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Elven language

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In modern-day Thedas, the Keepers of the Dalish elves are the custodians of the elven language.

Last Flight Battle Map

Battle map from the Fourth Blight, featuring a rare example of written Elvish

The Elven language, or "Elvish",[1] was largely lost when Elvhenan fell to the Tevinter Imperium and its people were enslaved around two millennia before the Dragon Age. When the elves settled their second homeland, the Dales, they aimed to restore their lost language and lore, but the Dales fell after an Exalted March declared by the Chantry in the early Glory Age. The Elvish of the Dragon Age is thus a fragmented remnant, a few words that are thrown into conversation rather than a working language used to conduct everyday life. The Dalish Elves, self-appointed custodians of the elven language and lore, use more Elvish than their City Elf brethren. Living among humans, the City Elves now retain only a few old Elvish words whose origin is almost forgotten, such as "shem" - derived from "shemlen", meaning "quickling", or "quick children" the old Elvish term for humans - and "hahren" - the leader of an Alienage, meaning "elder" in Elvish.

With the release of Dragon Age II, and Merrill's speech patterns, it has been determined that pronouns most likely carry an implied possessive. What this means for translation is that words like "ma" and "ar" can carry a "have" with them - "you have", "I have" - without actually needing to add in the "have" as a separate word.

According to David Gaider, a differentiating factor between Elvish and other languages in Thedas--particularly as regards aspects like names--is the avoidance of hard consonants.[2]

Written Elvish Edit

The clan Keepers are the only ones who know the secret of writing Elven Language.[3] The spelling system for Elvish contains an apostrophe to mark register tone, not to mark stress or to decorate text as per the usual usage of the apostrophe. Also indicates contraction points between two full words that cannot be reduced by adjoining letters.

Many of the words in the following list are extrapolations and deconstructions of words found in the game, done by parsing the order of meanings versus given words and comparisons of fragments to the meanings given.

Canon: Elvish Phrases Edit

  • Andaran atish’an (ahn-DAHR-ahn ah-TEESH-ahn): Enter this place in peace. A formal elven greeting. Literally: "I dwell in this place, a place of peace."
  • Aneth ara (AH-neth AH-rah): A sociable or friendly greeting, more commonly used among the Dalish themselves rather than with outsiders. Literally: "My safe place".
  • Ar lasa mala revas (ahr LAH-sah mah-lah ray-VAS): "You are free."[4]
  • Arlathan (ahr-LATH-ahn): The major city of Elvhenan, original homeland of the elves, from the phrase "ar lath’an" meaning "I love the place". Alternatively, it could mean "place of meeting" from "arlath" meaning "meeting" as in "arlathvehn", and "an" meaning "place".
  • Asha'belannar (AH-shah BELL-ahn-ahr): The Woman of Many Years. How the Dalish refer to Flemeth.[5]
  • Dareth shiral (da-RETH shee-RAL): Often said by Lanaya in the Dalish Camp. Used as a "farewell" it means, "safe journey".
  • Dirthara ma (dehr-THAH-rah MAH): "May you learn." Used as a curse. [6]
  • Elvhenan (EL-vehn-ahn): Place of our people. The name of the elven civilization before the arrival of humans in Thedas.[7] Also could be translated as: "Our hearts".
  • Era seranna ma (EH-rah SEHR-ah-nah MAH): "Excuse me," as in after a sneeze or belch; this phrase may be differently conjugated depending on the speaker[8]
Splr tme
“I have no wish to discuss our family's bloody history. I know it quite well, thank you.” — Empress Celene
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  • Fen'Harel enansal (fenn-HARR-ell EHN-ah-sahl): The Dread Wolf's blessing. The password to activate eluvians.
  • Ma nuvenin (mah noo-VEY-nihn): As you wish.
    • Ma serannas (ma SEHR-ahn-ahs): My thanks (Thank you.).
    • "Mamae? Mamae na mara san...": Spoken by the ghostly boy. "Mamae" probably means "mommy" or "momma"
    • "Viran se lan'aan? Ir annala for ros... Nae! Ga rahn s'dael! Ga rahn! Ir emah'la shal! Ir emah'la shal!": Spoken by the ghostly elven mother in the crypt where you get the Juggernaut armour. See "Deconstructing Elvish", below, for details on both ghosts' possible meanings.
    • Ir abelas, ma vhenan:(eer-ah-be-las ma ve-nan): "I am filled with sorrow for your loss, my heart."

