Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Norse mythology)


When one particular Anglicized form for a name is overwhelmingly most common and well known to the average English speaking person, it is used for the article title (such as Odin and Thor). When no particular Anglicized form can be said to be in common use in everyday English and English speaking scholars use the standardized Old Norse spelling, use the standardized Old Norse spelling except replace the o-ogonek character (ǫ) with the character 'ö'. We should endeavour to supply every variant of Anglicized spelling somewhere within the article, in the first paragraph when that is practical.


Our knowledge of Norse mythology comes principally from two 13th century works compiled in Iceland. Those are the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda. At that time there were no standard rules for spelling Old Norse. 19th century scholars, feeling the need for a standard representation of Old Norse, developed such rules based on the original manuscripts and the phonetics of the language. Those rules remain in use and when a word is quoted in Old Norse spelling it is almost invariably this system that is used.

In scholarly English publications, like Ursula Dronke's translation of the Poetic Edda, the standardized spelling is commonly used. It is also sometimes employed in works intended for a more general audience, like Rudolf Simek's Dictionary of Northern Mythology or even Peter Sawyer's The Oxford History of the Vikings.

In English works intended for the general public it is common to use some system for anglicizing the names. Frequent features of such systems include the replacement of 'ð' with 'th', 'dh' or 'd' and of 'þ' with 'th'. Less commonly, vowels with an acute accent, indicating a long vowel in Old Norse, are replaced with unaccented characters. The ligatures œ and æ are also sometimes replaced with 'oe' and 'ae' although this is less common. Nominative endings are sometimes dropped, especially if they follow a consonant. For more information on this see Old Norse orthography.

Since Wikipedia is intended to be an educational resource it seems natural to provide readers with information on the standardized Old Norse spelling of names. To many this has connotations of accuracy and professionalism. On the other hand the encyclopedia must be accessible to general readers which may only be familiar with Anglicized names. This proposal attempts to achieve both goals.

Use of familiar names[edit]

When one particular Anglicized form for a name is overwhelmingly most common and well known to the average English speaking person it is incumbent on us to use this form as the title of the relevant article. This follows the Use English guideline which says:

If you are talking about a person, country, town, movie or book, use the most commonly used English version of the name for the article (as you would find it in other encyclopedias). This makes it easy to find, and easy to compare information with other sources. For example, Christopher Columbus, Venice.

This means that we should use well known Anglicized names like Odin and Thor as article titles. Reasonable people can disagree on when a particular anglicization is so familiar that this applies - there are always borderline cases. Such cases can be discussed on individual talk pages. When an Anglicized form is used as the article title the Old Norse spelling should be given prominently in the first paragraph. In other articles where the Anglicized name is used the Old Norse spelling can be given within parentheses the first time the name is mentioned. This aids readers in understanding which forms are Anglicized and which are not.

Multiple anglicizations[edit]

Since there are many possible anglicizations for any given name and a given reader may only be familiar with one of them we should endeavour to supply every variant within the article, in the first paragraph when that is practical. When it is not practical or aesthetically pleasing, we can place one or two common forms in the first paragraph and the others elsewhere in the article. Including every variant within the article among other things, enables our readers to find the article using many different search engines no matter which original form of the name they happen to have. This is in accordance with the Use English guideline:

The body of such an article, preferably in its first paragraph, should list all of the other names by which the subject is known, so those too can be searched for.

Redirects should be used generously for the same purpose.

Standard spelling[edit]

For the names of relatively obscure characters, places or artifacts it is usually the case that no particular Anglicized form can be said to be in common use in everyday English, while English speaking scholars will use the standardized Old Norse spelling. For example Veðrfölnir is not familiar to the general English speaking public or even casual readers of mythology. The name can be Anglicized a number of ways (Vethrfolnir, Vedhrfolnir etc.) and no particular form is likely to be considered familiar. This falls under the following section in the Use English guideline:

If there is no commonly used English name, use an accepted transliteration of the name in the original language. Latin-alphabet languages like Spanish or French should need no transliteration, but Chinese names can use Pinyin, for example.

Since Old Norse is written in the Latin alphabet no transliteration is necessary and the standardized spelling can be used - though we propose one minor modification. In its most original form the standardized Old Norse spelling uses the o-ogonek character (ǫ). For technical reasons it is commonly replaced, even in scholarly discourse, with the character 'ö'. This causes no ambiguity since that character is not otherwise used in Old Norse. Since this is likely to be more accessible to our readers (o-ogonek will fail to display on many systems) and in no way sacrifices professional accuracy this convention can be used on Wikipedia. All other characters used in the standardized Old Norse spelling are used in modern Western-European languages and will display correctly on the overwhelming majority of computer systems.

When the Old Norse spelling is used for the title of a particular article it is important that all significant Anglicized forms occur as well in the article. When the subject of the article is referred to with the Old Norse spelling in other articles common anglicization possibilities can be given in parentheses at the name's first occurrence.