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Etymology of _Esgaroth_ (ref. _Return to Bag-end_)

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  • William Cloud Hicklin
    In Volume II of _The History of the Hobbit_, John Rateliff addresses the derivation of _Esgaroth_. There is of course no doubt about the first element,
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2007
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      In Volume II of _The History of the Hobbit_, John Rateliff addresses
      the derivation of _Esgaroth_. There is of course no doubt about the
      first element, _esgar-_, which is given in the _Etymologies_ and
      glossed 'reed-bed;' but the second element is not directly interpreted;
      the whole name is confusingly defined as 'Reed-lake' (?!)

      I'm not sure however that JDR is pursuing the right trail when he takes
      the second element to be Ilkorin _-roth_, equivalent to N/S _-rond_
      'vaulted space,' and rather stretches the definition to include
      'dwelling, town' by analogy to Nargothrond.

      Is it not the case that in Noldorin (and for all we know Ilkorin)
      compounds which abut initial and final _r_, the doubled consonant is
      preserved? Cf. _rochir_ + _rimbe_ = _Rohirrim_. Thus the second
      element should be not _-roth_ but _-oth_.

      This I can't find anything on, except as the well-known
      collective-plural suffix _-ath_, _-oth_, _-hoth_, as in _Lossoth_,
      _Faroth_, and the early form _Rohiroth_. In which case the name would
      translate 'The Reed-beds,' a recognizable form of real-world placename,
      referring either to actual reeds, or a kenning for the pilings upon
      which the town was built (which JDR does point out).

      -- William Hicklin

      [Although _Esgaroth_ appears as an Ilkorin name meaning 'Reedlake' in
      _Etymologies_ as published in _The Lost Road_ (V:356 s.v. ESEK-), that
      is not the only attested gloss in _Etymologies_. Another entry, not
      included in _The Lost Road_ version, reads: "SKAR[2]- [?and SKAT[2]-]
      [?... stop, end; limit, marge]. _esgar_ shore; _esgaroth_
      [?strand-burg]" (VT46:14). This etymology is more in line with the
      English name (and apparent gloss) found in _The Hobbit_ and _The Lord
      of the Rings_, "Lake-town". In any event, it is apparent that the
      second element is indeed _-oth_ (perhaps related to S. _ost_
      'fortress') and that it could mean, and here would most appropriately
      mean, 'burg' or 'town'. I'll also point out that according to a note
      published in _Parma Eldalamberon_ 17, _Esgaroth_ remained a
      non-Sindarin form: "In the Hobbit all names are translated except
      _Galion_ (the Butler), _Esgaroth_ and _Dorwinion_. _Galion_ and
      _Esgaroth_ are not Sindarin (though perhaps ‘Sindarized’ in shape) or
      are not recorded in _Sindarin_" (p. 54). CFH]
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