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names-Norse-msg - 4/13/01


Sources and comments on Norse names.


NOTE: See also the files: names-msg, names-FAQ, Norse-msg, Iceland-msg, fd-Iceland-msg, fd-Norse-msg, pst-Vik-Norse-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



From: mittle at panix.com (Arval d'Espas Nord)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: reliable source for viking names?

Date: 2 Jan 1997 12:13:16 -0500

Organization: PANIX Public Access Internet and Unix, NYC


Greetings from Arval!  Susan Rankin wrote:


> I'm looking for a reliable source for viking names, both surnames and

> first names.


There was a Compleat Anachronist on Viking Culture (or perhaps it was

titled "Scandinavian Culture") which had a decent article on the subject.


The most accessible book on the subject is Geirr Bassi Haraldsson's "The

Old Norse Name".  Celtic Traditions sells is for $5 (CELTIC TRADITIONS,

3366 Laurel Grove South, Jacksonville FL 32223, (904) 886-0326).  It is a

very good book, focussed on Icelandic names of the 10th and 11th centuries.


I don't know of anything available on line.


Arval d'Espas Nord                                         mittle at panix.com



From: Michael Lindberg <lindberg at sun2.ruf.uni-freiburg.de>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: reliable source for viking name

Date: Thu, 2 Jan 1997 18:39:51 +0100

Organization: Rechenzentrum der Universitaet Freiburg, Germany


>          I'm looking for a reliable source for viking names, both surnames and

> first names.  Does anyone know of any good books or perhaps a heraldry web

> site that might be of help?  I have not pinned down a location/origin for my

> viking personna yet, hence the term 'viking' rather than Nordic, Icelandic,  

> Dane, etc, etc.  


       Although written a few centuries after the 'viking' period, any

Icelandic Saga would be a good place to start your search for names.

Snorri Sturlason's Heimskringla (sp?), or History of the Kings of Norway,

in my opinion is also just a darned good read.  I admit, though, I've not

read the whole thing-yet.  It's not part of the Heimskringla, but my

personal favorite is  Egil's Saga, full of murder, and deceit, and magic,

and lots and lots of battles, and...  Did Snorri write that too or was it

someone else?





From: mittle at panix.com (Arval d'Espas Nord)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: reliable source for viking name

Date: 2 Jan 1997 15:08:13 -0500

Organization: PANIX Public Access Internet and Unix, NYC


Greetings from Arval!  Cynric wrote:


> Although written a few centuries after the 'viking' period, any Icelandic

> Saga would be a good place to start your search for names.


Good suggestion, and there are several good articles published in various

Society publications which contain lists of names from the sagas.  


But there is an important caveat: Most translations of the sagas anglicize

the spellings and construction of the names.  For example, the Penguin

editions of the sagas are generally excellent, but the all the names are

anglicized. Inflectional endings like "-r" are dropped, non-English

characters like thorn and edh are transliterated, etc.


Arval d'Espas Nord                                         mittle at panix.com



From: idavis at ix.netcom.com(Irene Davis)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: reliable source for viking name

Date: 5 Jan 1997 19:33:30 GMT


>>But there is an important caveat: Most translations of the sagas anglicize

>>the spellings and construction of the names.


There is a site on the web (darned if I could find my notes this

morning) that is located in Iceland. It is about Snorri and has

translated copies of his sagas on it. My recollection is that it

contains ALL of his sagas, and, being from Iceland, is NOT anglecized

to death. Icelandic sources are excellant for "Viking" names because

they have maintained the Norse naming system to this day. Once you have

pulled together a "plausible name" you should post it on the web for a

"double-check". There are a couple of VERY knowledgeable people with

good reference books who read these notes and will be glad to reply to



Yours in Service,

Eirny Thorvaldsdottir



From: mittle at panix.com (Josh Mittleman)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: New English name sources c.1300

Date: 24 Mar 1997 14:13:45 -0500

Organization: PANIX Public Access Internet and Unix, NYC


Chandra Spidell (cspidell at asu.edu) wrote:

> I am looking for good sources on Old Norse/Viking Male names.  


A good source, and one commonly used by the College of Arms, is "The Old

Norse Name" by Geirr Bassi Haraldsson.  It is available from Celtic

Traditions for $5.00 (Celtic Traditions, serwyl at aol.com, 3366 Laurel Grove

South, Jacksonville, FL  32223).





Subject: ANST - Norse Names, Misconceptions

Date: Sat, 25 Apr 98 23:16:52 MST

From: Gunnora Hallakarva <gunnora at bga.com>

To: ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG

CC: m_j_stockton at hotmail.com


Sigiher barcaloo said:

>i have been looking for a norse name fo myself as well for quite some

>time. i also had a hard time trying to figure out my persona. finally i

>settled with a viking persona. as for myself, i am called Sigiher, which

>means " victory sword".