    The Elvish Eulogy Edit

    hahren na melana sahlin
    emma ir abelas
    souver'inan isala hamin
    vhenan him dor'felas
    in uthenera na revas

    vir sulahn'nehn
    vir dirthera
    vir samahl la numin
    vir lath sa'vunin

    elder your time is come
    now I am filled with sorrow
    weary eyes need resting
    heart has become grey and slow
    in waking sleep is freedom

    we sing, rejoice
    we tell the tales
    we laugh and cry
    we love one more day

    (It's interesting to note, too, that these are the lyrics to the song Leliana sings for you in camp during Origins gameplay, also, its beginning is played in the end of the Dalish Elf Origin. From in-game explanation, plus the fact that elves can no longer undergo the Uthenera, since they are no longer immortal, it seems this is a song used to mourn the dead now.)

    Suledin (Endure) an Elven Song Edit

    The elven song Suledin is played during the dungeon escape portion of the Leliana's Song DLC. The song is about enduring and emerging from sorrow, tied to the elves' loss of their ancient lands. It is adapted to personal struggles, as well.[9]

    Melava inan enansal
    ir su araval tu elvaral
    u na emma abelas
    in elgar sa vir mana
    in tu setheneran din emma na

    lath sulevin
    lath araval ena
    arla ven tu vir mahvir
    melana ‘nehn
    enasal ir sa lethalin

    Time was once a blessing
    but long journeys are made longer
    when alone within.
    Take spirit from the long ago
    but do not dwell in lands no longer yours.

    Be certain in need,
    and the path will emerge
    to a home tomorrow
    and time will again
    be the joy it once was

    mee-LAH-vah-ih-nawn ehn-AH-sahl
    eer soo ahr-AH-vel too ehl-vah-rehl
    oo- na EMM-ah ah-BELL-aws
    in ELL-gahr sah weer MAH nah
    in too SETH-in-AIR-awn din EMM-ah nah

    lawth soo-lah-VEEN
    lawth ar-RAH-val eh-NAH
    ahr-lah VEHN too veer mah-VEER
    mee-LAH-nah nay-in
    ehn-ah-sal eer sah leth-ah-LEEN

    Translator's Note: This has got to be a loose translation, at best. For instance, we know "lath" means "love", and yet "lath aravel ena" is translated as "and the path will emerge".

    I Am the One Edit

    Played at the end credits of Dragon Age: Origins and included in the soundtrack, 'I Am the One' features elvish lyrics written by Inon Zur. A translation for the song has been provided on the Dragon Age: Inquisition soundtrack.

    Heruamin lotirien
    Alai uethri maeria
    Halurocon yalei nam bahna
    Dolin nereba maome

    Ame amin
    Halai lothi amin
    Aloamin Heruamin

    Heruamin oh lonai
    Imwe naine beriole

    Ame amin
    Halai lothi amin
    Aloamin Heruamin

    Ame amin
    Halai lothi amin

    Ame amin
    Halai lothi amin
    Noamin Heruamin

    Elvish Vocabulary Edit


    Abelas (ah-BEY-lahs): Sorrow. Also used as an apology.[10][11]
    Adahl (ah-DAHL): tree/bush.
    Adahlen (AH-dah-len): forest.
    Alas (AH-lahs): earth, dirt.
    An (AHN): place or location.
    Annar (AN-ahr): year.
    Ar (AHR): personal pronoun: I, me.
    Aravel (AHR-ah-vehl): A wagon used by the Dalish; literally a physical and spiritual path, a journey with purpose.[11] Humans call them "landships."
    Arla (AHR-lah): home.
    Arlathvhen (ahr-LATH-vehn): Meeting of the Dalish clans, every ten years.[12] Means "for love of the people."[11]
    Asha (AH-sha): woman.
    Assan (ah-SAHN): arrow.
    Atisha (ah-TEE-shah): peace, peaceful.


