The many names of the Norse god Odin

There are many names of Odin. 

In the “Grimnismol” Odin, himself, states:  “A single name have I never had since first among men I fared”.

The use of Odin’s many names is even mentioned in the “Gylfiginning” where it is stated:  “. . . most names have been given him as a result of the fact that with all the branches of languages in the world, each nation finds it necessary to adopt his name to their language for invocation and prayers for themselves, but some events giving rise to these names have taken place in his travels and  have been made the subject of stories, and you cannot claim to be a wise man if you are unable to tell of these important happenings.”

Here it is stated that Odin’s different names originate from two sources:

  1. The many languages of the world.
  2. Stories about events in his life.

Of course, the many names we have of Odin sound suspiciously Norse and were not meant to mean the languages of the whole world (like Chinese or Swahili).  It no doubt represents the fact that he is a ‘god of all creation’, so to speak and, as a result, his ‘name’ or ‘presence’ is known everywhere.  As a result, he has a ‘name’ everywhere.

In many ways, Odin’s many names gives him a quality similar to the “nameless” Jewish god.  Being that he cannot be “named” for certain there have developed many references to him that have developed over the years, hence the many names.   A common name of Odin, interestingly enough, is rather generic:  “All-father”, the father of all the gods. 

I’m inclined to think that the different names may have a number of sources, including:

  • A generic description.  A good example is All-father.
  • Different dialects, giving rise to different pronounciations and spellings.  A good example is Nikar or Hnikar. 
  • Different stories.  Many stories of Odin show him being disguised as another person.  As a result, he takes on a different name with each story.
  • Many of his names have different meanings, describing different aspects or qualities about his nature.
  • I’ve often speculated that some of his names are from different gods that were, over the years, integrated into the image of Odin and, in so doing, becoming a part of his name.  I, of course, cannot be sure of that.

COMMON NAMES OF ODIN

 Commonly used names of Odin include:

All-father – A commonly used name for Odin.  In the “Gyfliginning” it states:  “Odin is called All-father, for he is the father of all gods.”

Odin or Odinn – This may originate from the Old Norse odr which has connotations like “mental faculties”, “voice”, “raving”, “frenzied”, “raging”, “mad with fear”, and “raged”.  Often, he is spoken of as ‘Odin the Old’.

Othin or Othinn – A variation of Odin or Odinn

Wodan – Old English version of Odin.

Wotan – German version of Odin.

Val-father – “Father of the slain” (val = slain).  This was commonly used, for obvious reasons, during the time of the Viking raids.

THE TWELVE NAMES OF ODIN IN OLD ASGARD

The twelve names of Odin in Old Asgard are described in the “Gylfiginning”.  They are:

  1. All-father – the “father of all gods”.
  2. Herran or Herian – “The ruler”.
  3. Nikar or Hnikar “The overthrower”.
  4. Nikuz or Hnikud – “Overthrower”.
  5. Fiolnir – “The many-shaped”.
  6. Oski – “God of wishes”. 
  7. Omi – “The shouter”. 
  8. Biflidi or Biflindi
  9. Svidar
  10. Svidrir
  11. Vidrir
  12. Ialg or Ialk

NAMES OF ODIN FROM “GRIMNISMOL” (AND ALSO QUOTED IN THE “GYLFIGINNING”)

All-father – The father of all the gods.

Atrith (in “Grimnismol”) or Atrid (in “Gylfiginning”) – “The rider”.

Baleyg – “The flaming-eyed”.

Bileyg – “The shifty-eyed”.

Biflindi (in “Grimnismol”) or Blindi (in “Gylfiginning”) – Odin says he is called this “midst gods”.

Bolverk – “The doer of Ill”.

Farmatyr – “Helper of cargoes”.

Fjolnir (in “Grimnismol”) or Fiolnir (in “Gylfiginning”) – “The many-shaped”.

Fjolsvith (in “Grimnismol”) or Fiolsvinn (in “Gylfiginning”) – “Wide of wisdom”.

Gangleri or Ganglari – “The Traveller” or “the wanderer”.

Gaut – “God” or “father”.  Odin says he is called this “midst gods”. 

Glapsvith (in “Grimnismol”) or Glapsvinn (in “Gylfiginning”) – “Swift in deceit”.

Gondlir – “Wand-bearer”.  Odin says he is called this “midst gods”.

Grim – “The hooded”.

Grimnir – “The hooded”.

Harbarth (in “Grimnismol”) or Harbard (in “Gylfiginning”) – “Greybeard”.   Odin says he is called this “midst gods”.

Helblindi – “Hell-blinder”.

Herjan or Herian – “The ruler”.

Herteit – “Glad of the host”.

Hjalmberi or Hialmberi – “The helmet-bearer”.

Hor – “The high one”.

Hnikar – “The overthrower”.

