√BAN root. “beauty (due to lack of fault or blemish); fair, beautiful”
The root √BAN (or some variant) was connected to beauty for most of Tolkien’s life. One notable derivative was the name of the Valie Vána. In the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s Tolkien gave this root as ᴱ√VANA (unglossed) with derivatives like ᴱQ. vane “fair, lovely” and ᴱQ. vanesse “beauty”, but also ᴱQ. Vanar as another name for the Valar (QL/99). The Gnomish words had distinct forms like G. Ban “Vala” (GL/18) vs. G. gwant “beautiful” (GL/44). Thus it seems that ᴱ√VANA in the 1910s is actually a blending of two roots, *ᴱ√BANA (or ᴱ√ɃANA) “divine” vs. *ᴱ√WANA “beautiful”. This second variant reappeared much later in the 1959 root √(G)WAN “fair, pale” (PE17/154; WJ/383); see below.
In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien gave this root as ᴹ√BAN and it seems at this stage it was associated exclusively with beauty, given derivatives like ᴹQ. vanya and N. bein “beautiful, fair” (Ety/BAN). These words survived into later iterations of the languages as Q. vanya and S. bain (PE17/150). The root √BAN reappeared with these derivatives in several etymological notes written around 1959 (PE17/149-150, 165).
In these 1959 notes, Tolkien first connected √BAN to “fair” as it was in the 1930s (PE17/149), but reversed himself, noting “VAN cannot only = fair (blonde), since vanima is applied in LR to Arwen who was like Lúthien dark” (PE17/165). This prompted Tolkien to reintroduce the root √(G)WAN “fair”, as noted above, limiting √BAN to “beauty” only. He then refined its meaning, saying “√BAN ... appears originally to have referred simply to ‘beauty’, but with implication that it was due to lack of fault or blemish” (PE17/150). The root applied to Vána because she was perfect and unmarred in her beauty.
References ✧ PE17/56, 146, 149-150, 165
ᴹ√BAN root. “*beauty”
References ✧ Ety/BAN, GŪ, GWEN, UGU; EtyAC/BAN²
ᴱ√VANA root. “*beauty”
References ✧ LT1A/Vána; QL/99