Skip to main content

Full text of "The dialect and place names of Shetland; two popular lectures"

See other formats

fyxmll Hiiivmitg Jitotig 




Henrg W. Sage 


Kr.m.llS^ 10Z?^A 

Cornall University Library 
PD 2698 .N7J25 

Dialect and place names of Shetland: 

3 1924 026 356 406 

The original of tiiis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 


Pnnted hi T. <fc J. MAN SON, Lmmck. 













During the years 1893-94-95, Mr Jakob Jakobsen, 
Cand. Mag. of the University of Copenhagen, conducted 
an exhaustive series of investigations into the remains of 
the old Norse language in Shetland. Some of the re- 
sults of his enquiries are embodied in these two Lectures, 
which were cast in a popular form, and were delivered 
at Lerwick and other places in Shetland before the 
author's return to Denmark. Other results of his in- 
vestigations are contained in his Thesis entitled, " Det 
Noronne Sprog paa Shetland," which was accepted by 
the University of Copenhagen as entitling him to the 
degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 

Lerwick, September, 1897. 


-Shetland localities (quoted in parenthesis afterwords, 
which are — or have been — in use there) : — 

Aithst., Aithsting. 

Br., Bressay. 

C. (Conn.), Conningsburg. 

De. (Delt.), Belting. 

Du., Dunrossness. 

Fe., Fetlar. 

Fc, Foula. 

L., Lunnasting. 

N.I., The North Isles. 

N. Roe, North Roe. 

Nest, Nesting. 

Nm., Northmavine. 


cf., confer. 
Engl., English, 
esp., especially. 
Far., Faroese. 
f i., for instance. 

P., Papa Stoor. 

Sa., Sandsting. 

Sandw., Sandwick parish. 

U., Unst. 

W., Walls. 

Wests., The westside (Aith- 
sting, Sandsting, Sand- 
ness. Walls). 

Wh., Whalsay. 

Y., Yell. 

Ym., Mid Yell. 

Yh., " de Herra " in Yell. 

Icel., Icelandic. 
Norw., Norwegian. 
O.N., Old Northern. 
Sco., Scottish. 
Shetl., Shetlandic. 

In the combinations "bj, fj, gj, hj, kj, and nj " the 

letter " j " (as in Scandinavian) has the value of an 
English consonantal "y" (as in "yard"). 

The sound of the letter " " in Shetlandic (as f i. in 
kr0, sheep-fold) is similar to that of "eu" in French 
words as 6/eu, blue,^«, fire, etc., German "o" in scMn, 
beautiful, etc. 

As I have been prevented from the use of special 
phonetic letters in a book of this kind, it has sometimes 
proved very difficult to convey a proper idea of the pro- 
nunciation of a Shetlandic word by the spelling. The 
greatest difficulty has been the rendering of the liquid 
sound of some of the consonants (an accompanying "i" 
sound), especially of 1 and n. This liquid sound is some- 
times (although imperfectly) indicated by a prefixed or 
suffixed "y." (fi. " Hellya," " Venll" and " Vellyins," 
"kollyet," " traaylfangin "— " haayn," " buyn," " annya- 
whart,'' " tannyiks," etc.). 

The terminating " -r " (preceded by a hyphen) in 
Old Northern words quoted is the mark of the 
nominative singular form in words of the masculine 
gender, as fi. koll-v=kollr, stert-r=stertr, etc. 

Copenhagen 1897. 


«5®YNLY 7CX) years ago a language called " Donsk 
tunga," or " Danish tongue " was spread over 
nearly the whole north of Europe. It was 
not at all confined to Denmark : it was spoken in 
Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway and Sweden), whose 
centre it was ; it was spoken in Iceland, Faroe, 
Shetland, Orkney, to a great extent in the western 
Scottish Isles, the Isle of Man, and also to some 
extent in Britain itself — in part of Scotland, especially 
in the north and along the coast, in the north of 
England and part of Ireland, and finally along the 
south and east border of the Baltic Sea. It was the 
Scandinavian vikings who carried the Danish tongue 
so far : the Norwegians and Danes went west, the 
Norwegians taking a more northerly, the Danes a 
more southerly direction (in Scotland, and especially 


the islands north of Scotland, it was chiefly the Nor- 
wegians who settled ; in England it was the Danes) ; 
the Swedes went more to the eastward and occupied 
f. i. the east border of the Baltic Sea, and even formed 
a little kingdom in the heart of Russia. 

