Tolkien was very much known to be a bit of a Luddite - no fan of technology; Treebeard says in reference to Saruman

He is plotting to become a Power. He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.

Which just about sums up his attitude towards technology. I'm curious if as a consequence words for "machine" and the like only show up in, say the Black Speech/Orcish, or if they are known to be rarely used, or derived from Khuzdul.

  • If there's anything off-topic/that I can improve about this question, please let me know!
    – auden
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 1:24
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    I think this is a good question and I upvoted it. Probably the downvoters think that "what's the word for <thing> in <conlang>" questions shouldn't be allowed. Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 1:26
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    I would find this a good question on scifi.SE, but here it just rubs the the wrong way, in that it is not about the creation of languages, but about this specific fictional work etc.
    – caconyrn
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 1:28
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    @caconyrn Aren't all tolkien-* questions about a specific fictional work? Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 1:33
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    Could you perhaps search through the dictionaries and report your results? If it is a negative result, is that something actually notable or just the dictionary being small?
    – caconyrn
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 1:34

1 Answer 1


Quenya has tanwë which means "device, craft, construction." A search for "machine" on this site which may or may not be reputable gives a couple of other words in Quenya, Sindarin, and Noldorin.

Tolkien did once use the word gun in the Hobbit. This question on sff explains that, and the top answer to it includes this quote:

The Common Speech, as the language of the Hobbits and their narratives, has inevitably been turned into modern English. In the process the difference between the varieties observable in the use of the Westron has been lessened. Some attempt has been made to represent these varieties by variations in the kind of English used ... (LOTR: The Return of the King, Appendix F, "II. On Translation")

I'd recommend reading the entire answer.

Anyway, it seems that, logically, there should be no words for "future" technologies in Middle earth; any translation of them by Tolkien can be explained as Tolkien trying to make it easier for us to understand.

The other point I want to bring up is that many of the words found in modern Quenya dictionaries are not original creations by Tolkien, but derivations from his notes. I doubt he created these words intentionally to violate the technology level of the world.

In the Black Speech, we have only a very limited number of words, as seen here; in Dwarvish, as you pointed out in your own answer here, Tolkien has a very limited vocabulary, and only one word has been borrowed from Khuzdul into the Elvish languages.

I think the quote you have about Sauron being a robot is not literal--the orcs' tehnology was no more advanced than the men and the elves'. I'm sure that "mind of metal and wheels" is meant to be some Entish idiom that references being hasty.

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    The quote I have about Saruman is definitely not saying he was a robot; the quote was meant to reference Tolkien's association of machinery with evil. I must say, I don't think this quite answers my question.
    – auden
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 0:13
  • At least two Khuzdul words entered Sindarin: heledh ‘glass’ and hadhod ‘dwarf’. Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 5:07

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