Continuation of this post

So this idea just wouldn’t leave me alone. What if one of Volstagg’s daughters really looked up to Sigyn? Wanted to study Seiðr under her, serve as one of her handmaidens (at a time when all her ladies in waiting have left Sigyn because of the shame cast over her house from Loki’s betrayal, no less). Like, she absolutely adores Sigyn and comes to her as a child, staying with her even as she herself grows up into proper Asgardian lady of the court. 

From what I’ve found, Volstag had 3 daughters? (I could be totally wrong, forgive me) Flosi, Gudrun, Gunnhild. I don’t know which one would suit her best

anonymous asked:

Hi, could you please do a specific post on the use of greeting words? Prime examples are "hail" "hailsa" etc... lots of people getting into "vikings" use them without seeming to know the origins, meanings or proper usage...


I will most gladly provide a detailed post on Viking Age greetings. Though, I think the root of the problem comes from the assumption that what I just stated would actually be the case. Rather, the greetings people enjoy using as “Viking”  actually come from later medieval sources, not actual Viking Age sources. Runestones would never have been used in such a way, and so speech patterns of the actual Viking Age are directed from the written material that came right after the period.


Most usages of words, such as “heill” and “heilsa” are from medieval Icelandic. Late Old Norse, if you wish. They do not come from “Vikings”. It is highly likely that the Scandinavians of the Viking Age used a similar term for greeting, but we cannot know for sure, since the bulk of our sources come later.

“Heill” (used as “hail” by people) is a word that mainly means health, or that one is healthy, which means they are happy or blessed, or that they have come in good health (well come, welcome). This usage is much like it is seen in Latin with salvē. 

“Heilsa” (used as “hailsa” by people) is a verbal form of “heill”. It often means to greet. It is not a noun, nor is it an adjective. It is a verb and should be used as a verb.

If you want to speak like a “Viking”, I suggest you tread carefully. All terminology comes from later reconstructions, so do not spread word that the “Vikings” spoke exactly in such a way. Personally, I suggest settling for a modern nordic language, perhaps Icelandic. The terms existed and have been used for greeting in Icelandic manuscripts, but they are products of the later medieval period and not of the Viking Age.

Until a runestone pops up saying otherwise, I would say you are speaking more like a medieval Icelander than you are a “Viking”.

Anyway, let me start off with some definitions:


“Hail” mostly resembles to Old Norse word “heill”:

Heill, a.,
(1) hale, sound
(2) whole, healed (in respect to wounds or illness)
(3) blessed, happy (I will be returning to this in a bit)
(4) true, upright

but also heill, n. and f.,
(1) luck, omen, foreboding

Interestingly enough, heill can sometimes take on a greeting or a parting function in literature (again, not Viking Age at this point). For example:

  1. kom heill! (welcome!, hail!, more literally “come well!”)
  2. far heill! (farewell!)

I can support this with Njáls saga (again, not Viking Age, but actually a product of the 13th century, ca. 1260). Here is an example:

  • Síðan reið Flosi í túnið. Hildigunnur sneri að honum og mælti: “Kom heill og sæll frændi og er fegið orðið hjarta mitt tilkomu þinni.”
  • Soon Flosi rode into the hayfield. Hildigunn came to meet him and spoke: “Greetings and salutations, kinsmen, my heart rejoices at your coming.”

Although this saga takes place in the Viking Age, it was written hundreds of years afterwards. Granted, culture and language do not change over-night. Still, a couple hundred years is plenty enough to alter the sense and usage of a word. Note that the word “og” is a later version of “ok”, both mean “and”, but you can see that there has already been a change.

Now, recall entry three for the word heill. Modern Icelandic greets people using the words “happy” and “blessed”, clearly having roots in a later medieval, Christian culture. Check out the similarities:

  1. Kom heill og sæll
  2. Komdu blessaður og sæll (singular, male)

As you can see, the term heill has begun to take on the functions of more modern Icelandic grammar and functions. It is quite possible that the term in this usage is a transitionary stage, but that would be that the “Vikings” themselves used the word a bit differently. 

Yet, the word heill functioned much more as “health” and later took on a cultural meaning to refer to a greeting. This is the case in other languages, of course. Take Latin for example:

  • Salvē (Hello, Greetings) comes from the verb Salvēre (to be well).


This leads to my discussion of the word “hailsa”, which most closely resembles the Old Norse word “heilsa”:

Heilsa (að), v.,
(1) to say hail to one, greet one

but also heilsa, f.,
(1) health
(2) restoration to health
(3) salvation

but also similar so heilsan, f.
(1) salutaion, greeting

Here I can provide another example from Njáls saga:

  • Hallgerður heilsaði þeim og lét gefa þeim rúm.
  • Hallgerd greeted them and found seats for them.

The verbal form likely developed after the word “heill” continue to take on the meaning of greeting someone (for them coming in good health). This is a verb and should be used as one. It is no noun, so do not confuse it with heill.

One that note, heilsan refers to a greeting, but is not a greeting itself. It is more like saying: “Bjorn gave him a good greeting.” Not to be confused with “Bjorn greeted him well.”

I do hope that this was helpful. It can be quite difficult to explain the usages of words in the past, since we can only rely on written usage. Icelandic sagas often did not place emphasis on greetings, let alone dialogue. They are our main sources for such concerns, and they come with their downsides.

If you would like even more detail than this, let me know and I will hunt down more information. Otherwise, I hope this will shed some light on the subject.


  1. Geir T. Zoëga, A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic. (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004), 190-91.
  2. Robert Cook trans., Njal’s Saga. (London: Penguin Classics, 2001), 73, 193.
  3. (Njal Old Norse/ Icelandic Text) http://www.snerpa.is/net/isl/njala.htm.
  4. Helga Hilmisdóttir and Jacek Kozlowski, Beginner’s Icelandic. (NY: Hippocrene Books, 2009), 22.
  5. Frederick M. Wheelock and Richard A. LaFleur, Wheelock’s Latin. (Collins Reference, 2011), 6.
  6. Lyonel Perabo, M.A. in Old Norse Religion: https://www.quora.com/How-did-people-greet-each-other-in-the-Viking-age.