrote most of Khuzdul in the Latin alphabet, and in Cirth within Middle-Earth. The dwarves had adopted the Cirth from the elves by the end of the first age, and made changes to their liking to represent the sounds of Khuzdul. There were two methods known of writing Khuzdul, Angerthas Moria when the dwarves still lived in Khazad-dûm before its fall, and Angerthas Erebor once they fled, and further developed the cirth when they settled at Erebor, The Lonely Mountain.
The following table presents the corresponding cirth and latin alphabet characters, and makes use of the cirth erebor font, and therefore may not display correctly for some users.
|2||3||6||8||8V||9||@||%||w||e||eV||r||uI,||a||d||f||g||l||ll ?||;||S||D||z||x||c||v||b||nIM||.||/ >||Z ?|
|2||3||6||8||8V||9||@||%||e||eV||r||uI,||a||d||fIg||l||lÌ||;||S||SÎ||D||z||zÎ||c||cÎ||b||bÎIn||.||/ >||Z ?||X||C|
1 Cirth used only by dwarves. It's unknown if ps was written for Khuzdul or for other languages, as [p] is yet to be attested in Khuzdul.
As an example, the dwarvish battle-cry can be written as thus:
Mode Khuzdul Moria 2c@SeIeVcwv9OeVcwv9Igcl6xuS Latin baruk khazâd khazâd ‘aimênu Erebor 2c@SeIeVcDcÎ9OeVcDcÎ9Icl6zÎuS Latin baruk khazâd khazâd aimênu
And the only source of Khuzdul written in cirth in the Angerthas Moria mode, as seen in The Lord of the Rings:
Little is known of Khuzdul grammar to even construct a sentence, but was known to have its morphology based mainly on Hebrew, and other Semitic languages. Tolkien states that Khuzdul was complicated and unlike the other languages of Middle-Earth at the time in terms of phonology and grammar. It has been said the grammar of Khuzdul influenced the basic grammar of Adûnaic, but little material is given to show these influences other than the mention of where Adûnaic's grammar differs from Quenya. Even then, differences could be influenced by other languages than Khuzdul.
Nouns & Adjectives
Nouns and adjectives are known to have singular and plural forms, and like the Semitic languages, and can be in the absolute state, or the construct state. The construct state is used to indicate a connection with a following noun, being a quality, belonging or part of that noun. The construct comes before the absolute noun and when compounding words. e.g: Baruk Khazâd! (Axes of - Dwarves) "Axes of the Dwarves" stating that the Axes belong to the dwarves, Khazad-dûm (Dwarves of - Delving) "Dwarrowdelf", stating it's a Dwarvish delving. There are no known (if any) definite or indefinite articles in Khuzdul.
Nouns and adjectives appear to share different declensions that dictate the formation and number. How many declensions there might be in Khuzdul is currently unknown. Tolkien has stated that plural formations were said to be similar to Arabic's broken plurals, which would make for many irregular plurals, but little is provided to make such a comparison.
|Root Template||Dwarf: Kh-Z-D||Orc: R-Kh-S||Shadow: ʔ-Z-N||Head: B-N-D|
|Root Template||Hill: H-N-D||Cave hall: G-N-D||Beard: T-R-G|
Note that only Khuzd "Dwarf" and Rukhs "Orc" are the only nouns fully attested in this table. Words that are theoretical constructions are marked with an asterisk *.
Some words have identical nominative and construct states, both within their singular and plural forms. Only Bark "Axe" is attested.
|2nd Declension: Same Absolute & Construct|
|Bald / Clearing: Sh-R-B||Sharb||Sharub*|
|Write / Writing: Z-R-B||Zarb*||Zarub*|
Other noun declension types are likely to exist, but little detail is provided to show a full singular/plural and absolute/construct state relations. Of these, the only hints that point to their existence is in compounded attested words and single words. Some attested examples provided that might provide parts of declension are:
|Singular Absolute||Singular Construct|
|River-course||N-L-ʔ||CâCaC||nâla’||Shadow / Dim||ʔ-Z-N||CaCaC||‘azan|
|Pool, Lake||Z-R-M||zâram||Red, Ruddy||B-R-Z||baraz|
|Spike, Tine, Peak||Z-R-K||CiCaC||zirak||Great in size||G-B-L||CaCiC||gabil|
|Hall||T-M / D-M||CûC||tûm1, dûm1||Silver (metal)||K-B-L||CiCiC||kibil|
|Plural Absolute||Plural Construct|
Some patterns can be seen that hint at some details of what state and/or number a noun is in:
- A CVCVC pattern, seen in CaCaC, CeCeC and CiCiC for common singular construct patterns:
- baraz, kheled, zigil.
