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So I was wondering whether Eru Ilúvatar has any meaning in and of itself, in-universe, besides being the name of the Creator? Is it at all related to any words in Primitive Quendian, for example?

Out-of-universe, did Tolkien derive the name from anything? Or did he just make it up?

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    Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/132164/…
    – hobbs
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 5:35
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    Out of universe: Tolkien may have been inspired by the name of Ilmatar, a creator goddess in the Kalevala (Finnish national epic with at least some influence on his works, according to Google).
    – Roberto
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 21:40

3 Answers 3

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Eru Ilúvatar means the “All Father”

Eru 'The One', 'He that is Alone'

Ilúvatar 'Father of All’
The Silmarillion, Index of Names

The name Ilúvatar is a compound of two words, Ilu/Ilúvë ("the all", "everything, the world") and atar ("father"). The name has existed in the legendarium as early as the Book of Lost Tales. In Qenya (note the spelling) it meant "Sky-father".

"Ilu" in the early legendarium was used to describe the universe and everything in it. Coming from the root IL, meaning "all".
"Atar" comes from the root ATA meaning "father".
So there is to some extent a relation to Primitive Quendian and Qenya as the roots of the composition of the name Ilúvatar.

Éru (and particularly the spelling with the acute accent) came into the Legendarium later, at a similar time to the formation of Adunaic and the origins of the Akallabêth (Sauron Defeated). The use of the word in Quendian first appeared in a List of Names in 1951 (Morgoth's Ring).

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    Worth noting that "atta" is the most commonly attested Gothic term for "father" as well. (Though Gothic isn't typically a source for Quenya vocabulary.)
    – chepner
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 22:08
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    I prefer to stick to sources I get directly from the works published during his lifetime or posthumously (edited by Christopher), but that is certainly interesting to note in the comments, and not something I'd known before.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 22:26
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    All similarity to the Germanic words for "all+father", which is a common epithet for Odin (Alfaðir in the original Old Norse), is completely incidental :). For one thing, it partitions as Iluv+atar, not Ilu+vatar. Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 2:34
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    @SevaAlekseyev That doesn’t mean it’s incidental, or indeed accidental. Having Ilúvatar mean ‘Sky-Father’ and at the same time be so fairly close to Lat. Iuppiter, Gk. Ζεῦ Πατέρ, Skt. द्यौष्पितृ (which also mean ‘Sky-Father’) does not make them cognates, but it does increase the likelihood that Tolkien deliberately chose to build the name out of elements that recall these terms, even if they’re not the same. He did, after all, have complete control over his invention. Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 10:33
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    @chepner: FWIW, having a word like /ata/ as a term for a close family member (like father) in several completely unrelated languages is not that surprising, as it's a typical "babble word" easily vocalized by a baby learning to talk (and eagerly filled with meaning by the baby's parents). As a linguist, Tolkien may well have been aware of this phenomenon, or at least of the fact that such words are indeed common across many languages. Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 4:19
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Yes.

In-world: In Quenya, the name signifies The One (God), Allfather.

Out-world: It should hardly come as a surprise that a unique, transcendent, relational, parental God should be called "The One" and "Father". Simply because the God of his invented world is presumed to be the same God of the real world. So, not entirely made up!

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    His invented world actually is (a past version of) our world, in-universe.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 17:33
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    "Simply because the God of his invented world is presumed to be the same God of the real world. So, not entirely made up!" Agreed, but the title Allfather certainly also alludes to Odin (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_names_of_Odin) of Norse mythology, which was so influential in Tolkien's languages and lore.
    – LarsH
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 17:45
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    @LarsH It's worth noting that post-Christian writing about Norse mythology has been heavily influenced by Christianity as well.
    – ikrase
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 2:32
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Out-of-world: The consonants 'R' and 'L' are nearly or completely indistinguishable in some languages and accents (e.g. Spanish, Japanese). So "Eru" is a bit like "Ellu". Now, "El" is the name of a deity, or the noun for "deity", in several semitic languages (see this Wikipedia article); what's more is that another variant of that deity's name is "Illu". So "Eru Iluvatar" hints very strongly at the Judeo-Christian deity, which - while today is considered to be the single deity - is a sort of amalgam of Yehova/Yahweh and El/Illu. These were locally popular deities in the ancient kingdoms of Judea and Israel (see that same article).

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    This is worth expanding with sources - I don't remember where exactly I read this, but it's likely in Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle-earth if someone wants to sift through it. Helge Fauskanger might also mention it on his Ardalambion site; or search up David Salo's publications.
    – Rich
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 19:41
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    @Rich: This was always obvious to me when reading the Silmarillion, the Encyclopedia of Arda, and wikis later on. I didn't read any deeper analysis. Ah, and I guess I should mention I'm from a Jewish family and a native Hebrew speaker...
    – einpoklum
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 20:12
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    Downvoted until you can provide evidence that Tolkien did in fact derive "Éru" from the Semitic "El", and not one of the many other sources he's documented as having used for his languages.
    – Mark
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 21:42
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    –1 R and L are completely distinguishable in Spanish. Perhaps you are thinking V and B?
    – Lexible
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 3:55
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    It is a mistake to say "L" and "R" are indistinguishable in e.g. Japanese. Rather, a Japanese speaker has a hard time distinguishing the English consonants, because both sound like the single Japanese consonant which has allophones similar to both. This is common with East Asian languages in general, but not so much the Hebrew, Latin, Germanic, Celtic, or Finno-Ugric ones from which Tolkien drew most of his inspiration. It may be that IL was inspired somewhat by El(ohim) (even though "All" is the more obvious source), but I think you're off target on Eru.
    – Wlerin
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 6:58

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