The Teleri (Quenya for Those Who Come Last) were the third and largest of the Elf clans. While the Vanyar and the Ñoldor all followed their lords to Aman on the Great Journey, many of the Teleri never arrived, by choice or chance- indeed, many of the Teleri chose not to make the journey at all and joined those who became known as the Avari, the Unwilling.
Those Teleri who made it to Aman became known as the Falmari, the Wave-folk. Often, the Falmari are the ones people mean when they refer to the Teleri, while the splinter branches that remained in Middle-earth are known more often by their own names and not as Teleri.
Some of the Teleri came all the way to the shores of the sea in Beleriand but went no farther. Some remained by their own choice, while others remained, waiting for Elwë, one of their lords, who had gone missing. Elwë's brother Olwë led those who would not remain onwards to Aman. Those Teleri who lingered became the Sindar, the Grey-elves. Elwë, or Elu Thingol in the Sindarin tongue, was their king, and ruled Doriath in central Beleriand with his wife Melian the Maia when he returned from his long disappearance. The Sindar of Doriath were known as the Iathrim. Others of the Sindar settled on the coasts with Círdan the Shipwright as their leader, being enamoured of the sea. These became the Falathrim. In northern Beleriand there were the Mithrim Sindar, who were hard-pressed when Morgoth sought to expand his realm south, and they were largely dispersed or absorbed into the Ñoldorin hosts when they arrived in Middle-earth.
There was also a portion of the Teleri who broke away from the Great Journey before crossing the Misty Mountains. These were broadly known as the Nandor. Some became the Silvan Elves of the Greenwood (now better known as Mirkwood) and Laurelindórenan (Lothlórien). Others did eventually enter Beleriand, and these became the Laiquendi, the Green-elves of Ossiriand.
The Teleri were fond of water and the forests, and of silver and song. They were often dark or silver-haired.