Well, these are three adjectives for "something from the elves". But I'm spanish and in my language there's only one adjective for these (élfico), and I can't understand what's the difference.
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Okay, here goes: Etymonline's comments on elf reveal usage from the 1550s and stemming from the words elf, ælf, ylf. The plural mentioned there is "elves" which would match the traditional pluralization of
The same site does have an entries for elven:
Tolkien's usage of elven strongly implies that this is the appropriate term for his elves. The c.1200 usage of elfish seems appropriate for mythological or physical references to elves (his ears are elfish; their attitude is elfish).
(Edit per Martha's comment): That being said, Elvish is also the Tolkien proper term for their group of languages with the prime examples being Quenya and Sindarin.
As far as non-Tolkien usage, WoWWiki consistently uses elven in their article on Elves. Dungeons and Dragons appear to use elven for the language and adjective. Other fictional universes could easily vary. It would be best to check with their experts.
The summary: Elvish for physical attributes or mythological references; elven for Tolkien and most other fictional universes. Elfic is unused in English and not advisable.
The spelling with 'v' for dwarves and elves is from Tolkien.
I suspect (but am not remotely geeky enough to know) that he used the different spelling to give his imaginations a distinct identity compared to santa's little helpers
I think the two are commonly used interchangeably, but I think this is the difference.
If something is elfin it is "of, or relating to or made by an elf"
Something is elfish if it has characteristics of an elf.
If I were writing, and I often do, I would never use 'elfic' for anything. But that is entirely due to my own prejudices.
I don't think there is a word, elfic. You may be referring to the Old English (OE) ælfisc.
The words elfen, elfin, and elven are all spelling variations of the same word and when used as an adjective (or noun), can be swapped at will with no loss of meaning.
The root word is elf (from OE ælf), plural is elves. (Mark the f to v!)
After that, it gets twisted.
From OE, the original adjective was elfish (OE ælfisc).
In OE there was also elfen (plural was elfenne) ... a female elf, a nymph. That morphed in an adjective in Middle English with the original sense of feminine, child-like. It was also spelled elfin and elven.
During this time we also see the 'n' drop and a female elf is an elfe ... with the plural of elfen! Confused yet?
Naturally, if you have elfe, there is a spelling variation of elve (f to v)... with the plural of elven.
There are also compounds like elfsheen (adj. - supernaturally beautiful, noun - supernatural beauty).
So if you're keeping count:
There is only one male form: elf. (However, you can also call a female elf, an elf.)
It's little wonder that folks are befuddled!
Elfin- Something from elves Elven- Elf like Note: The people who printed Tolkien's books changed elfin to elven and vice versa quite a bit, so there is no telling how accurate anything gotten from there is. I got this from the "note about the text" in my copy of LOTR, so if you want more info you could probably get some from the most recent version of that. Also, dictionary definitions would probably help you a lot. Also, I'm just using Tolkien because that seems to be the basis for a lot of these answers. Real definitions may not actually apply in books, so if you want clarification about actual meaning, a dictionary is definitely the way to go.
protected by tchrist Oct 17 '12 at 2:05
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