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Name borrowing among the Vikings

Henrik Williams

Viking and Norse in the North Atlantic: Select Papers from the Proceedings of the Fourteenth Viking Congress, Tórshavn, 19-30 July 2001 (Faroe Islands, 2005)

Introduction: There are many source that tell us about the personal names used by Scandinavians in the Viking Age, not least the Old Norse sagas and the runestones of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The names, as such, in these sources are readily available for study, the former most easily by consulting Erik Henrik Lind’s dictionaries of Norwegian-Icelandic first names and bynames and the latter by using Lena Peterson’s Internet dictionary of Runic names.

Also naming customs are mentioned in the Old Norse literature, although it is uncertain how dependable this material is. Thus sources may flow abundantly, yet I would claim that we know comparatively little about many aspects of names and naming among the Viking Age Scandinavians, or the Vikings, as I shall call them henceforth.

One area that requires much more research is name giving: not just why a certain person was given a certain name, but also when in life names were given – was it only in the first year or could a person’s name be changed later in life, perhaps more than once, and who got to decide this?

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