Tengwar Alphabet

Firstly, let’s learn the Tengwar alphabet focusing Quenya mode. Tengwar is a phonetic alphabet and it can be used to write any language, as long as one grasps the meaningful phonetics rules concerning the language mode desired and the tengwa used.

On this area initially, you’ll learn Tengwar alphabet designed to write Quenya and Quenya only. Others languages require different modes, not discussed here.

tengwar-fonts-ultimate-guide

Perhaps, after taking the course you might be interested in the Tengwar Fonts Ultimate Guide so you can start writing and exercising it for yourself! Click here!

Course Index

t p c qu

nd mb ng ngu

th f h hw

nt mp nc nqu

n m ñ nw

r v y w

r rd l ld

s s ss ss

h i u h

punctuation

mm tt ll my py ly

Tengwar Chart


The chart above shows all the tengwar (tengwa literally means letter) of the alphabet. Some of them are used on Quenya mode, some are not. All tengwar represents consonantal values. But what about the vowels? They’re different! They’re not letters by themselves, they’re tehtar (tehta means diacritic). Below, you’ll find a chart with vowels, diphthongs and even some y- constructions.

Tehtar Chart

Vowels when they come alone, they are supported by a short line if the vowel is short, or by a long line if the vowel is long. When a vowel comes after a consonant, the corresponding diacritic will appear on the top of that consonant. So, for instance a syllable like “pa” = P tengwa+A tehta which will come on top of the P. Got it? On the other hand, a long vowel will never come above a consonant. It’s always written with the long vowel support.

Click below on each tengwa in order to listen to its name and understand its proper sound in Quenya.

(TIP: click with the right mouse button and open in another tab.)

t

p

c / k

qu

Shall we practice reading a bit? Well, let’s use only the four consonants above and the vowels we have seen so far. Try to read the words below and see if you can understand them. They are simple words in Quenya and the answers are in the link given at the bottom of this page.

Exercise 1

Easy? Hard? What did you think? Let’s head for the second row of tengwar:

nd

mb

ng

ngw

Now try to practice reading with this 2nd exercise involving all consonants so far:

Exercise 2

Now let’s head to the 3rd row of tengwa. This one might need specific explanation concerning some consonant values and Quenya internal history and its evolution through time.

th (s)

f

-h

hw

The 1st tengwa of this row (thúlë) denotes the phonetic evolution that came from Primitive Quendian. There was indeed the th sound (quite like think) in Archaic Quenya, but this sound vanished and was turned into a simple s sound (like sink). However, when we write Quenya using its alphabet, we must be extremely careful with S words because you need to verify its ancient root. If it came from ‘th’, you must write the word with thúlë and not silmë (will be presented here later).  E.g.: Sauron (not written with ‘s’ but with ‘th’) Why? It’s because Sauron comes from saura (foul, putrid) and the primitive root of saura is (THUS).

Another detail in this row is the use of harma (-h). It’s never in the beginning of the word. Always in the middle. There’s another specific tengwa for h sounds in the beginning of the word which will be presented here later.

Time to exercise! I hope it’s been quite easy so far. Here a little bit more:

Exercise 3

And here comes the next row of Tengwar, some compounds consonants that in Quenya are taken as a unit and not as digraphs!

nt

mp

nc

nqu

Those digraphs substitutes presented above may be confusing sometimes (depending on one’s mother tongue of course) but once you get used with Tengwar writing and reading, they won’t pose any problem at all. So, start practicing right now:

Exercise 4

Now some nasal consonants. Remember: what’s important in Tengwar alphabet is the sound not the writing. In this case, for instance we have a huge difference between ‘n’ and ‘ñ’. Ok…I can see the difference between them right now you may say, but in Quenya sometimes you cannot see it instantly. What do I mean? Well…e.g.: Noldor! Which letter n or ñ? It’s ñ! See? It’s all based in sounds and the root of this particular word used as example sounds ‘ñ’ not just a regular ‘n’. It’s little details but they surely will tell if you wrote something right or wrong! So…look out! Quenya has got the Devil in the details!

n

m

ñ

nw

Now head to more exercises:

Exercise 5

And here comes the last row of the primary letters. Check them out and careful with the details again. For instance: the -r tengwa below is only used in the end of syllables like ar, er, ir, or, ur (and it’s strongly pronounced different from English). The y- tengwa is used only when ‘y’ comes in consonantal position and not palatalizing other consonant. (“ya” uses this tengwa below, “tya” doesn’t.) Always when you write the ‘y-‘ there are two dots underneath the tengwa denoting the ‘y’ itself. And to conclude, there’s the w tengwa (always pronounced like v when starting a word) which particularly is used to write ancient words with old roots in ‘w’.

