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One Ring Inscription

The Black Speech text inscribed on the One Ring

Frodo: "It's some form of Elvish. I can't read it."
Gandalf: "There are few who can. The language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here."
Frodo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, on the inscription on the One Ring, The Fellowship of the Ring (film)

The Black Speech, also known as the Dark Tongue of Mordor, was the official language of Mordor.


Sauron created the Black Speech to be the unifying language of all the servants of Mordor, used along with different varieties of Orkish and other languages used by his servants. J.R.R. Tolkien describes the language as existing in two forms, the ancient "pure" forms used by Sauron himself, the Nazgûl, and the Olog-hai, and the more "debased" form used by the soldiery of the Barad-dûr at the end of the Third Age. The only example given of "pure" Black Speech is the inscription upon the One Ring:

"Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul."
The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Ch. II: "The Council of Elrond"

When translated into English, these words form the lines:

"One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them."
J.R.R. Tolkien's epigraph to The Lord of the Rings

These are the first two lines from the end of a verse about the Rings of Power.

Many Orkish dialects had adopted words from the Black Speech. One Orc from the band that took Merry and Pippin prisoners utters a tirade of curses at one point that is presumably Orkish, but apparently contains at least some elements of Black Speech.

Black Speech could be understood by anyone who wore the One Ring. Samwise Gamgee wore the ring in the Tower of Cirith Ungol to be invisible from Orcs of Sauron, and in the process heard many of the Orcs' plans.

Speaking the pure Black Speech had a harshening effect on the speaker's voice and a darkening effect on the speaker's surroundings, as seen when Gandalf recited the Ring Poem at the Council of Elrond. This effect did not extend to Black Speech loanwords in other languages, such as the word "Nazgûl".


In real life, J. R. R. Tolkien created this language with the intention of making it harsh and ugly. The Black Speech is unfortunately one of the more incomplete languages in Tolkien's novels, as the forces of good are reluctant to utter it. Unlike Elvish languages, there are no poems or songs written in it (apart from the Ring's inscription), and because Tolkien designed it to be unpleasant in his own mind, he did not enjoy writing in it; according to Tolkien, he once received a goblet from a fan with the Ring inscription on it in Black Speech, and Tolkien, finding it distasteful, never drank from it and used it only as an ashtray. The result is a random collection of words that are hard to actually use in day-to-day conversation. We learn from the text in the ring and its translation that the Black Speech is a strongly agglutinating language.

Russian historian Alexander Nemirovski identified an ergative case in durbatuluk and thrakatuluk according to a common suffix -tuluk meaning "them all", relating to the verb's object rather than to its subject. This was found as a similarity to other ergative languages such the Hurrian language of ancient Mesopotamia.

In other versions[]

Melkian had been the linguistic phylum of the servants of Melkor in an early conception of the legendarium, seen in The Lhammas. In this branch were the Black Speech, Orkish, and all other tongues of evil races. The other two phyla were Oromëan, from which descended both Elvish and Mannish languages, and Aulëan, the branch of Khuzdûl.[1]


Some of these words are true to J.R.R. Tolkien's books; most others are part of the Neo-Black Speech lexicon invented in the making of Peter Jackson's film trilogies.

  • -a - to (Debased Black Speech)
  • alba - elf
  • agh -and (for conjoining sentences)
  • ash - one
  • burz - dark
  • burzum - darkness
  • durb - rule
  • carnish - ambush
  • gazat - dwarf
  • ghâsh - fire
  • gimb - find
  • glob - filth
  • gûl - wraith
  • hai - folk
  • -ishi - in
  • krimp - bind
  • lug - tower
  • mas - mine
  • nazg - ring
  • nugu - nine
  • olog - troll
  • ombi - seven
  • ronk - pit/pool (bagronk, as muttered by an Orc in The Two Towers, means "dung-pit")
  • sha -and (for binding nouns)
  • shara - man
  • sharkû - old/old man (Debased Black Speech)
  • shre - three
  • snaga- slave
  • thrak - bring
  • -tul -them
  • ûk - all
  • -um -ness
  • uruk - orc
  • zagh - mountain pass/mountains

