What’s in a Name – Valheim meaning, Old Norse naming conventions, and general fun with words!!!

I answered a question recently about the meaning of the name Valheim, which showed me that a lot of others find this kind of thing fascinating. I am going to talk about it for a minute here, so hopefully everyone who is interested in this information can benefit. The title says it all, we are going to talk about names and language. I figure you're only reading this if you are interested in that kind of thing. 😀

Meaning of Valheim:
When it came to the meaning of the name Valheim, u/Lordfredhamsterdude mentioned 'Val-' in it's Danish context as 'battlefield,' and u/Lardath said in Norwegian it means a kind of water inlet. Both were absolutely correct (and we were originally speaking about a Norwegian sign, to be clear). In both languages '-heim' means 'Home.' When I had first seen Valheim as a word, I was struck more by the Old Norse symbolism in the name, and pointed it out like this:

"…what is equally cool is the deeper meanings of the terminology. 'Val-' means battlefield in Danish, but originally 'Valr' in Old Norse referred to the occupants of the battlefield, literally "The Slain." It directly referred to those who died in combat, versus other forms of death. I.E. to enter Valhalla, you needed to be one of the Valr. Where we get the modern word 'Valor.' The suffix of '-heim' does mean home, but there is an interesting relation to a concept of inner vs outer realms. Take Midgard and Asgard, the suffix '-gard' means a fence or barrier. Hence realms were divided in type, as being inside or outside that fence, ordered or chaotic. The realms of Midgard and Asgard were ordered and lawful (as in the idea of making sense in terms of the laws of physics), whereas Vanaheim and Jotunheim were wild and chaotic (and the appropriate homes for elves and giants respectively). So you can take Valheim to mean the realm where the Valr meet the wild and chaotic, which is the whole setup of the game."

So you can see where a lot of thought went into the name not just in it's use of language, but in corresponding to the original ideas and concepts of the Norse cosmology.

Old Norse Language:
There is a whole school of study on this kind of thing, but I will try and break it down cleanly in a few sentences. There are two surviving branches of Germanic languages, North and West. West covers English, Dutch, and German. North covers Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish. The North Germanic branch is descended from Old Norse, a language spoken by Scandinavians between the 7th and 15th Centuries. This is the language of the Vikings: covering the Viking Age (793-1066), and in the Viking homeland.

Because these languages descended from Old Norse they share much of the same words and sounds. 'Ship' in English (meaning a large boat) is Skib in Danish, Skip in Norwegian, Skepp in Swedish, and Skip in Icelandic. In Old Norse it is Skip. Not to say that they are all the same. 'Kneppe' which means buttoning/unbuttoning in Norwegian and Swedish, and comes from the root 'Kneppa' in Old Norse meaning 'to fasten,' has a far different meaning in Danish… that I will let you find out on your own.

There is an excellent resource I will link from the Vikings of Bjornstad, a historic educational group that has been used by the History channel for various projects. They maintain an Old Norse/English dictionary page which is extremely useful:

Vikings of Bjornstad – English to Old Norse Dictionary

Nordic Naming Conventions:
These are so fun! Mainly because they are deceptively simple, and infinitely usable. In American English place names tend to be about a person, or some esoteric business reference. Take Atlanta, which was originally Marthasville, named after the Governors daughter. If someone told you 'Go to Marthasville' you had better either know Martha personally, or break out a map. Later on it was changed to Atlanta, as it was the end of the Atlantic Railroad, in which case you still need to grab a map. American English naming conventions are not very helpful.

Nordic naming conventions are better in the way of explaining things, because literally they are just descriptions. It's like your friend telling you, 'hey, we're going to the end of the lake with the pine trees.' In which case the name of the place would end up being Vatnpollr, literally 'Lake Pines.' This would probably later be anglicized to Vattenpoler, and put on a map as a proper name, but the original meaning would still be clear.

Take Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. In Old Norse it was 'Kaupmannahofn' and means 'Merchant Harbor.' Literally 'kaupmadur' meaning 'merchant', and 'hofn' meaning 'harbor.' IE, a place by the harbor where merchants gather. This name simply and elegantly conveys both a place, and a description. Later this was anglicized to Copenhagen, 'Kaupmanna' to Copen, 'Hofn' to hagen, and put on a map as a proper name. However you can still tell that originally some Viking was telling another, 'go to the place all the merchants are near that harbor.'

As you begin to break down names you find that they are just descriptions as well. Many things that are just considered simple suffixes turn out to be actual words. Like '-holm' as you would say in Stockholm, or '-gard' as you would say in Midgard, are not merely suffixes. 'Holm' means 'island,' and 'Gard' means 'fence,' and together you can make Holmgard, which is the Old Norse name of a ringed fort (literally enclosed island) which existed where Veliky Novgorod stands now.

Using this style, you can make awesome authentic names for bases. A month ago u/Material_Aide_1715 made a build they called 'Birkasund' meaning 'Birch Sound.' It was a little hall on an inlet or sound, surrounded by birch trees. A perfect name for the location, and one in which you could envision them telling someone, 'go to the sound surrounded by birch trees.'

TL:DR – What this means for you!
You can use the linked dictionary, naming conventions, and a little imagination to make awesome names, not just for your bases, but for anything! Maybe you want your sword to be Ovinberja, literally 'Foe Striker.' Or your boat to be Vagrfeti, literally 'Wave Strider.' Or your coastal base to be Eyrrgeirr, literally 'Shoal Point.' Like Valheim, the only limit is your imagination, and you'll have authentic Old Norse names for everything you could want to name in the game! Hope you all found this interesting, and enjoy naming everything you own!

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/valheim/comments/og33ny/whats_in_a_name_valheim_meaning_old_norse_naming/

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