I am using A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic and An Introduction to Old Norse (by E. V. Gordon) as my resoources.

In An Introduction, it is said that:

Some nouns declined otherwise as masculine a-stems had the gen. sg. in -ar, or -s interchanging with -ar, as skógr, smiðr (nom. pl. -ir and -ar), vegr...

I don't understand the text in bold at all. Does it mean the gen. sg. ending might be either -s or -ar, or does it mean something else?

Also, in A Dictionary, I find (-s, -ar) written right next to noun entries, like this:

stigr or stígr (-s, ar; pl. -ar, -ir, acc. - a, -u), m. path.
staurr (-s, -ar), m. pale, stake.
diskr (-s, -ar), m. plate, dish.

Is this related to the gen. sg. ending?

1 Answer 1


You're interpreting Gordon correctly: these masculines had two variants of the gen. sg. form. The same goes for i-stem masculines: see section 87 (p. 265), "Alternation between -ar and -s in the gen. sg. was due to partial assimilation to the a-stem declension."

  • Thanks. What about the (pl. -ar, -ir, acc. -a, -u) part in the entry for stigr? Are there alternatives for the nom. pl. and the acc. pl. (assuming the latter "acc." is for pl.)?
    – hello all
    Apr 19, 2015 at 7:04
  • I also noticed something about on the (-s, -ar) thing; looking at entries such as söngr, (-s, -var) and hirðir, (-is, -ar), I believe the endings in the parentheses mark the gen. sg. and the nom. pl. ending respectively. Also, the entry for skógr goes (-ar, -ar) and that for smiðr goes (-s, pl. -ar and -ir).
    – hello all
    Apr 19, 2015 at 7:13
  • I think you must be right about the dictionary; when there are two gen. sg. endings it looks like in some cases, Zoega uses "and": e.g. "vegr (gen. -ar and -s; pl. -ir and -ar, acc. -u and -a)". In other cases (like stigr) he doesn't. But presumably when he says "(-s, -ar)" without a following "pl.", the second ending is the nom. pl. It's not very clear or consistent.
    – TKR
    Apr 19, 2015 at 17:59

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