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Names and Name-Giving in

the Viking Age


Kings College 2004
Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr

Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 2
Names and Name-Giving in
the Viking Age: Contents
Overview
Sources
Terminology
Construction of O.N. Personal Names
Construction of O.N. Patronymics
Construction of O.N. Bynames
Constructing an O.N. Name for Registration
Documenting an O.N. Name for Registration
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 3
Overview: Dates
Dates of the Viking Age
ca. 793AD to 1066AD
Exact dating depends on location, some areas
preserved a Viking Age culture until almost
1300
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 4
Overview: Countries
What countries are
involved
East Scandinavia:
Denmark, Sweden,
Scandinavian
colonies in the Baltic
and Russia
West Scandinavia:
Norway, Iceland,
Greenland, colonies
in the British Isles
(Ireland, the
Western Isles,
Scotland, etc.)
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 5
Overview: Countries Norway &
Denmark
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 6
Overview: Countries - Sweden
Swedish
Provinces
n = ngermanland
Bo = Bohusln
D = Dalarna
Ds = Dalsland
G = Gotland
Gs = Gstrikland
Hr = Hrjedalen
Hs = Hlsingland
J = Jmtland
La = Lappland
N = Nrke
Me = Medelpad
g = stergtland
l = land
Sm = Smland
S = Sdermanland
U = Uppland
Vg = Vstergtland
Vr = Vrmland
Vs = Vstmanland
Sv = other Swedish
locations
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 7
Overview: Countries Britain
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 8
Overview: Languages
The Germanic peoples were a
branching from the old Indo-
European stock, and had a
major series of migrations ca.
400-600AD. These peoples
spoke a language scholars call
"Proto-Germanic".
As they migrated, this root
Germanic language
differentiated into three
branches: East Germanic, which
gave rise to the now-extinct
Gothic language; West
Germanic, which gave rise to
Old English, Old High German
and Old Low German; and North
Germanic, which was the
language of the Germanic tribes
that settled Scandinavia.
North Germanic
Proto-Scandinavian
Old West Norse
Icelandic
Faroese
Norn (extinct)
Norwegian
Nynorsk
Old East Norse
Danish
Norwegian Bokml
Swedish
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 9
Overview: Languages in
Viking Age Scandinavia
Old West Norse vs. Old East Norse
From the start of the Viking Age (ca. 800 A.D.) there began to be noticeable
differences in pronunciation between Norway and the Norse colonies in the North
Atlantic vs. Sweden, Denmark, and colonies in the Baltic. These differences are
enough that scholars recognize two dialects of Old Norse, Old West Norse (Norway,
Iceland, Greenland, etc.) and Old East Norse (Sweden, Denmark). There still wasn't
a lot of difference, it was more like the difference between British English vs.
American English.
Continental Languages Cause Changes in Old East Norse
Over time, Sweden and Denmark had a lot of direct trade and influence from the
Continent, particularly from Germany, and these influences led to changes in
pronunciation. Norway saw some changes in its language, but Icelandic (far away in
the Atlantic) changed very little. By 1250 A.D. or so, the Scandinavian languages had
diverged enough that one can term them from this point Old Icelandic, Old
Norwegian, Old Swedish, and Old Danish.
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400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1150 1200 1250 1300 1400 1500 1550
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 10
Overview: Languages in
Medieval Scandinavia
Evolution of Old Norwegian, Old Icelandic, Old Danish,
and Old Swedish
In the later Middle Ages - say from the Black Death to the
Reformation, roughly 1350-1550 - the Continental
Scandinavian languages underwent significant changes. In all
of them the original complex inflectional system was greatly
simplified.
Old Norwegian ceased to exist as a written standard in the late
14th century, when Norway came under Danish control,
though the rural spoken dialects continued to develop
normally.
Old Danish and Old Swedish were greatly influenced by Middle
Low German, the language of the Hanseatic League. Old
Icelandic was exceptional: its pronunciation changed
significantly during this period, but isolation and a strong and
strongly conservative native written tradition preserved the
written language almost unchanged.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 11
Overview: Modern Scandinavian Languages
Modern Norwegian, Icelandic, Danish and Swedish
From about the middle of the 16
th
century on we can speak simply of
Icelandic, Danish, and Swedish; all three written languages were by
then much like their modern counterparts, just as Shakespeare's
English is recognizably modern compared with, say, Chaucer's Middle
English.
In Norway the situation was different, thanks to Danish rule. The
written language was essentially contemporary Danish, and the spoken
language of the elite was heavily influenced by the written standard.
When Danish rule of Norway ended in the early 20
th
century, this Dano-
Norwegian mixture was codified as a standard language. Its
contemporary descendent, called bokml 'book language', is one of the
two modern standard Norwegian languages and is the standard of a
majority of Norwegian school districts. The other standard, called
nynorsk 'new Norwegian', was created in the mid-19
th
century by Ivar
Aasen. Roughly speaking, it is a reconstruction of what Old Norwegian
might have become had it developed with much less outside influence,
based especially on the conservative western dialects of spoken
Norwegian. The official bokml and nynorsk standards converged
noticeably during the 20
th
century, but significant differences remain.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 12
Sources: Runic Inscriptions
Runes and Runestones
What are runes?
Runic script comprises a family of related writing systems. Runes
have been used from at least the 2
nd
century AD to the 16
th
century.
Runic inscriptions appear both on large stones and on portable
objects. The runic alphabet of the Germanic world is called the
futhark, which is simply the first six letters of this alphabet
pronounced in sequence. The individual letters are referred to as
runes.
Runic alphabets
Before the Viking Age: Elder Futhark (24 runes, ca. 0 to c.650 AD)
Viking Age: Younger Futhark (16 runes, Danish and Swedish-
Norwegian variants exist, dating c.650-ca.1050)





