Old Norse Forms of Early Irish Names

by Brian M. Scott (Talan Gwynek)

© 2003 Brian M. Scott; all rights reserved

Thanks to the extensive Viking Age contact between speakers of Norse and speakers of Irish, a considerable number of Irish names were recorded in Old Norse forms, either in the early Icelandic sagas or in runic inscriptions. A few of these names were borrowed into the Icelandic or Norwegian name stock; others are attested only in areas of continuous Norse-Irish contact, notably Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Hebrides, and the Northern Isles (Orkney and the Shetlands), or as the names of thralls captured in Ireland or Scotland; and some are simply Old Norse renderings of the names of important foreigners. For this article I have brought together all of the names of all of these types in the sources available to me and added brief notes on their attestations. I have also included a few Old Norse bynames of Irish origin. Finally, I have added an appendix listing Old Norse names and bynames incorrectly identified by Barber as being of Gaelic origin.

The only one of these Irish borrowings that seems to have achieved any significant and lasting popularity in Iceland or Norway is Njáll, though Kjartan is found as late as 1512. Others seem to have enjoyed favor in particular families. There are several instances of a grandfather and grandson or an uncle and nephew sharing a name; see for example Kjallakr and Kormakr. At the other extreme among those found in Iceland at all is Kjaran: it is found only once, borne by a thrall who was probably Irish. The general pattern is for a name to appear a few times quite early, the bearers often being of Irish or Scottish origin, and then to disappear from the record. A curious exception is Brjánn, from Early Irish Brian, whose only certain examples are late, from the 15th and 16th centuries.




I have generally followed Lind in normalizing the ON names, except that I have used j for consonantal i. (Thus, I have used Njáll rather than Lind's Niáll.) For names found only in RN I have used RN's normalized forms. For EIr names I have generally followed O'Brien.



RN's normalized ON form from runic athakans (gen.), Isle of Man; from EIr Áeducán.

Athmiul (f):

RN's normalized ON form from runic athmiu... (acc.), Isle of Man. There are EIr names in both Ath- and Aith-, but I've found nothing to which this might correspond. Quilliam (129, and see Druian) takes it to represent Ir Cathmhaol, i.e., EIr Cathmáel, though OCM and O'Brien both make this a masculine name.


Lind has only one instance, also called Beigan; he was a settler, but nothing is known of his background (Arnórsson 74). From EIr Beccán.


From Fleck; not in Lind or Arnórsson. Lind s.n. Gilli mentions an Irish thrall Gilli þr{ae}ll s. Iathguds Gilla s:ar Biadachs s:ar 'Gilli son of Jaþguðr(?) son of Gilli son of Bjaðachr' from the mid-11th c.; I'm unable to identify his father's name, but it does not appear to be ON. The name may perhaps be from EIr Búadach, though ON is a poor fit for EIr úa.

*** O'Brien has one instance of Be/othecht, and Mari has some evidence for a possible Bethach. ***


Not in Lind. Arnórsson (116) makes him an Irish king, father of Mýrún (q.v.) and notes that other versions give his name as Maddaðr (q.v.). I have not found a plausible EIr source.


Lind s.n. Biólan notes only two; one was a Scottish king (Arnórsson 117, and see Kaðlín). The other, Bjólan Vilbaldsson, had Irish roots: his father was the son of Dofnakr (q.v.) in Ireland, though Vilbaldr and his brothers Áskell and {O,}lver all had ON names (ibid. 292). From EIr Beollán.

Bjollok (f):

Lind s.n. Biollok has only one, sister to Bjólan Vilbaldsson above (Arnórsson 292). If EIr Beollán is in origin a diminutive of some stem Beoll-, this is probably a diminutive in -óc parallel to Crínóc (f).


Not in Arnórsson. Lind's examples s.n. Briánn are from the 15th and 16th c., though there is an early Icelandic place-name that may contain the personal name.


From Fleck; not in Lind or Arnórsson. The name appears to be from Domnach, the name of the father (or possibly mother) of a Pictich king (DIL s.v. Domnach); another possibility is EIr Domnóc (DIL s.v.). Neither is a perfect fit.


