Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. VII. Poetry on Christian Subjects 6. Technical Terms 1. Old Norse-Icelandic technical terms

1. Old Norse-Icelandic technical terms

Margaret Clunies Ross 2007, ‘Old Norse-Icelandic technical terms’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].

See List of Indigenous Terms for instances of the usage in specific poems of some of the OIcel. terms in this list.

aðalhending, combination of two syllables participating in full internal rhyme (identical vowels and postvocalic environment) within a skaldic poetic l. Normally aðalhending occurs in even ll. (so ll. 2, 4, 6 and 8) of a dróttkvætt or hrynhent st.

drápa, long encomiastic skaldic poem with stef

dróttkvætt, ‘court poetry’, the commonest verse-form used in skaldic poetry, comprising sts of eight six-syllable ll., regular alliteration and hendingar (skothending in odd ll. and aðalhending in even ones)

dunhent, ‘echoing rhymed’, in skaldic poetics sts in which there is repetition of the last word of a l. at the beginning of the next

flokkr, long skaldic poem without stef

fornyrðislag, ‘old story metre’, ON development of the common Germanic alliterative long l.

greppaminni, ‘poets’ reminder’, a skaldic verse-form comprising a series of short questions and answers, generally on heroic, mythological or religious lore

hálfhnept, ‘half-curtailed’, a skaldic verse-form in which the odd and even ll. are made up of five to seven syllables (rarely of four). Each l. ends in a heavy monosyllable preceded by another heavy monosyllable or two resolved short syllables. The odd ll. have two alliterative staves and the even ll. one stave, which falls on the first lift. The metre is characterised by internal rhymes following the patterns of dróttkvætt, with skothending in the odd and aðalhending in the even ll. The second hendingr always falls on the last syllable of the l. No traditional metrical patterns can account adequately for the rhythm of hálfhnept.

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

heiti, an alternative and often descriptive name for a frequently-occurring object or person mentioned in skaldic poetry, e.g. skævaðr ‘high-strider’ for ‘horse’, Þundr, an alternative name for the god Óðinn.

helmingr (pl. helmingar), a half-st. of four ll.

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

hrynhent, a skaldic verse-form, an expanded version of dróttkvætt, comprising eight syllables per l. and an eight-l. st.

hǫfuðstafr, ‘head (main) stave’, chief alliterating stave fixed in initial positions of even ll. of regular dróttkvætt or hrynhent sts.

iðurmælt, ‘repeatedly said’, name of a skaldic verse-form employing syllabic repetition

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

kviðuháttr, skaldic verse-form in which the odd ll. consist of three syllables and the even ll. of four syllables

lausavísa (pl. lausavísur), ‘loose verse’, a separate st. or part thereof which does not belong to a long poem

liljulag, that form of hrynhent perfected by the poet of Lilja (a post-medieval term)

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

nýgjǫrving, ‘new creation’, term applied to extending the meanings of words, usually through the use of metaphor in extended kennings

rekit, term used to refer to an extended kenning with more than two determinants

runhenda, runhent, skaldic metre employing end rhyme

sextánmælt, ‘sixteen times spoken’, a skaldic figure in which a st. consists of sixteen separate independent clauses.

skothending, combination of two syllables with different vowels and similar postvocalic environments participating in a form of internal rhyme within a skaldic poetic l. Normally skothending occurs in odd ll. (so ll. 1, 3, 5 and 7) of a dróttkvætt or hrynhent st.

slæmr (or slœmr), the concluding section of a drápa

stef, refrain of a skaldic drápa, normally occuring in the b helmingr of a st.

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

stefjamél, each of the sets of verses, ending with a refrain, within a stefjabálkr

stuðill, prop, support, in poetry the alliterating staves in odd ll. of sts

tvíkent, ‘doubly modified’, a kenning with two determinants

upphaf, beginning section of a skaldic poem, the section before the beginning of the stefjabálkr

vísa (pl. vísur), a skaldic st., in pl. often a term used of a long poem lacking a refrain (e.g. Kolbeinn Tumason, Jónsvísur)


  1. Internal references
  2. Guðrún Nordal 2017, ‘(Biography of) Kolbeinn Tumason’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 270.

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