I need not here say much about how Shetland 
was peopled, first by Picts, who came from Scotland, 
and then by Norwegians, especially those who at the 
close of the 9th century crossed the North Sea, fly- 
ing from the tyranny of King Harald Haarfager and 
trying to find new homes. It is a general belief that 
the Norsemen extinguished the Picts in Shetland. 
But it was not the custom of the Norsemen to kill 
those who did not oppose them sword in hand — at 
any rate, they would never have killed the women. 
And besides, we are not told anything about the 
Picts having fled anywhere from Shetland. There 
would be far more sense in tracing the un-Norse- 
looking people in some of the more secluded districts 
of Shetland back to the original or aboriginal inhabi- 
tants, whether Picts or not, than to Spaniards, wrecked 
there at the time of the Spanish Armada. And among 
these first inhabitants we may include Laps and 
Fins, who play such an important part in the old 
Shetland legends. They were the original inhabitants 


of Norway and Sweden, till the Norsemen conquered 
them, and now they only occupy the north end of 
the Scandinavian peninsula. Even if one or two 
ships of the Spanish Armada should have been 
wrecked on the Shetland coast, and even if a case 
or two of intermarriage should have taken place, it 
would not have affected whole communities. 

Shetland originally belonged to Norway up till 
the end of the 14th century, when Norway entered 
into a union with Denmark under a Danish sovereign, 
and Shetland as part of Norway passed over into 
this union. As Denmark became the leading country 
of the two, the fact that Shetland people now-a-days 
always speak of the islands as formerly belonging to 
Denmark, is to be accounted for in this way. 

But hardly a century after the union was com- 
pleted, the islands were handed over to Scotland, 
pledged for a certain sum of money, which formed 
the dowry of the Princess Margaret oi Denmark, 
who was married to King James the Third of Scot- 

Time will not allow me to enter upon the political 
state of Shetland during the Norse or Danish period. 
It may be sufficient to state, that the form of govern- 
ment was democratic. The highest power lay with 


the Law Ting, which was a general assembly of the 
people, forming the Law Court and Parliament of 
the time and held on the plain of Tingwall. The 
land was held originally according to the Norse 
"udal" system, or system of absolute property and 
free transmission from father to son without deed of 
inheritance. But soon after the Islands were handed 
over to Scotland, the feudal system was more fully 
introduced, i.e., the system of stipendiary property, by 
which the " udallers" (udal-farmers) became tenants of 

To illustrate a little the spirit and customs which 
reigned during the Norse period of government in 
Shetland, and the close connection existing between 
Shetland and Norway, I may mention the story of 
Jan Tait and the Bear. It is the only historical 
tale which has come down to us from that period, 
and is quite in the style and spirit of the old 
Icelandic tales or " sagas." The tale belongs to Fetlar. 
It is this. The king of Norway sent his chamberlain 
across to Shetland to collect the " skat" (tax) due to 
the Crown. The chamberlain came to Fetlar, where 
the skat was collected at Urie (" 0ri!') To Urie the 
udallers came with the "teinds" or tithes they had to 
pay. They brought with them their " bismers." 


I'hese bismers* were, if I may be allowed the bull, 
ancient wooden steel-yards. The chamberlain of 
course had his own bismer, which was considered the 
standard weight, and on which he tested the udallers' 
bismers. An udaller by the name of Jan Tait, while 
paying his butter teind, was accused by the chamber- 
lain of having a false bismer. This at once led to 
a quarrel, in which Tait denounced the chamberlain's 
bismer as false, and being threatened by the chamber- 
lain, Jan finally raised his bismer and struck the 
king's representative dead on the spot This was, of 
course, a great crime, for which he was summoned to 
appear before the king in Norway. Arrived there, Jan 
went in before the king bare-headed and bare-footed, 
and carrying an axe in his hand. Jan was a strongly- 
built man, and had big knobs on the joints of his feet. 
So the king stared at his feet, until Jan suddenly asked 
him, why he was staring so fixedly. The king said, 
that he had never seen such strange feet before. Jan 
said, that if they gave him any offence, he would 
soon cure that, whereupon he took the axe and 
hewed off" one of the knobs. The king said, that he 
did not at all wonder that Jan had killed his 
chamberlain, since he had so little regard for his own 
* From O.N. bismari. 


