In the appendices of The Lord of the Rings books (Appendix E - "Writing and Spelling") it is said:




The Westron or Common Speech has been entirely translated into English equivalents. All Hobbit names and special words are intended to be pronounced accordingly: for example, Bolger has g as in bulge, and mathom rhymes with fathom.

In transcribing the ancient scripts I have tried to represent the original sounds (so far as they can be determined) with fair accuracy, and at the same time to produce words and names that do not look uncouth in modern letters. The High-elven Quenya has been spelt as much like Latin as its sounds allowed. For this reason c has been preferred to k in both Eldarin languages.

The following points may be observed by those who are interested in such details.


C has always the value of k even before e and i: celeb 'silver' should be pronounced as keleb.
-The Lord of the Rings, Appendix E (Writing and Spelling).

For example the name Círdan is pronounced "Kírdan" and not "Sírdan". But does this extend to words which are not Eldarin (elven)?

I ask this because when the paragraph talks about the "c" letter, it is referring to Eldarin languages, however the "Consonants" part refers to all languages (it seems).

For example do I pronounce the name "Tar-Ciryatan" with the same "K" sound? Even though he was most likely named after Círdan himself, it is actually a Númenórean name, not Eldarin.

  • I believe that the pronunciation guide applies to all languages of Arda when they are represented using our alphabet.
    – Neithan
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 1:24
  • 3
    The Tar- names were elvish. When the Kings took names in the Adunaic tongue, they began with Ar-. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 5:37
  • @Quasi_Stomach Sort of bad example I guess, but you get what I mean.
    – Möoz
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 3:41
  • Actuallly Tolkien used C (pron. K) only in Elvish words. In Dwarvish Orkish, Adunaic etc he used only K.
    – Voprosnik
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 21:04

1 Answer 1


In the invented languages, "C" is always hard

There's a note near the end of the first part of Appendix E which clarifies this:

In names drawn from other languages than Eldarin the same values for the letters are intended, where not specially described above, except in the case of Dwarvish.

Return of the King Appendix E "Writing and Spelling" I "Pronunciation of Words and Names" Note

This note is referred to in the "Consonants" section, specifically the entry for K (bold is my emphasis):

K is used in names drawn from other than Elvish languages, with the same value as c; kh thus represents the same sound as ch in Orkish Grishnákh, or Adûnaic (Númenorean) Adûnakhôr. On Dwarvish (Khuzdul) see below.

Return of the King Appendix E "Writing and Spelling" I "Pronunciation of Words and Names" Consonants

So yes, it would seem as though we're meant to pronounce "Tar-Ciryatan" as "Kiryatan", in the proper Elvish style. This seems like the outcome we'd expect, since the early Númenórean kings took regnal names in Quenya; despite not belonging to an Elf, it's still an Elvish word.

This wouldn't apply to, say, Rohirric names

Though this is unfortunately not mentioned in the Appendices, Tolkien notes in Letter 144 that the language of Rohan was more related to Westron than anything else, and hence was rendered in English (actually something like Old English):

Languages, however, that were related to the Westron presented a special problem. I turned them into forms of speech related to English. Since the Rohirrim are represented as recent comers out of the North, and users of an archaic Mannish language relatively untouched by the influence of Eldarin, I have turned their names into forms like (but not identical with) Old English.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 144: To Naomi Mitchison. April 1954

So another name beginning with c, Ceorl, should be understood to be pronounced according to Old English standards, which in this case is a "ch" sound.

  • 2
    There's a joke in here somewhere about speaking "American." I'm too tired to make that joke right now, but I wanted you all to know that I was thinking about it Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 2:34
  • I think ceorl is old English for a free peasant.
    – Spencer
    Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 22:08
  • 2
    @Spencer Cognate with 'churl', I see... Commented Jul 1, 2022 at 6:46

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