An Epic

Dwarven Glossary

The Structure of Khazdul (Dwarven)

(The following excerpt is from an article by Helge K. Fauskanger. Used by permission and altered slightly to fit the world of Farland).

Of the Dwarvish language we are told that "structurally and grammatically it differed widely from all other languages." It seems that it was widely regarded as the proverbial "difficult language," like many Westerners think of Chinese today.

The phonology was in some respects peculiar compared to other contemporary languages. There were at least two aspirated stops, kh and th, i.e k and t followed by h. (Note that kh and th do not here denote German ach-Laut and th as in English thin.) Initial English k and t are also aspirated, but probably not as strongly as in Khazdul. Khazdul also possesses unaspirated stops, like French and Russian k and t, but unlike the situation in both English, French and Russian, Khazdul k and t are phonemes in their own right, that must be distinguished from kh and th. As we know very few Khazdul words, it is hardly surprising that we have no minimal pairs, but k vs. kh and t vs. th are seen to contrast initially. Other consonants include the voiced plosive b, the unvoiced spirants f and s, the voiced spirants z and gh, the lateral l, the vibrant r (some Dwarves used a uvular R, others evidently trilled R), the nasals n and m, and one semi-vowel, y.

If some consonants were somewhat peculiar, the vowel system was pretty ordinary. The short vowels seem to form a classical five-vowel system, a, i, e, o, u. Reduction vowels like the ones heard in butter were also common, but they are not directly attested (unless some of the u's and e's represent such vowels). Four long vowels are attested, â, ê, î and û. The apparent absence of *ô may well be due to our small corpus. Long vowels may be shortened when unstressed. (Actually we know nothing about how Khazdul words are accented.)

The basic structure of Khazdul resembles that of the Semitic languages, like Arabic and Hebrew. The stems from which words are derived are not by themselves pronounceable words, but consist of consonants only. Nouns, verbs, adjectives etc. are derived not only by prefixes and suffixes (if such devices are used at all), but also by inserting certain vowels between these consonants, sometimes also by doubling one of the consonants. Often the words are actually inflected by internal vowel-changes instead of adding affixes: Rukhs means "Orc", but plural "Orcs" is Rakhâs. The root consonants the so-called radicals - remain the same, like *R-Kh-S in this case. In Khazdul as well as in Semitic languages, there are usually three radicals in the root; several such roots are mentioned: B-R-Z "red", B-N-D "head", K-B-L "silver", N-R-G "black". An example of a biconsonantal root is Z-N "dark, dim." Of course, vowels will be added when these roots appear as actual words, e.g. baraz "red" or bund "head" from B-R-Z, B-N-D. The radicals Kh-Z-K contain the general idea of "dwarvishness" and can be observed in such words as Khazâk "Dwarves" and Khazdul "Dwarvish" ("Orcish" would presumably be *Rukhsul). The same radicals Kh-Z-K are evidently present in the ancient Khazdul name Nulukkhizkîn, but the precise meaning of this name is unknown.


As has already been mentioned, our Khazdul corpus is very small.