Gunnora replies:

First, the name as shown doesn't mean "victory sword" but rather "victory

army."  "Sig-" does mean victory, but "-her" means "war-host" or "army,"

not "sword."  Name elements with the meaning of "sword" include:


Brandr (full name, means "sword"), Brand- (prefix), -brandr (suffix)

Brndr [Bro:ndr] (full name, alternate spelling for "Brandr") Brnd-

[Bro:nd-] (prefix). -brnd [-bro:nd] (suffix)

Hjalti (full name, means "hilt"), ____ (not used as a prefix), -hjalti


Hjrr [Hjo:rr] (full name, means "sword"), Hjr- [Hjo:r-] (prefix), ____

(not used as a suffix)

Tyrfingr (proper name, also the name of a famous flaming sword)


Furthermore, no matter what "Sigiher" might mean, this name won't pass -

although the name elements both exist in period, the College of Heralds is

not currently allowing us to "mix and match" legitimate name elements --

you have to show that the name was constructed that way in period.


If you want a name using the "sig" element meaning "victory", you will need

to choose from one of the documentable period names using this construction:


(names using accented or special characters are shown with ASCII

transliterations after in [square brackets] for those whose mailers won't

accept high order bits -- accented characters shown as the letter followed

by an apostrophe, a' or u' -- slashed o is shown as o/ -- thorn shown as TH

-- edth shown as DH)


Sigarr (victorious army)

Sigfastr (victory steady)

Sigfss (victory willing) [Sigfu'ss]

Sighvatr, Sigvatr (victory bold)

Sigmundr (victory protection)

Sigrhaddr (victory hair)

Sigrl (victory invitation) [SigrloDH]

Sigtryggr (victory faithful)

Sigurr, Sigrr (victory rider) [SigurDHr, Sigro/DHr]

Sigvaldi (victory power)

Sigvarr (victory warder) [SigvarDHr]

Sigverkr (victory worker)


Next Sigiher said:

>the tricky thing with viking names is figuring

>out what is a feminine name, and what is a masculine name. some are



To which Gunnora replies:

Old Norse words show their gender in how they are inflected.  The closest

to an identical name is still clearly discernable, thus:


Arnߗrr [ArnTHo'rr] (masculine) -- Arnߗra [ArnTHo'ra] (feminine)

Bergߗrr [BergTHo'rr] (masculine) -- Bergߗra [BergTHo'ra] (feminine)

Dalli (masculine) -- Dalla (feminine)

Finnr (masculine) -- Finna (feminine)

Grmr [Gri'mr] (masculine) -- Grma [Gri'ma] (feminine)

Gulaugr [GuDHlaugr] (masculine) -- Gulaug [GuDHlaug] (feminine)

Guleifr [GuDHleifr] (masculine) -- Guleif [GuDHleif] (feminine)

Hafߗrr [HafTHorr] (masculine) -- Hafߗra [HafTHora] (feminine)

Haldrr [Haldo'rr] (masculine) -- Haldra [Haldo'ra] (feminine)

Helgi (masculine) -- Helga (feminine)

Ingi (masculine) -- Inga (feminine)

Kolgrmr [Kolgri'mr] (masculine) -- Kolgrma [Kolgri'ma] (feminine)

Ljtr [Ljo'tr] (masculine) -- Ljt [Ljo't] (feminine)

Ljufvini (masculine) -- Ljufvina (feminine)

Oddleifr (masculine) -- Oddleif (feminine)

Ondttr (masculine) -- Ondtta (feminine)

Solvi (masculine) - Solva (feminine)

Tfi [To'fi] (masculine) -- Tfa [To'fa] (feminine)

Uni (masculine) -- Una (feminine)

ޗrfinnr [THo'rfinnr] (masculine) -- ޗrfinna [THo'rfinna] (feminine)

ޗrgrmr [THo'rgri'mr] (masculine) -- ޗrgrma [THo'rgri'ma] (feminine)

ޗrleifr [THo'rleifr] (masculine) -- ޗrleif [THo'rleif] (feminine)

ޗrljtr [THo'rljo'tr] (masculine) -- ޗrljt [THo'rljo't] (feminine)

ޗrhalli [THo'rhalli] (masculine) -- ޗrhalla [THo'rhalla] (feminine)

ޗroddr [THo'roddr] (masculine) -- ޗrodda [THo'rodda] (feminine)


I was only able to find three instances of a unisex name, and I suspect

that in each of these the sex of the person named is just not recorded

properly in the source material:


Aur [AuDHr] (usually feminine)

Eylaug (one occurrence each)

Nereir  [NereiDHr] (one occurrence each)


Sigiher then said:

>the main thing you'll want to look at is the prefix and the

>suffix of the name and what you want it to say. as is in my name the

>prefix "sigi" (which is very common), means "victory", and "her" meaning



Gunnora answers:

No, you can't do this if you want your name to pass the College of Heralds.

