[ANSTHRLD] Name Documentation - Sean Flame Axe

C. L. Ward gunnora at vikinganswerlady.org
Tue Jan 15 12:29:52 PST 2002

Borek asked about:
>Name Documentation - Sean Flame Axe
>This name is supposed to be Norse in origin I believe.
>The person's mundane first name is 'Sean'. I am in
>hopes something close can be found that is period I can
>convince them of using instead of trying to force
>it with the 'mundane name allowance' clause.
>Let me know what you all can find. This is for a small
>boy whose parents are Soren Thurlin and Averial Thorhalla
>which will give you all a better idea of the supposed
>name origin.

The name as presented isn't a good choice for a Viking Age name.

<Sea/n> was a common name in Ireland from the 14th century on; it was
pronounced as a single syllable \SHAWN\.  <Sea/n> appears to be a
specifically Irish development, and represents a Gaelic borrowing of the
Anglo-Norman <Jehan>, so it could not have been used in Ireland before the
arrival of the Normans in Ireland in the 12th century.

See the Academy of St. Gabriel Reports:
#1490, http://www.panix.com/~gabriel/public-bin/showfinal.cgi?1490+0
#1847, http://www.panix.com/~gabriel/public-bin/showfinal.cgi?1847+0
#2256, http://www.panix.com/~gabriel/public-bin/showfinal.cgi?2256+0
#2438, http://www.panix.com/~gabriel/public-bin/showfinal.cgi?2438+0

Since <Sea/n> is one of the "John" names, the closest Old Norse equivalent
is <Jo/n> or <Io/n>, and represents a name of Christian origin.

Looking at similar-sounding names presents some problems. For an Old Norse
name, you wouldn't find the \SH\ sound.  Norse used \SK\ (consider the
evolution of the parallel words in English from Old English and Old Norse
cognates, such as ship/skiff, shirt/skirt, etc.)

Old Norse names including the \SK\ from Landnamabok include:


Turning to Nordiskt runnamnslexicon (NR), some roughly similar-sounding
names include:

In this name the first element is possibly from OW.Norse sin "sinew";
compare with OW.Norse Sinir as a horse name, interpreted as "the one with
the strong sinews."  The second element is probably -arr, which is of
uncertain origin but probably comes from either <*-harjaR> "army leader,
general, warrior", <*-warjaR> "one who wards, defender", or <*-gaiRaR>
"spear."  This name is found in runic inscriptions in both the nominative
and accusative runic forms as <sinar>.

NR also lists the following \SK\ names:

Skeggi, Sk{ae}ggi

NR also has <Io/n> (which is identical to the <Jo/n> above - \I\ and \J\ are
different modern ways of representing the same sound in Old Norse) This name
is given as a contracted form of the name <Io/han>, a Christian name
representing the Scandinavian form of Greek Johannes.  It is found in the
runic inscriptions in the nominative form <ion> and in the accusative forms
<[iu]n> and <ion>.

I'd tend to suggest that it would be better for the client to go to a good
basic listing of Old Norse names, such as Geirr bassi Haraldsson, or
Aryanhwy merch Catmael's online "Viking Names found in the Landnamabok"
(http://www.sit.wisc.edu/~sfriedemann/names/landnamabok.htm) and select a
name from there if none of the above suit, and the client doesn't want to do
a 14th century-or-later Irish name.

The byname is also going to be problematic.  "Flame-Axe" is a fairly
fantasy-type byname, alas.  The Viking bynames are usually very unpoetic,
and while somewhere in the kennings you might find some description of the
edge of an axe being described as "flame of the axe" or somesuch, it's not
recorded as a byname.

Going back to Landnamabok, some documented bynames with a related meaning

bi/ldr (axe, axe-blade)
hyrna ("horn" or axe-horn, the hooked beak of an axe or halberd)
eldr (fire)

We have a single person recorded to have used <blo/{dh}o:x>, King Eiri/kr
Haraldsson (see Egils saga Skallagrimssonar, for instance).  That's still a
fairly literal byname, being "bloody axe" though it's usually shown in
English translation as "Blood-Axe."  I don't think that one name provides
strong enough support from which to base "flame-axe."

In Ljosvetninga saga, a man named <Þorgeirs o:xarstafar Grenjaðarson> is
mentioned, where <o:xarstafr> is the byname "axe-staff."

Looking at the Cleasby-Vigfusson Old Icelandic Dictionary (CV), compounds
using <o:x> include:

o:xar-egg (axe-edge)
o:xar-skapt (axe-haft)
o:xar-hamarr ("axe-hammer", the back of the axe-head)
o:xar-hyrna ("axe-horn", the hooked beak of an axe or halberd)
o:xar-stafr (axe-staff, see the Ljosvetninga saga byname above)
o:xar-talga (masonry)

also in the specific names of various types of axes:

brei{dh}-o:x (broad-axe)
bol-o:x ("bole-axe" as in "bole of a tree," meaning a pole axe)
hand-o:x (hand-axe)
tapar-o:x (a small English type of axe or halberd, lit. "tapering axe")
skegg-o:x (bearded axe)
ta/lg-o:x (shaping-axe or adze)
skar-o:x (carpenter's adze)
o:x snaghyrnd ("snag-horned axe", a type of halberd or pole axe, sometimes
called a snaga)

There are a couple of words meaning "flame" more or less, also from CV (and
probably others that I don't know as well):

bruni (burning)
eldr (fire)
glo/{dh} (red-hot embers, glowing coals)

I don't see any evidence for combining any of these with a noun to make a
byname, but if you were going to combine with \o:x\ you'd get <bruna-o:x>,
<eld-o:x>, <glo/{dh}ar-o:x>).

Again, if at all possible, I'd have the client look through Geirr Bassi or
Aryanhwy merch Catmael's online "Viking Byames found in the Landnamabok"
(http://www.sit.wisc.edu/~sfriedemann/names/vikbynames.htm) and select a
documented byname that appeals to him.

The client could use a patronymic instead of a byname (or in addition to, if
desired) The patronymic <So|rensson> could work, though it won't be Viking
Age, since the Academy of St. Gabriel says in Report #1952

The modern Danish name <So|ren> and the modern Swedish name <So:ren>
ultimately derived from the name of St. Severinus.  <So|ren> is found in
Denmark from c.1400 on.  We find it spelled as <So|ren> in 1403-1540, though
the spellings <Sewryn> and <Sewren> were more typical for that period. [1]
(The <o|> represents the Danish slashed <o>.)  <Severin> first came to
Norway c.1440; after 1500 it became more common, especially in the form
<So|ren>. [2] We haven't been able to determine when the name spread to
Sweden, we think it is likely that the name was used there by the 16th

If the client would like a nice, documentable, 14th century Scandinavian
name, <Jo/n So|renson> or <Io/n So|renson> would work nicely.


Landna/mabo/k (Sturlubo/k text). Netu/tga/fan Website.
http://www.snerpa.is/net/snorri/landnama.htm  Accessed 15 January 2002.

Lena Peterson.  Nordisk runnamnslexikon. (Dictionary of Names from Old Norse
Runic Inscriptions). Sprak- och folkminnes-institutet  (Institute for
Dialectology, Onomastics and Folklore Research).  http://grimnir.dal.lu.se
runlex index.htm  Accessed 15 August 2001.

Ljo/svetninga saga. Netu/tga/fan Website.
http://www.snerpa.is/net/isl/ljosvetn.htm  Accessed 15 January 2002.

Egils saga Skallagrimssonar. Netu/tga/fan Website.
http://www.snerpa.is/net/isl/egils.htm  Accessed 15 January 2002.


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