Medieval Futhork: (27 runes, c. 1050 to c. 1400). Latin script had
completely replaced the runes by the end of the third period.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 13
Sources: Interpreting
Runic Inscriptions
Rundata and the inscription codes
Rundata is a huge database of runic inscriptions, in Swedish, containing
many names in their original spellings.
Each inscription has a scholarly code, or signum, composed of letters
representing the inscriptions find location and a number.
Caveats - problems in interpretation
Lack of a coherent standard orthography.
Imperfect preservation such as missing pieces or defacement.
Transliterations from runes don't necessarily reflect the spoken language at
the time.
Caveats - problems in dating
No carbon dating possible.
Letter forms and linguistic clues one source of dating.
Associated archaeological finds may help in dating.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 14
Sources: Histories and Chronicles
Landnmabk
Survives in five redactions, the earliest two being Sturlubk,
composed by Sturla rarson (d. 1284) and Hauksbk,
written by Haukr Erlendsson in 1306-1308. An account of the
discovery and settlement of Iceland, deals with roughly 430
settlers, their families and their descendants, preserving over
3,500 personal names and almost 1,500 farm names. Many
sagas rely upon Landnmabk as a source for genealogical and
biographical information.
Snorri Sturlusons Heimskringla
The Heimskringla of Snorri Sturluson, written in Old Norse ca.
1225, is a collection of sagas concerning the various rulers of
Norway, from about 850 to 1177 AD. Although the early
sections especially draw very heavily on Old Norse
mythological materials and there is a consistent blurring of
fiction and fact, Heimskringla is still considered an important
original source for information on the Viking Age, a period
which Snorri covers almost in its entirety.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 15
Sources: Sagas
Sagas are the prose literature of Medieval Scandinavia, with
most being composed in Iceland. They represent a type of
historical fiction or romance, not history.
Sub-genres and dates:
Postola sgur ("apostles' sagas") - the earliest sagas, beginning ca. 1150
Konungasgur ("kings' sagas) - ca. 1190-1230
slendingasgur ("sagas of the Icelanders") - most composed in the 13
th