    Banalhan (Buh-NAL-Hahn): "The place of nothing," a name for the Blight or its place of origin.[11]
    Bel (BELL): many.
    Bellanaris: Eternity[11]
    Bora (BOHR-ah): to throw, project, lose.
    Bor'assan (BOHR-ah-sahn): bow.


    Da (DAH): small, diminutive prefix.
    Dar (DAHR): to be.
    Da'len (dah-LEN): little child.
    Dareth (dah-RETH): be safe.
    Din (DEEN): "not", or "isn't"; also used to indicate someone who has died: someone who is not.[11]
    Dirth (DEHRTH): tell, speak.
    Dirthavaren (DEHRTH-a-VAR-en): Elvish name for the Exalted Plains
    Dorf (DOHRF): grey.
    Durgen (DUHR-jen): stone.
    Durgen’len (dur-JEN-len): Children of the stone. The original Elvish term for the dwarves.[13][11]


    El (EHL): our.
    Elgar (EHL-gahr): spirit.
    Elgar'arla (EHL-gahr AHR-la): a spirit-trap, a binding circle to hold a Spirit or Demon.
    Eluvian (ehl-LOO-vee-ehn): mirror. Literally, "seeing glass."[14]
    Elvarel (EHL-vah-rehl): longer, more effort.
    Elvhen (EHL-vehn): "Our People". Elven name for their own race.
    Elvhenan (EHL-vehn-ahn): Place of our people. The name of the elven civilization before the arrival of humans in Thedas.[15] Also could be translated as: "Our hearts".
    Emma (EM-mah): I am.
    -en (EHN): suffix indicating plural.
    Ena (eh-NAH): appear; emerge.
    Enasal (EHN-ah-sahl): joy in triumph over loss; a variation of joyful relief[11]
    Enansal (en-AHN-sahl): gift or blessing.
    Era (EH-rah): story, tale, dream.
    Era'harel (EH-ra hah-REHL): demon-mage; similar to an arcane horror.
    Eth (ETH): safe.


    Falon (fah-LOHN): friend.
    Felas (FAY-lahs): slow.
    Fen (FEHN): wolf.[16]
    Fenedhis (FEN-ehd-is): common curse.


    Hahren (hah-REHN): Elder. Used as a term of respect by the Dalish, but more specifically for the leader of an alienage by the City Elves.
    Halam (hah-LAHM): the end, finished.
    Halamshiral (hah-LAHM-sheer-AHL): The end of the journey. Also the name of the capital of the second elven homeland in the Dales.[17]
    Hamin (hah-MEEN): rest, relax. Deconstructing: "mi": blade; "in": inside. 'Sheath your knife'?
    Hanal'ghilan (HAH-nal GHEE-lan): "the pathfinder;" Elvish name for the mythical golden halla said by the Dalish to appear during times of great need[18]
    Harel (hah-REHL): To trick or deceive. Dreaded, frightening, causing fear.[11]
    Harellan (hah-REHL-LAHN): trickster, traitor to one's kin.[19][11]
    Harillen (hah-RILL-EHN): opposition[20]
    Hellathen (Hell-a-THEN): noble struggle[21]
    Him (HEEM): becomes.


    In (EEN): with or inside; dwell.
    Inan (ee-NAHN): eyes. Literally: "inside place" or "dwelling place" - i.e. windows to the soul.
    Ir (EER): very, more.
    Isala (ee-SAH-lah): in need of.


    Lath (LAHTH): Love.[11]
    Len (LEHN): child.
    Lethallin; Lethallan (leth-ah-LEEN; leth-ah-LAHN): Casual reference used for someone with whom one is familiar. Lethallin is used for males, while lethallan is used for females,[22] but this is not always the case. [23] Akin to "cousin" or "clansman" since "lin" is the word for blood. See talk page for more information.
    Lin (LEEN): blood.