You have to find a name that was actually used in period.  It *is* a good

idea to find out what the name might mean before registering it so that you

don't get a name that you'd be embarrased to be stuck with the rest of your

SCA career: for instance,  Ljtr means "ugly".  I will be glad to help you

find out what a given name element means, if anyone has a question.


Fortunately, there are many excellent references that will help you

document Norse names.  Landnamabok is very good, being a chronicle of the

settlement of Iceland and recording the names of lots of those settlers.

The sagas are also a good source.  Or you can look at books discussing

Norse names, for instance:


Geirr Bassi Haraldsson. The Old Norse Name.

Available from CELTIC TRADITIONS, 3366 Laurel Grove South, Jacksonville FL

32223, (904) 886-0326; they currently list the book at $5.00.


Jensen, Gillian Fellows.  Scandinavian Personal Names in Lincolshire and

Yorkshire.  Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag. 1968.


Woolf, Henry Bosley.  The Old Germanic Principles of Name-Giving.Baltimore:

Johns  Hopkins Press. 1939.


Hale, Christopher J.  "Modern Icelandic Personal Bynames."

ScandinavianStudies 53 (1981): 397-404.


Sigiher went on to say:

> i dont have my books with me, but ill see if i can remember

>some prefixes and suffixes. keep in mind that it can be placed either

>way. for example: "Herwodis" (feminine) means sword goddess, as you see


Gunnora says:

"Herwodis" would not mean "sword goddess" - in fact, there is no such name

construction.  The closest name is "Herdis" meaning "Army Goddess" or

"Hjrdis" ["Hjo:rdis] (which does mean "sword goddess").


And you most emphatically cannot place a name element in either the prefix

or suffix location at random.  There are many name elements that are only

found in one location or the other, but noth both.  For instance, the

feminine suffix "-dis" is never used as a prefix (although "Dis" by itself

was a period woman's name). The same is true of the women's name suffixes

"-bjorg" and "-gerr [-gerDHr]", which both appear as a stand-alone name

but never as a name prefix, ever.


Sigiher said next:

>the suffix from my name is the prefix for this feminine name. heres what

>i remember off the top of my head: sigi=victory, hag=thorn(i think),

>wod=god, wodis=goddess, run=secret, gund=battle...


Gunnora corrects this info by saying:

Sig = "victory" -- this is the only one you have correct.


Hag = only occurs in Hagbarr (meaning "with the fine beard")


Wod = a Germanic construction, equivalent to Old Norse r [O'DHr] meaning

"frenzy, rage" - also appears in the name Wodan (German or Anglo-Saxon) or

inn [O'DHinn] (Old Norse), the one-eyed god of wisdom and poetry. This

is *not* used as a name element other than for the god.


s- [A's-] (also appears as s- [O's-]) = "Aesir, a god" used as a name

element (prefix only)


Gu- [GuDH-] = "god" used as a name element (prefix only)


Ragn- or Rgn- [Ro:gn] = "god" used as a name element (prefix only)


Wodis = does not exist.


Ds {Di's] = literally "goddess" but can also mean simply "woman",

frequently used as a suffix in feminine Old Norse names, "-ds" [-di's],

for instance Alds [Aldi's], lfds [A'lfdi's], Arnds [Arndi's], sds

[A'sdi's], Bergds [Bergdi's], Eyds [Eydi's], Geirds [Geirdi's], Hallds

[Halldi's], Herds [Herdi's], Hjrds [Hjo:rdi's], Jds [Jo'di's], Salds

[Saldi's], Valds [Valdi's], Vds [Ve'di's], Vigds [Vigdi's] and ޗrds



Rn [Ru'n] = this word by itself actually does mean "secret" or "hidden,"

but when found as a name element usually means "rune" as in "a magical

letter of the Norse alphabet".  Usually found as a suffix in womens' names,

for instance Dagrn [Dagru'n] or lfrn [U'lfru'n]. This element is found

only once as a prefix in the masculine name Rnlfr


Gunn = "war" always found as a prefix  (not "gund" - that's a later

corruption or misspelling) masculine Gunarr, Gunnbjrn [Gunnbjo:rn],

Gunnfarr [GunnfarDHr], Gunnhvatr, Gunni, Gunnlaugr, Gunnl [Gunnlo"DH],

Gunnlfr [Gunno'lfr], Gunnsteinn, Gunnvaldr, feminine Gunnora (documentable

in Old English only), Gunnhildr, Gunnfrr [Gunnfri'DHr], Gunnl

[Gunnlo:DH], Gunnvr [Gunnvo:r]


Sigiher goes on to say:

>i have a very good

>collection of the norse names and what they mean but as i say i dont

>have them with me right now. if you write me and tell me exactly what

>your friend whants his/her name to say i could try to make one for him.

