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Language of Watership Down

Lapine Glossary
Richard Adams' Watership Down is one of the classic works of fiction, placed as it is among and between the warrens of rabbits in the English countryside. Lapine, the language he sketches for his rabbits, is arguably the best naming language ever created, and is a minimalist virtuoso performance, a haiku of a language compared to the sonnet of Sindarin. The following documentation of the language is derived from Adams' own appendix to Watership Down, but is reconstructed as extensively as possible from the limited examples. All hypothetical reconstructions are preceded by an *asterisk. Vocabulary from the sequel has been deliberately left out, as the point of this example is how much can be accomplished with how little. Lapine went a long way towards establishing the verisimilitude of the rabbits' culture.

ANIMALS
  • Elil:  Enemies (of rabbits) a term that refers to the natural enemies of rabbits (foxes, stoats, badgers, etc) and also to humans, who are regarded as one of the Thousand Enemies. Its use is similar to use of the word "evil" in the English language. The rabbits also know their enemies as "u embleer hrair", Lapine for "the stinking thousand".
  • Hlessi: A homeless rabbit without a hole to dwell in. (plural: hlessil)
  • Homba: A fox. (plural: hombil)
  • Lendri: A badger. (plural: lendril)
  • Marli: A doe (female rabbit); also means "mother". Literally, a doe. Figuratively, a mother.
  • Pfeffa: A cat. (plural: pfeffil)
  • Yona: A hedgehog.  (plural: yonil)
NOUNS
  • Bob-stones: A traditional game among rabbits. The Lapine word is unknown, but Adams translates it as "bob stones" and calls it a traditional game among rabbits. A traditonal game among rabbits. A "cast" of stones is on the ground, and covered with a forepaw. The opponent must hazard some sort of guess about its nature
  • Flay: Food, e.g. grass or other green fodder.; particularly good food is called flayrah, using the suffix -rah, which literally means "food of princes".
  • Frith: The sun, personified as a god by rabbits. Frithrah! is used as an exclamation and translates to "the lord Sun".
  • Hlao: Any dimple or depression in the grass, such as that formed by a daisy plant or thistle, which can hold moisture. Any dimple or depression in the grass, which can hold moisture. Also, the name of a rabbit.  Usually used as a suffix. E.g. Threarah=Lord Threar Roo: Used as a suffix to denote a diminutive. E.g. Hrairoo
  • Hrair: Any number greater than four. It is translated to thousand and, less commonly, five. Hrair, combined with elil and the suffix -rah, forms the name Elil-Hrair-Rah: literally, "the prince with a thousand enemies", which is shortened to El-ahrairah, the rabbits' mythological champion and messiah. A great many; an uncountable number; any number above four. U Hrair=The Thousand (enemies).
  • Hrairoo: "Little Thousand". The name of Fiver in Lapine.
  • Hraka: Droppings, feces
  • Hrududu: An onomatopoeic term that refers to any motor vehicle. A tractor, car or any motorvehicle. Plural (hrududil). (plural: hrududil)
  • Inlé: The moon; also the idea of darkness, fear or death (as in the "Black Rabbit of Inlé"). Fu Inlé is used to refer to "after moonrise". Literally, the moon; also moonrise. But a second meaning carries the idea of darkness, fear and death.
  • Ni-Frith: Noon
  • Rah: A prince or leader or chief rabbit.; usually used as a suffix, e.g. Threarah means "Lord Threar".
  • Sil: Outside, outdoors
  • Tharn: To be petrified with fear, i.e. "deer in headlights".
  • Thlay: Fur
  • Threar: A rowan tree, or mountain ash.
  • Zorn: Destruction or murder; can also denote catastrophe, suffered a catastrophe.




VERBS
  • Silflay: A term used for both grass used for grazing and the act of grazing itself. To go above ground to feed. Literally, to feed outside. Also used as a noun.
  • Vair: To excrete, to pass droppings.
ADJECTIVES
  • Embleer: An adjective translated to stinking, specifically referring to the smell of a fox. Stinking, as in the smell of a predator, esp. a fox.
  • Narn: An adjective denoting nice or pleasant, often in terms of food. Pleasant to eat.
  • Roo: Used as a suffix to denote a dimunitive, e.g. Hrairoo. A diminutive, usually affectionate. Suffixed.