flesh and blood. But seeing his courage he would 
give him one chance to save his Hfe. There was a 
bear infesting a certain place, and constantly endanger- 
ing the lives of the inhabitants. If he could catch it 
and bring it alive before the king, he should be 
pardoned. Tait then went to an old woman who 
lived near a spot the bear used to frequent, and asked 
her all about its ways and habits. She said to him : 
"By butter you have got into the present trouble, 
and by butter you shall get out of it." Then she 
advised him to take a kit-full of butter and place it 
in an open spot in the forest, where the bear used to 
come, watch there till the bear appeared on the scene 
and licked the butter, and then, when it had lain 
down to sleep, seize his opportunity and bind it with 
ropes. Tait acted according to her advice. The 
bear, after having licked the butter, felt heavy, lay 
down and fell asleep, whereupon Tait, who had been 
watching, hastened to tie the animal with strong ropes. 
He managed to bring the bear alive before the king, 
but the king, wanting to get rid of him, ordered him 
out of his sight, bidding him to take the bear home 
with him to Shetland. Tait went back to Fetlar with 
the bear and transported it from there to the island 
of Yelli-Linga (off the Yell coast), where there is a spot 


still called " the Bear's Bait," which name is known by- 
very few people now. There is a green circle in the 
island said to have been made by the bear's walking 
around the pole to which it was tethered. 

Less than 200 years ago there was a number of 
Norn ballads in Shetland. But they are all lost except 
one, which relates a strife between one of the earls of 
Orkney and the king of Norway. Robert Sibbald, 
writing in the beginning of last century, says : — " The 
Shetlanders' laws were those of St. Ola, whom the 
natives have in great esteem. He was one of the kings 
of Norway, of whom strange things are reported in the 
songs they have of him, called Vissiks." These 
ballads or "vissiks" (from O.N. visa, song) were kept 
up for centuries to a great extent as accompaniment 
to dance, an old mediasval dance, in which all the 
persons taking part joined hands and formed a compact 
circle on the floor, moving forward and keeping a 
certain time with the feet. There was no need of any 
musical instrument. A foresinger or precentor began 
every verse, and the others joined in, singing the chorus. 
This dance was not extinct in Shetland till the middle 
of last century, about the same time that the Norn 
language in Shetland had got corrupted and began to 
get lost. And when the language got lost, the ballads 


were bound to get lost too. In Faroe this is almost 
the only amusement of the people at the present day, 
and it is through this ancient kind of dance, that the 
old Faroese ballads have been kept alive. 

I now turn to the principal object of this lecture, 
the history of the Norn or Norse language in Shetland. 
Up till the year looo, or little more than a century 
after Shetland had been peopled from Norway, _ the 
whole of Scandinavia — Denmark, Norway and Sweden, 
and also the Norwegian colonies : Iceland, Faroe, 
Shetland and Orkney — had still one language : the 
Danish tongue. But during the eleventh century it 
begins to divide, and at the beginning of the thirteenth 
century there are two distinct groups of dialects — the 
East Scandinavian, including Danish and Swedish ; and 
the West Scandinavian, including the Norwegian and 
its island branches : Icelandic, Faroese, Shetlandic and 
Orcadian. But still the name Danish tongue lingered, 
applied to the language of all Scandinavia. In the 
twelfth century we find an Icelandic writer applying 
this name (Danish tongue) to the Icelandic language. 
The first writer who uses the name Norroena (that is 
Northern), of which " Norn " is a contraction, is the 
renowned Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, who 
applies it to the West Scandinavian, in contradistinc- 


tion to the East Scandinavian : proper Danish and 
Swedish. And after this time the name becomes 
common. But in Norway and Iceland now-a-days 
the name Norn is never applied to the language of 
the present day, only to the language before the 
Reformation, as it is represented in the ancient, chiefly 
Icelandic, records : the remarkable Saga literature 
(history in novelistic form), especially concerning Ice- 
land and Norway. (In passing it is worth observing, 
that the ancient history of Orkney and Shetland, the 
Orkneyinga Saga, was written in Iceland during that 
period.) This literature decays during the fourteenth 
ceniiury, and the clergy, who had then become very 
powerful and possessed the highest learning of the time, 
all used the Latin language for literary purposes, and 
allowed the mother- tongue to decay. It was not till 
after the Reformation, that the native tongues gained 
their proper place again. But then they presented a 
different aspect, and the name Norn was not applied to 
them. It was Norwegian (Norsk) in Norway, Icelandic 
in Iceland, and Faroese in Faroe. In Faroe the name 
Norn is not remembered as having been applied to the 
Faroese dialect. Only in Shetland this old name has 
been carried down to our own time, applied to the 
old Shetland language during its whole lifetime. The 


Norn dialect lived in Shetland till the middle of last 
century, and even in the beginning of this century a 
dialect called Norn, although improperly (as the gram- 
matical feature of the Norn had been quite superseded 
by that of the Lowland Scotch), was spoken in outlying 
places — such as the North Isles (especially the north 
of Unst), but longest in Foula. The part of Shetland 
where the greatest number of Norn words at the present 
day survive is beyond all question the North Isles. 