    Ma (MAH): my, mine, you
    Mahvir (mah-VEER): tomorrow.
    Mamae (mah-MAY): Mother.[24]
    Mana (MAH-nah): distant past; long amount of time.
    Melana (meh-LAH-nah): time.
    Melava (meh-LAH-vah): time, past tense.
    Mi (MEE): blade.
    Mi'durgen (MEE DUR-gen): diamond.
    Mien'harel (MEE-ehn hah-REHL): rebellion (or else a violent call for justice, depending on the interpretation), normally a city elf term; a concept that when humans push the elven population too far they must remind them that even a "short blade" must be respected.


    Na (NAH): your.
    Nadas: Inevitable[11]
    Nan (NAHN): revenge; vengeance.
    Nehn (NEN): joy.
    Numin (NOO-min): cry, tears.
    Nuvenin (noo-VAY-nin): want, need.


    Revas (RAY-vahs): freedom.[11]


    Sa (SAH): one.
    Sahlin (sah-LEEN): now, in this moment.
    Samahl (sah-MAHL): laugh, laughter.
    San: arrow.[25]
    Sa'vunin (sah-VOO-neen): a single day.
    Serannas (SEHR-ah-nahs): grateful, appreciative.
    Seth (SEHTH): thin, tenuous.
    Setheneran (SEH-thehn-ERR-ahn): Land of waking dreams. A place where the Veil is thin.[26] Literally: "Tenuous waking dream place".
    Shem (SHEHM): quick, fast.
    Shemlen (SHEHM-lehn): Literally "quick children". The original name of the elves for the human race. It continues to see use as a slang term amongst the City Elves ("Shems") even though its meaning has largely been lost.
    Shiral (shee-RAHL): journey.
    Souveri (soo-VEH-ree): weary, tired.
    Solas: Pride, to stand tall.[11]
    Su (soo): happen.
    Sulahn'nehn: joy.[11]
    Sulahn (soo-LAHN): sing.
    Suledin (soo-leh-DEEN): endure, strength to withstand loss.[11] See enasal for doing so successfully
    Sulevin (soo-leh-VEEN): certain, purpose


    Tarasyl'an Te'las (Tah-RAH-sill-AHN Tell-AHS): the place where the sky was held back. Original elven name for Skyhold.[27]
    Tan (TAHN): three.
    Then (THEN): awake, alert.
    Tu (tooh): to make, to cause.


    U (ooh): alone.
    Uth (OOTH): long, forever, never ending, eternal.
    Uthenera (ooth-en-ERR-ah): Waking sleep; immortal.[11] Uthenera was the name of the ancient practice of immortal elves who would "sleep" once they tired of life. Literally: "Eternal waking dream".


    Vallas (VALL-ahs): writing.
    Vallasdahlen (vahl-ahs-DAH-len): Life-trees. Trees planted in remembrance of those who dedicated their lives to the Dalish kingdom, that grew into a mighty wood.
    Vallaslin (vahl-ahs-LEEN): Blood writing. The art of tattooing adopted by some elves to more prominently (and some might say belligerently) display their worship of the traditional elven pantheon.[28]
    Ven (VEHN): to go.
    Vhen (VEHN): "people of" or "belonging to the elves, the clans, elven society".
    Vhenadahl (vehn-AH-dahl): The tree of the people.[29]
    Vhen'alas (vehn-AHL-ahs): The land itself, as in "the ground". Literally: "our earth".
    Vhenan (VEY-nahn): heart.
    Vir (VEER): way or path.[30]
    Vunin (VOO-nihn): day.

