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Created byJ. R. R. Tolkien
Datec. 1935
Setting and usageMiddle-earth, the setting of the novel The Lord of the Rings, the secret and private language of the Dwarves.
SourcesInfluenced primarily by Hebrew in phonology and morphology and other Semitic Languages
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Khuzdul is a fictional language created by J. R. R. Tolkien, and is one of the languages which feature in Middle-earth, and is the secret and private language of the Dwarves.

External history[edit]

Tolkien began developing Khuzdul before the publication in 1936 of The Hobbit, with some names appearing in the early versions of The Silmarillion. Tolkien based Khuzdul on Semitic languages, primarily Hebrew, featuring triconsonantal roots and similarities to Hebrew's phonology and morphology. [1][2] 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…". [3] Tolkien also commented of the Dwarves that "their words are Semitic obviously, constructed to be Semitic." [4]

Although a very limited vocabulary is known, Tolkien mentioned he had developed the language to a certain extent. A small amount of material on Khuzdul phonology and root modifications has survived which is yet to be published.[5]

Internal history[edit]

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 and Balin's tomb in Moria, which read respectively:

Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu! "Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!"
Balin Fundinul uzbad Khazad-dûmu "Balin son of Fundin, lord of Moria"

The highest level of secrecy applied to Dwarves' "inner-names", their personal names, with the possible exception of the Petty-dwarves. The names of all Dwarves are "outer-names" either from another language (Dalish) or nicknames/titles, sometimes in Khuzdul: e.g. Azaghâl, Gamil Zirak.

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. Later, Tolkien dropped the origins of Elvish being taught by Oromë, but kept the origins of Khuzdul the same. It is said in The Silmarillion that Aulë created the dwarves, and taught them "the language he had devised for them", making Khuzdul in both fiction and reality, a constructed language.

The Dwarves had a great reverence for Aulë. Because of this, Khuzdul remained unchanged. As a result, all Dwarven clans could speak with each other without difficulty despite the great distances that separated them and the more than 12,000-year history of the language. Khuzdul was to the dwarves “a tongue of lore rather than a cradle-speech”, and was carefully learned through reverent study as they matured, to make sure Khuzdul 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".

Dwarves were unwilling to teach outsiders Khuzdul, even to their non-dwarf friends. Dwarves would speak the languages of the region "but with an accent due to their own private tongue...",[6] and being careful not to even speak Khuzdul around non-dwarves. Only a few non-Dwarves are recorded as having learnt Khuzdul, most notably the Elves Eöl, Fëanor's son Curufin, and reluctantly the Noldor loremasters of the Second Age:

"They understood and respected the disinterested desire for knowledge, and some of the later Ñoldorin loremasters were allowed to learn enough of both their "aglâb" (tongue) and their "iglishmêk" (gesture-code) to understand their systems."

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, who "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 language of Númenor, retained some Khuzdul influences and was said to have been influenced by Khuzdul's basic structure.

Dwarves were however, willing to reveal the names of places in Khuzdul, with Gimli revealing the names of the landmarks of Moria: "I know them and their names, for under them lies Khazad-dûm, the Dwarrowdelf... Yonder stands Barazinbar, the Redhorn...and beyond him are Silvertine and Cloudyhead:...that we call Zirakzigil and Bundushathûr."[7]

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,[8] which was also just as secretive as Khuzdul. According to The War of the Jewels, it was learned simultaneously with the aglâb from childhood. 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 described of their structure and use among the dwarves:

"The component sign-elements of any such code were often so slight and so swift that they could hardly be detected, still less interpreted by uninitiated onlookers. As the Eldar eventually discovered in their dealings with the Naugrim, they could speak with their voices but at the same time by ‘gesture’ convey to their own folk modifications of what was being said. Or they could stand silent considering some proposition, and yet confer among themselves meanwhile."[8]

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.[9]


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 (ɡʰ)2
Fricative f s z ʃ (ɣ)2 h
Nasal m n
Trill (r) 3 ʀ 3
Approximant l j
Front Central Back
Close i   u
Close-mid e ə4 o
Open-mid     ʌ4
Open   a  

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, but these are found in medial or final positions in 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" (Silmarillion 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 tables present the corresponding Cirth and Latin alphabet characters by using the keymapping devised by Daniel Smith,[10] and will display correctly only on devices with Smith's Cirth Erebor typeface installed.

Angerthas Moria
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 ?
b f m t th d r sh z k kh g n l nd h ʔ, ‘ i î y u û e ê a â o ô s ə ʌ
Angerthas Erebor
2 3 6 8 8V 9 @ % e eV r uI, a d fIg l ; S D z c b bÎIn . / > Z ? X C
b f m t th d r sh k kh g n l nd s i î y u û z e ê a â o ô h ə ʌ ps1 ts1
The Cirth runes used to write Khuzdul.

