The Bynames of the Viking Age Runic Inscriptions

by Lindorm Eriksson
(Christer Romson,

© 1999, 2000 by Christer Romson; all rights reserved.
Last updated 1 Feb 2000

Preface to the web edition

This article was originally published in the proceedings of The Known World Heraldic Symposium of The Society for Creative Anachronism, inc., 1999, pp. 50-60 by Lindorm Eriksson (Christer Romson). It gives some information on how to create one element, a byname, of a Viking age name. Lady Aryanhwy merch Catmael gives some more information on how to use it in a complete name in A Simple Guide to Creating Old Norse Names.

Note that the most common form of byname among the Vikings probably was a patronymic byname i.e., a byname such as Sveinsson that identifies a person as the child of his or her father. E.g.,

This article presents lists of other types of byname.

In the tables of bynames presented in this article, the first column gives names from runic inscriptions, as they appear in the original inscriptions. In the Old Norse language words took different endings depending on the grammatical context. The context is indicated by a notation in parenthesis before the name:

The name is in the nominative case, i.e., it is in the form used when adressing someone, for the subject of a sentence, or when answering the question "What's your name?".
(at), (ept) and (eptir)
The name follows the word at, ept, or eptir (the prepositions "at" and "after"). In the inscription it's usually in a phrase saying for, or in memory of whom, the inscription was made. Norse grammar often requires a special ending on the name when it follows one of these words.
The name is in the genitive or possesive case and might have a special ending. This is like the apostrophe and "s" added to the name in English in phrase like "Svein's father".
The name is in the accusative case and might have a special ending.
I couldn't determine the case of the name either because the inscription is to damaged or because I don't know enough old Norse.

The Article

The two major sources for Viking names are the sagas and runic inscriptions. Society heralds have access to the names from the sagas in Geirr-Bassi Haraldsson's The Old Norse Names and other books, but the names in the runic inscriptions are little used mostly because the inscriptions are described in obscure works in the modern Scandinavian languages. Recently, however, The Department of Scandinavian Languages at Uppsala University have compiled a database of the runic inscriptions available on the net at called Rundata. I've extracted all the non-patronymic bynames of inscriptions dated to the Viking Age, their English translations, the dating of the inscription and the inscription's signum in the edition of Rundata from February 24, 1998, in the table in this article.

The first column gives the normalized Old West-Scandinavian transliteration of the name with the grammatical case endings from the inscription. The character "ô" is used for the letter "o" with a hook below it, which isn't commonly available in computer fonts. This is the form of the name that most closely matches the language of the sagas. I've given the grammatical case of the name or the preposition it follows in parenthesis.

The second column is Rundata's English translation. I've given my own attempt at translation of the two untranslated bynames in foot notes.

The dates, in the third column, are often rough approximations. Most of the times only a single "V" indicating the Viking Age, but for some Danish inscriptions from Jacobsen & Moltke a more precise sub-period is given. The periods used are:

The signum in the fourth column can be used when searching for the inscription in Rundata. As far as I know they're also used throughout the runic scholarly community.

Rundata's English translations show the nominative forms of names. In the fifth column I've tried to give the nominative forms with the help of Fritzner and Iversen of the remaining words.

Rundata's notation for damaged or uninterpretable parts of inscriptions carry over to the list. (Parenthesis) in the English translation are explanatory words, not part of the literal translation. Texts within [square brackets] indicate damaged runes that can be guessed from the context. Texts within <broken brackets> indicate a sequence of runes that can be read, but that cannot be satisfactory interpreted. A question mark indicates that the interpretation of a word is uncertain. Alternative interpretations of a byname are given separated by a slash.

The Data

  1. Grand-Parent Names
  2. Matronymical Names
  3. Names of Tribes and Peoples
  4. Names of Wives
  5. Lineage
  6. Names of Places
  7. Mental Characteristics
  8. Physical Characteristics and Body Parts
  9. Age
  10. Travels
  11. Titles
  12. Occupations and Activities
  13. Physical Objects
  14. Animal Names
  15. Other


Editting and publishing by Arval Benicoeur.