- A ‘VCCVC pattern, seen in ‘iCCaC and ‘uCCaC for a common singular pattern:
- ‘inbar absolute form
- ‘uzbad, construct form.
- Vowels in the order of "i - a" and "u - a" and seem to apply for singular nouns:
- Absolute: zirak, ‘inbar
- Construct: duban, ‘uzbad.
- Long vowel sounds seem to appear only in the absolute state, and can be any number, but more likely in plural forms:
- Sg: nâla’, zâram, narâg, dûm / tûm.
- Pl: khazâd, rakhâs, tarâg, ‘ishmêk.
Another possible declension based from Nâla’ and Nulukkhizdîn, construct likely singular, but uncertain:
|Sg. Absolute||Sg. (Pl.?) Construct|
1 Possible assimilation of (’kh) → (kkh): Nulu’khizdîn → Nulukkhizdîn
Another noun form that may exist is the collective numbers, along with the singulative form. This is from observation of the names Buzundush and Tumunzahar, where "-n-" means a person / place; as seen in Gabilân, Nargûn, Nulukkhizdîn, Tharkûn. Thus making a singular instance of what makes the collective, e.g. a single hall, out of a group of halls, and in the composition form of "-un-" due to having a short vowel instead of long vowel.
|Root Template||Root: B-Z||Hall: T-M|
1 Possible assimilation of (dt) → (dd): Khazad-tûm → Khazad-dûm.
Most compounded words feature an Adjective-Noun pattern, however a Noun-Adjective pattern has also been observed. This could hint into a flexible pattern that allows both forms of Adjective-Noun and Noun-Adjective patterns, with the adjective taking the construct state. This could be done to stress the first element or for artistic purposes.
An example of Adjective-Noun pattern include:
- Baraz "red" + Inbar "horn"
- Kibil "silver (metal)" + Nâla "path, course, river-course or bed"
- Kheled "glass, mirror" + Zâram "pool, lake"
and one example of a Noun-Adjective pattern:
- Zirak "spike, tine" + Zigil "silver (colour)"
Only four verb words are known. The exact tense or use of these verbs are unknown:
- Felak : To use a tool like a broad-bladed chisel, or small axe-head without haft.
- Felek: hew rock.
- Gunud : delve underground, excavate, tunnel.
- √S-L-N, Sulûn, Salôn : "fall, descend swiftly" (VT48:24).
Placenames & Names
|Khuzdul Name||Translation||Khuzdul Name||Translation|
|‘Azaghâl||Presumably only an 'outer name' or title in Khuzdul, not an inner name.||Mahal||the Maker, Aulë.|
|‘Azanulbizar||'Dimrill Dale'.||Mîm||Name of one of the Petty-Dwarves, possibly an 'inner name'.|
|Barazinbar||'Redhorn' (Caradhras), also shortened to Baraz.||Narag-zâram||'Black-lake', early name, Mirrormere?|
|Bundushathûr||'Cloudyhead', also shortened to Shathûr.||Nargûn||Mordor.|
|Buzundush||'Blackroot', earlier name of the Silverlode.||Narkuthûn / Narukuthûn||Nargothrond?|
|Felakgundu||Lit. 'hewer-cave', Cave-hewer; Origin of Felagund, epessë of Finrod.||Nulukkhizdîn||Nargothrond?|
|Gabilân||'Great River'.||Sigin-tarâg||The Longbeards, the house of Durin.|
|Gabilgathol||'Great Fortress' (Belegost).||Sharbhund||Amon Rûdh, possibly meaning 'Bald Hill' as is in Sindarin.|
|Gamil Zirak||'Old Spike' The nickname of a smith of the Firebeard Dwarves.||Tharkûn||Gandalf, said to mean 'Staff-man'.|
|Gundabad||Mount Gundabad.||Tumunzahar||'Hollowbold' (Nogrod).|
|‘Ibun||Name of one of the Petty-Dwarves, possibly an inner name.||‘Udushinbar||Earlier name of Bundushathûr.|
|Kibil-nâla||a name for (possibly not a translation of) the Silverlode.||‘Uruktharbun||Earlier name of Khazad-dûm or Azanulbizar, meaning unknown.|
|Khazad-dûm||Dwarf-mansion, Dwarrowdelf' (later known as Moria).||Zigil-nâd||earlier name of the Silverlode.|
