This question was closed - by a unilateral moderator vote - as "General Reference".


Question was:

When researching LOTR lore, I frequently ran into a term "legendarium" as pertaining to the entirety of Tolkien's work (followed by 3 specific subquestions).

As a background, before asking the question, I have confirmed that:

  • The term was NOT defined on:

    • Merriam-Webster

    • dictionary.com

  • Wikipedia's "Legendarium" redirects straight to Tolkien page.

    Also, that page on top has a note stating ""Legendarium" redirects here. For other uses, see Legendary (disambiguation)" - and that disambiguation page shows:

    Legendary may refer to:

    • A hagiography, or study of the lives of saints and other religious figures The South English Legendary, a Middle English legendary

    Note that the proper English term seems to be "Legendary" (a noun), and "Legendarium" is the Latin word it derived from (this will be important later).

  • Google's "define:legendarium" search first 3 pages were exclusively Tolkien hits, with the only exception being "Anjou Legendarium" - which was a Hungarian work written presumably in Latin? - and definitely with a Latin name - see above bullet.

  • Google search for "Legendarium" also returns almost exclusively Tolkien content with 2 hits to "Anjou Legendarium" sprinkled in.

When asked in a comment to explain the closure, the following arguments were made, which seem to me to be invalid:

  • "I'm going to refer you to a dictionary. Wiktionary defines the word as “a literary collection of legends, as of a saint”."

    However, Wiktionary is NOT a dictionary. It's a crowd-sourced site and suffers from the same reliability issues as a reference as Wikipedia or Wikia. If your only definition source is unsourced Wiki dictionary data, it's NOT "general reference".

  • "So get a better dictionary."

    As note above, none of the ones I was aware of contained the term. If it's not in M-W AND not in dictionary.com, it's not "General Reference". I don't think OED is on the web.

  • The use of the word relating to Christian saints is older than Tolkien, so your hypothesis is evidently wrong, and the word is not specifically related to SF.

    First, Google search results indicate the opposite. The only hits on first 3 pages NOT related to Tolkien were for a Latin name of the book.

    Second, the link used by the comment to illustrate its points was Google Books search.

    • First, a Google Books search showing some obscure book does NOT a question a "General Reference make".

    • Second, as usual, the only uses in books NOT related to Tolkien seemed to be NOT in English.

Based on the above, I believe the closure was completely wrong - it was DEFINITELY not general reference. It may have been argued that it was off-topic due to being more suited on English.SE, but the context makes it very SFF related IMHO.

  • The term, as "generally-referenced" researched, shows VERY strong correllation to being almost exclusively associated with Tolkien in English.

  • The only usage of the term in non-Tolkien context appears to be non-English (seemingly mostly Latin) with a strong evidence that the English version of that term is "Legendary", not "Legendarium".

  • Nothing to add other than I agree with you - this is maybe off-topic / migrate to EL&U, but not general reference.
    – user1030
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 14:08
  • It would definitely be closed on EL&U. Everything is closed on there, even if the reference is available via paid service only. Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 16:32

2 Answers 2


The Wikipedia article for legendarium may redirect to Tolkien's legendarium, but the very text of the article suggests that this probably shouldn't be so (emphasis mine):

In modern times, legendary is normally used as an adjective instead of a noun. The legendarium form is still found in several European languages, and was in occasional use in the English language when J. R. R. Tolkien used it to refer to some of his fictional writings about Middle-earth.

The Wiktionary article for legendarium defines it as

A literary collection of legends, as of a saint.

Ok, so neither of these are authoritative references. Still, they bear a presumption of truth; if you doubt them, you should bring some evidence into the mix. This is obviously not a word in common use, so for corroboration let's see if it's used in 20th century books:

(I only looked at the first 10 hits; 8 were using the word as a proper noun or were not in English.)

This corroborates the prima facie evidence. Your theory that legendarium is somehow specific to Tolkien does not hold water.

Now arguably I should have closed this post as off-topic, rather than general reference, since dismissing the premise of your question does require a bit of research to find a reliable source. Given that the word legendarium is not specific to SF, discussing it on this site is not appropriate, any more than discussing the etymology and scope of book or chair. If you have any remaining question about this word, I invite you to take them to English Language & Usage.

  • was in occasional use in the English language when J. R. R. Tolkien used it to refer to some of his fictional writings about Middle-earth." - Citation needed Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 20:53
  • Besides, what I was questioning wasn't the truth of your assertion of what legendarium means, but the generalness of the reference Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 20:54
  • 2
    @DVK Here you go, I've corrected my mistake. The question is now closed as off-topic, since it is not about SF.
    – user56
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 20:55
  • 4
    fair warning - I will also post on Meta requesting explanation why a term for which 90% Google hits and the only Wikipedia hit are Tolkien related is off-topic. Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 21:01

I don't see any issue with it being closed as General Reference. The first Google result for the word legendarium is the Tolkein's legendarium Wikipedia page that contains:

The term "legendarium" refers to a literary collection of legends. This obscure medieval Latin noun originally referred mainly to texts detailing legends of the lives of saints. A surviving example is the Anjou Legendarium, dating from the 14th century. Quotations in the Oxford English Dictionary for the synonymous noun legendary date from 1513. The Middle English South English Legendary is an example of this form of the noun.

In modern times, legendary is normally used as an adjective instead of a noun. The legendarium form is still found in several European languages, and was in occasional use in the English language when J. R. R. Tolkien used it to refer to some of his fictional writings about Middle-earth.

Which covers sub-questions 1 and 2. The answer to 3 is maybe 'canon', but the question is unclear. For Tolkein, the term legendarium specifically refers to the LotR universe, and not all his work was in one universe (List of some of Tolkein's writing). For most popular authors, they write works in many different universes. Are you asking for a term for all of an author's works, or a term that encompasses all of an author's work in one specific universe?

  • I'm asking whether the term "Legendarium" can be legitimately used to describe non-LOTR/non-Tolkien work. The fact that the term may have been used in 15th century does NOT help with answering that - we are using modern English, not Latin, and we are NOT discussing Catholic Saints. Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 15:45
  • @DVK if the question is "can 'Legendarium' be legitimately used to decribe non-Tolkien works in modern English?" then it belongs on EL&U, not here.
    – Beofett
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 16:04
  • @Beofett - I may be down with having the question closed as "Belongs on EL&U", though I disagree due to the strong Tolkien and SFF tones of it. But the question was whether it's valid to be closed as "GR" Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 16:15
  • @DVK I was responding to your singling out that one item. In regards to the larger question, I am leaning towards siding with you on it not really being GR.
    – Beofett
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 16:19
  • @Keen: If the problem is that it's the first Google result, then that fact, and not the wikitionary link nor the Google n-gram results should've been invoked when casting a binding close vote. (I'd care less if it was a community close vote.) But DVK is right that the Wikipedia page is effectively unsourced regarding any non-Tolkien aspects of it.
    – user1030
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 16:36
  • @DVK How does the first sentence of the quote not address that?
    – user1027
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 16:46
  • 1
    The first sentence of that quote is unsourced and should be deleted from Wikipedia; the only evidence provided is a single other text, its title and contents in Latin and not in English.
    – user1030
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 16:52

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