c.
Riddarasgur ("knights' sagas") - prose adaptions of European romances
- 1226 and later
Fornaldarsgur ("sagas of ancient times") - most 14
th
c., Saxo based
portions of his work on these stories in the 13
th
c.
Caveats
The transition from oral history to written history
Romance and mrchen elements appearing in sagas
Issues with literature in translation: translation and normalizing
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 16
Sources: Latin Sources
There are a variety of chronicles, histories, and
Church documents in Latin that touch upon the
Vikings. The best-known include:
Adam of Bremen's Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclestia pontificium,
written sometime between 1066 and 1080, recounts early Danish
history from 845 to 1072. Adam was most interested in showing the
power and success of the Church and the Church hierarchy, and thus
distorts his history appreciably to emphasize his concerns.
Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum was completed around 1216, and
begins with legendary and mythological materials based on oral
accounts from traveling Icelanders, and also relies upon histories such
as the one by Danish historian Sven Aggeson, a few years earlier.
Scholars have shown, however, that Vergil's Aeneid had more
influence on Saxo than did Aggeson. Saxo's account is both
augmented and distorted by the northern legendary materials.
Caveats
The transition from oral history to written history
Problems with backformation from Latin records
Issues with literature in translation: translation and normalizing
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 17
Sources: Views from Outside
Scandinavia
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Compiled ca. 890 to mid-12
th
century, the ASC exists in a
number of Old English manuscripts. Many entries cite the
Viking attacks and incursions into Britain.
Arabic Sources
At least 50 Arabic authors in the Golden Age of Arabic
literature (750-1055) and the Silver Age (1055-1258) offer
information about Scandinavia and its inhabitants. Arabic
sources refer to the Vikings as ar-Rus or ar-Rusiya in Russia
and the east, and as al-Majus in writings from Andalusia,
North Africa and elsewhere in the west, with mentions of
Warank (O.N. Varangians) and al-Urman (Latin Nordmanni)
elsewhere. These accounts consist of geographies, traveler's
accounts, and histories.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 18
Terminology
Personal name
The particular combination of sounds employed as the individual designation of a
single person. For the Norse, this was a name given to a person at birth or in a
naming ceremony. Synonyms: anthroponym, given name, first name, forename,
Christian name, baptismal name.
Byname
A byname (Old Norse upphefni, viurnefi) is a name other than a person's personal
name. "Byname" is a broad term that may include patronymics and various epithets.
Bynames were a very common way to tell one person from another with the same
given name in period. The pool of available given names was quite small by modern
standards, and even in the smallest villages there were bound to be several people
named lfr or Bjrn or rvaldr. Bynames were formed from all sorts of words and
frequently described some physical or social aspect of the person bearing them, and
were often not at all complimentary. In period, they were usually comprised of a
short, descriptive word or phrase. Synonyms: appellation, eke name, nickname,
epithet, sobriquet.
Patronymic
A type of byname given to offspring to indicate the name of the father.
Matronymic
A type of byname given to offspring to indicate the name of the mother.
Diminutive name
A shortened form of the given name, e.g., Beth and Liz are diminutives of Elizabeth.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 19
Terminology, continued
Placename
A placename is a geographical name, the proper name of a locality, region, or some
other part of the earth's surface or its natural or artifical feature.
Locative byname
Locative bynames are related to placenames; they are bynames involving locations
or places. There are two types of locative bynames. The first are toponymic locative
bynames, which involve proper names of locations, including territorial locative
bynames, which indicate places held/owned by the person or their family. The
second are topographic locative bynames, which involve descriptions of places rather
than placenames.
Grammatical terms
Nominative - Subject. Used as the name itself.
Genitive - Possessive. Most important for forming patronymics.
Dative - Indirect object of verb or object of a preposition.
Accusative - Direct object of verb or object of a preposition.
Normalized
A normalized spelling is the theoretically correct spelling according to the rules for
the period under consideration rather than the most common spellings actually found
in historical records. The normalized form of the name is the form generally used by
scholars. Old Norse normalization is based on the forms most commonly found in the
early Norse literature, which dates from the 12
th
century. This scholarly practice is
based on the Old Icelandic of the sagas.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 20
Construction of Old Norse
Personal Names
How the Viking Age peoples selected names
Based on recent lineage and recent deceased near kin
A child was always named after a dead family member, ideally a direct
forefather, but also paternal or maternal aunts or uncles, great-aunts,
or great-uncles. When a close relative died shortly before the birth of a
child, particularly while the child is in utero, the child was always given
the name of the deceased. A son born after the father dies was always
given the name of the father. When the person-being-named-after has
a common name, the child is given the person-being-named-after's
byname as well as the personal name.
Older practices
Alliteration (the same sound at the beginning of one name is repeated
in another). Agni, Alrek, Yngvi, Irund, Aun, Egil, ttar, Adils, Eystein,
Yngvar, nund, Ingiald, Olaf were successive kings of the Uppsala
dynasty, all with names beginning with a vowel.
Variation (new name differs from that of others in the family by
changing one element in the name). A ninth-century Norwegian Vgeirr
had sons Vbjrn, Vsteinn, Vormr, Vmundr, Vgestr
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 21
Construction of Old Norse
Personal Names: Meaning
Viking Age peoples didn't select names based on meaning
Etymology looks at ancient word roots, meaning not always transparent
From E.G. Withycombe, The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names (3rd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988,
pp. xiv-xvi):

"Of the great Indo-European family of languages the general principle was also that of one name for each individual, the
majority of names being compounded of two elements chosen from a stock of special name-words, Such elements were
naturally for the most part words of good augury, but they seem, in most languages, to have been combined with no particular
regard for meaning. As Professor Stenton writes: 'Most compound names can be translated, but the translations often make
nonsense. The men who coined the names Frithuwulf (peace-wolf), and Wigfrith (war-peace), were not concerned about their
meaning. These are ancient names and they prove that at an early time the sense which a compound name bore was a
matter of little importance... in most cases personal or family reasons determined the choice of a name, and speculation as to
its meaning, if it came at all, came as an afterthought.' ...

The special name-words of which personal names were composed were originally ordinary significant words, but with the
passage of time some of them fell out of use in the spoken language, and others underwent phonetic and semantic changes
to which personal names were not always subject... The Frankish monk Smaragdus, who wrote at the beginning of the 9
th

century, shows that even as early as that there was no longer a clear understanding of the formation and meaning of
Germanic names: thus he translated Uuilmunt ('will' + 'protection') as volens bucca (willing mouth), and Ratmunt ('counsel' +
'protection') as consilium oris (counsel of the mouth), confusing mund 'protection', with mund 'mouth'. The short
uncompounded names were naturally even less comprehensible than the compounded ones; Redin lists 736 such names in
Old English, of which he classes 338 as intelligible and 398 as unintelligible."
A note on meaning being important to modern SCA folk and how to use
it as a tool to guide clients towards documentable, authentic names.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 22
Construction of Old Norse Personal
Names: One- & Two-Element Names
Single element names
vs. compound, two-
element names
Name elements not
"mix and match"
RFS II.3
Some name elements
only found in first
position, others only
in second
Some name elements
gender-specific
Invented names not
the best historical
recreation