Hnikuth (in “Grimnismol”) or Hnikud (in “Gylfiginning”) – “Overthrower”.

HroptaTyr – “Crier of the gods”.  Odin says he is called this “midst gods”.

Jafnhor – “Just-as-high” or “equally high”.  Odin says he is called this “midst gods”.

Jalk (in “Grimnismol”) or Ialk (in “Gylfiginning”) – Odin says he took this name when he was with Asmund.  He also says he is called this “midst gods”.

Kjalar (in “Grimnismol”) or Kialar (in “Gylfiginning”) – “Ruler of keels”???  Odin says he was called this when he “went in a sledge”.

Ofnir (only in “Grimnismol”) – “The Bewilderer”.  Odin states that he thinks these are names for “none but me”.  But, earlier in the poem, this name is given for a serpent that forever gnaws at the tree Yggdrasil.

Omi – “The shouter”.  Odin says he is called this “midst gods”.

Oski – “God of wishes”.  Odin says he is called this “midst gods”.

Sath (in “Grimnismol”) or Sann (in “Gylfiginning”) – “The truthful”.

Sanngetal – “The truth teller”.

Sithhott (in “Grimnismol”) or Sidhott (in “Gylfiginning”) – “With broad hat”.

Sithkegg (in “Grimnismol”) or Sidskegg (in “Gylfiginning”) – “Long-bearded”.

Sigfather “Father of victory”.

Svafnir (only in “Grimnismol”) – “The Sleep-Bringer”.   Odin states that he thinks this is a name for “none but me”.  But, earlier in the poem, this name is given for a serpent that forever gnaws at the tree Yggdrasil.

Svithrir (in “Grimnismol”) or Svidrir (in “Gylfiginning”) – Odin says he deceived the giant Sokkmimir using this name. 

Svithur (in “Grimnismol”) or Svidur (in “Gylfiginning”) – Odin says he deceived the giant Sokkmimir using this name.  

Skilfing – “The shaker”.  Odin says he is called this “midst gods”.

Svipal – “The changing.”.

Thekk – “The much-loved”

Thrithi – ” The third”.

Thror – Odin says he was called this when he went to Council.

Thund – “The thunderer”.

Thuth (in “Grimnismol”) or Thunn (in “Gylfiginning”)

Uth (in “Grimnismol”) or Unn (in “Gylfiginning”)

Vofuth (in “Grimnismol”) or Vafud (in “Gylfiginning”) – “The wanderer”.  Odin says he is called this “midst gods”.

Vak (in “Grimnismol”) or Vakr (in “Gylfiginning”) – “The wakeful”.  Odin says he is called this “midst gods”.

Valfather (only in the “Grimnismol”) – “Father of the slain”.

Veratyr – “Lord of men”, the name he took in “Grimnismol”.

Vithur (in “Grimnismol”) or Vidur (in “Gylfiginning”) – Odin says he was called this when “I fare to the fight”.

Ygg – “The terrible”.  Used in the name ‘Yggdrasil’, or “Odin’s horse”, which is a reference to the ‘world tree’.

 ODIN’S NAMES FROM “SKALDSKAPARMAL”

Bolverk – The name he took when he sought the mead of poetry.

Gaut – It states that a king had a name derived from this name.  He was called Goti.  From his name Gautland or Gotland got its name.  The mainland of his realm was called Reidgotaland (“reid” means ‘chariot’ or ‘riding’, perhaps meaning that it is the ‘main land to ride’) and the islands were called Eygotaland (“ey” means island).  These two lands became the Swedish and Danish realms.

Hangi – The skald Tind called him this in a poem.

Hergout – The skald Bragi the Old called him this in a poem.

Hiarandi – The skald Bragi called him this in a drapa of Ragnar Lodbrok.

Hropt – The skald Ulf Uggason called him this in a poem.

Rognir– The skald Einer Skalaglamm called him this in a poem.

Svidur – It states that the name Sweden originated from this.

Svolnir – The skald Bragi called him this in a drapa of Ragnar Lodbrok.

Vafud – The skald Einer Skulason called him this in a poem.

Vidur – The skald Bragi the Old called him this in a poem.

VidrirThe skald Bragi and Viga-Glum called him this in a poem.

ODIN’S “FATHER” NAMES

Odin has many names ending in “father”.

All-father – “The father of all the gods”.  A commonly used name for Odin.

Heerfather – “Father of the host”, from Vafthruthnismal.

Sig-father – “Father of victory”(sig = victory).

Val-father – “Father of the slain” (val = slain).

ODIN’S “GOD” NAMES

Odin has many names ending in “god”.

Hanga-god – “God of the hanged”.

Hapta-god“God of prisoners”.

Farma-god – “God of cargoes”.