RN's normalized ON form from runic tomnal (nom.); not in Lind or Arnórsson. Since this is from an inscription that also has a byname selshofoþ, it must be the one given by Gordon (186) as tomnal selshofoþ a soerþ (þ)eta 'Domnall seal's-head owns this sword', who says that it's from a 12th c. sword-hilt found in a grave-mound at Greenmount, Louth, Ireland. From EIr Domnall.


RN's normalized ON form from runic [t]ruian (nom.); apparently from the Truian Cross at Bride Church, Isle of Man (Quilliam 129). Quilliam has only a translation, 'Truian, son of Tufkal, raised this cross to the memory of [C]athmhaol, his wife'. Unidentified.


Lind has just the one example from (Arnórsson 161), a freedman of Án rauðfeldar, who harried in Ireland and took to wife Grel{o,}ð (q.v.), daughter of Bjartmarr jarl; it seems likely that this freedman was originally Irish. From EIr Dubán.


Lind has several examples from the 12th and 13th c.; all are apparently from the line of Somerled of the Isles (Hebrides) save for the father of Erikr Duggalsson, mentioned in a Norwegian document or 1285. RN has runic tufkals (gen.) from the Isle of Man, apparently from the Kirk Michael Cross ca.1100 (Gordon 185) and the Truian Cross (Quilliam 129); see Druian above. From EIr Dubgall.


Arnórsson (156) has one instance, Dugfúss or Dufgus Þorleifs son, placed by Lind in the first half of the 13th c.; Lind also has Þorkell s. Dufgusar hins auðga 'the wealthy' in the 10th c. From EIr Dubgus; see also Dugfúss.


Lind takes Dufniall as his headword. His three examples are Dufnall Erps son, the son of an early settler, a Dufniall 12th c. in Orkney, and a Dufnalldur 1405 in the Shetlands. Arnórsson (38) adds Dufníall Kjarvals son, the son of an Irish king and grandfather of a settler, who would seem to have been Irish himself. Dufnall Erps son had both Irish and Scottish ancestry. For future reference I summarize from (Arnórsson 128-32):
Óleifr inn hvíti took Dublin and became king there. He married Auðr in djúpúðga; Þorsteinn rauði was their son. Óleifr was killed in battle, and Auðr and Þorsteinn went to the Hebrides, where Þorsteinn married (his son was Óláfr feilan; see Feilan below) and became a king. With Sigurðr jarl inn ríki he won Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, and Moray ('and more than half of Scotland'), becoming king over these lands. But he was betrayed and killed in battle by the Scots, so Auðr, who was at Caithness, took ship to Orkney, where she married off Gróa, one of Þorsteinn's daughters. Gróa was mother of Grel{o,}ð (or Gjafl{o,}ð) (q.v.). Then Auðr went to Iceland with 20 or 30 free men.

Erpr was Auðr's freedman. He was the son of Meldun jarl af Skotlandi, who was killed by Sigurðr inn ríki, and Mýrgj{o,}l, daughter of Gljómall Írakonungs. He and his mother were taken captive and enslaved by Sigurðr; she became bondwoman to Sigurðr's wife, whom she served faithfully. Auðr freed them and took them to Iceland on condition that Mýrgj{o,}l serve Þorsteinn's widow as well as she'd served Sigurðr's wife.

De Vries takes the name to represent an EIr Dubniall but offers no references, and I can find no evidence of such a name. Dufnall and Dufnalldur could easily be from the common EIr Domnall; cf. such 12th and 13th c. Scottish spellings as Dofnaldus, Dufenaldus (Black s.n. Donald). I'm inclined to agree with Black that Dufniall results from confusion with ON Njáll (q.v.).


Not in Lind. The three in Landnámabók are all Irish or of Irish origin: Dufþakr Dufníals son, father of a settler and son of Dufníall Kjarvals son above; Dufþakr í Dufþaksholti, the freedman of a pair of brothers who are said to have come from Ireland; and Dufþakr þr{ae}ll Hjo,rleifs, a thrall taken in Ireland (Arnórsson 38; 21, 29; 8). The name is from EIr Dubthach.


A variant of Dufgus (q.v.) modelled on the native ON names Vígfúss and Sigfúss. From EIr Dubgus.