The common dialect at the present day in 
Shetland resembles the Lowland Scotch, but is 
interspersed with a great many Norn words and 
phrases, and has a distinctly Scandinavian accentua- 
tion and pronunciation. It is just now leaving a 
stage, the prominent feature of which is Scotch, and 
is entering a stage, the prominent feature of which is 
English, but still carrying along with it from the first 
or Norn period not only a number of words, although 
this number is rapidly diminishing, but also a pro- 
nunciation and accentuation which are distinctly 

The fact that about ten thousand words, derived 
from the Norn, still linger in Shetland — although a 
great number of them are not actually in daily use 
and only remembered by old people — is sufficient to 


show that it cannot be very long since the real Norn 
speech died. In several parts of Shetland, especially 
Foula and the North Isles, the present generation of 
old people remember their grand-parents speaking a 
language that they could hardly understand, and which 
was called Norn or Norse. But it must have been 
greatly intermixed with Scotch, for many of the old 
words now dying out and being supplanted by 
English, are really Scotch, although they are believed 
by many to be Norn. 

Another proof of the Scotch intermixture is the 
fact, that the old Foula man who repeated the only 
preserved Norn ballad to Mr Low in 1774 could not 
give him a translation in full of it, but only related 
the general content If the Norn language had been 
pure, or nearly so, at that time — the end of last 
century — the man would certainly have been able to 
give a proper translation of the ballad. What was 
the chief cause of the disappearance of the Norn 
dialect in Shetland ? There was never any law passed 
prohibiting the general use of it, and the people were 
quite at liberty to retain their forefathers' speech. In 
Faroe, where Danish is and has been for long the 
official language, used in the schools, in the churches, 
and in the law courts, the people still speak a branch 


of the old Norwegian which is quite different from 
modem Danish. But in Shetland the people, through 
oppression and consequent ignorance, came to look 
down upon their old dialect, and to consider it far 
inferior to Scotch or English. The great number of 
Scotch settlers who overspread the country, carrying 
what the people deemed to be the higher language 
with them, very probably would despise the native 
dialect, which they did not understand, and would 
influence the people to imitate them in the use of 
Scotch, which would certainly have been found often 
necessary in trade and general intercourse. A little 
fragment of a rhyme in Norn is preserved from last 
century about a Shetland lad who went south to 
Caithness, and on his return home was thought a great 
deal of, because he could make use of some Scotch 
words, apparently not current in his native place at 
the time. The verse, which is said to belong to Unst, 
is intended to show the parents' pride in their son on 

this account : 

De vaar e (vera) gooa tee, 
" when " sona min " guid to " Kaadanes : 
haayn kaayn ca' russa " mare," 
„ bigg "here," 
„ „ ^/^"fire," 
„ „ „ klovandi "taings." 


This is translated: It was in a good hour (time), 
when my son went to Caithness : he can call " russa " 
mare, etc. 

That so great a number of Norn words still 
survive in Shetland can be partly accounted for by 
the fact, that some words have survived in one place 
and other words in other places. Every district, 
parish, or island in Shetland has a certain number of 
old words and expressions which are peculiar to it. 
This difference, marked as it is at the present day, 
although the Shetland dialect is getting more and 
more Anglified, was still more marked one generation 
ago, when the amalgamation of the language was less 
advanced. There are two explanations of this differ- 
ence which exists between places. First, that the 
Shetland Islands were not peopled from one place, 
but from different districts in Norway. And Norway 
with its small population scattered over a vast area, 
and intersected by high mountain ridges, dividing one 
district from another, contains many distinct dialects.* 
But as for the old Shetland words, there are not 
many cases in which we can trace this origin. Most 

* That one of the Norwegian dialects which resembles most the 
old Shetland Norn in regard to the vocabulary is undoubtedly the 
dialect of the south-west tract of the country (esp. Agder). 


often the cause of the difference is, that in some parts 
of the country a certain number of words have been 
kept up which have been lost in other parts of the 

Every popular dialect, whatever language it be- 
longs to, and however deficient it may be, compared 
with the cultured and literary language^ possesses a 
great number of apparently superfluous names, applied 
to various things with very minute distinctions — distinc- 
tions often given up as unnecessary by the cultured 
language. In the old Norn, for instance, there are 
a great number of words applied to the different 
parts of a living creature's body, varying according 
to the creature it is applied to. There are five or 
six words standing for head, and about double 
that number standing for tail. Now, when the Scotch 
language got a firm footing in Shetland and began 
to conquer the Norn, the vocabulary became so 
much increased, that a great number of the old 
words had to be given up, but on account of the 
just-mentioned superfluity of names, different names 
would survive in different places for the same thing. 
Taking first the Norn names for head, we find, that 
the general name (O.N. hofuS) is lost and only 
survives in place-names in the derivative form : 