>i hope i have been of at least some assistance. if you are looking for a

>norse name i recomend reading "Rhinegold"


Gunnora replies:

If you are using Stephan Grundy's *FICTION* book Rhinegold, which retells

the continental German tale of Sigfried the Dragon-Slayer from the

Niebelungelied (that would be Volsungasaga to name the OId Norse

equivalent) then I wouldn't count that as "a very good collection of Norse



If you want a great collection of Old Norse names, spend the $5 and get the

Geirr Bassi Haraldsson booklet "The Old Norse Name" (see above for more

info) or check the Glossary of Proper Names in any of the very affordable

Penguin editions of the sagas, or go to an academic library and look for

books in the nomenclature studies section on Old Norse names.


Or, of course, you can write The Viking Answer Lady (myself) and I'll be

glad to help you find a good, documentable Old Norse name that you will

like, and that the College of Heralds will also like.


Gunnora Hallakarva




Subject: Re: ANST - Norse Names, Misconceptions

Date: Mon, 27 Apr 98 22:42:37 MST

From: Tim McDaniel <tmcd at crl.com>

To: ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG


Gunnora gave some fine advice and data.  I just have a few comments.


On Sun, 26 Apr 1998, Gunnora Hallakarva <gunnora at bga.com>


> >i am called Sigiher, which means " victory sword".


Aside from Gunnora's comments on the meaning ... it is part

of the definition of what a name *is* that it has become

divorced from any derivation.  A name is a word that has

become a more arbitrary label.  I wasn't named Timothy

because my parents believed I was actually beloved of the



As Geirr Bassi notes (p. 5), "The majority of Old Norse

given names are compounds; they consist of two parts, such

as {TH}orbjorn 'Thor+bear', {TH}orsteinn 'Thor+stone',

{TH}orgeirr 'Thor+spear'."  Onomasochists call the prefix

the "protheme" and suffix the "deuterotheme". "The

resulting compound need not have any specific meaning;

sometimes the juxtaposition of its two elements suggests a

'meaning compound', but more often not -- for example

Sn{ae}bjorn 'snow+bear' = 'polar bear', but Asbjorn

'god+bear'."  I recall reading of Anglo-Saxon examples of

'war+war' and 'war+peace'.


(By the way, the {..} notation is common in the SCA College

of Arms to represent non-ASCII letters in ASCII media.  It

is called Da'ud notation, after the inventer, Da'ud ibn

Auda.  The curly braces help prevent ambiguity.)


> Furthermore, no matter what "Sigiher" might mean, this

> name won't pass - although the name elements both exist in

> period, the College of Heralds is not currently allowing

> us to "mix and match" legitimate name elements -- you have

> to show that the name was constructed that way in period.


Actually, that happens not to be the case.  From the SCA

College of Arms Rules for Submission, part II:




2.  Constructed Names - Documented names and words may be

used to form place names, patronymics, epithets, and other

names in a period manner.


Constructed forms must follow the rules for formation of

the appropriate category of name element in the language

from which the documented components are drawn.  For

instance, the standard male patronymic in Old Norse

consists of the possessive form of the father's name joined

to the word "son", like "Sveinsson" is the son of Svein.

The documented Old Norse given name "Bjartmarr" could be

used in this construction to form "Bjartmarsson", even if

this particular patronymic was not found in period sources.

Similarly, German towns on rivers regularly use the name of

the river with the word "brueck", like "Innsbrueck", to

indicate the town had a bridge over that river.  A new

branch could use the documented German name of the river

"Donau" to construct the name "Donaubrueck".


3.  Invented Names - New name elements, whether invented by

the submitter or borrowed from a literary source, may be

used if they follow the rules for name formation from a

linguistic tradition compatible with the domain of the

Society and the name elements used.


Name elements may be created following patterns

demonstrated to have been followed in period naming.  Old

English given names, for instance, are frequently composed

of two syllables from a specific pool of name elements.

The given name "AElfmund" could be created using syllables

from the documented names "AElfgar" and "Eadmund" following

the pattern established by similar names in Old English.