    Constructing Elvish: Examples of PhrasesEdit


    da'assan (dah-ah-SAHN): little arrow
    da'mi (dah-MEE): little blade
    da'vhenan (dah-VEY-nahn): little heart
    emm'asha (ehm-AH-shah): my girl
    emma lath (EHM-mah lath): my love
    ma sa'lath (mah sah-lath): my one love
    ma vhenan (EHM-ma VEY-nahn): my heart
    ma'arlath (MAR-lath): I love you
    ma emma lath (ma EHM-mah lath): you are my love
    vhenan'ara (VEY-nahn-AHR-ah): heart's desire


    elvhen'alas (el-VEHN-ALL-us): dirt elves
    len'alas lath'din (len-ALL-us LATH-deen): dirty child no one loves
    seth'lin (seth-LEEN): thin blood

    Phrases Edit

    era seranna ma (EH-rah SEHR-ah-nah MAH): excuse me[31]
    lathbora viran (Lath-BORA VEER-ahn): roughly translated as "the path to a place of lost love," a longing for a thing one can never really know[32]
    dirth'ena enansal (DEHRTH eh-NAH en-AHN-sahl): the Elvish word for the Arcane Warrior or, more recently, Knight Enchanter disciplines[33]
    ghilan'nain banal'vhen (Gheel-AH-Nehn Buh-NAL VEHN): "the path that leads astray": a derogatory term for Arcane Warriors among those elves who eschewed physical combat[34]


    Ar'din nuvenin na'din. (ahr-DEEN noo-VHEY-nihn nah-deen): I don't want to kill you.
    Ar tu na'din. (ahr too nah-DEEN): I will kill you.
    Ar tu na'lin emma mi. (ahr too nah-LEEN EHM-ma mee): I will see your blood on my blade.
    Emma shem'nan. (EHM-mah shem-NAHN): My revenge is swift.
    Halam sahlin. (hah-LAHM sah-LEEN): This ends now.
    Ma emma harel. (mah EHM-mah hah-REHL): You should fear me.
    Ma halam. (mah hah-LAHM): You are finished.

    Deconstructing Elvish Edit

    Many words of Elvish are made up of contractions of smaller words. For instance, "Arlathan" means, "this place that I love". Deconstructing it, we arrive at Ar: I or me; Lath: love; and An: place. We know that this is correct, because: "lath" is used later in the eulogy poem to mean "love"; "an" is seen as a suffix in the word "Elvhenan", meaning "the place of our people", which is a direct extension of "Elvhen", meaning "our people". By elimination, "Ar" becomes the personal pronoun. In the same way, many of the other words we see can be deconstructed into their individual components.

    Examples Edit

    • "Mamae? Mamae na mara san...": The panicked phrases of a lost child. We already know "mamae" means "mother", and "na" is "your". "Mara" and "san" are a different matter. "Ma" (you) and "ar" (i, me) don't give us much clue. "San" looks like a contraction of "sa" and "an", so, one place. Since the boy seems to be in a panic, and we've already surmised he's looking for her, it's reasonable to assume that this is the gist of his statement, as well. So, we have "Mother your [mara] one place...", which we can then parse "mara" as "i can't find" or "where is". So, a reasonable translation would be, "Mama, I can't find you..." or "Mama, where is the place..."
    • "Viran se lan'aan? Ir annala for ros... Nae! Ga rahn s'dael! Ga rahn! Ir emah'la shal! Ir emah'la shal!": These sentences are spoken by the ghostly elven mother in the crypt where you get the Juggernaut armour. Best guess at translation: "How did you people find the path to this place? This place has been lost for centuries. No! Get away from our tree! Get away! You are desecrating my grave! You are desecrating my grave!"
    • "Viran se lan'aan?": We know that "vir" and "an" mean "the path" and "this place", respectively, so we have "the path to this place". If we assume that "se" is a pronoun (since "lan'aan" is a bit long for that), then, going off of "sa" as "one" and "-en" as a plural, we could extrapolate "se" as possibly a plural "you". In that case, since it is a question, we could assume she is asking "How did you people find the path to this place?", since that is a reasonable thing to be asking. Then, "lan'aan" would mean "how to find".
    • "Nae! Ga rahn s'dael! Ga rahn!": This is a very difficult part, because there's so little to go on. "Nae" might be "no", but "na" means "your". There is no precedent for "ga rahn", but "s'dael" could be broken down as: "sa" - one; "adahl" - tree; and "el" - our. Taking that on faith, the sentence might read something like, "No! Get away from our tree! Get away!"
    • "Ir annala for ros...": We know that "ir" means "very", and "annar" is "years", so it is reasonable to assume that "annala" has to do with a measurement of time in years. Perhaps it means "centuries". So, it begins with "A very many years or centuries", and then "for ros" has no precedent. Taking it together with the last line, it is highly probable that it means "This place has been lost for very many centuries."
    • "Ir emah'la shal!": "ir" (very). Deconstructing "emah'la": "emma" (my); "alas" (dirt, earth); "halam" (ending); "shiral" (journey) - all of these words contain elements similar to this compound word. As an educated guess, I'm thinking it means "the ground of my end", or, more loosely, "my grave". So, "My grave is very..." something. Perhaps "shal" means sacred, or desecrated. So, loosely, "You are desecrating my grave!"
    • "Dar'Misu; Dar'Misaan": "Dar" means "to be", and they both have "mi" in common, so it is possible that "mi" is "blade", and we know that "su" means "happen", and "u" means "alone". So, "dar'misu" could translate, roughly, to "this blade acts alone" or "this blade happens". "Sa" is "one" and "an" is "place". Best guess: Dar'Misu: "to be a blade that acts alone" - daggers being the weapon of choice for rogues; Dar'Misaan: "to be a blade of one place" - long swords being the weapon of choice for a sword-and-shield defender.