From Fleck; not in Lind or Arnórsson. From EIr Donnchad.


From Fleck; not in Lind or Arnórsson. From EIr Dúngal.

Eðna (f):

Lind has just the one instance from Arnórsson (72), Eðna d. Ketils Bresa s:ar; she was married in Ireland to a man named Konall (q.v.), and their son was a settler. The name is from EIr E(i)thne.

Feilan (byn.):

LindBN has one instance, Óleifr or Óláfr feilan Þorsteins son rauða, who appears to have been born in the Hebrides and who married a Scandinavian woman from the Hebrides (Arnórsson 48, and see Dufnall above). The byname is from EIr fáelán, a diminutive of fáel 'a wolf'; Fáelán was also used as an EIr masculine name.


RN's normalized ON form of runic fiak (acc.); not in Lind or Arnórsson. Judging from the source cited in RN, this is from the Isle of Man. The name is from EIr Fiacc.


Not in Arnórsson, though Lind says that there's a Gilli enn gerzki of unknown nationality in Landnámabók. He also has a Hebridean Gilli aa Gillastodom from the time of the Settlement, a Faroese Gilli lo,gso,gumaðr and a Hebridean Gilli iarl in the early 11th c., an Irish thrall Gilli þr{ae}ll s. Iathguds Gilla s:ar Biadachs s:ar from the mid-11th c., and a Norwegian Þronder Gill{ae}son 1366; the last suggests that the name was actually borrowed into the Norwegian name pool, though Fellows Jensen thinks that the majority of bearers of the name were descended from Irish speakers. The name is either from EIr gilla 'a servant, a lad' or a shortened form of EIr names of the Gilla X type.


Not in Lind. Arnórsson (129) identifies Gljómall as an Irish king and the father of Myrgj{o,}l (q.v.); see also Dufnall. I can find nothing like this in OCM, O'Brian, or Ó Riain. The DIL has gleo (also gleó) 'a fight, a combat' and mál 'a prince, chief, noble, or eminent person', the latter attested as a masculine name. ON Gljómall is certainly compatible with a hypothetical EIr *Gleomál or the like, and the semantics are consistent with early Irish name construction, but I have no actual evidence for such a name.

Grel{o,}ð (f):

Not in Lind. Arnórsson (161, 129) has two, Grel{o,}ð or Geirl{o,}ð Bjartmars dóttir and Grel{o,}ð or Gjafl{o,}ð dóttir Gró Þorsteins dóttur rauðs. The first seems to have been Hiberno-Norse, and the second is associated with Orkney and was of Hiberno-Norse descent; see Dufan and Dufnall. Unidentified; OCM, O'Brien, and Ó Riain among them have Grellán, Grella (f), and Greillsech, but I can't point to any likely EIr source of ON -{o,}ð. Geirl{o,}ð and Gjafl{o,}ð appear to show substitution of the ON protothemes Geir- and Gjaf-.


Arnórsson (135, 238) has two, neither with evident Irish or Scottish connections; Lind dates them to the 10th c. and has one other Icelandic example from slightly later. The name is from EIr Cathal.

Kaðlín (f):

Kaðlín G{o,}ngu-Hrólfs dóttir (Arnórsson 117, 307) is the only example in Lind. According to Landnámabók her father was the son of R{o,}gnvaldr Mærajarl, whose date of death Lind gives as 890. She had a daughter Níðbj{o,}rg by the Scottish 'king' Bjólan (q.v.); the daughter's name is ON, though very rare. (She's the only example in Lind, but the prototheme Níð- is found in a few other names, and -bj{o,}rg is a fairly common deuterotheme.) Lind and de Vries both derive the name from EIr Catilín, but this is unsatisfactory on several counts. First, Catilín itself is normally explained as a borrowing of Anglo-Norman Cateline, but any such borrowing is clearly too late to explain this instance of Kaðlín. Secondly, ON ð and þ normally reflect EIr lenited d and t, the latter normalized as th; unlenited t as in Catilín is reflected as ON t.