Other kinds of patterns can also be found in period naming,

such as patterns of meaning, description, or sound.  Such

patterns, if sufficiently defined, may also be used to

invent new name elements.  There is a pattern of using

kinds of animals in the English place names "Oxford",

"Swinford" and "Hartford", and so a case could be made for

inventing a similar name like "Sheepford".  No name will be

disqualified based solely on its source.




Now, you have to be careful in extrapolation.  Older

versions of II.3 had an example that you couldn't justify

"AElfmundegar" from the two examples given.  As Gunnora

said, some "themes" are pure prothemes, some are pure

deuterothemes, and some can occur in either place.  Also,

it's always two elements in Old Norse.  Also, as one swallow

does not make a love^W spring, one or two examples does not

necessarily make a pattern.


So, in this case, you should find several examples of names

starting with "sig-" where it's a protheme, and some with

"-her" where it's a deuterotheme.  "Sig-" appears to be no

problem: Sigmundr, Sigfr{o/}{dh}r, Sigr{o/}{dh}r, Sigtryggr,

... all look like bithematic names to me -- the last three

seem to have the deuterotheme as an independent name.

"-her" as a *deuterotheme*, however, I don't find.  For

"Her-" as an (apparent) *protheme*, I find Herfi{dh}r,

Hermundr, Herr{o/}{dh}r, and a few more.  (I say "apparent"

because I don't know what the parts are derived from, but

the last two examples have the same last parts as two of the

"Sig-" examples above.)  I also read a nicely documented

April 1 letter where they justified the Anglo-Saxon name

"Wulfwulf Herewulf" (justifying "wulf" as both a pro- and

deuterotheme).  So unless someone else has examples of

"-her" -- and I find none in Geirr Bassi -- I'd say the name

is implausible.


Rather than mess up in name construction, it's safer to take

Gunnora's advice (insert a period here if you like!) and take

a documented name.


> Arnߗrr [ArnTHo'rr] (masculine) -- Arnߗra

>    [ArnTHo'ra] (feminine)

> Bergߗrr [BergTHo'rr] (masculine) -- Bergߗra

>    [BergTHo'ra] (feminine)

> Dalli (masculine) -- Dalla (feminine)

> Finnr (masculine) -- Finna (feminine)



Someone looking at these might think "oh, of course, just

take a male name and add an 'a' to make it feminine" or "of

course, feminine names end in 'a'."  Both are wrong

conclusions for Norse.  Note that Gunnora gave examples of

Gu{dh}laug, Gu{dh}leif, Lj{o'}t, and so forth.


There *is* a pattern of "you can take a masculine name and

add '-a' to get a feminine name" ... in Latin and Romance

languages.  (One of the Roman marriage forms had the groom

say "Where I am Gaius, you are Gaia" -- as if we were to say

"If I am Jehan, you are Jehanna".)  That is *not* the case

in Gaelic or other Celtic languages.  In Norse, I gather it

varies.  There are also pure feminine or masculine names in

most any language, I think.


Daniel "O Beer!  O Hodgson, Guinness, Allsopp, Bass!  Names

that should be on every infant's tongue!" de Lincolia


Tim McDaniel; Reply-To: tmcd at crl.com; if that fail, tmcd at austin.ibm.com

is work address.  tmcd at tmcd.austin.tx.us is wrong tool.  Never use this.



Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2000 15:58:10 -0000

From: nanna at idunn.is (Nanna Rognvaldardottir)

Subject: Re: Names with Norse Origin


> Also, if you have a friend going to Iceland, have 'em procure a phone

>book. ;>


Or you could check the Icelandic online phone book at:



(search by first name, middle name or last name - if you type a fairly

common last name such as Helgason or Bjarnadttir into the Kenninafn field

and leave the others blank, you should get a long list of first names to

study - then you can ask me if they are Saga period or more recent)


or the National register at:



(chose Nafn einstaklings and search by first name, or first and last



>While not everything in the Icelandic phone book is a Viking Age

>name, I"d be willing to bet that 75% or so of them are.


More or less, yes. While my own name is an satr godess name that probably

wasn't used as a given name until the 18th century, my children, my parents,

my siblings, my nephews and nieces all bear names from the Saga period,

little changed except that names now ending in -ur used to end in -r. Male

names in the family are Rgnvaldur, Hjalti, Eirkur, Inglfur, ޗrir, Oddur,

Bergur, Bjarni - the females are Sigrur, Valgerur, Gurn, Helga, Svava,



Nanna Rgnvaldardttir



Date: Wed, 05 Jan 2000 14:40:27 -0600

From: "C. L. Ward" <gunnora at realtime.net>

Subject: Re:Names with Norse Origin


From: "Jeannette Ng" <frostyblue at wildmail.com>

>I was flipping through my name dictionary the other day to discover

>there weren't any names that hold a norse origin. You may now gawk

>and me and say I'm a complete lunatic, but do you know any names that

>were used in Viking days?


