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Runic Dictionary

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(subheadings only)

1. Old Norse-Icelandic Technical Terms

aðalhending, ‘noble rhyme, chief rhyme’, a combination of two syllables participating in full internal rhyme (identical vowels and postvocalic environment) within a skaldic line. Normally aðalhending occurs in even lines (so ll. 2, 4, 6 and 8) of a dróttkvætt or hrynhent stanza.

áttmælt, ‘eight-times spoken’, a dróttkvætt stanza in which each of the eight lines contains a separate clause

bragarmál, poetic diction characterised by cliticisation, i.e. the suffixation of unstressed particles and pronouns, usually with loss of vowel

drápa, long encomiastic skaldic poem with stef

dróttkvætt, ‘court poetry’, the most common metre used in skaldic poetry, comprising stanzas of eight hexasyllabic lines, regular alliteration and hendingar (skothending in odd lines and aðalhending in even ones)

erfidrápa, ‘memorial poem’, encomium commemorating a deceased person

flokkr, long skaldic poem without stef

fornaldarsögur, see Other Technical Terms

fornyrðislag, ‘old story metre’, Old Norse development of the common Germanic alliterative long-line

fuþark, runic alphabet

Haðarlag, ‘Hǫðr’s metre’, regularised málaháttr lines with internal rhyme (skothending in odd lines and aðalhending in even ones)

hagmælt, ‘skilfully spoken’, fornyrðislag with internal rhyme (skothending in odd lines and aðalhending in even ones)

hálfhnept, ‘half-curtailed’, a skaldic metre in which the odd and even lines are made up of five to seven syllables (rarely four). Each line ends in a heavy monosyllable preceded by another heavy monosyllable or two resolved short syllables. The odd lines have two alliterative staves and the even lines one stave, which falls on the first lift. The metre is characterised by internal rhymes following the patterns of dróttkvætt (skothending in odd lines and aðalhending in even ones). The second hending always falls on the last syllable of the line.

háttr, metre, verse-form (lit. ‘mode, manner’)

heiti, poetic synonym, an alternative and often descriptive term or name for a frequently-occurring object or person mentioned in skaldic poetry, e.g. brim ‘surf’ or salt ‘salt’ for ‘sea’, or Yggr, an alternative name for the god Óðinn

helmingr (pl. helmingar), a half-stanza of normally four lines

hending (pl. hendingar), lit. ‘catching’, a syllable participating, with one other, in full internal rhyme (aðalhending) or partial rhyme (skothending) within a skaldic line

hrynhent, ‘flowing rhymed’, a skaldic metre, an expanded version of dróttkvætt in which each line contains eight syllables

hǫfuðstafr, ‘head (main) stave’, chief alliterating stave fixed in initial position of even lines of regular dróttkvætt and hrynhent stanzas

Íslendingasögur, ‘sagas of Icelanders’, also known as Icelandic Family Sagas
kenning, nominal periphrasis, consisting of a base-word and one or more determinants

klofastef, ‘split refrain’, a refrain (stef) in a skaldic encomium that has been split into individual lines that appear separately in different stanzas, usually as the first or the last line of a stanza

konungasögur, ‘kings’ sagas’

kviðuháttr, a skaldic metre (a variant of fornyrðislag) in which the odd lines consist of three syllables and the even lines of four syllables

lausavísa (pl. lausavísur), ‘freestanding stanza, loose stanza’, a separate stanza or part-stanza which does not belong to a long poem, and which is normally preserved as an integral part of a prose narrative

ljóðaháttr, ‘song metre’, a six-line metre in which ll. 1-2 and 4-5 alliterate, while ll. 3 and 6 alliterate internally

málaháttr, ‘speech metre’, an extended form of fornyrðislag with five metrical positions rather than four

mansǫngr, ‘love-song’, a genre of poetry

níð, shaming slander or abuse, typically containing implications of cowardice and/or passive homosexuality

nýgerving, nýgjǫrving, ‘new creation, new construction’, a term applied to the device of extending a metaphor from one kenning into another or into the verb of the clause

ofljóst, ‘too transparent, excessively clear’, play on words, punning, using homonyms

ókent heiti, ókent nafn, a heiti or noun without periphrasis

rekit, ‘driven’, a kenning of the same type as tvíkent, but extended more than once by the use of kennings as determinants

runhent, skaldic metres employing end rhyme

skothending, ‘inserted rhyme’, a combination of two syllables participating in partial internal rhyme (different vowels and similar postvocalic environments) within a skaldic line. Normally skothending occurs in odd lines (so ll. 1, 3, 5, and 7) of a dróttkvætt or hrynhent stanza.