    Trivia Edit

    • A dictionary of further possible translations and deconstruction of the language can be found here.

    References Edit

    1. Tamlen, for example, refers to the language as "Elvish" at the beginning of the Dalish Elf Origin
    2. Elven naming conventions.
    3. Pramas, Chris. "Chapter Three: Focuses and Talents: Talents". Dragon Age RPG, Set 1 - Player's Guide. p.37.
    4. According to what Solas says to the female Lavellan.
    5. Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, p76.
    6. In a banter between Solas and Vivienne
    7. Codex entry: Arlathan: Part One
    8. According to a banter between Solas and Sera.
    9. | Post by Dragon Age writer Lukas Kristjanson in the BioWare forums
    10. Mentioned by Athras if the Warden refuses to help him because of the reward.
    11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 11.12 11.13 11.14 11.15 11.16 Dragon Age logo - new Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 1, p. 32
    12. Arla: home; Ar: I, me; Lath: love; Vhen: people, us. The meaning of this title is connotative more than anything else.
    13. When first speaking to Varathorn, it is mentioned by him to Oghren.
    14. According to Finn in Witch Hunt.
    15. Codex entry: Arlathan: Part One
    16. Fenris
    17. Codex entry: The Long Walk
    18. According to Keeper Hawen's clan in the Exalted Plains.
    19. Codex entry: The Rebel God
    20. Codex entry: The Rebel God
    21. Codex entry: The Rebel God
    22. During the Dalish Elf Origin, Tamlen refers to The Warden as "lethallin" if male, and as "lethallan" if female
    23. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, Solas will refer to a female elf Inquisitor as lethallin several times.
    24. Ghostly boy in Lower Ruins.
    25. See Felassan.
    26. Tamlen speaks of it in the Dalish Elf Origin, if asked about the walking corpses
    27. According to Morrigan, and Solas' notes on Skyhold.
    28. Codex entry: Vallaslin: Blood Writing
    29. Codex entry: Vhenadahl: The Tree of the People
    30. Because of the eulogy poem, it is tempting to define it as "we", however, we must also take into account the credo of the Dalish, seen on the Dalish page: Vir Assan, Vir Bor'Assan, Vir Adahlen - "Way of the Arrow", "Way of the Bow", and "Way of the Forest", respectively. So, in the eulogy, the translation is loose; what they are actually saying is "The way of singing, rejoicing", etc.
    31. According to Solas.
    32. Last Flight Preview.
    33. According to Solas when acquiring the Knight Enchanter specialization.
    34. According to Solas when acquiring the Knight Enchanter specialization.

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