WORKING
  • Crixa,the: The center of Efrafa, at the crossing point of two bridal paths.
  • Efrafa: The name of the warren founded by General Woundwort.
  • El-ahrairah: The rabbit folk hero. The name (Elil-hrair-rah) means "Enemies-Thousand-Prince" ie. Prince with a Thousand Enemies
  • Embleer: Stinking,e.g. the smell of a fox.
  • Nildro-hain: "Blackbird's Song". The name of a doe.
  • Owsla: The strongest rabbits in a warren, the ruling clique.
  • Flayrah: Unusually good food, e.g. lettuce.
  • Owslafa: The Council police (a word found only in Efrafa).
  • Pfeffa: A cat
  • Fu Inle': After moonrise.
  • Hlao-roo: "Little Hlao". An affectionate diminutive of the name of Hlao, one of the rabbits in the story.
  • Sayn: Groundsel
  • Hlessi: A rabbit living above ground, without a regular hole or warren. A wandering rabbit living in the open. (Plural: hlessil)
  • Silf: Outside, that is, not underground
  • Homba: A fox. (Plural: hombil)
  • Thlay: Fur.
  • Tharn: Stupefied, distraught, hypnotized with fear. But can also, in certain contexts, mean "looking foolish", or again "heartbroken" or "forlorn".
  • Hraka: Droppings.
  • Thethuthinnang: "Movement of leaves". Also the name of a doe.
  • Hyzenthlay: Literally, "Shine-dew-fur"=fur shining like dew. The name of a doe.
  • Thlayli: "Fur-head". A nickname.
  • Lendri: A badger.
  • Yona: A hedgehog. (Plural, yonil).
  • Marli: A doe. Also carries the meaning of mother.

  • Lapine: Translated by Adams as "Lapine", meaning the language and religion of the rabbits. Whether Lapine actually has a word for Lapine is unknown. [From English lapin n. Rabbit fur, especially when dyed to imitate a more expensive fur.]
  • Crixa: A crossroads, the center of Efrafa, located at the crossing point of two bridle paths.
  • Efrafa: A warren founded by General Woundwort.
  • El-ahrairah: (Elil + hrair + rah) "Enemies Thousand Prince" or "The Prince with a Thousand Enemies". The legendary rabbit folk hero.
  • *eli: Hypothetical reconstruction of the singular, based on the patterns of other plurals. Could, alternatively, be *ela (as in hombil from homba).
  • flay: Food, especially grass or other edible plants.
  • flayrah: (Flay + rah) "Food Prince" or "The Prince Of Foods". Lettuce, or other unusually good food.
  • Frith: The sun god of the rabbits.
  • Frithrah: (Frith + rah) "Sun Prince" or "The Lord Sun!". An exclamation.
  • fu: After (later than), afterwards.
  • fu inlé: After moonrise.
  • *hain / *hainil: Reconstructed from Nildro-hain, "Blackbird's song". Meaning uncertain: either blackbird or song. Probably song.
  • hlao / *hlao-il: Any dimple or depression formed in the grass, such as that formed by a daisy plant or a thistle, which can hold moisture.
  • Hlao: The name of Pipkin in Lapine.
  • Hlao-roo: (Hlao + roo) diminutive. A nickname of Pipkin.
  • hlessi / hlessil: An outcast rabbit, living above ground, without a regular hole or warren.
  • hrair: Any number over four, a great many, an uncountable number. Loosely translated as "a thousand".
  • Hrairoo: (Hrair + roo) diminutive. The name of Fiver in Lapine, so called for being the last in a litter of five or more rabbits.
  • hraka / *hrakil: Droppings, excretions.
  • hrududu / hrududil: A motor vehicle such as a car or tractor.
  • *hy(z): Reconstruction from Hyzenthlay. To shine.
  • Hyzenthlay: (hy(z) + *zen(th) + thlay) "Shine Dew Fur" or "Fur Shining Like Dew". The name of a doe who lived in Efrafa.
  • Inlé: Literally, the moon or moonrise. Figuratively, darkness, fear and death.

  • li / *lil: Head (body part).
  • m'saion: "We meet them."
  • *ni: Reconstructed from ni-frith. Time?
  • ni-frith: (ni + frith)  "??sun. Noon.
  • *nildro / *nildril: Reconstructed from Nildro-hain, "Blackbird's song". Meaning uncertain: either blackbird or song. Probably blackbird.
  • Nildro-hain: "Blackbird's Song". The name of a doe who lived in Efrafa.
  • Owsla: The strongest rabbits in a warren. The elite rulers.
  • Owslafa: (Owlsa + fa.) Council Police. A term only used in Efrafa.

