Icelandic vocabulary

Icelandic vocabulary

The vocabulary of the Icelandic language is heavily derived from and built upon Old Norse and contains relatively few loanwords; where these do exist their spelling is often heavily adapted to that of other Icelandic words.


Iceland was first settled in the 9th century by Norwegians who took captive Irish slaves. At this time, the same language was spoken in both Iceland and Norway.cite web |title=How did the Icelandic language start? |url= |accessdate=2007-05-06] Vocabulary was largely Norse, and significant changes did not start to occur until the 13th and 14th centuries. Around this time, Norwegian declension and inflection became considerably simplified, whereas Icelandic’s did not. This difference can be seen today by comparing the two modern languages.

The introduction of Christianity to Iceland in the 11th century brought with it a need to describe new religious concepts. The majority of new words were taken from other Scandinavian languages; "kirkja" (‘church’) and "biskup" (‘bishop’), for example. The relationship between the English and Icelandic languages is made evident by such importations. Other Germanic languages, Greek, and Latin also had a lesser influence.

Numerous other languages have had their influence on Icelandic, French for example brought many words related to the court and knightship; words in the semantic field of trade and commerce have been borrowed from Low German because of trade connections. Many words were also brought in from Danish and German during the language reformation as the Bible was translated into Icelandic.

Nowadays, it is common practice to coin new compound words from Icelandic derivatives.cite web |title=Icelandic: At Once Ancient and Modern |url= |accessdate=2007-05-06]

Modern neologisms

It is often the case in Icelandic that words for new concepts or ideas are composites of other words, "veðurfræði" (‘meteorology’), is derived from "veður" (‘weather’) and "fræði" (‘studies’); or simply that old disused words are revived for new concepts. Like other Germanic languages, Icelandic words have a tendency to be compounded. This means that many small component words can be connected together to create a word with a new meaning. Take the example to right, "hlutabréfamarkaður" (‘stock market’), which is made from the words "hluti" (‘share’), "bréf" (‘document’) and "markaður" (‘market’).

However, there are some notable exceptions to this rule. "Kaffi", for example, is an icelandicised version of the French "café" or Italian "caffè", both meaning ‘coffee’; that is to say that it has been adapted to the rules of Icelandic orthography. There are numerous other examples, including "banani" (in that case there was a proposed alternative, "bjúgaldin", literally "curved fruit", but that did not gain popularity). In situations like this, it is awkward or impossible to create words for things that simply do not exist in Iceland; therefore some form of a loanword must be used.


ee also

* High Icelandic
* Icelandic names
* Linguistic purism in Icelandic

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Icelandic language — Icelandic íslenska Pronunciation [is(t)lɛnska] Spoken in Iceland, Denmark,[citation need …   Wikipedia

  • Icelandic language — National language of Iceland, one of the Germanic languages. It developed from the Norse speech brought to Iceland by settlers from western Norway in the 9th–10th centuries. Old Icelandic (see Old Norse) is the language of the sagas and other… …   Universalium

  • Icelandic literature — Introduction       body of writings in Icelandic, including those from Old Icelandic (also called Old Norse) through Modern Icelandic.       Icelandic literature is best known for the richness of its classical period, which is equivalent in time… …   Universalium

  • Icelandic name — A simple family tree showing the Icelandic patronymic naming system. Icelandic names differ from most current Western family name systems by being patronymic (occasionally matronymic) in that they reflect the immediate father (or mother) of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Icelandic Naming Committee — The Icelandic Naming Committee (Icelandic: Mannanafnanefnd)[1] is a body established in 1991[1] that governs the introduction of new given names to the culture of Iceland: it determines whether a name that has not been used in the country before… …   Wikipedia

  • History of Icelandic Nationality — Icelandic Constitution = In 930 A.D, the constitution of Iceland was instituted which made Iceland a self governing country with a people’s assembly called the Althing ( alpingi ). The Althing was representated the people and met once a year to… …   Wikipedia

  • History of Icelandic — A page from the Landnámabók The history of the Icelandic language began in the 9th century with the settlement of Iceland, mostly by Norwegians, brought a dialect of Old Norse to the island. The oldest preserved texts in Icelandic were written… …   Wikipedia

  • Linguistic purism in Icelandic — is the sociolinguistic phenomenon of linguistic purism in the Icelandic language. Its aim is to substitute loanwords with the creation of new words from Old Icelandic and Old Norse roots and prevent new loanwords entering the language. In Iceland …   Wikipedia

  • Changes to Old English vocabulary — This article is part of a series on: Old English Dialects …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Icelandic language — The history of the Icelandic language began in the 9th century with the settlement of Iceland when settlers, who mostly came from Norway, brought a dialect of Old Norse to the island.The oldest preserved texts in Icelandic were written around… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.