S. mâb n. “hand” (Category: Hand)
The typical Sindarin word for “hand” (VT47/7, 20), usable in almost any context. It is most notable as an element in the name Mablung “Heavy Hand” (VT47/8). See below for a discussion of its etymology.
Conceptual Development: This word dates all the way back to the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s, where G. mab “hand” appeared as a derivative of the early root ᴱ√MAPA “seize” (GL/55). Tolkien then revised the gloss to “hands”, saying instead it was an irregular dual of G. mô “hand”. The word reverted to singular ᴱN. mab “hand” in Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s (PE13/149). These early versions of the word were already an element of Mablung “Heavy Hand(ed)” (LT2/38; LB/311), but also of Ermabwed “One-handed” (LT2/34; LB/119).
In the 1930s it seems Tolkien decided Ilk. mâb “hand” was primarily an Ilkorin word, and the usual word for “hand” in Noldorin was N. cam. Compare Ilkorin Ermabuin “One-handed” and Mablosgen “Empty-handed” with Noldorin Erchamion and Camlost of the same meaning. In The Etymologies of the 1930s, Tolkien had N. mab “grasp” under the root ᴹ√MAPA “seize”, but the version of the entry with that word was overwritten (EtyAC/MAP), leaving only the Ilkorin form mâb. In this period, Mablung may also have been an Ilkorin name.
After Tolkien abandoned Ilkorin in the 1950s, he kept S. Erchamion and Camlost based on cam, but also kept Mablung “Heavy Hand” which must have become Sindarin. In his later writings Tolkien again revisited the etymology of S. mâb “hand”. In a note from Jan-Feb 1968, he wrote:
It [Q. má = “hand”] did not survive in Telerin and Sindarin as an independent word, but was replaced by the similar-sounding but unconnected C.E. makwā, Q. maqua, T. mapa, S. mab, of uncertain origin, but probably originally an adjectival formation from MAK “strike” ... (VT47/19).
This sentence was struck through, however. In drafts of notes on Elvish Hands, Fingers and Numerals written in or after 1968, Tolkien again derived mâb from √MAP (VT47/20 note #13), but in the final version of these notes he made the remarkable decision to discard this root despite it being a stable part of Elvish for nearly 50 years, declaring it was used only in Telerin and not Quenya or Sindarin (VT47/7). He coined a new etymology for S. mâb “hand” based on ✶makwā “handful” = ✶mā + ✶kwā (VT47/6-7), a variation on the above etymology from √MAK.
Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I prefer to ignore Tolkien’s 1968 removal of √MAP “seize”, and so would continue to derive S. mâb “hand” from that root. However, its ancient meaning may have been “*grasp”, and its eventual use as “hand” might have been influenced by ancient ✶makwā “handful”.
References ✧ VT47/6-7, 19-20
|✶makwā > mâb||[makwā] > [mapā] > [mapa] > [map] > [mab] > [māb]||✧ VT47/6|
|✶makwā > mâb||[makwā] > [mapā] > [mapa] > [map] > [mab] > [māb]||✧ VT47/7|
|✶makwā > mâb||[makwā] > [mapā] > [mapa] > [map] > [mab] > [māb]||✧ VT47/19|
|√MAP > măpo > mâb||[mapo] > [map] > [mab] > [māb]||✧ VT47/20|
N. mab n. “grasp”
Reference ✧ EtyAC/MAP ✧ “grasp”
|ᴹ√MAPA > mab||[mapa] > [map] > [mab]||✧ EtyAC/MAP|
ᴱN. mab n. “hand” (Category: Hand)
References ✧ LB/56; PE13/124, 149, 156
|#vab||soft-mutation; b-mutation||“hand”||✧ PE13/156|
G. mab n. “hand(s)” (Category: Hand)
References ✧ GG/10-11, 15; GL/34, 55, 57; LT2A/Ermabwed
|mabid||dative dual||✧ GG/11|
|mabwid||dative dual||“hands”||✧ GG/11|
|mabir||dative plural||“hands”||✧ GG/11|
|mabwi||dual||“(a pair of) hands, the hands of one person”||✧ GG/10|
|mabion||genitive plural||“hands”||✧ GL/34|