See also[]


Foreign Language Translated name
Afrikaans Swart Spraak
Albanian Fjala e zezë
Amharic ጥቁር ንግግር
Arabic الكلام الأسود
Aragonese Luenga negra
Armenian Սեւ ելույթը
Asturian Llingua negra
Azerbaijani Qara çıxış
Basque Hizkuntza beltza
Belarussian Cyrillic Чорная мова
Bengali ব্ল্যাক বাক
Bosnian Crni Govor
Bulgarian Cyrillic Черна реч
Burmese အနက်ရောင်မိန့်ခွန်း
Cambodian សុន្ទរកថាខ្មៅ
Catalan Llengua Negra
Cebuano Itom nga Sinultihan
Chinese 黑暗語
Cornish Kows Du
Croatian Crni Govor
Czech Černá řeč
Danish Sort Tale
Dutch Zwarte Taal
Esperanto Nigra lingvo
Estonian Must kõne
Faroese Svartur mál
Filipino Itim na pananalita
Finnish Musta kieli
French Noir parler/Langue noire
Frisian Swarte Rede (Western)
Galician Lingua negra
Georgian შავი ენა
German Schwarze Sprache
Greek Μαύρη Ομιλία
Gujarati બ્લેક સ્પીચ
Haitian Creole Nwa Lapawòl
Hebrew שפה השחורה
Hindi काले भाषण
Hmong Hais lus dub
Hungarian Fekete Beszéd
Icelandic Svartur Tal
Indonesian Bicara Hitam
Irish Gaelic Teanga dhubh
Italian Linguaggio Nero
Japanese 暗黒語
Javanese Wicara Ireng
Kannada ಕಪ್ಪು ಭಾಷೆ
Kazakh Қара тіл (Cyrillic) Qara til (Latin)
Korean 암흑어
Kurdish Axaftina Reş (Kurmanji)
Kyrgyz Cyrillic Каралар тили
Laotian ພາສາສີດໍາ
Latin Lingua Atra
Latvian Melnā runa
Lithuanian Juodoji kalba
Luxembourgish Schwaarz Ried
Macedonian Cyrillic Црна говор
Malagasy Mainty Miteny
Malaysian Ucapan Hitam
Malayalam ബ്ലാക്ക് സ്പീച്ച്
Maltese Diskors Iswed
Maori Kōrero Pango
Marathi काळा भाषण
Mongolian Cyrillic Хар хэлсэн үг
Nepalese काला भाषण
Norwegian Svart Tale
Occitan Lenga negra
Pashto تور وینا
Persian زبان سیاه
Polish Czarna Mowa
Portuguese Língua Negra
Punjabi ਕਾਲੇ ਸਪੀਚ
Romanian Limba Neagră
Romansh Linguatg Naira
Russian Чёрное наречие
Samoan Tautala Uliuli
Sanskrit राजिका वाच्
Sardinian Limba de sos Nieddos
Scottish Gaelic Dubh Òraid
Serbian Црни Говор (Cyrillic) Crni Govor (Latin)
Sicilian Lingua nera
Sindhi ڪارو تقرير
Sinhalese කළු කථාව
Slovak Temná reč
Slovenian Črni govor
Somali Hadalka Madow
Spanish Lengua Negra
Sundanese Hideung Biantara
Swahili Nyeusi Hotuba
Swedish Svartspråket
Tajik Cyrillic Суханронии сиёҳ
Tamil கறுப்பு பேச்சு
Telugu బ్లాక్ స్పీచ్
Thai แบล็กสปีช / ภาษามืด
Turkish Kara Lisan
Turkmen Gara dil
Ukrainian Cyrillic Чорна говірка
Urdu سیاہ خطاب
Uzbek Қора Нутқ (Cyrillic) Qora Nutq (Latin)
Venetian Lenguajo moro
Vietnamese Chữ Đen
Welsh Lleferydd Du
Xhosa Intetho Abamnyama
Yiddish שוואַרץ שפּראַך