UC Irvine has an area where all the buildings are named after Middle earth stuff (squeee!)
Those buildings have pretty tile signs, some of which have an elvish script around the edges. As far as I could tell, they all said the same thing:
elvish stuff

What does it mean?

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    I'm not fully convinced this says anything. The first few segments appear to translate to "ane echravlye avelanr", which as far as I can tell is gibberish – Jason Baker Jul 31 '15 at 4:16
  • It is tricky, but so far I have "An e echravlye avelan rav erash e" – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Aug 1 '15 at 17:46
  • Starting in the upper left corner and working around in a clockwise fashion, it reads something like: "An e echravlye avelan rav erash e h l e e an", which is probably gibberish. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Aug 1 '15 at 17:50
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    @JasonBaker - I thought so too, but we were both wrong! – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Aug 7 '15 at 2:31

It appears to be gibberish, unfortunately. The closest I could get to the characters in your image is as follows:

Starting in the upper left corner and working around in a clockwise fashion, it reads something like:

"An e echravlye avelan rav erash e h l e e an".

This doesn't make sense in any language I know of.

Update: I asked around and someone was able to translate it!

A OneRing.net user named Maghradaid replied to my query. I will quote this reply in full:

It's an unusual mode of writing but is definitely an attempt at saying Nai hiruvalye Valimar around the top, and Nai elye hiruva around the bottom. In this case, vowel tehtar are placed above the preceding tengwa. The vowel markings for E and I are switched, as are O and U: these have happened (e.g. in CT's English transliterations, and the Black Speech ring-verse), but not so often for Quenya (one example of O/U is DTS56). The separation of the diphthong AI like that (and not written over yanta) into A over the preceding and I on a short carrier is attested in some of Tolkien's examples. The U is missing in hiruvalye, and they decided to use kh- for the hir- parts. Indeed, harma would have originally been used, but later on it was renamed aha because kh- had become h- initially, and hy- (hyarmen) started to be used for initial h-.

So there's a rationale for each of the unexpected parts, save the missing U, and -lye. Tolkien sometimes represented consonants like ly, ny, etc. in Quenya without using the two dots to represent following y, and instead used L and a Y-tengwa afterward. However, the L had a dot underneath to indicate no following vowel, and the vowel after -y was then placed above it (DTS72, which has separation of nai as I mentioned). However, that uses anna, not yanta, and there's no underdot. Another way is found in DTS73, but while that does show -y represented with yanta and no underdot, the vowel after it is still placed above yanta: and nai is then written with A over N and a following yanta, not like here (or DTS72). There's also the matter of whether rómen would be used for final R in Quenya.

So we can tell what it's intended to say, though I'm somewhat surprised at how it's written, given our attested examples.

Edit: You're right, they do have N in Valimar, which is a mistake that can't be explained away.

So there are two phrases here, although they are written in an unusual fashion and there is at least one error. The phrases are:

Nai hiruvalye Valimar

"Maybe thou shalt find Valimar"


Nai elye hiruva

"Maybe even thou shalt find it"

The Tengwar transcriber renders the sentence thus:

enter image description here

Thanks to Junuxx for the improved rendering

This is a quote from an Elvish poem found in The Lord of the Rings, known as the Namárië, or "Galadriel's Lament". The Namárië is the longest Quenya text in The Lord of the Rings. Here is the full reading:

Ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen,
yéni únótimë ve rámar aldaron!
Yéni ve lintë yuldar avánier
mi oromardi lisse-miruvóreva
Andúnë pella, Vardo tellumar
nu luini yassen tintilar i eleni
ómaryo airetári-lírinen.

Sí man i yulma nin enquantuva?

An sí Tintallë Varda Oiolossëo
ve fanyar máryat Elentári ortanë,
ar ilyë tier undulávë lumbulë;
ar sindanóriello caita mornië
i falmalinnar imbë met, ar hísië
untúpa Calaciryo míri oialë.
Sí vanwa ná, Rómello vanwa, Valimar!

Namárië! Nai hiruvalyë Valimar.
Nai elyë hiruva. Namárië!
- The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 20: Farewell to Lórien

Which translates into English thus:

Ah! like gold fall the leaves in the wind,
long years numberless as the wings of trees!
The years have passed like swift draughts
of the sweet mead in lofty halls beyond the West,
beneath the blue vaults of Varda
wherein the stars tremble in the song of her voice, holy and queenly.

Who now shall refill the cup for me?

For now the Kindler, Varda, the Queen of the Stars,
from Mount Everwhite has uplifted her hands like clouds,
and all paths are drowned deep in shadow;
and out of a grey country darkness lies on the foaming waves between us,
and mist covers the jewels of Calacirya for ever.
Now lost, lost to those from the East is Valimar!

Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar.
Maybe even thou shalt find it. Farewell!


New comment on the thread:

You're welcome. I'm embarrassed to say that I missed another error:

Instead of switching E and I as I had claimed, instead E and I are represented by the same sign. I had seen all the I's unexpectedly having the slash tehta, but failed to notice that the E's used it as well. I'm so used to seeing it for E that I slipped up and didn't notice anything abnormal when it is actually used for E in that sign, though I had established that it was being used for I.

This is what the characters look like in that sign:

enter image description here

Further reading:

An extremely detailed analysis of literally every word of the Namárië

| improve this answer | |
  • Well that's just lame. – Mary ML Aug 5 '15 at 0:53
  • @MaryML - I have no idea how to read Tengwar, so it is entirely possible that I'm wrong. I just posted a question on TheOneRing.net asking for a second opinion. If anyone is able to provide a better translation there, I will let you know. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Aug 5 '15 at 4:24
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    @MaryML - I have never been so happy to be proven wrong. It does mean something! – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Aug 7 '15 at 2:20
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    I think this is a more accurate transcription of what's on the sign. – Junuxx Aug 7 '15 at 8:11
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    @Junuxx YOU'RE AWESOME! – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Aug 7 '15 at 8:17

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