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S. bess n. “wife” (Category: Wife)

S. bess, n. “wife; ⚠️[N.] woman” (Category: Wife)

A word for “wife” appearing in the King’s Letter written towards the end of the 1940s (SD/129).

Conceptual Development: This word dates all the way back to G. bess “wife” from the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s, where it was a derivative of the early root ᴱ√Beđ (GL/22). In Early Noldorin Word-lists, Tolkien changed ᴱN. {bess >>} gweth “wife” based on the modified root ᴱ√wed- (PE13/139, 146); it also had a negated form ᴱN. urweth “without wife” (PE13/156). In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien restored N. bess, now a derivative of the root ᴹ√BES “wed” (Ety/BES). However in that document the sense “†wife” was archaic, and it has come to mean “woman” in modern speech, replacing archaic N. † “woman” (Ety/BES, NDIS, NĪ¹). In the scenario of The Etymologies, the normal word for “wife” was herves (Ety/BES, KHER). However, in the late-1940s King’s Letter, it seems the sense “wife” was restored to bess.

At some point in the mid-to-late 1960s, Tolkien changed the root for marriage words from ᴹ√BES to √BER (VT49/45), apparently motivated by a need to deal with some etymological problems with the name S. Elbereth. Indeed, in The Road Goes Ever On from 1967, Tolkien said S. bereth meant “spouse”, also “used of one who is queen as spouse of a king” (RGEO/66). This calls into question the continued validity of bess from ᴹ√BES.

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I prefer to retain the root ᴹ√BES for marriage word; see that entry for further details. I’d therefore keep bess, but I recommend using it only in the sense “wife”. For “woman” I’d use , much as I recommend using S. dîr for “man” over N. benn, which had similar conceptual developments.

Reference ✧ SD/129 ✧ “wife”

Element In


N. bess n. “woman; †wife” (Category: Woman)

See S. bess for discussion.

References ✧ Ety/BES, NDIS, NĪ¹; EtyAC/NDIS, NIS

Glosses

Related

Element In

Cognates

Derivations

Phonetic Developments

ON. besse > bess [besse] > [bess] ✧ Ety/BES

ᴱN. gweth n. “wife” (Category: Wife)

See S. bess for discussion.

References ✧ PE13/139, 146, 156

Glosses

Variations

Changes

Inflections

gwethir plural   ✧ PE13/146
gwidhir plural   ✧ PE13/146
#weth soft-mutation; gw-mutation “wife” ✧ PE13/156

Element In

Cognates

Derivations


G. bess n. “wife” (Category: Wife)

See S. bess for discussion.

References ✧ GG/9, 15; GL/22

Glosses

Variations

Inflections

bessin plural “wives” ✧ GG/15
i·vess soft-mutation; b-mutation “the wife” ✧ GG/9

Element In

Cognates

Derivations

Phonetic Developments

ᴱ√Beđ > bess [βeðs] > [beðs] > [bess] ✧ GL/22