Hevdi or Hevda (O.N. kof&i), applied to a headland. 
It is a very common occurrence in a dying speech, 
that the general name for a certain thing dies first, 
while the subordinate names, applied only to certain 
kinds of the same thing, survive. O.N. koll-r, 
signifying originally the hair-grown part (or upper 
rounding) of the head, has been preserved in Shetland 
in a few compounds and derivative words, as a " head- 
koil" or koiltett, applied to the protecting top sheaf 
of straw on a corn-" scroo " or hay-stack. (The words 
are used in Northmavine). Further, in the word 
kollyet (koillet), applied to a cow without horns : " a 
kollyet cool' where kollyet means round-headed. The 
name " cole, coll" (Scotch) — " a cole of hay" — for a 
small hay-stack, is the same word. The Aithsting 
fishermen, when at the " haaf ' or deep-sea fishing, 
used to call the mouse the gro-koil, signifying " gray- 
head." Skult (Faroese skoltur) and skalli (O.N. skalli), 
efymologically the English word " skull," signify in 
Shetland much the same as the just-mentioned koil. 
But skalli, which is applied especially to the bare 
top of the head, is now nearly obsolete and almost 
only used in the derivative word skallyet, applied to 
a hen wanting the top : " A skallyet hen]' corre- 
sponding to the expression : " A kollyet coo!' 


The proper Shetland equivalent for the English 
word " skull" is h0shapan or k^shapa/, derived from 
O.N. hauss, skull, head. 

But no part of the body has got so many- 
names as the tail, varying according to the different 
creatures. The old Norn names are hali, applied to 
a long tail, especially on a cow; tagl, to a horse's 
tail (etymologically the English word " tail") ; skauf 
and skott, to a bushy tail, such as on a dog or fox ;. 
dyrSill, to a sheep's tail ; spordr, to a fish's tail ; vel 
or stert-r, to a bird's tail ; r6fa, mostly applied to 
the continuation of the spine or the fleshy part of 
the tail. Most of these names sur\'ive in Shetland, 
but not always applied in the original way. The 
word hali, for a cow's tail, is lost, but the fishermen, 
when at the " haaf," used to call the cow " de haaler'' 
or haalyin, signifying the long-tailed animal. The 
tail of a fish (or esp. the lobe of the tail) is still com- 
monly called " de spurd" which word was also used 
by the Aithsting fishermen at the haaf, denoting the 
tail of any creature. Skauf and stert-r have in the 
Shetland dialect taken the forms sk^vi and skj'urt 
(stjurt), both used as lucky words at the haaf, the 
former by the Unst fishermen, the latter by the 
Aithsting fishermen, to denote the tail of a fish. 


By the North Yell fishermen the tail of a turbot 
is sometimes called " de stertV Rovi or rovak 
(O.N. rdfd) was by the Shetland fishermen commonly 
applied to the tail of the hoe or dog-fish. The 
name " Rovi head," applied to the long-shaped point 
at the north entrance of Lerwick harbour, is really 
the same word, meaning tail ; and it is only by 
losing knowledge of the meaning of the word rovi, 
that the head has been added to the tail. Akin to 
Icel. and Faroese dyrSill, sheep's tail (originally 
signifying anything that is shaking backwards and 
forwards), is Shetlandic derrel, sheep's tail. When a 
person is in a hurry, or walks off showing by the 
motion of his body that he is offended, it is some- 
times said, " Dere's a dirrel upon him" (" dirrel" 
differently pronounced from "derrel)." The word 
tag/ is lost in its original meaning : tail, but when 
a person is walking with something trailing behind 
him, he is sometimes said to be " trailiri a tagl" 
(Conn.) As a striking example of the recently 
mentioned difference in words, existing between 
different districts of Shetland, I shall mention the 
old names for the dyke which leads out from the 
sheep-fold or " krf and forms like a leg on it for 
the purpose of preventing the sheep from being 


scattered about, when being driven into the " krf : 
Soadm-dyke (U) — from " to soad," to drive animals 
slowly, O.N. sa(a, to waylay, to watch an opportunity 
for catching anything (derived from sat, ambush). 
Rekster-dyke (Fe) — from O.N. rekstr, signifying 
" driving (of animals)." Stilfyers-dyke (Y) — from 
O.N. stilli, trap or enclosure to catch animals in. 
Retta-dyke. (Nm)— from O.N. r^tt, sheep-fold. Stuggi- 
dyke or kr^-stuggi,- stooki,- stjoogi (De, Nest, Wests.) 
— perhaps from O.N. stMa, (i) sleeve, (2) projecting 
part of a building. Kr$-stjaagi (Fo) — from O.N. stjaki, 
pole (stick). And there are even more forms than 
these. The difference seems in this case to be very 
old and to proceed from a similar difference existing 
in the ancient Norwegian dialects. Many more speci- 
mens might be given, did space permit. 

