- In a letter to VT (published in #36) Anthony Appleyard looks, inter
alia, at the QL entry _velike_ 'great' [VT36:34]. He notes the obvious
resemblance to Russian and Ukrainian _velikiy_ 'great, mighty'. The
corresponding Gnomish form is _beleg_ both deriving from a root BEL-
(the latter later re-etymologized as deriving from MBEL-).
One thing long noted is that some of Tolkien's words closely resemble
words in other Indo-European languages or could be, virtually, derived
from PIE roots. Strikingly, Tolkien, sort of, provides 'alternative
etymologies' for words found in Indo-European languages (especially
Germanic, but by no means exclusively so). That happens especially
often when an etymology is difficult or not well established (or was at
The same is true for Russian _velikiy_. Currently, it would be derived
from PIE _*welH-_ 'to be powerful, rule'. (Earlier it would have been
_*wel-_ 'to choose, wish' lumped together with the aforementioned root.
Today, rather two roots are assumed: _*welH-_ and _*welh1-_.) The root
meaning 'to be powerful, rule' yields such words as Gothic _waldan 'to
rule', Russian _vlasti_, Tocharian B _walo_ (<*_wlH(o)nt-_) 'ruler',
Latin _valere_ 'be strong' etc.
Briefly, this etymology is difficult because of the quality of the
first vowel in the Russian word, namely 'e'. Deriving _velikiy_ from
_*welh1-_ doesn't really make sense semantically (some people would
still unite both roots, which may be possible. However, they seem to be
differentiated already at the PIE period and thus _velikiy_ would still
have to be derived from the 'to be powerful' root).
So, we see that Tolkien, in a way, provides an alternative etymology
for _velikiy_, if we take it (or rather _velik-_) to be of Elvish origin. It
would then derive from a root BEL- which is of course, in turn,
Indo-European (_*bel-_ 'to be powerful, have strength', cf. Old Indic
_bali_ 'strong', Greek _beltiôn_ 'better', Latin _de-bilis_ 'weak,
The implications can be pursued further considering Q. _val-_ 'to be
mighty, powerful, rule' etc. but I'll leave it here for the moment.
I tried to illustrate an instance of what I think is etymological
punning, as this kind of witty, knowledgeable playfulness pervades
J.R.R. Tolkien's language creations.
Another case of 'applicability' if you will.