Male
Egill
Bjrn
Flki
lfr
Female
Aur
Bera
Drfa
Finna

Single-Element
Male
rbrandr (rr+Brandr)
Bjrnlfr (Bjorn+lfr)
Female
Ragnhildr (Reginn+Hildr)
lfds (Alf+Ds)
Halldra (Halla+rr)
Two-Element
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 23
Bynames of Relationship:
Patronymic Formation
Patronymics were overwhelmingly the most common
type of byname in use in Old Norse
Patronymics (or matronymics) must follow the
ordinary rules of Old Norse grammar. In modern
English, when we want to indicate a possessive
(sometimes also known as the genitive case of the
noun) we do so by adding an ending (the possessive
of John is John's) or else we use a phrase that
indicates the possessive (of John). So in modern
English, when we want to indicate a son belonging to
John, we say John's son or the son of John
In Old Norse, the possessive is indicated by a change
in the ending of the word.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 24
Bynames of Relationship:
Patronymic Formation Table
Basic rules
controlling
the formation
of Old Norse
possessives
for use in
patronymics
and
matronymics,
from Geirr
bassi
Haraldsson's
The Old Norse
Name:
In Old Norse, the possessive is indicated by a change in the ending of the word. Basic rules
controlling the formation of Old Norse possessives for use in patronymics and matronymics, from
Geirr bassi Haraldsson's The Old Norse Name:
If the name
ends in
The ending will
change to
Sample name in
nominative case
Genitive+Son Genitive+daughter
-i -a Snorri Snorrason Snorradttir
-a -u Sturla Sturluson Sturladttir
-nn -ns Sveinn Sveinsson Sveinsdttir
-ll -ls Ketill Ketilsson Ketilsdttir
-rr -rs Geirr Geirson Geirssdttir
Most other men's names end in terminal -R, which normally forms the genitive by adding -s:
If the name
ends in
The ending will
change to
Sample name in
nominative case
Genitive+Son Genitive+daughter
-r -s Grmr Grmsson Grmsdttir
-ir -is Grettir Grettisson Grettisdttir
Certain men's names form their genitive in -ar. Most of these are names ending in -dr, but others
are included:
-dan
-endr
-fredr
-frr
-gautr
mundr
-rr
-undr
-varr
-vir
-vindr
-rr
-rndr

If the name
ends in
The ending will
change to
Sample name in
nominative case
Genitive+Son Genitive+daughter
-ar Hlfdan Hlfdanarson Hlfdanardttir
-ar Auunn Auunarson Auunardttir
-r -ar Sigurr Sigurarson Sigurardttir
Mens' names that end in -bjrn ("bear") or -rn ("eagle") change form slightly in the genitive,
becoming -bjarnar and -arnar.
Names ending in -mar 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 Vigfss, Vigfsson.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 25
Bynames of Relationship :
Matronymics
While people did occasionally
bear matronymics it was
extremely uncommon. There
were a total of only 34 women in
Iceland whose sons used their
mother's name as a matronymic,
and most of these lived in the
northern and western districts of
Iceland, including:
Eilif Gurunarson
Hrafn Gurunarson
Stein Herdsarson
Bersi Skald-Trfuson
Kormak Dolluson
Ofeig Jarngersson of Skar
From the Academy of St. Gabriel:
The daughter of Ragnhildr would have
been known as Ragnhildar dttir...
Ragnhildar was the genitive
(possessive) form of Ragnhildr.
Metronymics (surnames that identified
someone as her mother's daughter)
were far less common than
patronymics, but they were used in
least some parts of the Viking world.
(See http://www.s-gabriel.org/2708)
There was also a feminine name Hildr
that was common in tenth-century
Iceland. Its possessive form was
Hildar, and in principle the byname
Hildar dttir daughter of Hildr is
possible. In practice, however,
metronymics -- names identifying the
bearer's mother -- were very rare in
Iceland, and we don't recommend this
alternative.
(See http://www.s-gabriel.org/2769)
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 26
Bynames of Relationship :
Grandparent Names
Occasionally a person will be identified not only with a
patronymic, but the grandfather will also be identified in the
name. In such a case, the name of the grandfather occurs in the
genitive (possessive) form, but the suffix meaning son also is in
the genitive case, appearing as sonar.
rfinnr Sigurar son rsteins sonar
(Thorfinnr, son of Sigurr, who was Thorsteinns son)
(See http://www.s-gabriel.org/1990)
Two of the settlers of Iceland were identified in later writings as
rvalldr Asvalldz son, "Thorvalldr Asvalldr's son," and Olver en hviti
son Osvallz Auxna-ris sonar, "Olver the White, son of Osvaldr
Auxna-Thorir's son".
(See http://www.s-gabriel.org/2743)
There are also examples of men identified as the grandsons of their
grandfathers, e.g. Hrilfi son sgeirs Bjarnar sonar, "Hrilfli, son of
Asgeirr Bjorn's son"... Note that in this case, the father's entire name
and byname are in the genitive (possessive) case.
(See http://www.s-gabriel.org/2516)
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 27
Bynames of Relationship: Marriage
It was very uncommon for a
husband and wife to share a
surname in [the Viking Age]. A
woman did not adopt her husband's
surname upon marriage, so she would
have the same surname only if it were a
correct description of her as well as of
him.
(See http://www.s-gabriel.org/1919)
... you might have been known by a
name which identified you as his wife.
Unfortunately, we have relatively little
Swedish data from your period, and all
of our Swedish examples of this type of
byname are from the 15
th
and 16
th

centuries. We do, however, have a
handful of examples from Norway
ca.1300, e.g., Ragnillde oralfs kono
1289, Gudrune Eilifs kono 1282, and
Bergliot Vyrms kona ca.1300. We
therefore think it very plausible that you
might have been known by your
husband's name in the genitive
(possessive) case and kona
'woman, wife'.
(See http://www.s-gabriel.org/2512)


