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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Þul Óðins 2III

[3] Alfǫðr: Lit. ‘All-father’. This name is rare in poetry. Other than in the present stanza, it occurs in the form Alfǫðr in Grí 48/3 (NK 67), but as Alfǫður dat. sg. in HHund I 38/4 (NK 136) and gen. sg. in Arn Þorfdr 1/3II (both oblique forms presuppose the nom. ‑faðir; on the relations between ‑fǫðr and ‑faðir see Note to st. 1/4). In Gylf, however, where this name is normally spelled Allfǫðr, it is used more often than any other name for Óðinn. There Snorri gives an explanation of Alfǫðr evidently influenced by conceptions of the Christian God (SnE 2005, 13): Ok fyrir því má hann heita Alfǫðr at hann er faðir allra goðanna ok manna ok alls þess er af honum ok hans krapti var fullgert ‘And he can be called All-father because he is father of all gods and men and of all that which was completed by him and his power’. The interpretation of Alfǫðr in SnE reflects a late rationalisation of this cpd name, but its original sense is problematic. Falk (1924, 3) suggests that al(l)- in Al(l)fǫðr may have originated from ald- because the name does not occur in other Old Germanic languages (ModGer. Allvater is probably a late formation coined under the influence of Lat. omnipater ‘father of all’). If Falk is right, Alfǫðr is a variant of Aldafǫðr possibly ‘father of men’ (see st. 1/4 above). De Vries (AEW: Alfǫðr), on the other hand, sees a connection between Alfǫðr and OIr. Oll-athair, a name for the god Dagda, which is doubtful since All- in the Old Norse name is a later form first attested in SnE. For further suggested etymologies, see Strandberg (2008, 102-7).


  1. Bibliography
  2. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  3. NK = Neckel, Gustav and Hans Kuhn (1899), eds. 1983. Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. 2 vols. I: Text. 5th edn. Heidelberg: Winter.
  4. SnE 2005 = Snorri Sturluson. 2005. Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2nd edn. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  5. Falk, Hjalmar. 1924. Odensheite. Skrifter utg. av Videnskapsselskapet i Kristiania. II. Hist.-filos. kl. 1924, 10. Kristiania (Oslo): Dybwad.
  6. Strandberg, Mathias. 2008. ‘On the Etymology of Compounded Old Icelandic Óðinn names with the Second Component -fǫðr’. SI 59, 93-120.
  7. Internal references
  8. Edith Marold 2017, ‘Snorra Edda (Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál)’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  9. Not published: do not cite (GylfIII)
  10. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 231-2.
  11. Not published: do not cite ()
  12. Not published: do not cite ()


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