For some time I've been looking for a dictionary of Old Norse that reflects an early situation in the language; this kind of resource has been amazingly hard to find, for some reason. Most dictionaries I find reflect a bit of a later stage than what I am looking for, usually reflecting a dialect (most commonly Old West Norse).

All the dictionaries I've seen have undergone shifts from <ǫ́> to <á> and <ʀ> to <r>, have usually merged <æ> and <œ> and have undergone a more Icelandic shift of <t> to <ð> in various positions. They also fail to represent the distinction between <ę> and <e> found only in the earlier language. I think all of them additionally have later forms of the copula as well (vera, er versus vesa, es).

Additionally, I would also be interested if anyone knows and could recommend an Old Norse dictionary that preserves nasalisation on vowels (as per the First Grammatical Treatise) in any stage of the language (i.e. not obligatorily an older form of Old Norse).

I'm basically asking if anyone knows of an Old Norse dictionary that doesn't rely on a later dialect (say, dictionaries of Old Norwegian or Old Icelandic which are most often labelled as Old Norse) and instead gives older, more archaic forms of words, as used around 800 AD, that preserve all the vowel and consonant contrasts of an older stage of Old Norse. I'm also looking for a grammar of such a stage of Old Norse and would be immensely grateful if anyone could provide. I would appreciate if the resources were web-based but, knowing that books would most likely contain this as opposed to the Internet, I won't mind resources in print.

  • 3
    The older German treatments (e.g., Wolfgang Krause, Abriss der altwestnordischen Grammatik, 1948) tend to use a normalized spelling based on mss. of the second half of the 12th century, so they preserve ǫ́, and some at least have vesa; they also have endings -e and -o for later -i and -u and use þ for later ð. They don’t, however, preserve ʀ or ę. I would not expect to find a dictionary reflecting the state of the language ca. 800 CE; the record is too sketchy, and there’s far more interest in later periods. Jun 3, 2015 at 15:26
  • I will look into it, thanks for the recommendation.
    – Darkgamma
    Sep 24, 2015 at 8:43
  • Getting Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic and check? Sep 19, 2019 at 13:33

3 Answers 3


There is a reasonable list of grammars and dictionaries here: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altnordische_Sprache. (The English version is less useful).

  • Actually, I've looked into the German wiki's list first (as it's my L1 it felt natural) but Jan de Vries' Etymologisches Wörterbuch contains old Icelandic forms (many words that have -pt- also have a -ft- alternate given, <ʀ> and some vowels not distinguished) and Gerhard Köbler's doesn't distinguish <ʀ> from <r> and some of the vowels as well. I've also looked into Wikisource's list of dictionaries, and some don't even distinguish <ø> and <ǫ>. Thanks for the contribution anyway though
    – Darkgamma
    Sep 22, 2014 at 13:52

You've got a new ON dictionary here: http://www.palaeolexicon.com/

It has mainly later dialect words, but you will find more archaic ones too. Looks like it has just been released, so I guess by time more words from the period 800-1100 AD will show up.

  • It, alas, fails to reliably distinguish <ǫ> from <ø>, citing words such as <jørð>, <jøtunn> and even <Mjölnir> for <jǫrð> <jǫtunn> <Mjǫllnir>. Thanks anyhow, I guess :s
    – Darkgamma
    Nov 17, 2014 at 13:34

The works of Jakob Jakobsen might be of interest to you. Not strictly Old Norse but the vast majority of the words in the following publications are of Old West Norse origins:

  • An Etymological Dictionary of the Norn Language in Shetland [Two Volumes]. First printed in Copenhagen 1928. Reprinted in Lerwick 1985
  • The dialect and place names of Shetland. Lerwick 1897. Online Version
  • The Place-Names of Shetland. First printed Copenhagen & London 1936. Reprinted Kirkwall 1993.

I may be able to help source these if that was helpful.

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