I'm laboriously compiling a list of Norse names, with notes on their

etymologies and meanings (something that most other sources omit entirely).


I hope to have the project finished sometime this millennium, but it is

slow.  I think it's important to know a little about the meanings -- I

mean, would you like to find out after ten years that the name you've

picked means "Ugly Pudding-nose"? -- because that can happen!


In the meantime, I *do* have some excellent resources for those looking for

names -- see below (and I'll mail my raw name/meanings list to the

questioner directly as well).


Some general notes:


The basic Old Norse name was composed of two name elements (some had only

one).   A good example of single-element names would be: (male) Eirik,

Bjorn, Olaf, Ulf and (female) Signy, Aud, Bera, Emma, Una.


Two-element names are combinations of single-elements:  (male) Adalbert

(adal+beorht),  Arnkell (Arn + keldr), Bjornolfr (Bjorn + Ulfr), Gudbrandr

(Gudr + brandr) or (female)   Arnbjorg (Arn + bjorg), Alfdis (Alf + dis),

Brynhildr (Bryn + Hilda); etc.


In general, parents named their children after a deceased relative or hero.

In some way  the child was believed to inherit with the name the gifts or

personality of their namesake:  this belief almost seems to have been one

of reincarnation of the named relative in the  new child once the name was

bestowed.  Usually families gave names that kept one  element the same:

for instance, all the boys might be Arn-something:  Arnkel, Arnulf,

Arnbjorn, Arnleif, etc.  This worked with both name elements:  for example

Kveldulf,  Geirolf, Arnolf, Hjalmolf, etc.


The Vikings did not use surnames as most Americans understand them. They

followed the system  of using patronymics (or rarely matronymics) and this

system is still in use in Iceland  today.  A patronymic is simply a name

that means "Son-of-{father's name}" or "Daughter-of-{father's name}".  In

Old Norse, we see names like:  Skallagrimson (son of Skallagrim),

Hakonardottir (daughter of Hakon).


While people did occasionally bear matronymics (Mother's-name's-son) it was

extremely  uncommon.  I can document only a handful of men with

matronymics.  There were a total of  only 34 women in Iceland whose sons

are shown by the historical records to have borne  their mother's name as a

matronymic, and most of these women lived in the northern and  western

districts of Iceland.  Some of these men with matronymics were court

skalds:   Eilif Gu=F0runarson, Hrafn Gu=F0runarson, Stein Herd=EDsarson, Bersi

Skald-T=F3rfuson, and  Kormak Dolluson.  Another was Ofeig Jarnger=F0sson of

Skar=F0.  Some of the mothers  whose names were used in matronymics were

Dalla, Droplaug, Fjorleif, Gu=F0run, Herd=EDs,  Jarnger=F0, Mardoll, and =T=F3rfa.


(see Barthi Guthmundsson's The Origin of the Icelanders.   trans. Lee M.

Hollander. Lincoln: Univ of Nebraska Press.  1967. Library of Congress



Card # 66-19265.  pp. 26-31.)


The formation of the patronymic (the father's name+son or father's

name+daughter) or a matronymic (mother's name+son or mother's

name+daughter) is a matter of using the genitive case (possessive case) of

the father's name.  This is quite logical, as a name such as Egil

Skallagrimsson Literally means "Egil, son of Skallagrim" or "Egil,

Skallagrim's Son"


To create the genitive case, one has to know some simple rules.


You may have to copy this table into a text editor and reformat it to use a

Courier font to get the text to line up properly=20


If this doesn't line up, the colums are:


If the name ends in  >> The ending will change to >> Sample name in

nominative case >> Genitive+Son >> Genitive+daughter


ENDS   CHG    NOM            GEN            GEN

IN     TO                   + SON       + DAUGHTER

-i     -a     Snorri Sonrrason     Sonorradottir

-a     -u     Sturla Sturluson     Sturladottir

-nn    -ns    Sveinn Sveinsson     Sveinsdottir

-ll    -ls    Ketill Ketilsson     Ketilsdottir

-rr    -rs    Geirr       Geirson     Geirsdottir


Most other men's names end in terminal -R, which normally forms the

genitive by adding -s:


-r     -s     Grimr  Grimsson      Grimsdottir

-ir    -is    Grettir       Grettisson   Grettisdottir


Certain men's names form their genitive in -ar.  Most of these are names

ending in -dr, but others are included. :

















Halfdan, Halfdanarson; Audunn, Audunarsson; Sigurdr, Sigurdarson.