|Kheled-zâram||'glass-lake', i.e. Mirrormere.||Zirakinbar||'Silverhorn', earlier name of Zirakzigil.|
|Khîm||Name of one of the Petty-Dwarves, possibly an 'inner name'.||Zirakzigil||'Silvertine' (Celebdil), also shortened to Zirak.|
|-âb / -b||Abstract collective?||kheled||Glass, mirror.|
|‘aglâb||Spoken language.||Khuzd / Khazâd||Dwarf / Dwarves.|
|‘aya, ‘ai-||Upon.||Khuzdul||Dwarvish language, lit. "Dwarf-of(gen.)".|
|‘azan||Dark, dim.||kibil||Silver, the metal.|
|‘iglishmêk||Sign-language of the dwarves.||ma-||Passive participle?|
|‘inbar||Horn.||mazarb||Written documents, records.|
|‘ûl||Streams.||mazarbul||Records, The Chamber of Mazarbul, Book of Mazarbul.|
|‘uzbad||Lord.||mên* / mênu||2nd person plural, "you" - Nom.* / Acc.|
|‘uzn||Dimness, shadow.||-n / -ân / -în / -ûn||One, person or place.|
|baraz||Red.||nâla’||Path, course, river-course or bed.|
|bark / baruk||Axe / axes.||narâg||Black.|
|bizar / bizâr?||Dale or valley.||Rukhs / Rakhâs||Orc / Orcs.|
|buz / bûz||Root?||sulûn / salôn||Fall, descend swiftly.|
|dûm / tûm1||delving, subterranean mansion, hall.||shathûr||Clouds.|
|dush / dûsh?||Black, dark?||tum / tûm||Hall / delving1|
|felak||Tool for cutting stone.||thark / tharuk*||Staff / staffs*|
|felek||Hew rock.||turg* / tarâg||Beard / beards.|
|gabil||Great.||-u||Of. / accusative marker|
|gamil||Old?||-ul||Of, patronymic genitive ending.|
|gund||Underground hall.||zâram||Pool, lake.|
|gunud||Delve underground, excavate, tunnel||zigil||Silver, the colour.|
1 Seen in Tumunzahar in 'Hollowbold', with 'bold' as an obsolete term for dwelling. Assimilates to 'D' when precedes one, e.g. d-t = d-d : Khazad-dûm
|√ʔ-N||Person / Place||Nargûn, Tharkûn.||√D-Sh||Dark, Darkness?||Buzundush.|
|√B-Z||Root of plant?||Buzundush.||√M-M||???||Mîm.|
|√D-M - √T-M||Excavation, Hall, Mansion||Khazad-dûm, Tumunzahar.||√M-N||2nd person pronoun||mênu.|
|√ʔ-G-L||Language.||‘Aglâb ‘Iglishmêk||√N-L-ʔ||Path, Course, River-course or bed.||Kibil-nâla|
|√ʔ-R-K||???||‘Uruktharbun, maybe outdated||√N-R-G||Black.||narâg|
|√B-N-D||Head.||bund||√S-L-N||Fall, Descend swiftly.||sulûn, salôn|
|√F-L-K||Hew, Hewer, A thing that hews.||felek, felak||√T-R-G||Beard.||tarâg|
|√G-B-L||Great in size.||gabil||√Th-R-B||???||‘Uruktharbun, maybe outdated|
|√G-M-L||Old, Great in age.||gamil||√Th-R-K||Staff.||Tharkûn|
|√Kh-L-D||Glass, Mirror.||kheled||√Z-R-B||Write, Inscribe.||Mazarbul|
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #176, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- "An Interview with J.R.R. Tolkien". BBC Four. January 1971.
- Fauskanger, Helge K. "Khuzdul - the secret tongue of the Dwarves". Ardalambion. University of Bergen.
- Åberg, Magnus (2007). "An Analysis of Dwarvish". In Stenström, Anders. Arda Philology 1. First International Conference on J. R. R. Tolkien's Invented Languages. Stockholm, 4–8 August 2005. pp. 42–65.
- Pesch, Helmut W. (2003). Elbisch (in German). Bastei Lübbe. p. 37. ISBN 3-404-20476-X.
- Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, p. 84., ISBN 0-9816607-1-1
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1994), The War of the Jewels (volume 11 of The History of Middle-earth), Harper Collins, part 4 appendix D p.395; ISBN 0261 10314 8
- Tolkien, J.R.R. (July 1998). Hostetter, Carl F., ed. "From Quendi and Eldar, Appendix D". Vinyar Tengwar (39): 5, 10.
- Hostetter, Carl F (2006). "Languages Invented by Tolkien". J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. ISBN 0415969425.