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 thus:

Mode Khuzdul
Latin baruk khazâd khazâd ‘aimênu
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:

Angerthas Moria Latin


Too little is known of Khuzdul grammar to even construct a sentence, but the language 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 and adjectives[edit]

Nouns and adjectives are known to have singular and plural forms, and like the Semitic languages, 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' + 'Dwarves') "Axes of the Dwarves" stating that the Axes belong to the dwarves, Khazad-dûm ('Dwarves' + 'Delving') "Dwarrowdelf", stating it's a Dwarvish delving. The construct can also be used for compounding words, in which it is the composition state, and may be the same or slightly different to the construct form based on conjugation. There are no known (if any) definite or indefinite articles in Khuzdul.

Khuzdul appears to have case endings similar to Arabic, having nominative, accusative/genitive cases, and an adjectival suffix akin to the Nisba in Arabic.

Nominative Accusative/Genitive Nisba
-u -ul
Khuzd Khuzdu Khuzdul
Khazad-dûm Khazad-dûmu

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 only two examples are known: baruk, the plural of bark "axe", and Khazâd, the plural of Khuzdul.

1st Declension
Root Dwarf: √KhZD Orc: √RKhS Shadow: √ʔZN Head: √BND
Sing. Plural Sing. Plural Sing. Plural Sing. Plural Sing. Plural
Absolute CuCC CaCâC Khuzd Khazâd Rukhs Rakhâs ‘uzn ‘azân* Bund Banâd*
Construct CuCC CaCaC Khuzd Khazad Rukhs Rakhas ‘uzn ‘azan Bund Banad*
Root Hill: √HND Cave hall: √GND Beard: √TRG
Sing. Plural Sing. Plural Sing. Plural Sing. Plural
Absolute CuCC CaCâC Hund Hanâd* Gund Ganâd* Turg* Tarâg
Construct CuCC CaCaC Hund Hanad* Gund Ganad* Turg* Tarag*

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 *, as their forms are based on the attested forms of "Dwarf" and "Orc", but could differ from declension and/or broken plural patterns.

Other noun declension types likely exist, but little detail is provided to show any full declensions or identify any broken plurals. Of these, the only hints that point to their existence is in compounded attested words and single words:

Known Noun & Adjective Forms
Absolute Construct / Composition
Root Pattern Word Root Pattern Word
Axe √BRK CaCC bark Black √NRG CaCC narg-
River-course √NLʔ CâCaC nâla’ Staff √ThRK thark-
Pool, Lake √ZRM zâram Red √BRZ CaCaC baraz
Black √NRG CaCâC narâg Black √NRG narag
Fortress √GThL CaCoC gathol Hollow √ZHR zahar
Hewer √FLK CeCaC felak Great in size √GBL CaCiC gabil
Spike, Tine, Peak √ZRK CiCaC zirak Glass, Mirror √KhLD CeCeC kheled
Horn √NBR ‘iCCaC ‘inbar Silver (metal) √KBL CiCiC kibil
Dwarf √KhZD CuCC khuzd Valley √DBN CuCaC duban
Hall √TM / √DM CûC tûm/dûm Lord, Ruler √ZBD ‘uCCaC ‘uzbad
Root Pattern Word Root Pattern Word
Orc, Goblin √RKhS CaCâC rakhâs Shadow / Dim √ʔZN CaCaC ‘azan
Axe √BRK CaCuC baruk Dwarf √KhZD khazad
Cloud √ShThR CaCûC shathûr Axe √BRK CaCuC baruk
Gesture √ShMK ‘iCCêC ‘ishmêk Long √SGN CiCiC sigin

The word baruk is both the absolute and construct plural form of bark, likely the result of being a broken plural.

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.
  • Vowel orders of "i-a" and "u-a" seem to apply for absolute and construct nouns respectively:
zirak, inbar
duban, uzbad.
  • Long vowel sounds seem to appear only in the absolute state, and can be any number, but more likely in plural forms:
Singular: nâla’, zâram, narâg, dûm / tûm.
Plural: khazâd, tarâg, shathûr, ishmêk.

Another possible declension based from Nâla’ and Nulukkhizdîn, construct likely singular, but uncertain:

Possible Declension
Sg. Absolute Sg. (Pl.?) Construct
Pattern CâCaC CuCuC
River-course √NLʔ Nâla’ Nulu’1
Pool, Lake √ZRM Zâram Zurum*

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 they're biconsonantal roots √BZ and √TM/√DM and the suffixes of "-n-, ân-, -în-, -ûn-" meaning a person / place; as seen in Gabilân, Nargûn, Nulukkhizdîn, Tharkûn are applied. Thus making a singular instance of what makes the collective, e.g. a single hall, out of a group of halls. Although being "absolute" in state within names, it's shortened to "-un-" as in the composition form, due to long vowels possibly being shortened before a consonant cluster.