Mens' names that end in -bjorn or -orn (bear or eagle) change for slightly

in the genitive, becomiing -bjarnar and -arnar.


Names ending in -madr have the genitive form -manns.


Names ending in -ss do not change in the genitive, but in the compound

patronymic, one of the "s" is dropped, thus Vigfuss, Vigfusson.


Very rarely one will see a grandfather's name listed as well as the

fathers.  In this case the form is:


Name_of_son  Name_of_father's-son  Name of grandfather's-son's


The grandfather's name is not only possessive, so is the -son suffix,

giving -sonar, i.e.,

Bjorn, the son of Thordr Oddsson, would be Bjorn Thordarson Oddsonar.


Matronymics (Name Mother's-name's-son or Name Mother's-name's-daughter)

require the feminine genitive forms:


ENDS   CHG     NOM    GEN           GEN

IN     TO           + SON     + DAUGHTER

-i     -i     Thyri  Thyrison      Thyridottir

-a     -u     Thora  Thoruson      Thorudottir


Women's names ending in -a with a main internal vowel -a- usually change

their internal vowel to -o- as in Halla, Holluson.


A few women's names form their genitive in -ar.  Names ending in a vowel

often end in -jar.


Thordis, Thordisarson

Astridr,      Astridarson

Gudny,  Gundyjarson

Thorbjorg, Thorbjorgarson


The only way to learn which nouns will decline which ways is to actually

begin the study of Old Norse Grammar.  I recommend:


E.V. Gordon.  An Introduction to Old Norse.  2nd ed.  Oxford: Clarendon. =



In addition, people were sometimes called by nicknames or heiti. These

Nicknames were rarely, if ever, used by the person themselves, and almost never used to the person's face.  You were tagged by your friends (or enemies) with a

nickname. This becomes painfully obvious when you look at the historical nicknames we have recorded.  they are invariably descriptive, and mostly derogatory in some way, though a few denote desireable traits the person was known for.




A good,  inexpensive source of information on Old Norse names from the

sagas is _The Old Norse Name_, by Geirr Bassi Haraldsson.  It's available

>from CELTIC TRADITIONS, 3366 Laurel Grove South, Jacksonville FL 32223,

(904) 886-0326; they currently list the book at $5.00.


Woolf, Henry Bosley.  The Old Germanic Principles of Name-Giving.Baltimore:

Johns  Hopkins Press. 1939.


Hale, Christopher J.  "Modern Icelandic Personal Bynames."

ScandinavianStudies 53 (1981): 397-404.



Gillian Fellows-Jensen.  Scandinavian Personal Names in Lincolnshire and

Yorkshire.  Copenhagen.  Akademisk Forlag.  1968.  pp. 25-32.



Lis Jacobsen and Erik Moltke, with Anders Baeksted and Karl Martin Nielsen,

eds., Danmarks Runeindskrifter.  Copenhagen.  1941-1942.


Danmarks Gamle Personnavne, I Fornavne, II Tilnavne.  ed Gunnar Knudsen,

Marius Kristensen and Rikard Hornby.  Copenhagen.  1936-1964.


Danmarks Stednavne I ff.  Copenhagen: Stednavneudvalget (Institut for

Navneforskning).  1922




Aeskil (M. Lundgren and E. Brate.  Svenska Personnamn Fran Medeltiden.

Uppsala 1892-1915.




Gelling, Margaret.  "Norse and Gaelic in Medieval Man: the Place Name

Evidence."  in The Vikings: Proceedings of the Symposium of the Faculty of

Arts of Uppsala University, June 6-9, 1977.  eds. Thorsten Andersson and

Karl Sandred.  Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiskell.  1978.  ISBN 91-554-0706-4.

pp. 107-118


Megaw, Basil and Eleanor.  "The Norse Heritage in the Isle of Man."  In:

The Early Cultures of North-West Europe.  H.M. Chadwick Memorial Studies.

eds Sir Cyril Fox and Bruce Dickins.  Cambridge.  1950.  pp. 143-170.

Olsen, Magnus.  "Runic Inscriptions in Great Britain, Ireland, and the Isle

of Man," In:  Viking Antiquities in Great Britain and Ireland. Part 6  ed

Haakon Shetelig. Oslo: 1954.  pp. 151-233.


Vigfusson, Gudbrand, "Northerners in the Isle of Man." English Historical

Review 3 (1888): pp. 498-501.


