√MEL root. “love”
This root was the basis for Elvish “love” words for all of Tolkien’s life, but it is unclear whether it was as general as the English word for “love” or if it was more limited to [Greek] “philia”, non-romantic love between friends. The root first appeared as ᴱ√MELE “love” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. mel- “to love”, ᴱQ. meles(se) “love”, and ᴱQ. melin “dear, beloved” (QL/60). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon it had similar derivatives like G. mel- “love” and G. melon “dear, beloved” (GL/57).
In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien specified that ᴹ√MEL meant “love (as friend)”, and for the first time it included the derivative N. mellon “friend” (Ety/MEL); Gnomish “friend” words from the 1910s were mostly based on G. ged (GL/38). However, the same entry included ᴹQ. melindo/ᴹQ. melisse “lover” (male and female), so it seems even in the 1930s it could refer to romantic love (Ety/MEL). The root continued to appear in Tolkien’s later writings associated with “love” (PE18/46, 96; PE17/41; VT39/10).
For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would assume that like English √MEL can be used for both romantic and non-romantic love, but that the Elves were more inclined to use such words with friends as well as lovers, and did not attach the same romantic weight to “I love you” that English speakers do.
References ✧ PE17/41, 165; PE18/96; PE22/129; SA/mel; VT39/10
ᴹ√MEL root. “love (as friend)”
References ✧ Ety/MEL; EtyAC/MEL, ÑEL; PE18/46
ᴱ√MELE root. “love”
References ✧ LT1A/Nessa; QL/60