slœmr, the concluding section of a poem

stef, the refrain of a skaldic drápa

stefjabálkr, the middle section of a drápa containing one or more refrains (stef)

stefjamél, each of the sets of stanzas ending with a refrain (stef), within a stefjabálkr

tvíkent, ‘doubly modified, doubly paraphrased’, an extended kenning in which the determinant is itself a kenning

tøglag, ‘journey metre’, a variant of fornyrðislag in which the even lines have aðalhending and the odd may have skothending

upphaf, ‘beginning’, the opening section of a skaldic poem, the section before the beginning of the stefjabálkr

vísa (pl. vísur), a skaldic stanza, in plural often a term used of a long poem lacking refrain (e.g. Sigvatr’s Víkingavísur)

þáttr, ‘strand’, a smaller, independent narrative usually embedded in or added to a saga

þula (pl. þulur), a list of poetic synonyms (heiti) in metrical form

2. Other Technical Terms

adynaton or impossibilia, a form of hyperbole involving reference to an impossible or catastrophic event, e.g. ‘the sky will shatter before such a hero is seen again’

apo koinou, construction in which the same element has a role in more than one clause

appellative, a common noun as opposed to a proper name

base-word, member of a kenning (see below) that is modified by a qualifier, called the determinant

cliticise, to add an enclitic syllable to a word (see enclitic below)

complex kenning, an extended kenning (see below)

desyllabification, syllabic liquids and nasals developing an excrescent vowel, in Icelandic usually involving the addition of [u] before [r]

determinant, qualifier of a base-word in a kenning, consisting either of a noun or name in the genitive or of the first element of a compound

dip, a metrically unstressed syllable

elision, omission of a sound or sounds within a word or phrase, e.g. where two vowels would stand in hiatus

enclitic, monosyllabic word, usually a particle, verb or pronoun, added as a suffix to another word (see also cliticise and bragarmál above)

enclitic position, post-position (as opposed to proclitic position)

epenthesis (epenthetic, adjective), a sound, usually a particle, verb or pronoun, added as a suffix to another word (see also cliticise and bragarmál above)

excrescent, a sound, usually a vowel, inserted between two others (see epenthesis)

extended kenning, a kenning in which one or more determinant (or occasionally the base-word) is itself a kenning (see rekit and tvíkent above); also known as complex kenning

fornaldarsögur, ‘sagas of ancient time’, a modern term for legendary and heroic sagas, usually set in Scandinavia before the settlement of Iceland

hypermetrical, a poetic line containing more syllables (metrical positions) than is normal for the metre in question

hypometrical, a poetic line containing fewer syllables (metrical positions) than is normal for the metre in question

impossibilia, see adynaton

inverted kenning, an extended kenning (see above) containing a compound whose second element is a base-word, but whose two elements do not in themselves form a kenning, e.g. handa logreifir ‘presenter of the flame of hands [(lit. ‘flame-presenter of hands’) gold > generous man]’, where logreifir is not itself a kenning, but handa log- ‘flame of hands’ is a kenning for ‘gold’ which qualifies ‑reifir ‘presenter’ to give ‘presenter of gold’,  hence ‘generous man’

kenning, nominal periphrasis, consisting of a base-word and one or more determinants

lectio difficilior, ‘more difficult reading’, sometimes preferred to a lectio facilior by editors, on the basis that if corruption occurs it is more likely to replace rare usages by common ones than the reverse

lectio facilior, ‘easier reading’, see lectio difficilior

lift, a metrically stressed syllable

litotes, understatement, in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite

metonymy, the substitution of a word referring to an attribute or adjunct for the whole thing that is meant

neutralisation, a metrical situation in which two short syllables occupy one unstressed metrical position in a line

nomen agentis, ‘agent noun’, a noun derived from a verb, denoting a person who is carrying out the action implicit in the verb

pars pro toto, ‘part for whole’, a figure of speech in which part of something is used to refer to the whole thing

pleonastic, syllable, word, or phrase that is superfluous

proclitic position, pre-position (as opposed to enclitic position)

referent, the unmentioned cognitive meaning value of a kenning, e.g. the referent of the kenning logi fjarðar ‘flame of the fjord’ is ‘gold’

resolution, two short syllables occupying one fully stressed metrical position in a line

siglum (pl. sigla), abbreviation, usually a combination of alphanumerical symbols, used to designate a specific manuscript and/or the collection in which it is found

solecism, solecismus, grammatical irregularity, e.g. change of tense, plural used in place of singular

stanza, a group of poetic lines, arranged according to a regular scheme; one of a series of such groups, which together make up a poem

stemma (pl. stemmata), a diagram representing a reconstruction of the relationships between the surviving and postulated witnesses to a text

synecdoche, a figure of speech in which a semantically narrower term is substituted for a broader one, or vice versa; it commonly consists of pars pro toto (see above)

tmesis, the separation of a word or compound into two parts, with another word or words between them

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