As the fishing has been always of prime impor- 
tance to Shetland as the chief means of livelihood for 
the people, I shall here say something more about the 
customs and terms relating to this subject. The fishing 
was done formerly in Shetland with wooden hooks. 
These wooden hooks were pins, some of which had a 
notch in the middle, where the tome (string) was fixed, 
and a slack at the one end, where a loop-fashioned half- 
hitch was passed around, by which the hook with the 


bait on was kept in a hanging position up and down 
along the end of the line. By the slightest touch this 
half-hitch slipped off, and the pin, both ends of which 
were pointed, stuck across the mouth of the fish. 
These wooden hooks were not entirely done away with 
even in the beginning of this century. Some might 
think this scarcely credible, but an old Aithsting man 
informed me, that he had seen fishing done with this 
kind of hook, and described it. They were called 
snaara-pins (U), turning pins, or snivveries or snitties 
and sometimes bernjoggels (Fo). These names were 
also applied to wooden pins, used instead of buttons. 
" Bernjoggel " is the same word as varnaggel or 
" varnaggel-pin," now most often called "de klibber- 
pin " : a wooden pin for keeping the two parts of the 
wooden pack-saddle or klibber (O.N. klyfberi) together 
on the back of the horse. "Varnaggel" means 
" guarding nail or pin " and is compounded of O.N. 
varSa, to guard or protect, and nagli, pin — etym. Engl, 

A striking proof of the great amount of experience 
that the Shetland fishermen had is the fact, that they 
in misty weather, before the compass was invented, 
could always find the land by the '' moder-dye " : an 
under-swell in the sea, which swell always went in the 


direction of the land, whatever way the wind blew. 
The Norway and Faroe fishermen are said to have had 
the same knowledge which died out entirely when the 
compass was introduced. 

There are various names for the different sizes of 
fish, especially of the coal fish or saithe (commonly pro- 
nounced said; O.N. sei&-r), as this was the fish the old 
Shetland fishermen were most familiar with. The 
common Shetland name for the first stage of the 
saithe is sillock, which word is etymologically the 
Norwegian silung; but in Norway the name is 
applied to a young trout, derived from the word sil, 
meaning : fish-fry. In Shetland sil or site is applied 
to the herring-fry, in Faroe always to the trout-fry. 
What further supports this etymology, that the name 
is transferred from one kind of fish to another, is the 
fact that the word k^de, Norw. kj0da, is in Norway 
applied to a young trout, but in Shetland it is some- 
times applied to a half-grown " piltock " (coal-fish) or a 
good fat piltock.* In Dunrossness the " liver-piltocks :" 
piltocks roasted on the fire with the livers inside, were 
called " \\\tx-k<^des- " or " k0thes" The word is derived 
from O.N. kdS, fish-fry, and is etymologically akin to 

* In Orkney the same word, k^the, spelt "cuithe," is commonly 
applied to a young or half-grown saithe, Shetlandic : piltock. 


Engl, "cod." The cod is in Norway and Denmark 
called torsk, while the tusk (torsk) is called brosma, 
brostne, which name is still used in Shetland, pro- 
nounced brismik. The common Shetland name for 
the second stage of the saithe (from its second year 
till it is full-grown) is piltock, which is probably the 
same word as O.N. pilt-r or piltung-r, a boy. There 
are several instances of such metaphorical interchange 
of names. Pjakk and pjokk (two forms of the same 
word) are in Norwegian applied the first to a young 
trout, the second to a young boy. O.N. and Icelandic 
birting-r signifies a kind of trout, Shetl. bjartin (U), 
the same word, is a pet name for a (small) boy. (Cf 
steevin hereafter p. 22.) The saithe had separate names 
applied to it for almost every year of its growing- 
time (said to last six years), most of which names 
denote the shape of the fish. In Unst and Fetlar a 
young piltock sometimes gets the name of a hoal- 
piltock, probably from its long (cylindrical) shape, 
"hoal" being either O.N. all, (i) strip or stripe, (2) eel 
or an eel-shaped thing, or the same word as " ol-(oal-)" 
in ol{l)ik, a young ling. "01(l)ik" is a contraction 
of " oiling," which is Norw. vallonga {vallonge), a half- 
grown (cylindrical) ling, "val-(vol-)" being O.N. vol-r 
(val-), cylinder, stick. A half-grown piltock often gets 


