Placenames

The Viking Age was a time of expansion when the population in Scandinavia increased rapidly. People had to find new land to feed their families. Thousands and thousands of Scandinavians left their homes to find new land and they brought their language and traditions along. Viking placenames can still be found in many countries in Europe outside Scandinavia: In France (Normandy), Russia, Ireland and especially in England and Scotland. Why not look for Viking placenames in your country or region.

Let’s see what happened at the Helgi’s farm situated somewhere in Norway:

Berg farm

Helgi’s family had lived at the farm called Berg (rock, small mountain) for more than 200 years. Helgi now lived there with his wife and family. His sons were married and had children. They also lived there. The Longhouse was full of people and food was scarce. The eldest son would take over as head of the family and also the farm when Helgi died.

Torstvedt

Helgi gave his second eldest son Tor, the northern part of the farm and told him to build his own farm at a large clearing in the forest there. Helgi in fact ‘cut off’ a part of his farm and gave it to his son. The Viking word for a part ‘cut off’ from a farm like this was tvedt or tveit and the local people named this new farm ‘Tor’s -tvedt’.

Erik’s Place

One day in the Hunger month (February) Helgi said to his third son: “Erik, the family farm can no longer feed you and your family. You will have to find a place of your own”. In spring Erik left the farm with his wife and children to settle in a new place. He found a good place for a farm and local people might have called it Erik’s-by, or Erik’s-stad, both suffixes meaning ‘homestead’. The suffix –heim might also have been used for his new place. It is hard to say because fashions changed then just as they do now.

Here are some more words the Vikings often used:

Torp (thorpe), a secondary settlement – outlying farm.
Seter (-set), mountain pasture, shielding. (Summerset).
Fjell (-fell), mountain
Dal (-dale), valley
Øy (ey), island
Nes (ness), headland, promontory
Vik (wick), bay
Borg (borough), castle, fortified town
Våg (voe), bay
Gård (garth), farm
Sund (sound), strait(s)

Vikings settled in many places outside their own homelands and their language influenced the way in which their settlements in other lands were named.  Have a look, for example, at what happened in The Danelaw of England

This post is also available in: Norwegian Bokmål

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