-r

v

y-

w (v)

Time for more exercises. If you following them all, you’ll see it’s getting more complex and including lot of tengwar by now. Keep training and practicing and in a while, you’ll be able to read Quenya plainly!

Exercise 6

Don’t forget about the ‘y’. It’s marked by the two dots beneath the tengwa (when palatalizing a consonant and coming at vowel position), and/or by the proper tengwa explained above (when coming in consonantal position)

Now starts the additional letters row. It consists of tengwar not formed by telco nor lúva (telco = leg & lúva = bow). They’re kind of a different style, but not less important as you’ll see below. Their beauty and harmony stays the same and they simply add to the whole alphabet composition. Here they are:

r-

rd

l

ld

And let’s practice more! There are lots of words with l and r in Quenya. Important exercise!

Exercise 7

Continuing with the Tengwar, we have now some easy ones! Everything related to ‘S’. It’s no secret and it’s pretty much equivalent with English. Just watch out that it never sounds like ‘Z’, it’s just a simple ‘s’ and double ‘ss’ doesn’t change that much phonetically. So, here it is:

s

s (when carrying vowels)

ss

ss (when carrying vowels)

Here comes a very challenging exercise! If you cannot read it at once, read the aid given below that will clear out some unexpected tengwar use here:

Exercise 8

Well, the first weird thing you might be wondering is: What the heck is that thing in the end of the 1st word of 2nd line? That’s an S! When coming at final position, S takes that unusual form, like an artistic extension of the previous tengwar. But that happens only when S is the final letter!!! S is a tengwa full of tricks, huh?

And what about the following word?   You can see there a SS without a vowel, right? But why the tilt after? The tilt corresponds a simple hyphen. The word presented there is in fact a root, not a word in itself. I just used it here because SS without carrying a vowel is pretty pretty rare in Quenya orthography! There is a tengwa to stand for that, but it’s applicable only on those extreme situations like above.

Now the last tengwar of all and their particular details:

h- (only at word beginning)

-i (diphthongs only)

-u (diphthongs only)

h (only before l or r)

And here it’s the last exercise involving the tengwa shown above. What are your Tengwar reading and writing skills like so far? Are you doing fine? Do you have some doubts yet? Share anything you feel like with me! I’ve been contacted by people who are improving their knowledge and once you understand the syllabic logic within the Tengwar writing system, everything becomes plain clear in front of your eyes! I hope I can assist thee in thy quest!

Exercise 9


Extra notes

Well…all tengwar is here! If you followed this course so far, trained with the exercises and practiced elsewhere too, you’re definitely ready and ‘graduated’ to start writing in Tengwar! Here there are just a few notes about punctuation which might prove to be really helpful when writing a text.

?

!

,

.

. (paragraph’s end)

( )

And here also 2 important and final details about tengwar diacritics. Pay attention to them because they’re very common!

Tilt = double consonant

Double dots = palatal consonant

Final exercise

If you can read the text below, you’re ready to live among elves! Congratulations! Try to read it without checking the course above (when possible). Keys are coming!

Check all your answers to the exercises in the link below.

Exercise Keys

Exercise Keys


Quenya Guide

Tengwar Quenya Mode Quick Guide

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206 responses to “Tengwar Alphabet

  1. Lauren

    I really want to get “I have Lived a Thousand Lives” as a tattoo in Tengwar. I don’t trust myself to write it out correctly, is there anyway you could do it? I really have no faith in my being able to write it out correctly!

    Thank you, I really appreciate it!

  2. Luinar

    I understand that the tengwar is a phonetic alphabet, but I’m struggling with your first lesson/exercise. There are additional tengwa and tehtar present in the exercises that have no prior introduction or mention. The words in exercise 1 do not really follow the tengwa you provided beforehand.

    The first tengwa has three markings above it, but those markings are not shown on any of your charts or quick guides. I understand that those must be vowel diacritics, but you haven’t explained what vowels they represent.

