Did Tolkien the linguist intend for the name of the dragon Smaug to be pronounced "Smog" [IPA: /smɒɡ/ or /smɔːɡ/]? The trailer for the second installment of The Hobbit trilogy pronounces the word (pronounced 'sma-ow-g' [IPA: /smaʊɡ/]) entirely differently than the way I have been reading it for all these many years.

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    Took a stab at including the trailer's pronunciation. That could probably be improved, but we should include a description of the trailer's pronunciation in here.
    – user1027
    Nov 22, 2013 at 20:57
  • Thank you @Keen. That addition definitely improved the question. Nov 22, 2013 at 20:58

4 Answers 4


"Therefore names such as Sauron or Smaug are pronounced like Sow-ron or sm-ow-g." According to the LOTR Wiki.

Also this references Appendix E – Writing and Spelling: I. Pronunciation of Words and Names.

I had always read it as sm-og until I heard the guys from MST3K / RiffTrax say it this other way. Then I looked it up.

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    +1 for Rifftrax! That's my preferred way to watch any of the LOTR movies, and I can't wait for them to do the Hobbit films.
    – Monty129
    Nov 22, 2013 at 22:21
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    And +1 for your good taste. Nov 22, 2013 at 23:47
  • Correct. Or as in German au (and Smaug has German roots). The Tolkien Estate also has information on this and in fact my name here is the original name of Smaug: tolkienestate.com/en/paths/faq/invented-languages.html “The dragon bears as name – a pseudonym – the past tense of the primitive Germanic verb Smugan, to squeeze through a hole: a low philological jest.” (In a letter by J.R.R. Tolkien to The Observer, in 1938.) Edit: However, I don't actually know when he changed it to Smaug; what I do know is in the first edition of The Hobbit it is still Smaug.
    – Pryftan
    Jul 9, 2017 at 1:59

This is addressed in the appendices:

Tolkien, J. R. R. "Appendix E – Writing and Spelling: I. Pronunciation of Words and Names". The Lord of the Rings.: "All these diphthongs were 'falling' diphthongs, that is stressed on the first element, and composed of the simple vowels run together. Thus ... au (aw) as in loud, how and not laud, haw."

I didn't actually know this answer (probably because although I have read the book my main memories of it are from one of the audio recordings and so that's how I've always taken it), and was interested to find out so I checked Smaug's Wikipedia page which cited the above text.

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    Just to make it clearer, it's pronounced as in the trailer: /smaʊɡ/. Apr 16, 2014 at 21:31


Great website. Explains that Smaug is pronounced Sm-ow-g

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    Can you expand on the answer? Link-only answers are not very useful here.
    – Möoz
    Apr 30, 2015 at 3:17
  • The best article so far on the pronunciation of Smaug. It explains why the Appendice E doesn't apply to Smaug (because it's not an Elvish word) but happens to be still pronounced the same way (albeit for different reasons). Also, many of the commentaries there are worth reading.
    – SylvainL
    Apr 30, 2015 at 3:42

For me, the pronunciation of 'Smaug' has always been with 'Sm' as in 'smile' and 'aug' as in 'August' or 'Augment'.

With Smaug having a horde of 'golden treasure' and Smaug representing a symbol of greed or lust for gold in the book and other renditions of the story, I would ask how one would pronounce 'auric' or 'aurous' both of which relate to gold.

Is the word 'Smaug' made up of 'SM'...'au'...'g' as some insist by citing 'au' as 'ow' in the authors appendixes or, rather, is the word made up of 'Sm'...'aug'?

It seems that people follow fashions! I recall how, back in the 70's and 80's the word Smaug had the 'Sm'..'aug' sound in popular speech but now (and especially since a certain film maker got involved) the fashion is for Smaug with the 'Sm'...'ow'...'g' sounds.

In fairness, though I'll stay with 'aug' as in 'augment', I agree with a certain quote from a certain author;

"...and the strange names that they meet they may, of course, pronounce as they like." - John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

Though I cannot find citation for this quote, I think it is in one of the prints of one of the books by Tolkien.

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