the name of "a welshi piltock," "welshi" being O.N. 
volsi, cylinder ; in the North Isles it is called a dr^lin 
(or drollyin), from O.N. dryl-, applied to a thing of cylind- 
rical shape. In Faroe the name drylur is commonly 
applied to a certain kind of bread : bere-bread, baked 
in the embers or hot ashes in the form of round sticks ; 
in Norway dryle means a cudgel. A third name for 
a half-grown piltock, used on the westside, is steevin 
(a steevin piltock), which is O.N. styfing-r, derived 
from stiif-r, meaning " stump " (Far. styvingur is a half- 
grown halibut). In Conningsburgh " steevin " is a pet 
name for a child. In the same district the word kelva 
or kelvik is applied to a young ling a little bigger than 
an "ol(l)ik." "Kelva" (O.N. kefli) refers to the 
cylindrical shape ; cf Norw. kjevlung-seid, a half-grown 
piltock. O.N. kefli is particularly applied to a wooden 
stick and is the same word as Shetl. kevil {kevvle), a 
stick put into a lamb's mouth to prevent it from 
sucking the mother,* A piltock, fully half-grown, is 
often called a beli (fiellyd) piltock, probably from the 
round and thick shape (Icel. beli, belly ; O.N. belg-r, 
bag, belly). A half-grown cod is in the south of 

* Akin to kefli and kmil is the word " iav/in-tiee," applied to a 
stick with a notch in the end of it for taking the hook out of the 
fish's stomach. 


Unst called a velterin, which is the same word as 
Norw. valtre [voltr), a cylindrical thing, a long-shaped 

As is well known to all Shetlanders, the Shetland 
fishermen before this day, like the fishermen in Faroe 
and Norway, had a great number of lucky words, 
words that they would use only at the haaf or deep- 
sea fishing. Haf is the old Norn word for " ocean." 
The origin of this custom is not easily explained, 
but the custom itself is certainly very, very old, and 
deeply rooted in the Pagan time. The most likely 
explanation seems this, that before the introduction 
and spread of Christianity, and also long after that 
period, the people, and especially the fishermen, be- 
lieved themselves to be surrounded by sea-spirits, 
whom they could not see, and who watched what they 
were doing. In the Pagan time people believed in 
the sea-god CEgir \Aegir\ whose kingdom was the 
mysterious ocean, and he had his attendant minor 
spirits who watched intruders upon his element. The 
feeling which came to prevail among the fishermen 
towards the sea-spirits was one of mysterious dread. 
They considered the sea a foreign element, on which 
they were intruders, and the sea-spirits in consequence 
hostile to them. They had therefore, when at the 


fishing, to take great care what they said, and it be- 
came very important to them to have a number of 
mystic names, to a great extent agreed upon among 
themselves, although derived from words which were 
common in the Norn language. But there is a certain 
number of haaf-words, doubtlessly forming the oldest 
portion, which seem to have been originally worship 
words. An original worship of the sea-spirits is 
rendered probable by the fact, that the fishermen's 
haaf-terms were not at all confined to things in 
immediate connection with the fishing, but extended 
much further. All the domestic animals, for instance, 
got separate names at the haaf Some of these words 
are now obsolete in Scandinavia, but we find them 
used in the old Icelandic literature, chiefly as poetical 
terms. Lj'oag (North Isles and Aithst.), j'ube (Fo), 
maar (Nm), are the old haaf-terms for the "ocean." 
" Jube " is O.N. dj^p, meaning " deep." Lj'oag is O.N. 
logr, meaning " liquid substance " and occurring in the 
old Icelandic poetry as a name for the ocean. My 
attention was first directed to this word as well as to 
the word maar by Mr Laurence Williamson, Mid 
Yell. " Maar " now only occurs in compounds, both 
in Shetland and Scandinavia, such as " mar-bank," 
applied to an abrupt slope of the sea bottom. Further 


haaf-terms of a poetic character are : de birtik (North 
Isles) or brennyer {de brenner, brenna) (South Shetland, 
Lunn.) or finna (Junna) (Aithst., Fo) for the fire. 
" Birtik " is O.N. birta, birti, brightness, from bjartr, bright ; 
in O.N. both brennir {forbrennir, i.e., the burner) and futti 
are poetical terms for the fire. De fdger (U) or faig{-er) 
(Y) for the sun; from O.N. fagr, fair, beautiful. Be 
gjonger (Westside) for the horse ; same word as Danish 
ganger, used in poetry for a horse, and signifying ; goer, 
runner. Ti&gloam {gloamer) for the moon ; O.N. gldm-r, 
weak light (whence Scotch "gloaming," twilight), in 
poetry : moon. De gro (O.N.grdffi) for the wind. 

