Heiti

Heiti

A heiti (Old Norse "heiti" [hɛitɪ] , Modern Icelandic pronunciation [heiːtɪ] , pl. "heiti" "name, appellation, designation, term" [Faulkes (1998, b), p. 306.] ) is a synonym used in Old Norse poetry in place of the normal word for something. For instance, Old Norse poets might use "jór" "steed" instead of the prosaic "hestr" "horse".

Heiti and kennings

In the modern sense, heiti are distinguished from kennings in that a heiti is a simple word, whereas a kenning is a circumlocution in the form of a phrase or compound word; thus "mækir" is a heiti for "sword" (the usual word in prose is "sverð"), whereas "grand hlífar" "bane of shield" and "ben-fúrr" "wound-fire" are kennings for "sword".

However, Snorri Sturluson, writing in the 13th century, understood heiti in a broader sense that could include kennings. Snorri termed simple words, poetic or otherwise, "ókend heiti" "unqualified terms". These he distinguished from circumlocutions, "kend heiti" "qualified terms" (i.e. kennings). [Faulkes (1998 a), p. xxxiv.]

Types of heiti

Some heiti are words not normally found outside of verse, e.g. "firar", one of numerous synonyms for "menn" "men, people". Others are common enough in prose but used by the poets in some specialised sense, such as "salt" "salt" to mean "sjár" "sea".

Heiti had a variety of origins. Some were archaic words: "jór" "steed", some loanwords: "sinjór" "lord" (from Latin "senior", probably via Old French "seignor"). Several kinds of synecdoche and metonymy were employed: "brandar" "parts of the prow of a ship" for "ship" as a whole; "gotnar" "Goths" for "men" or "people" in general; "targa" "targe" (a type of shield) for "shield" in general; "stál" "steel" for "weapons, warfare". A few heiti were metaphorical: "hríð" "storm" for "attack, (onset of) battle". Some were originally proper names: "Hrotti", "Laufi", "Mistilteinn" and "Tyrfingr" were all swords owned by legendary heroes. There were also heiti for specific individuals, especially gods (e.g. "Grímnir", "Fjölnir", "Viðrir" and many more for Odin).

There were a great many heiti for certain concepts which the poets often dealt with, such as "man", "woman", "leader", and terms for weapons. Names of "sækonungar" "sea-kings" (legendary pirate leaders) constitute another large category. From these were formed kennings for "sea" and "ship", e.g. "Rakna bifgrund" "Rakni's shaking ground" = "the sea"; "Þvinnils dýr" "Thvinnil's beast" = "ship".

Parallels

Analogous, and in some cases cognate terms, are found in the poetic traditions of other early Germanic languages, e.g. Old English "guma", "secg" : Old Norse "gumi", "seggr" "man"; Old English "heoru", "mēce" : Old Norse "hjörr", "mækir" "sword". Many other languages, ancient and modern, have possessed a specialised poetic vocabulary more or less removed from everyday speech, often derived in similar ways to Old Norse heiti. Thus writers of Modern English classical poetry have sometimes used the archaic "welkin" for "sky", or rappers "gat" for "gun" (synecdoche), "ice" for "jewelry" (metaphor).

Notes

References

* Faulkes, Anthony (1998 a). "Edda: Skáldskaparmál: 1. Introduction, Text and Notes". Viking Society for Northern Research.
* Faulkes, Anthony (1998 b). "Edda: Skáldskaparmál: 2. Glossary and Index of Names". Viking Society for Northern Research.

External links

* [http://www.heimskringla.no/original/snorre/nafnathulur.php Nafnaþulur] Lists of heiti appended to Snorri's Edda.


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