Raven-god – “God of ravens”.  Odin has two ravens that go out in the world and tell him all that is happening.  In the “Gyfliginning” it states:  “Two ravens sit on his shoulders and speak into his ear all the news they see or hear.  Their names are Hugin and Munin.  He sends them out at dawn to fly over all all the world and they return at dinner-time.  As a result, he gets to find out about many events.  From this he gets the name raven-god.”  There is also speculation that he is called “God of the ravens” because of the ravens that fly about a battlefield after the battle, feeding on the dead.

ODIN’S “TYR” NAMES

Odin has many names ending with “Tyr”.  This word appears to mean “god” or “lord”. I should point out that there is also a Norse god called Tyr, who is associated with war and battle, but I do not believe that this god is associated with these names of Odin.  All the names seem to be similar in connotation with the names ending in “father” and “god” above, showing that he is a god or lord of some quality or thing.  In the spelling of these names there is sometimes a hyphen in front of the “tyr” and sometimes it is simply placed at the end of the word. 

Cargo-Tyr – “God of cargoes”???

Farmatyr “God of cargoes”.

Hanged-Tyr – “God of the hanged”???

HroptaTyr “Crier of the gods”.

Veratyr – “Lord of men”, the name he took in “Grimnismol”.

Victory-Tyr – “God of victory”.

Gauta-Tyr – “Father of the gods”???

Host-Tyr – “God of hosts”???

ODIN’S NAMES IN STORIES

Bolverk – The name he took when he sought the mead of poetry.

Gangrath – The name he took in “Vafthruthnismol”.

Harbarth – “Gray-beard”.  The name he took in the poem “Harbarthsljoth”.

Hor – The “high one”.  From Hovamol and Gylfiginning.

Hrani – The name he took in “The saga of King Hrolf Kraki”.

Jafnhor – “Just-as-high” or “equally high”.  From the Gyfliginning.

Thrithi – ” The third”.  From the Gyfliginning.

Veratyr – “Lord of men”, the name he took in “Grimnismol”.

KENNINGS OF ODIN

Norse poetry has created many expressions (kennings) that have been used for Odin.

“One-eyed dweller in Frigg’s embrace.”

The meanness-avoiding cargo of Gunnlod’s embrace.”

“Victory tree.”

“Vilir’s brother.”

“Mim’s freind.”

“Wolf’s enemy.”

“Noble slaughter-gaut.”

“Strangel wise raven tester.”

“Hropt.”

“Hlidskialf’s king.”

“Speedy one.”

“Father of mankind.”

“Bestla’s son.”

“Buris heir Bor’s son.”

“God’s ruler.”

“Gallow’s cargo.”

“Rognir’s deeds.”

“Olaf Hild’s noise-maker.”

“Kin of Iolnir’s.”

“Helmet-capped educator.”

“Battle-bold Rognir.”

“Gracious Lord of Earth.”  It’s interesting to note that a kenning for earth is “Bride of Odin”.

“Battle promoter.”

“The god’s atoner.”

“Storm-cleaver.”

KENNINGS ASSOCIATED WITH ODIN:  POETRY AND POETS

“Odin’s pot-liquid”  = poetry

“All-father’s malt-surf” = poetry

“Har’s ale” = Odin’s mead or poetry

“Ygg’s mead” = poetry

“The deities’ fjord” = poetry

“The stipend of the god’s atoner” = poetry (god’s atoner is Odin)

“Storm-cleaver’s work noble mead”  = poetry

“Vidrir’s thoughts-strand-mere” = poetry (this seems to say something like, “Odin’s simple thought-strand”)

“Vidur’s thought-smith” = poet (Vidur is Odin)

“Getter of Gaut’s gift” = poet

“Server of Ygg’s ale” = poet

KENNINGS ASSOCIATED WITH ODIN:  BATTLE AND WARRIORS

“Odin’s weather” = battle

“Har’s weather” = battle

“Har’s Hogni-showers” = battle

“Vidrir’s weather” = battle

“Blue-black Munin drinks blood from wounds” = fallen soldiers on a battlefield (Munin is one of Odin’s ravens)

“The hanged one’s goslings’ hunger-assuagers” = warriors

“Odin’s fire” = sword

“Ringing Gaut’s fire” = sword

“Gaut’s sickle” = sword

“The penny of Svolnir’s hall” = shield (Svolnir is Odin)

 “Hiarandi’s hurdles” = shield (Hiarandi is Odin)

“Freki’s meal” = carrion, dead warriors (Freki is the name of one of Odin’s wolfs)

“Hugin’s food” = carrion, dead warriors (Hugin is one of Odin’s ravens)

“Geri’s ale” – blood (Geri is the name of one of Odin’s wolfs)

KENNINGS ASSOCIATED WITH ODIN:  MISCELLANEOUS

“Yggdrasil” – Odins horse, the ‘world tree’

“Ygg’s goslings” = Odin’s ravens

“Oski’s loveless wife” = rulerless land

———

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Vikings - Odin, Thor, the Norse, and such and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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