Baruk Khazâk! is said to mean "Axes of the Dwarves!" Baruk is usually taken to be an example of something similar to the Hebrew "construct state": the state a word is said to be in when it is placed in front of a noun to express a genitival relationship: X Y meaning "X of Y" or "Y's X". (Compare Hebrew sûs "horse", hammelekh "the king", sûs hammelekh "the king's horse, the horse of the king".) Of course, we cannot be certain that baruk is the normal plural "axes" and not a specialized form meaning "axes of". It may be significant that all the other attested plurals contain a long vowel: Khazâk "Dwarves", Rakhâs "Orcs", tarâg "beards", shathûr "clouds", ûl "streams", dûm "excavations, halls". Could the normal plural "axes" be *barûk? Shathûr "clouds" may represent a plural pattern in -a-û-. In Hebrew, the vowels of words in the construct state are often shortened. Or, given that u is clearly a Dwarvish element meaning "of" (Bund-u-shathûr "Head in/of Clouds"), is it incorporated in baruk, inserted between the second and third radical? Words with three simple radicals (1-2-3) seem to have singular forms in 1u23 (bund "head", Rukhs "Orc" - radicals B-N-D, *R-Kh-S) and plurals in 1a2â3 (Rakhâs "Orcs", compare Khazâdk"Dwarves" and tarâg "beards" from *Kh-Z-K and *T-R-G). As baruk seems to have a similar radical structure of three consonants (*B-R-K), we may perhaps add a construct state plural in 1a2u3 to the paradigm and inflect B-R-K "axe" as follows: Singular *burk "axe", normal plural *barâk "axes", construct state plural baruk "[the] axes of" (and similarly e.g. *tarug Khazâk "the beards of the Dwarves" from the attested form tarâg "beards"?) The construct state singular may have the form 1u23u (*burku Khazâk "the axe of the Dwarves"), if Bundushathûr is simply *Bundu Shathûr "Head of Clouds" being written in one word when used as the name of a mountain (B-N-D "head").

The second part of the battle-cry is Khazâk ai-mênu! "The Dwarves are upon you!", our only real sentence. Ai-mênu is "upon you", ai being a short form of aya "upon" and mênu being accusative plural "you". This is evidently a nominal sentence, containing no actual Khazdul equivalent of the verb "are". Sentences like this - "X Y" meaning "X is/are Y" - are common in Russian and many Semitic languages. This may support the theory of a distinct construct state of nouns, to distinguish "X Y" meaning "X of Y" from "X Y" meaning "X is Y".

The only noun that is attested both in the plural and the singular has already been mentioned, Rukhs "Orc", pl. Rakhâs. As we speculated above, Khazâk "the Dwarves" and tarâg "beards" may be plurals formed according to the same pattern, so that the singular nouns "Dwarf" and "beard" are *Khuzk, *turg. The word shathûr "clouds" evidently belong to another plural pattern than Khazâk and Rakhâs, and we cannot reconstruct the singular form. It would probably have the same radicals *Sh-Th-R, but different vowels. Other plural nouns are ûl "streams" and dûm "excavations, halls" (the latter may also be a collective). Is it significant that they both contain the same vowel û as shathûr?

Only three verbs are attested: gunud "delve underground, excavate, tunnel" (stated to be a root), felek "hew rock" and the related word felak, meaning to use a tool like a broad-bladed chisel, or small axe-head without haft. Felak may also be used as a noun denoting such a tool. Cf. English "hammer", noun or verb. This example indicates that Khazdul verbs cannot always be distinguished from other parts of speech by their form alone.

We have a few adjectives: There is the word Khazdul itself, apparently meaning "dwarvish", being derived from *Khuzk "dwarf" with the ending -ul that is also used to form patronymics: Fundinul, son of Fundin. We also have sigin "long" in Sigin-tarâg, the Longbeards. If Khazdul adjectives agree in number, sigin may be a plural form. (On the other hand, the basic, uninflected form of the adjective may be used in compounds.) Zirak (pl. *zirik???) may be the adjective "silver," or it is suggested that it means "spike". It is possible that an adjective follows the noun it describes (though not in compounds like "Longbeards"); see below. If zigil is an adjective "silver" rather than a noun, this construction may suggest that adjectives follow the noun they describe.

Only one pronoun is attested: mênu, plural accusative "you."

We have only two prepositions, aya "upon" (reduced form ai in ai-mênu "upon you"), and u "in, of" (only attested in the middle of a compound, Bundushathur = "Head in/of Clouds", name of the mountain Cloudyhead, Sindarin Fanuidhol).

Adjectives like baraz "red" (B-R-Z) or sigin "long" (*S-G-N) clearly represent adjectival patterns 1a2a3 and 1i2i3 (though kibil "silver" seems to be a noun).