    The second word in exercise 1 has a new tengwa, and it is not one of the four tengwa you stated would be focused upon in the exercise (it is not “t” “p” “c/k” or “qu”, it is something entirely different) added to the tengwa from the first word, and again marked with the unexplained three vowel diacritics. These words feature tengwa and tehtar that have not yet been introduced.

    You’ll have to forgive me if I seem rude — I’m not trying to be — I am really trying to understand your lessons and exercises. I know that Tolkien’s languages are difficult and complex, and trying to learn a language and alphabet based primarily upon phonetics is certainly challenging. If you could help explain some of this to me, I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

  3. Tyler Davis

    I have a poem in english I want to translate but this just tells me how to translate in quenya mode. I want to translate my english to quenya so I can have the poem translated right (and I figured if I learn and do it myself it will be quicker than waiting for a translation and I cant afford to spend money on fast line being a college student and all). Its the “the road goes ever on and on” poem in full. I’m just not sure how to take this lesson and actually get started translating.

    • Please read the answer for your very first comment on the subject made at the right page, Poem & Prose.

      This lesson is designed to teach how to read and write the alphabet. This is not designed to teach the language per se.

  4. sofia

    What are the wierd flowery things on the vowels in the words? I don’t understand….

  5. Pedro Luis

    Hi there! I finished these Tengwar Alphabet lessons but I’ve got some doubts:

    1) Will the two dots always mean the “y”?
    2) Calma represents “c/k” but, the “c” can represent either a “k” or an “s” sound, when and how do I know which case is what? Or… Even like “ciniello” has a “k” sound?

    Thanks,

    Pedro Luis

    (If you speak brazilian portugese, please answer me in this language.)

    • Olá, Pedro. Eu falo Português.

      1 – Os dois pontos sempre representam uma nasalização/palatização. Em Quenya, isso é marcado pelo y posterior à consoante.
      2 – Calma sempre tem som de K, nunca de S. Toda palavra em Quenya com C (cirya, coron, cé) é pronunciada com o som de K.

      Nas alassenya!

  6. Dessislava

    This is beautiful! I’ve been into learning this language for some time, but I have a question- do you know where one can find words and phrases in quenya?
    The internet is full of “elven phrases”, but from what I’ve learned they are a new, modified elf-like type of language, called Isdira. Now I don’t know if I know anything, or I have to start from the beginning…

  7. Nicole

    What is the little flower kinda thing Over the letters in excercise 1?

  8. Pedro Luis

    Hello, I didn’t quite get, at the first exercise, the last word, “pitya”… Why shouldn’t it be writen like: prama anna < "a" volwel instead of prama < "i" + tinco < "a" and "two dots below"?

  9. matthew

    hi there

    I would like to know if there is a guide regarding calligraphy. I am quite new to this Tengwar alphabet. Therefore I do not know exactly where I am supposed to begin with the lines on the letters, etc… Or if there is a rule at all. I am just wondering about this, because in Japanese and its alphabets, there is a methodical way to write each “symbol”.

    • Yeah, you’re right! I have studied a little bit katakana and hiragana and you gotta follow all the calligraphy rules in order to get them right.

      That doesn’t happen with Tengwar though. Just write. Practice and practice and practice until you got the flow right with the pen and your hand. It’s all about practice.

  10. Astrid Verbree

    Hi! A few days ago a friend told me about this ‘language they speak in LOTR’, and I was interested and went looking for it on the internet. I came across a LOT of different ways to learn Tengwar. What I would like to be able to do, is translate English (or Dutch, since I come from the Netherlands) into Tengwar. The problem is, in this official form of the language (I believe that you have the right version, honestly), some letters don’t exist. Someone mentioned this before in the comments, I believe. ‘doesnt the letters exist:
    b, d, g, j, x and z’. Since I would like to be able to use Tengwar like it was English or Dutch or other languages with the 26-letters-alphabet, do you have any idea how I should do that? Do these letters really just not exist in Tengwar? Does that mean that I would have to just make them myself? Or do you perhaps know something?

    I hope you can help me (:

    • Tengwar is a phonetic alphabet. Through PHONEMES (and not letters) you can write down several languages. You just need to know correctly the Tengwar Mode to use. For instance, this page contains Tengwar Quenya Mode (the original way of writing this elvish alphabet alongside this particular elvish language).

      If you’re interested in another Tengwar Modes, please check: https://quenya101.com/?s=Tengwar+Mode

  11. How du you write an e with two dots over? Seen it in a lot of elvish words

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