Old Norse Dictionary

This page is the gathering place for my personal collection of interesting and useful Old Norse words. Take a look if you’d like — you may find something interesting, or even find this list helpful for a project of your own! I would like to make Old Norse a more easily accessible language, so I gather words on this page weekly, forming a simple yet useful ‘dictionary’. It is meant primary for confident, online searching, but also for those who are unable to access or obtain more professional resources.

All definitions come from reliable sources, but are subject to the misleading nature of both semantics and simplification.1 Each word is included in an alphabetically ordered list, including basic grammatical information and English definitions.2 New words are added weekly (running from Wednesday to Wednesday), and will be featured as such before being added into the ‘dictionary’. See the bottom of this page for pronunciation guides and tips.

SPECIAL NOTES
  • Words frequently used in the sagas (according to Byock) are emerald green!

FJORN’S OLD NORSE WORDS

A/Á

  • álfr (noun, m.) elf
  • ár (noun, n.) year; plenty, abundance, fruitfulness; the name of the rune ᛅ
  • ár (adv.) anciently, of yore; early
  • ársæll (adj.) fortunate (in terms of harvest)

B

  • bjó (verb, 1/3sg., past of búa) lived
  • bjǫrn (noun, m.) bear
  • blað (noun, n.) leaf of a plant,: leaf in a book; blade of a knife; skirt
  • blót (noun, n.) sacrifice, sacrificial feast
  • bók (noun, f.) book
  • bóndi (noun, m.) husband, farmer, landowner
  • (noun, n.) household, farm
  • búa (verb) to live; prepare
  • bœr (noun, m.) farmstead; town

D

E

F

  • fagr (adj.) beautiful
  • fara (verb) to go, travel
  • ferð (noun, f.) journey
  •  (noun, n.) cattle, sheep; wealth
  • fjall (noun, n.) mountain, fell
  • forn (adj.) old; ancient
  • freyja (noun, f.) lady; the goddess Freyja
  • friðr (noun, m.) peace, personal security; love, friendship
  • frændi (noun, m.) kinsmen

G

  • gaf (verb, 1/3sg., past of gefa) gave
  • galdr (noun, m.) magic song, charm; (pl) magic, sorcery
  • gandr (noun, m.) magic staff
  • gangandi (noun, m.) wayfarer
  • gamall (adj.) old
  • goði (noun, m.) chieftain, heathen priest
  • góðr (adj.) good
  • gjǫf (noun, f.) gift

H

  • hamingja (noun, f.) guardian sprint; luck, good fortune
  • hann (pro., m., nom./acc., sg.) he
  • hauss (noun, m.) skull
  • haust (noun, n.) harvest season, autumn
  • hár (adj.) high; tall; glorious
  • háttr (noun, m.) mode of life, habit; custom
  • heiðingi (noun, m.) heathen, gentile; wolf (poetic)
  • heim (adv.) (to) home, homeward
  • heita (verb) to be named
  • hestr (noun, m.) horse
  • hjálp (noun, f.) help
  • hjálpa (verb) to help
  • hófsmaðr (noun, m.) a man of moderation
  • hrafn (noun, m.) raven
  • hús (noun, n.) house
  • hǫll (noun, f.) large house, hall

I/Í

J

  • jól (noun, n., pl.) Yule; Christmas
  • jǫrð (noun, f.) earth; ground

K

L

  • landnámsmaðr (noun, m.) settler
  • lið (noun, n.) host, folk; family, household; troops; aid
  • ljós (noun, n.) a burning light; light from the sun; world

M

N

  • nes (noun, f.) headland
  • norðr (noun, n.) the north; (í, á, til) northwards; (ór) from the north
  • Norðrlǫnd (noun, n., pl.) Northern lands; Scandinavia

P

  • papi (noun, m.) priest

R

  • rauðr (noun, m.) red
  • ráð (noun, n.) advice, counsel; plan
  • ríkr (adj.) powerful, mighty
  • rúnar (noun, f. pl.) secret, hidden lore, wisdom; written characters, runes; magical characters or signs

S

  • saga (noun, f.) history, story
  • sagnaskemtan (noun, f.) story-telling (at public meetings, feasts, etc.)
  • saman (adv.) together
  • sjá (verb) to see
  • segja (verb) to say, tell; declare
  • skál (noun, f.) bowl
  • skáld (noun, n.) poet
  • skegg (noun, n.) beard
  • skip (noun, n.) ship
  • skógr (noun, m.) forest
  • skjǫldr (noun, m.) shield
  • skifa (verb) to draw, paint; to write
  • sonr (noun, m.) son
  • sólhvarf (noun, n.) solstice
  • spá (noun, f.) prophecy
  • spá (verb) to prophesy, foretell
  • spjót (noun, n.) spear, lance
  • staðr (noun, m.) ‘stead’, place, spot
  • sterkr (adj.) strong
  • sverð (noun, n.) sword

T

  • tíðindi (noun, n. pl.) tidings, news
  • tré (noun, n.) tree; mast of a ship; rafter, beam

U

  • unna (verb) to grant, allow, bestow; (w/ dat.) to love

V

  • vargr (noun, m.) wolf; thief, robber; outlaw
  • vápn (noun, n.) weapon
  • vár (noun, n.) spring
  • vera (verb) to be
  • vetr (noun, m.) winter
  • vinr (noun, m.) friend
  • vitr (adj.) wise
  • víking (noun, f.) raid
  • Víkingr (noun, m.) Viking
  • vísa (noun, f.) verse
  • vænn (adj.) beautiful, fine; hopeful, promising

Þ

  • þing (noun, n.) assembly

Ǫ

  • ǫr (noun, f.) arrow

 


ENDNOTES

  1. Dictionary entires are often very limited windows into a word’s true meaning, which often changes depending on the context in which it appears. Furthermore, the definitions provided above are devoid from grammatical and contextual ‘hints’ that are offered from professionally published dictionaries. As noted, this resource is meant for those who do not have access to such resources, but also to provide a searchable platform on which to begin further work involving Old Norse. Regarding the sources for Old Norse that are used by this website, see Old Norse ‘Course’.
  2. Words have been listed in accordance to the Icelandic alphabet. For more detailed definitions (which include a bit more grammatical information), see Geir T. Zoëga, A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004).
  3. There are two methods for pronouncing Old Norse, one that uses a reconstructed pronunciation and another that uses modern Icelandic pronunciation instead. The choice is yours:
    1. Old Icelandic Method
    2. Modern Icelandic Method
    3. Special Characters