One possibility is that Kaðlín is a derivative of the masculine name Cadlae or an independent derivative of the adjective cadlae 'beautiful, comely' that gave rise to it; the diminutive suffixes -ín and -íne are well-attested. The main objection to this solution is that these suffixes are almost always masculine. None the less, a hypothetical EIr *Cadlín(e) is a perfect fit for the ON name.

Alternatively, Kaðlín might represent some as yet unidentified EIr name in Cath-, a fairly common element in EIr names; unfortunately, no plausible second element suggests itself.


Not in Lind; I've taken the form of the headword from Fellows Jensen. Arnórsson (85) has Kalman or Kalmarr í Kalmanstungu, a Hebridean. In view of the place-name, Kalmarr is presumably an error. The name is probably from EIr Colmán.

Kamban (byn.):

Arnórsson (68, 239, 307) has Grímr kamban í F{ae}reyjum; he was the first settler in the Faroes, and his great-great-grandson was a settler in Iceland. LindBN says that the byname is from EIr cammán, glossed by the DIL as 'crooked fellow'. De Vries s.v. kamban offers this etymology but mentions the objection that this Grímr lived ca.800, rather early for a borrowing from Irish.


All of Lind's examples s.n. Kiallakr are also in Arnórsson, who has seven or eight altogether (depending on whether two are in fact the same person). One is the son of an Irish king Kjarvalr (q.v.). Four of the rest are related as follows (Arnórsson 26, 117, 136):
A man named Kjallakr had a daughter Gjaflaug and a son Bj{o,}rn inn sterki. Gjaflaug married Bj{o,}rn inn austrœni and had a son Kjallakr inn gamli. Bj{o,}rn inn sterki had a son named Kjallakr, one of whose sons was Bj{o,}rn hvalmagi, who had a son named Kjallakr.
I include this as a good example of forename inheritance in alternate generations; the remaining two are another grandfather-grandson pair. In short, the name was in use in Iceland over several generations, but it may not havebbeen widely distributed. It is from EIr Cellach.


Lind's only example s.n. Kiaran is the thrall of one of the settlers, probably of Irish origin. The name is from EIr Ciarán.


Lind s.n. Kiarvall says that no native Icelandic or Norwegian bearers of the name are known. Arnórsson has an Irish king and Kjarvalr faðir Hertila (Arnórsson 2, 310). I don't know what to make of the name Hertili; it has no obvious EIr source, but I know of no similar ON name, either. Lind does have an entry for it, but this Hertili Kjarvals son is his only example, and he suspects the man of having been a foreigner. Kiarvalr is from EIr Cerball.


Lind s.n. Kiartan has examples from the late 10th c. to 1512. The earliest seems to have been Kiartan Óláfs son pá, who died in 1003; he was the grandson of Melkorka (q.v.), daughter of Mýrkjartan (q.v.), an Irish king for whom he was named. The name is from EIr Cerd(d)in.


Lind has a handful of examples; the earliest had a son who lived in the 10th c., and the latest is from the mid-13th c. Arnórsson (72) adds the Irish or Hiberno-Norse husband of Eðna (q.v.), father of one of the settlers. The name is from EIr Conall.


Lind has one example, Kóri þr{ae}ll Ketils gufu. The thrall was Irish. He is also called Kon, but since Koranes was named after him, this is probably an error (Arnórsson 152). Fellows Jensen takes the first vowel to be short, Kori. Possible EIr sources, all from O'Brien, are Cuirre, Curre, and perhaps Corr.


Lind has an example ca.900; a grandson and a nephew of the grandson also bore the name. Lind also has a couple of 13th c. examples and Kormakur Helga son 1386. The name is from EIr Cormacc.

Korml{o,}ð (f):

Not in Lind. Arnórsson (58) makes Korml{o,}ð the daughter of an Irish king Kjarvalr (q.v.); she married a Norwegian. The name is from EIr Gormlaith.


RN's normalized ON form of runic krinais (gen.), from Thorsteinn's Cross, Isle of Man, which Quilliam (129) dates to the period 930-50. The name is from EIr Crínán.