[Note: Bold emphasis mine.]
A woman might occasionally be known as
her husband's wife, but you shouldn't think
of this as a married name in the modern
sense. It's more accurate to call it an
alternate description. Lina the wife of lfr ...
could have been known as Lina lfs kona...
However, in other contexts she would have been
identified by a patronymic, e.g. Lina
Snorradttir.
(See http://www.s-gabriel.org/1493)
... Scandinavian bynames are typically
patronymic, identifying the bearer as a child of
his or her father, and a spousal byname
would at least be quite unusual. We did find
a handful of examples; oralfs kona 1289
'Thoralf's wife' and Eilifs kona 1282 'Eilifr's wife'
are quite typical... These are Norwegian, but in
Denmark we find Elsef Jens Kune 1377 'Elsef
Jens' wife'. All of these are a bit later than we'd
like, especially the last, but this may be due to
the limitations of our sources and the fact that
women are quite poorly represented in the early
documentary sources. On the basis of the
available evidence a hypothetical Old Danish
byname Regners kuna would clearly not be the
best historical re-creation, but we suspect that
such forms were used from time to time.
(See http://www.s-gabriel.org/2721)
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 28
A Brief Look at Diminutives
Old Norse names often form diminutives (pet names) based on one
element
Diminutives are formed from compound names most often by a sort of contraction and by changing a
strong declension into a weak (usually in the second element, but sometimes in the first element of the
name), or by adding -si, -ka, or the like. Our best evidence for diminutives comes from runic inscriptions,
as the sagas only rarely mention them.
Feminine: Sigga from Sigrr; Gunna from Gurn; Inga from Ingunu; Imba from Ingibjorg; Gudda from
Gurr; Manga from Margrot; Valka from Valgerr; Ranka from Ragneir and Ragnhildr; Jka from
Johanna; Tobba from rbjrg; Sissa from Sigrr; Kata (Engl. Kate) from Katrn; Kitta from Kristin;
Asta from strr; ura from urr; Dura from Halldra, etc.; Disa from Valds, Vigds, Herds, etc.; Geira
from Geirlaug; Fra from Names in Fri- or -frr, etc.; ra from Jarrr, Sigrr; Lauga from
Gulaug; Asa from Aslaug.
Masculine: Siggi from Sigurr; Gvendr from Gumundr; Simbi from Signumdr; Brynki from Brynjlfr;
Steinki from Steingrimr; Mangi from Magnus; Runki from Runlfr; Sveinki from Sveinn; Sebbi from
Sigbjrn,Sveinbjrn (rare); Erli from Erlindr (Erlingr); Gutti from Guormr,or rarely Gubrandr; Kobbi
from Jakob; Valdi from rvaldr; Mundi or Asi from Asmundr, etc.; Lki from rlkr; Leifi from rleifr;
Lfi from lfr; Eyvi from Eyjlfr; Keli from rkell; Laugi from Gunnlaugr; Tumi (Engl. Tommy") from
Thomas occurs in Icelandic as an independent name about the middle of the 12
th
century, and was
probably borrowed from the English; Fsi from Vigfs; Grimsi from Grmr; Jonsi from Jn (English
Johnny); Bjrsi from Bjrn; Bensi from Benedikt.
Diminutives appear to have moved into name stocks as personal names
over time
Many Viking Age personal names with a weak declension in -i were probably originally diminutives, e.g.
Bjarni from Bjorn; Arni (Arne) from rn; Bersi from Bjrn; Karli (Engl. Charley) from Karl; Jra from
Jreir; Ragna from compounds in Ragn-, Ragneir; Ingi and Inga from compounds in Ing-; Goddi was
probably from compounds in Go- (Gumundr) as the present Gudda of girls; Boddi (a name of the 8
th

century) from those in B- (A. S. Beadu); Dai (occurs in an Icelandic colonist family from the British
Isles in the 10
th
century) probably from Dav (Davy); Sebbi and Ubbi occur on Swedish Runic stones;
Helgi (old form Hlgi) from Haleygr.

Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 29
Descriptive Bynames General Info
Bynames largely derogatory, and why
The wittiness of many of these bynames reflects not only typical Icelandic
humor, which is very direct and earthy, but also human nature universally.
Accordingly, one must be prepared for the fact that the vast majority of
them are, unfortunately for the person involved, derogatory. (Christopher
Hale. Modern Icelandic Bynames. Scandinavian Studies 53 (1981) p.
398.)
Examples: alicarl (fat karl), beigaldi (weak, sickly), beiskaldi (nag,
bitch), breimagi (broad-gut), dritkinn (shit cheek), eitrkveisa (pus-
sore), inn fflski (foolish, moronic), fretr (fart), gleir (bow-legged),
inn halti (halt, lame), illsklda (bad poet), inn matarrili (food-stingy),
meinfretr (harm-fart, stink-fart), saurr (mud, dirt, excrement), etc.
Bynames not acquired until adulthood
A person almost never uses his own byname
A person almost never uses his own byname nor is it usually ever
expressed to him personally, even though he knows about it in almost all
instances. This probably has come about because, as mentioned before,
and as is now quite obvious, so many of the bynames are of derogatory
nature. Nevertheless, they are used freely in most conversations where the
person concerned is mentioned. (Hale, p. 403.)
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 30
Descriptive Bynames - Concise
Bynames don't encapsulate a person's entire persona story and life
history
A person might be referred to by more than one byname in differing
situations, but never all at the same time. In one context, a person is the
son of his father, in another he is described for his appearance or habits,
when traveling he may be referred to by his nationality or area of origin.
The CoH has ruled that two (not three, or six, etc.) descriptive
bynames in the same name is an acceptable construction under certain
circumstances. Note that this construction was not common and is not
the best historical recreation of an Old Norse name.

The registerability ruling appears in the 05/2002 LoAR under
Acceptances, Outlands, in the discussion for the acceptance of the
name rds gjallandi eyverska.
05/2002 LOAR Ruling - http://www.sca.org/heraldry/loar/2002/05/02-
05lar.html/#216
Ruling: a name using two non-patronymic bynames in Old Norse is
registerable so long as the bynames could reasonably be used to
simultaneously describe the same person.

Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 31
Descriptive Bynames - Lowercase
The lowercase/uppercase descriptive byname discussion was
presented for commentary in the 04/2002 LoAR cover letter
(http://www.sca.org/heraldry/loar/2002/04/02-04cl.html)
and the ruling was in the 10/2002 LoAR cover letter
(http://www.sca.org/heraldry/loar/2002/10/02-10cl.html).
Ruling: When registering transliteration of non-Roman
alphabets (including Norse runes), we register the name using
modern transliterations standards. We will also register period
transliteration standards where such exist. In the case of Old
Norse, there are period manuscripts of sagas and other works
that are rendered using the Roman alphabet. From these, we
can determine that the period standard was to transliterate
descriptive bynames in lowercase. (See the cover letter for the
April 2002 LoAR for more information.) The modern
transliteration standard, both in Europe and the U.S., is to
transliterate descriptive bynames in lowercase.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 32
Descriptive Bynames - Grammar
Generally bynames consist of nouns, prefixes, weak adjectives,
or strong adjectives.
An adjective in a byname must agree in gender with the gender of
the person being named. (Nouns usually agree as to gender, but
not always.)
After the definite article (inn or in) weak adjectives are used,
although they can also appear without the article.
Strong adjectives do not appear with the definite article.
If a noun is used as a prepended byname, it is most frequently in
the genitive plural.
Weak
Masculine
Adjective
Byname
Weak
Feminine
Adjective
Byname
Strong
Masculine
Adjective
Byname
Strong
Feminine
Adjective
Byname
inn hvti in hvta hvtr hvt
inn spaki in spaka spakr spk
inn gamli in gamla gamall gmull
inn vegni In vegna veginn vegin
inn vsi in visa vss vs

Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 33
Categories of Descriptive Bynames
Locative, describing place of origin most common type of
byname after patronymics
Physical characteristics third most common type of
byname
Occupation fourth most common type of byname, includes
titles of rank
Habits
Temperament
Biographical recalls a biographical event in persons life
Commemorative - named after family members, historical
figures. If a child is named after a deceased relative, but the
personal name is quite common, they may also be given the
persons byname.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 34
Descriptive Bynames Locatives
Locatives were the second most common type of
byname, after patronymics. (See http://www.s-
gabriel.org/1919)
Locatives only in use if you live somewhere other
than the place named in the locative
Examples: in bareyeska (woman from the
Hebrides), breidlski (man from Broad-Dale),
inn enski (Englishman), in flamska (woman from
Flanders), inn gauzki (man from Gautland), inn
grenzki (man from Greenland), inn norrni
(Norwegian), Englandi (from England),
rlandi (from Ireland), Skotlandi (from
Scotland), Danmrk (from Denmark), Svipj
(from Sweden), Jrvk (of York)
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 35
Construction of Locatives with
Requires a dative object.
Used in locatives in connection with proper names of
countries, especially those ending in -land, for instance;
Englandi, rlandi, Skotlandi, Bretlandi, Groenlandi,
slandi, Saxlandi, Vindlandi, Viulandi, Hlogalandi,
Rogalandi, Jtlandi, Frakklandi, Hjaltlandi,
Jamtalandi, Hvtramannalandi, Norrliindum, etc.
Used in connection with other names of districts or
counties: Mri, Vrs, gum, Fjlum (all districts
of Norway). From Landnmabk Myrum (in Iceland),
Finnmrk, Fjoni (a Danish island); but Danmrk,
Svipj.
Used also before names of Icelandic farms denoting open
and elevated slopes and spaces (not too high, because then
'at' must be used), such as -star, -vllr, -bl, -hjalli,
-bakki, -heimr, -cyri, etc.: i.e. risstum,
Mruvllum, Fitjum.
Place-names in -nes or -fjrr sometimes take , sometimes
(in modern usage always ).
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 36
Construction of Locatives with
Requires a dative object.
Used in connection with local names, denoting low land:
-fjrr (firth or inlet); -dal (dale); -ey (island);
-holt, -skgr, Lundi (forested areas); -hfn (haven).
i.e., Borgarfiri, Vestfjrum, Laxrdal, Hrappsey,
Viey, Orkneyjum, Sureyjum, Saueyjum,
Trollaskgi, Mrk, Sklaholti, Lundi, Hfn,
Kaupmannahfn, Hvammi, Vestr-hpi, Eyrarsundi,
Fljtshl, Vgi, Vk, si, Elliar-vik,
Rgnvalds-vgi, Salteyrar-si, Laxr-si, Elfinni,
Lni, Krmt, Myl, Stor (islands), Vkinni, Hlmi.
Of towns, Lundunum (in London); Jrvk (in York),
Tnsbergi, Bjrgyn.
Of countries, Noregi (in Norway),
Svj (in Sweden), Danmrku (in Denmark),
Austrriki (in the East)
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 37
Construction of Locatives with af
Requires a dative object.
Used in connection with a person's domicile,
especially denoting a man's abode, and answering
to and , the name of the farm (or country) being
added to proper names (as in Scotland) to
distinguish persons of the same name.
Examples: Hallr af Su, Erlngr af Straumey,
strr af Djprbakka, Gunnarr af Hlarenda
(more usual fr), rir haklangr konungr af gum
(king of Agdir)
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 38
Construction of Locatives with at
Requires a dative object. Modern spelling is a, but Viking Age
pronunciation was at and usually the spelling also.
Denoting the kingdom or residence of a king or princely
person; konungr at Danmrk ok Noregi (king of Denmark and
Norway), konungr at Dyflinni (king of Dublin), but i Englandi
or yfir Englandi. Also used of a bishop; biskup at Holum
(bishop of Hlar).
In denoting a man's abode, at is used where the local name
implies the notion of by the side of, and is therefore
especially applied to words denoting a river, brook, rock,
mountain, grove, or the like, and in some other instances,
by, at, e.g. at Hofi (a temple), at Borg (a castle), at
Helgafelli (a mountain), at Mosfelli, at Hlsi (a hill), at
(river), at Bgis (river), at Fossi (a waterfall), at Lkjamoti
(waters-meeting), at Bergrshvli, at Lundi (a grove), at
Melum (sandhill). The preposition is now used in modern
Icelandic in most of these cases.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 39
Construction of Locatives with fr
Requires a dative object.
When this preposition is used with the
names of hills, rivers, or the like, meaning
"from", at is more commonly used.
Found occasionally in names; Eirekr fr si,
rr fr Hfa, fr Mosfelli, fr Hlarenda.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 40
Descriptive Bynames
Physical Characteristics
The most common type of descriptive byname is
the comparison byname, where the person is felt to
resemble something in either appearance or
movement
Comparison to animals is the most common type of
byname in this category, i.e., brimill (large seal), brsi
(he-goat), galti (boar), hani (rooster), hjrtr (hart,
stag), kettlingr (kitten), krka (crow), merr (mare),
rostungr (walrus), etc., but also dfunef (dove nose),
geitleggr (goat-leg), kamphundr (whiskered dog),
ormstunga (worm-tongue, serpent tongue), selnasi
(seal-nose), etc.
Comparison to inanimate objects also common, i.e., bldr
(axe), drafli (cooked curds), drmundr (a type of
ship), hatti (hood, cowl), karkr (stunted tree), kvran
(shoe), naddr (nail, spike), skkull (cart pole), etc.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 41
Descriptive Bynames
Occupation and Rank
Probably the next most common type of
descriptive byname after physical characteristics
are those naming a persons occupation, rank, or
activities.
Titles and occupational terms are treated as bynames.
They follow the personal name, but precede any other
bynames, i.e. Haraldr konungr inn hrfagri (King Haraldr
Fairhair)
Examples: konungr (king), drttning (queen), hertogi
(duke), jarl (earl, count), berserkr (berserker), skld
(poet, skald), bti (abbot), bogsveigr (bow-swayer,
archer), bandi (farmer), drttseti (kings steward),
gjaldkeri (kings treasurer), gi (chieftain), hersir
(chieftain), kaupmar (merchant), knarrarsmir
(shipwright), meistari (master, magister), prestr
(Christian priest), sjna (seeress), smir (smith),
spkona (prophetess), stallari (kings marshall), etc.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 42
Descriptive Bynames Habits
After comparison bynames, bynames poking fun
at a persons habits are most common.
Examples: andvaka (awake), barnakarl (childs man,
no killer of children), blgr (staring, gazing), dengir
(scythe-sharpener), eldboungr (fire-bidder), inn
fiskni (good at fishing), gapi (yawner), gjallandi
(shrieking), gnpa (crouch, stoop), hfleysa
(excess, intemperance), karpi (braggart), ofsi
(arrogant, tyrannical), inn skjlgi (squinting),
stgandi (stepper, strider), ausnir (romper, rager),
etc.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 43
Descriptive Bynames
Temperament
Some bynames describe the persons
temperament and character.
Examples: balli (brave), fasthaldi (hold-fast,
tenancious), inn frisami (peaceful), inn
glai (glad, happy), inn hari (hard, stern,
severe), hryggr (afflicted, sad, grieved), inn
illi (evil, bad), jafnkollr (even-mind, level-
headed), kali (cold, unkind), lknarlauss
(merciless), inn i (mad, frantic, raging),
etc.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 44
Descriptive Bynames
Biographical
A biographical descriptive byname is
based upon events in the life of the person
being named.
Examples: Brennu- (burnt, arson victim),
englandsfari (traveler to England), Flugu-
(murderer), hlymreksfari (traveler to
Limerick, Ireland), jrsalafari (pilgrim to
Jerusalem), sundafyllir (sound-filler, of a
woman who used magic to fill a bay with fish)
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 45
Constructing an O.N. Name for
Registration with the SCA CoH:
RFS I-VI & common problems
RFS III - COMPATIBLE NAMING STYLE AND GRAMMAR
Compatible with the culture of a single time and place.