  • aglâb "(spoken) language." This evidently contains the same radicals G-L as in iglishmêk.
  • ai-mênu "upon you," with ai, a reduced form of aya (q.v.), and mênu.
  • aya "upon". Reduced form ai in ai-mênu "upon you".
  • baraz "?red" in Barazinbar. Baraz "?Red One", short name of Barazinbar.
  • Barazinbar "Redhorn"
  • baruk "axes of", Baruk Khazâk! "Axes of the Dwarves!". Possibly the construct state plural of *burk "axe".
  • bizar "dale, valley" in Azanulbizar
  • B-N-D radicals of bund
  • B-R-Z radicals of baraz
  • bund "head". In Bundushathur
  • Buzundush "Morthond, Blackroot"
  • dûm "excavations, halls, mansions", either a true plural or a collective singular.
  • felek "hew rock" (stated to be a root; the radicals are evidently *F-L-K)
  • felak 1) (used as noun) a tool like a broad-bladed chisel, or small axe-head without haft, for cutting stone, 2) (used as verb) to use this tool
  • felakgundu, also assimilated felaggundu "cave-hewer
  • Fundinul translated "son of Fundin", literally probably a kind of adjective derived from this name.
  • gabil "great", isolated from Gabilgathol, q.v.
  • Gabilân a name of a river. Apparently includes gabil "great", cf. Gabilgathol.
  • Gabilgathol "Great fortress."
  • gathol "fortress", isolated from Gabilgathol, q.v.
  • gundu "underground hall" (from root gunud)
  • gunud "delve underground, excavate, tunnel" belived to be a root. Cf. gundu above.
  • iglishmêk a gesture-code used by the Dwarves.
  • inbar "horn"; the radicals are given as M-B-R, note apparent dissimilation mb nb. K-B-L radicals of kibil, the word for silver.
  • Khazâk "Dwarves", their name for themselves. Sg *Khuzk?
  • Khazâk ai-mênu! "The Dwarves are upon you!", Dwarvish battle-cry.
  • kheled "glass" in Kheled-zâram "Mirrormere", lit. "glasslake
  • *Kh-Z-K radicals in words having to do with dwarves and dwarvishness, in
  • Khazâk "the Dwarves" (sg. *Khuzk?), in Khazdul "Dwarvish" and evidently also in Nulukkhizkîn "
  • kibil "silver". Radicals K-B-L
  • Kibil-nâla "Silverlode"
  • M-B-R the radicals of inbar "horn" (note apparent dissimilation mb > nb).
  • mênu "you (acc. pl.)"
  • -nâla "path, course, rivercourse or bed".
  • Narag-zâram "? Black Pool".
  • N-R-G radicals of the word for "black
  • Rukhs "Orc", pl. Rakhâs
  • Sharbhund "? Bald Hill
  • Sigin "long" in Sigin-tarâg, q.v If Khazdul adjectives agree in number, this may be a plural form (or the basic form may be preferred in compounds).
  • Sigin-tarâg, "the Longbeards"
  • tarâg "beards" in Sigin-tarâg, q.v. Sg. *turg?
  • Tharkûn, "Staff-man"
  • Tumunzahar "Hollowbold"
  • -u "in/of" in Bundushathur, Bund-u-shathur "Head in/of Clouds"
  • ûl "streams"
  • -ul, possible adjectival suffix (Khuadul "Dwarvish", Fundinul "[son] of Fundin")
  • Uzbad "Lord"
  • zâram "lake, pool"
  • Z-G-L radicals of zigil
  • zigil either "spike (smaller and more slender than a horn)" or a word for "silver" - the compound Zirak-zigil is said to mean "Silver-spike", but it is not entirely clear which element means "silver" and which means "spike".
  • zirak either "silver" (colour not metal, cf. kibil) or "spike"; see zigil.
  • [Zirakinbar "Silverhorn"
  • Zirak-zigil "Silvertine"
  • Z-N radicals of words for "dark, dim" . In Azanulbizar, q.v.
  • Z-R-K radicals of zirik, q.v.