Kváran (byn.):

LindBN has one example of it, Óláfr kváran, king of Dublin in the 10th c. (Arnórsson 79). He and de Vries derive it from EIr cuarán 'a kind of shoe'; the DIL has cúarán 'a shoe, a sock', from cúar 'curved, bent, crooked', but says that the byname in Amhlaibh Cuarán is actually 'the Crooked, the Stooped'. (Presumably Amhlaibh Cuarán = Óláfr kváran.)


Lind has three examples, a settler from the Hebrides, his grandson, and a third who is dated to the 10th c. The name is from EIr Cáelán ~ Cóelán.


From Barber; not in de Vries, Lind, Arnórsson, or Fleck. If it's legitimate, it might be from EIr Lonán, of which O'Brien has several examples.


Not in Lind; Arnórsson (116) has an Irish king Maddaðr, father of Mýrún (q.v.); he is also called Bjaðmakr (q.v.). The name is from EIr Maddad.


RN's normalized ON form of runic mal:lymkun (nom.) from the Kirk Michael cross, Isle of Man, ca.1100 (Gordon 185). The gender is uncertain. The name may be from an EIr *Máel Lomchon, where *Lomchú looks like a compound of lomm 'naked, smooth' and 'a hound'.

Malmury (f.):

RN's normalized ON form of runic mal:mury (acc.) from the Kirk Michael cross, Isle of Man, ca.1100 (Gordon 185). The name is from EIr Máel Muire, in this instance feminine. See also Melmari.


From Fleck; not in Lind or Arnórsson. The name is from EIr Murchad.


Not in Lind. Arnórsson (129) makes Meldun a jarl in Scotland. Magnusson and Pálsson (54 n. 2) say that he has not been identified and was probably some sort of chieftain in the west of Scotland. The name is from EIr Máel Dúin.


Lind has one example, a thrall, doubtless of Irish or Scottish origin. The name is from EIr Máel Coluim; see also Melkólmr. The lenited final -m of Coluim was a nasalized voiced bilabial fricative that might have been perceived as either /m/ or /v/ (spelled f); the f spelling and /v/ pronunciation might have been favored by analogy with native ON names in -ólfr.


From Fleck; not in Lind or Arnórsson. The name is from EIr Máel Coluim; see also Melkólfr.

Melkorka (f):

Not in Lind; Arnórsson (133) makes her the daughter of an Irish king Mýrkjartan (q.v.). The name is from EIr Máel Curcaig.


From de Vries; not in Lind or Arnórsson. From EIr Máel Maire; see also Malmury.


RN's normalized ON form of runic malbriþa (nom.); judging from the source cited by RN, the inscription is probably on the Isle of Man. The name is from EIr Máel Brigte; see also Melbrigði. Although ON -a is a feminine ending, the name here is masculine.


RN's normalized form of runic mail:brikti (nom.), from what Quilliam (130) identifies as Gaut's Cross, Isle of Man, and dates to the period 930-50. The name is from EIr Máel Brigte; see also Melbrigða.


Not in Lind; Arnórsson (55) has a Melpatrikr described as af Írlandi 'of Ireland', but he seems to have been Hiberno-Norse: his father was a freedman named Steinr{o,}ðr, his son was named Þormóðr, and his line continued in Iceland with ON names. The name is from EIr Máel Pátraic.


From Fleck; not in Lind or Arnórsson. The name is perhaps from EIr Máel Snechtai.

Myrgj{o,}l (f):

Not in Lind; Arnórsson (129) has one instance, a daughter of the Irish king Gljómall (q.v.); for more on her see Dufnal. RN has a runic murkialu (acc.); judging by the source cited there, it is from the Isle of Man. The name is from EIr Muirgel.


Not in Lind; Arnórsson (133) has an Irish king Mýrkjartan. The name is from EIr Muirchertach (or perhaps *Muirchertán. According to Magnusson and Pálsson (68 n. 1), there was no High King of Ireland with this name in the right period, but there were several petty kings named Muirchertach.

Mýrún (f):

Lind has a sole example; Arnórsson (116) makes her the daughter of an Irish king Bjaðmakr (q.v.) or Maddaðr (q.v.). She married a Scandinavian who was later one of the settlers. The name is from EIr Muirenn; the last syllable has been replaced with the ON feminine name theme -rún as in the very common Guðrún.