Collective Nouns
Root Template Root: √BZ Hall: √TM
Number Collective Singulative Collective Singulative Collective Singulative
Absolute CûC CuCûn bûz* buzûn* tûm1* tumûn*
Construct CuC CuCun buz* buzun tum1* tumun

1 Possible assimilation of (dt) → (dd): Khazad-tûm → Khazad-dûm.

Most compounded words feature an Adjective-Noun pattern, but a Noun-Adjective pattern has also been observed. This could hint at 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:

  • Barazinbar : Redhorn
Baraz "Red" + Inbar "Horn"
  • Kibil-nâla : Silverlode
Kibil "Silver (metal)" + Nâla "Path, Course, River-course or Bed"
  • Kheled-zâram : Mirrormere
Kheled "glass, mirror" + Zâram "Pool, Lake"
  • Sigin-tarâg : Longbeards
Sigin "Long" + Tarâg "Beards"

One example of a Noun-Adjective pattern:

  • Zirakzigil : Silvertine
Zirak "Spike, Tine" + Zigil "Silver (colour)"

One example of the use of a preposition/accusative case ending used to make the following noun adjectival:

  • Bundushathûr:
Bund "Head" + -u "in/of" + Shathûr "Clouds"

A different example of a verbal noun in a compound name, followed by a noun that the verbal noun applies to:

  • Felak-gundu:
Felak "Hewer" + Gund "Cave" + -u "of"


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[edit]

Khuzdul Names Translation Khuzdul Names Translation
Azaghâl Presumably an 'outer name' or title. Not an inner name. Mahal Aulë, known to the dwarves as the Maker.
Azanulbizar 'Dimrill Dale' lit: "Shadows of streams/rills" or "Dark stream dale". Mîm A Petty-Dwarf, possibly an 'inner name'.
Barazinbar 'Redhorn' (Caradhras), also shortened to Baraz 'Red'. Narag-zâram 'Black-lake', early name, Mirrormere?
Bundushathûr 'Cloudyhead', also shortened to Shathûr 'Clouds'. Nargûn Mordor, and Sauron, lit: "Black one/place".
Buzundush 'Blackroot', earlier name of the Silverlode. Nar(u)kuthûn Nargothrond, possible later name.
Felakgundu Cave-hewer; epessë of Finrod. Origin of Felagund. Nulukkhizdîn Nargothrond, the Petty-Dwarvish name
Gabilân 'Great River'. a portion of the river Gelion 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', Nickname of a Firebeard smith. Tharkûn Gandalf, said to mean 'Staff-man'.
Gundabad Mount Gundabad. Tumunzahar 'Hollowbold' (Nogrod).
Ibun A Petty-Dwarf, possibly an 'inner name'. Udushinbar Earlier name of Bundushathûr.
Kibil-nâla The name 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 A Petty-Dwarf, possibly an 'inner name'. Zirakzigil 'Silvertine' (Celebdil), also shortened to Zirak 'Spike'.


Khuzdul Meaning Khuzdul Meaning
-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
bund head sigin long
buz / bûz root? sulûn / salôn fall, descend swiftly
duban valley sharb bald?
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
gathol fortress zahar hollow?
gund underground hall zâram pool, lake
gunud delve underground, excavate, tunnel zigil silver, the colour
hund hill? zirak spike

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

Consonantal Roots[edit]

Biconsonant Roots
Khuzdul Root Translation Khuzdul Root Translation
ʔL streams HL ??? - Azaghâl
DM excavation, hall, mansion ND see NLʔ - Zigil-nâd
DSh dark, darkness TM excavation, hall, mansion
Triconsonant Roots
ʔBD ??? - Gundabad MHL Create, Maker?
ʔGL speech, language, dialect NBR horn
ʔRK ??? - Uruktharbun NDD see NLʔ - Zigil-nâd
ʔZG ??? - Azaghâl NLʔ path, course, river-course or bed
ʔZN dimness, shadow NRG black
BND head RKhS Orc, Goblin
BRK axe SGN long
BRZ red SLN fall, descend swiftly
BZR dale, valley ShMK gesture, hand, sign?
BZZ root (of a plant) ShRB bald?
DBN valley ShThR cloud
DMM excavation, hall, mansion TMM excavation, hall, mansion
FLK hew, hewer TRG beard
GBL great in size ThRB ??? - Uruktharbun
GML old, great in age? ThRK staff (rod)
GND cave, tunnel ZBD lord
GThL fortress ZGL silver (colour)
HND hill? ZHR hollow?
KBL silver (metal) ZRB write, inscribe
KhLD glass, mirror ZRK spike
KhZD Dwarf ZRM pool, lake


  1. ^ Fauskanger, Helge K. "Khuzdul - the secret tongue of the Dwarves". Ardalambion. University of Bergen. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  2. ^ Åberg, Magnus (2007). "An Analysis of Dwarvish". In Stenström, Anders (ed.). Arda Philology 1. First International Conference on J. R. R. Tolkien's Invented Languages. Stockholm, 4–8 August 2005. pp. 42–65.
  3. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #176, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
  4. ^ "An Interview with J.R.R. Tolkien". BBC Four. January 1971. Archived from the original on October 19, 2009.
  5. ^ Hostetter, Carl F. (November 26, 2004). "reply to: Khuzdul - mostly to Aelfwine/Carl Hostetter". Lord of the Rings Fanatics Forum. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  6. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 176, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
  7. ^ The Lord of the Rings, Book II, chapter 5.
  8. ^ a b 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
  9. ^ Tolkien, J.R.R. (July 1998). Hostetter, Carl F. (ed.). "From Quendi and Eldar, Appendix D". Vinyar Tengwar (39): 5, 10.
  10. ^ Tolkien Gateway, Dan Smith

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]