Wilson, David M.  "Manx Memorial Stones of the Viking Period."  Saga Book

of the Viking Society for Northern Research 18 (1970-1971) pp. 1-18.


Wilson, David M.  The Viking Age in the Isle of Man - the Archaeological

Evidence.  C.C. Rafn Lecture No. 3.  Odense. 1974.




Jean Adigard des Gautries. Les Noms de Personnes Scandinaves en Normandie

de 911 a 1066.  Lund.  1954.


F.M. Stenton.  The Scandinavian Colonies in England and Normandy.

Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 4th series.  Vol 27. 1945.


R.E. Zachrisson. A Contribution of the Study of Anglo-Norman Influence on

English Placenames.  Lunds UniversitetsArsskrift.  1909.


R.E. Zachrisson.  The French Element: Introduction to the Survey of English

Place-Names.  EPNS Vol. 1 part 1.  1924.


Jules Lair, ed.  Dudonis Sancti Quentini.  De moribus sue actis primorum

Normanniae ducum.  Memoires de la Societe des Antiquaires de Normandie.

23.  Caen:  Le Blanc-Hardel.  1865.


Raymonde Forevill, ed.  Guillaume de Poitiers.  Historie de Guillaume le

Conquerant.  Paris: Les Belles Lettres. 1952.


L. Musset.  "Scandinavian Influence in Norman Literature." In:

Anglo-Norman Studies: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 6. 1983. ed. R.

Allen Brown.  Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer. 1984 pp. 107-121.





Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 11:04:33 -0400

From: rmhowe <MMagnusM at Bellsouth.net>

Subject: The Old Norse Name, by Geirr Bassi Haraldsson


I finally got around to ordering the following.

Of the listing someone posted on one of the lists I read _only_ the home

phone number of the previously listed source hadn't changed.


So I'm posting it for those who might like to have the book as it is the

only source with permission to reprint it.


The Old Norse Name, by Geirr Bassi Haraldsson is available only through

Black Sheep Books (Was Celtic Traditions)

9850-3 San Jose Blvd., Jacksonville, Florida 32257,

(904) 880-1895 business phone; (904) 886-0326 home phone;

they currently list the book at $6.00 plus $3 shipping..

serwyl at aol.com. Only one handling the book. Charles Hack owner. 7/00




**Not to be reposted to the Rialto or open newsgroups.

Privately subscribed group email lists are fine.**



To: Norsefolk at egroups.com

Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000 15:36:52 -0000

From: gunnora at realtime.net

Subject: Re: Norse names


Sigridr Thorvaldsdottir posted:

>> As a budding herald in the SCA, it makes me a bit twitchy, so it

>> would probably make a Real Herald a lot more so. <snip>

>> *-godi is certainly a period construction, but that byname brings

>> with it connotation of period rank, rights, and privilege that any

>> old other descriptive name wouldn't have.


Huh??!!  If the suffix -goði is attached to a god-name, then the

implication is crystal clear that it is being used in the context

of "priest of this god".


I would strongly suggest avoiding "Goði" all by itself as a by-name,

just because it was a title of rank in Iceland.  But combined with

the god-name it can't really mean anything else than "priest".


As has already been pointed out, there are several men who had the by-

name "Freysgoði".  Þrolf of Mostur was known as a priest of Þrr

(see chapter four of Eyrbyggja Saga,

http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/OMACL/EreDwellers/chapter4.html) and

while the term "Þrsgoði" doesn't occur in the text, there is

no  question that it would have applied to Þrolf.


I'd say it's a perfectly valid construction and I don't see why the

College of Heralds would question it.





To: Norsefolk at egroups.com

Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000 08:55:19 -0700

From: "Gale Langseth" <tempest at world.std.com>

Subject: Re: Norse names


>(Also, does anyone have ideas on exactly where to find a

>copy of "The Old Norse Name"?)


Black Sheep Books, which is on ABE Books at:



All of $6.00 plus shipping. I recently acquired my very own copy

of it there to go into my heraldry bookshelf. It's not exactly

an original, though: it's photocopied with cardstock covers,

but it gets the job done.





To: Norsefolk at egroups.com

Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000 09:44:50 -0700 (PDT)

From: Hrefna in heppna <the_jaded_raven at yahoo.com>

Subject: Re: Norse names


--- Steven Weidner <bigsteve at nycap.rr.com> wrote:

> So, barring registering "Steinn Karlsson, called Steen" or some variation

> thereof, does anyone have references I might get a look at?  


Try looking at Dictionary of Medieval Swedish Personal

Names(http://www.dal.lu.se/sofi/smp/smpeng.htm).  The

names aren't listed on this web site but there are

contact numbers that may be able to help.




<the end>

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