Lind s.n. Niáll has examples ranging from the settlement period into the 15th c. The name is from EIr Niall.


Not in Lind; Arnórsson (63-5) has only Patrekr inn helgi 'the Holy', a Hebridean bishop with whom one of the settlers was fostered; he does not seem to have gone to Iceland himself. The name is from EIr Pátraic, itself a borrowing of Latin Patricius.

Rafarta (f):

Not in Lind; Arnórsson (222f) has one, the daughter of an Irish king Kjarvalr (q.v.). Eyvindr austmðr Bjarnar son went to Ireland, married her, and settled there; their son, Helgi inn magri, was a settler. (The name appears in Arnórsson only in the accusative, as Raf{o,}rtu, which probably accounts for the fact that the ON is sometimes given as Raf{o,}rta.) I have not found an EIr source, but perhaps there was a feminine name related to EIr Robartach ~ Rabartach.


From Fleck; not in Lind or Arnórsson. The name is from EIr Tadc.



Lind has just the one instance from (Arnórsson, 8), a thrall taken in Ireland. This is an ON byname that has evidently replaced the thrall's original name: draf is 'refuse, dregs, lees, husks', and drítr is 'shit, esp. of birds'. The name also appears (erroneously) in the form Drafdittr.


Lind has quite a few examples ranging from the early 11th to the mid-14th c. This is an original ON byname 'yeller'.


This is an ON byname of uncertain meaning, either from ON gufa 'vapor, steam' or related to modern Icelandic gufa 'phlegmatic person' and Nynorsk guve 'heavy man'.


The name is ON; Fellows Jensen thinks that it's probably an original byname from ON kala 'to freeze' (impersonal: 'I freeze, become frostbitten' is mik kell, literally '(It) freezes me').


The byname of Þorleifr kimbi Þorbrands son ca.1000 (Arnórsson 121; LindBN), but Lind also has one example of it as a forename, from 1255 in Iceland. The etymology is uncertain, but the name appears to be ON.


Lind shows this to have been a common name in Iceland, with examples through the 15th c.; it appears to be ON.


This is not a personal name at all, but a term for the Irish monks found by the first Vikings in Iceland; the singular is papi (and also means 'pope').

Into Irish:
Arnaldr> Arnall, Ernall
Auðun > Odonn, Odond, Oduind
Auni> Ona
Baldr> Balldar
Bárðr> Barith, Barid, Baraid
Biólfr> Beoalb
Bróðir> Brodor, Brodur, Brodar
Butraldi> Putrall
Bo,ðvarr> Badbarr, Báthbarr
Eiríkr> Eiric, Eric
Eysteinn> Oistin
Hafliði> Amlaide
Hákon> Acond, Agonn
Hámundr> Amond
Hárekr> Aric
Helgi> Ailche
Heriólfr> Erulb
Hloðvér> Lodiur, Lothur
Hróarr> Rofir
Hrómundr> Ruadhmond, Ruamand
Ivarr> Imar
Iárnkné> Iercne, Iergni
Kári> Car (MIr)
Ketill> Caittil, Caetil
Narfi> Nara
Óláfr> Amlaiph, Amlaib, Alaib
Óttarr> Ottir, Oittir
Ragnhildr> Ragnailt
R{o,}gnvaldr> Raghnall (MIr)
Sigmundr> Simond
Sigrøðr> Sichfrit, Sich(f)raidh
Sigtryggr> Sitriuc
Sigurðr> Siuchraid, Sighrud
Sigvaldr> Sigmall
Smyrill> Smurull [1]
Sveinn> Suainin
Sverkir> Svartgair
Þórarr> Tomrair (847), Torgair (1171)
Þorfinnr> Torfind
Þorgeirr> Torchair
Þorgestr> Turges
Þorgísl> Torgesli
Þormundr> Tormun
Þorsteinn> Torstain, Torstan
Þorvarðr> Toirberd
Ubbi> Hubba
Yngvarr> Hingar

[1] Lind doesn't have Smyrill; it's actually a word meaning 'merlin (hawk)', but de Vries says that it appears as a personal name.

HMTLed by Aryanhwy merch Catmael, last updated 23Sep03.