  • Rah: A prince, leader or chief. Usually suffixed, dropping the 'r' when following an 'r'.

  • sayn / *saynil: Groundsel.
  • silf: Outside, not underground.
  • silflay: (silf + flay) "outside food". To go above ground to feed.
  • silflay / *silflay: (silf + flay) "outside food". Food available above ground (outside the warren).
  • tharn: Literally hypnotized with fear (think of the "deer caught in the headlights" only with a rabbit), stupefied, distraught. Figuratively, foolish, forlorn or heartbroken.
  • Thethuthininang: "Movement of Leaves." The name of a doe who lived in Efrafa.
  • thlay / *thlay: Fur.
  • thlayli: (thlay + li) "fur head" A nickname.
  • threar / *threaril: A rowan tree or mountain ash.
  • Threarah: (Threar + rah) "Lord Threar".
  • u: Similar to "the" in English.
  • U Hrair: (U + Hrair + Elil) "The Thousand Enemies". The Thousand (Enemies)
  • vair: To excrete.

  • *zen(th): Reconstruction from Hyzenthlay. Dew.


  • Crixa, the: (The Cross) The center of Efrafa, at the crossing point of two bridle paths.
  • Efrafa: The name of the warren founded by General Woundwort.
  • El-ahrairah: The rabbit folk hero. See Lapine Mythology for more information.
  • Elil: Enemies of rabbits. U Hrair is used to denote all enemies of rabbits at once, meaning "The Thousand".
  • Embleer: Stinking, as in the smell of a fox. Embleer Frith! is a curse meaning "stinking Frith!", the same as the english "God damn!".
  • Flay: Common food, as in grass.
  • Flayrah: Unusually good food, such as lettuce or carrots.
  • Frith: The sun, personified as a god by rabbits. See Lapine Mythology for more information.
  • Fu Inlé: After moonrise.
  • Hlao: Any dimple or depression formed in the grass, such as that formed by a daisy plant or a thistle, which can hold moisture.
  • Hlao-roo: 'Little Hlao'. An affectionate diminutive of the name Hlao.
  • Hlessi: A rabbit living above ground, without a regular hole or warren. A wandering rabbit. Plural: hlessil.
  • Homba: A fox. Plural: hombil.
  • Hrair: A great many; an uncountable number. Any number over four.
  • Hrairoo: 'Little Thousand'. the name of Fiver in Lapine. See Rabbits of Note for more information.
  • Hraka: Droppings, excereta.
  • Hrududu: A motor vehicle such as a car or tractor. Plural: hrududil.
  • Hyzenthlay: 'Shine-dew-fur' = Fur shining like dew. Name of an Efrafan doe.
  • Inlé: Literally the moon or moonrise. But a second meaning carries the idea of darkness, fear and death.
  • Lendri: A badger
  • Marli: A doe, or mother rabbit
  • M'saion: 'We meet them'
  • Narn: Pleasant or nice to eat
  • Ni-Frith: Noon ('High sun')
  • Nildro-hain: "Blackbird's Song". The name of a doe.
  • Owsla: The strongest rabbits in a warren, the ruling clique. Commonly made of physically powerful rabbits of at least 2 years age, although some Owlsa also hold especially intelligent or crafty rabbits as well.
  • Owslafa: Council Police.
  • Pfeffa: A cat.
  • -Rah: A prince, ruler or chief rabbit. Suffix used to denote something beyond the ordinary.
  • -Roo: A suffix used to denote a diminutive.
  • Sayn: Groundsel.
  • Silf: Outside, that is, not underground.
  • Silflay: To go above ground to feed. Also used as a noun
  • Tharn: Stupefied, distraught, hypnotized with fear. Depending on context, it can also mean 'looking foolish' or 'heartbroken' or 'forlorn'.
  • Thethuthinnang: "Movement of Leaves". Name of a doe.
  • Thlay: Fur or hair
  • Thlayli: "Fur-head", used as a nickname.
  • Threar: A rowan tree or mountian ash.
  • Vair: To excrete, pass droppings.
  • Yona: A hedgehog. Plural: yonil.





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