Mixing languages. Registerable in certain cases, but not
authentic. The handful of examples we have of Norsemen being
referenced in both Norse and Gaelic documents is a good
example. The name may have mixed elements from different
cultures, but it was written all in one language.

It is a common misconception that people whose parents came
from different countries would have names partly in one language
and partly in another. Unfortunately, that's not how medieval
naming worked. In the rare cases when two people from different
countries married, their children were named according to the
naming practices of the country where they lived. If they moved
from one country to another, they would either retain their
original names or use local equivalents. (See http://www.s-
gabriel.org/2150)
Need at least two name components for registration
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 46
RFS IV - OFFENSIVE NAMES
Why some bynames may bounce
Collected Precedents on "Offensive"
http://www.sca.org/heraldry/laurel/precedents/CompiledName
Precedents/Offensive.html
If "Trixie la Tush" or "John Witchburner" were ruled
unregisterable due to offensiveness, will documentable Viking
Age bynames such as bllr (ball, glans penis), hnappraz
(knob-ass), hokinrazi (crooked-ass), meinfretr (stink-fart,
harm-fart), viligsl (lust-hostage) or vlubrjtr (witch-breaker)
be likely to pass?
Occasionally, because the name appears in a language other
than English, some otherwise offensive terms are registered
-- but dont count on it. Its much better to avoid possible
slow-downs in the registration process and returns by picking
non-offensive bynames from the start.
Constructing an O.N. Name for
Registration with the SCA CoH:
RFS I-VI & common problems
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 47
Constructing an O.N. Name for
Registration with the SCA CoH:
RFS I-VI & common problems
RFS V - NAME CONFLICT
Some suggestions for clearing a conflict.
Conflicts can be cleared by adding a name component. A name with
three name components is clear of one with only two components, so
adding an additional identifier solves the conflict.
Name + Patronymic - try adding a byname
Name + Byname - try adding a patronymic
Add a grandfather's name or a locative byname
If a personal name has to be changed,
Consider changing only one element in a two-element name
(i.e., instead of Steingrmr, try Steinrr, etc.)
Consider registering a documented diminutive form for the desired name
(i.e., try Grimsi instead of Grmr, etc.).
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 48
Constructing an O.N. Name for
Registration with the SCA CoH:
RFS I-VI & common problems
RFS VI - PRESUMPTUOUS NAMES - Avoiding
mythological elements
While a number of O.N. names specifically use elements
identical to god-names, avoid name constructions that
could be construed as claiming the gods identity,
powers, or lineage from the god. Avoid names such as
rir lopteldsvaldandi (Thorir Lightning-Wielder) or Bjrn
Heimdalarson.
The Eddas are not good sources for documenting names
for SCA registration. Any name with Loki or Fenris is
just not going to be registerable.
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 49
Constructing an O.N. Name for
Registration with the SCA CoH
Order of name elements (arranged in order of frequency)
personal name only
(i.e., Eirkr)
While this is the most common Old Norse name usage, the CoH requires two
or more name components for registration.
personal name + patronymic
(i.e., Leifr Eirksson, "Leif, son of Eric").
personal name + byname + patronymic
(i.e., Eirkr inn raui rvaldsson, "Eric the Red, son of Thorvald or
Leifr inn heppni Eirksson, Leif the Lucky, son of Eric)
Note that a "byname" is like a nickname, it's not a middle name. The Vikings
did not use middle names or double given names
(See http://www.s-gabriel.org/1990)
personal name + byname
(i.e., Eirkr inn raui, "Eric the Red or Leifr inn heppni, Leif the
Lucky)
Kings College 2004 Mistress Gunnvr slfrahrr 50
Documenting an O.N. Name for
Registration with the SCA CoH
A review of the materials provided on the CD-ROM
WWW Articles
Access original article, print, and add to submission
My articles cite original source of information, where to go to find the original data
Dictionaries and Bynames
The intricate art of nuance
Making sure invented bynames fit patterns of documented bynames
To use dictionary as documentation, print scanned title page and page(s) with entry(ies)
Bibliographic Materials
Using online college library catalogs to find sources
Using Interlibrary Loan to find sources
A Brief Note on the Few Mistakes in Geirr Bassi Haraldssons The
Old Norse Name