A sufficient proof, that the custom of using lucky 
words at the haaf was rooted in the Pagan time, is to be 
found in the fact, that the minister and the church were 
on no account to be mentioned by their right names at 
sea. The minister and the church represented the new 
conquering faith which aimed at doing away ^^•ith the 
old gods and consequently at disputing the sea-god's 
dominion of the sea. Being thus offensive to the sea- 
god and sea-spirits, the church had to be called " de beni- 
hoosel' and the minister "de upstander." Benihoose 
means prayer house, not house of bones, as the popular 
etymology explains it, from the bones of the dead bodies 
buried in the churchyard. It is a corruption of b^n- 


hoose, prayer house, which latter form still occurs in the 
North Isles. B(j)n is an old Norn word for prayer. The 
Papa, Sandness and Aithsting fishermen often used to 
call the church de kl0ster (O.N. klaustr — cloister or 
monastery.) The minister who could not be called by 
his right name any more than the church was called " de 
beniman" {i.e., prayer-man), but more commonly "de 
upstander" from his standing up in the pulpit during 
the sermon. He had many other names, such as fi. 
de predikanter (preacher), de loader (from O.N. lata : to 
utter sounds, to speak in a peculiar tone), de koideen (U). 
The nature of the haaf-terms will be seen from this- 
They were not nonsensical, merely coined words, as 
some think, nor were they the real Norn words for the 
persons, animals and things they were applied to. 
They are words of a more or less poetic nature and 
mostly figurative terms, that is to say : persons, animals 
and things are named according to some striking 
characteristic about them. This accounts for the great 
variety of names used for one and the same person, 
animal and thing. Each animate and inanimate being 
had always many characteristics that would readily 
afford a basis for the many names applied. The cat was, 
for instance, called : de foodin or footer (Nm, Delt. and 
further), de kisert, kisek (Fe, etc.), poosi, de raami (fi. 


Ireland in Sandwick parish), de skaavin (Nest, Br., 
Conn., Sandw. and further) or de skavnashi (Sandw.), de 
spjaaler (U), de venga or vengi (Fo, Aithst.), de voalex (U.), 
I shall explain some of these names. " De foodin 
(footer) " means the light-footed animal ; " raami " is de- 
rived from roam = krammock, paw, esp. a cat's paw (from 
O.N. hrammr, paw on a beast of prey, esp. a bear's paw) ; 
de " skaavin" or " skavnashi" means " the shaver, the 
nose-shaver," from the cat's habit of washing itself up 
around the lugs and down over the nose ; •' de spjaaler" 
means the player f from an old spda, to play) ; " de 
voaler" means the wailer, from the cat's wailing cry 
(O.N. vdla, to wail, to cry). 

The cow was called in the North Isles " de boorik" 
which means : the bellowing animal ; cf Norw. bura, 
to bellow, Dan. br^le, Shetl. to br$le. Other names were 
used in other places. The otter was called tek or dratsi 
or dafi. " Tek " is the same word as Scotch " tyke," 
O.N. tik, a bitch. " Dratsi," the otter is called from its 
manner of dragging its tail ; cf O.N. dratta, to walk slowly 
and heavily (in Icelandic dratt halt is a nick-name to the 
fox, corresponding to Shetlandic " dring-tail " as a sea 
name for the cat). Quite similar is the origin of the 
name " dafi " (cf. Norw. dava, to saunter). The seal was 
* Sco. : to dring — to be slow ; dring — dilatory. 


in the North Isles and Foula called " de hoarin (or 
woarin)," which means " the hairy one," " the hair-fish," 
from O.N. hdr, hair. The whale, was in Unst called "de 
fjaedin " : the fat animal, from O.N. feit-r, fat. — The 
common name for " wife '' was haimelt or hjaimelt 
(Scotch : ha(i)mald etc., domestic), because she sat at 
home, while her husband was at the haaf The limpet- 
bait was in Foula called " de fjora" which is properly : 
the ebb, O.N. fjara (cf the expression : " to geng to de, 
limpet ebb," or simply " ebb"). De huggistaff: the staff 
which the fisherman strikes into the fish, was called at 
the haaf by the North Isles fishermen " de h^dik {hoodik) 
or h^derl' meaning : the threatener (Norw. and Far. h(pta, 
hdta, h^tta : to raise the arm in a threatening way). The 
proper name " huggi-staff" is also a Norn word, from 
hoggva, to strike. The boat was called " defaar" (O.N. 
far, conveyance). The mast of the boat was called " de 
stong or steng " : the stick (O.N. stong). The sail was 
called "de cloot" or " de skegga ■" the latter is O.N. skeki' 
patch, rag, clout. The ouskerri or boat-scoop was called 
by the Unst fishermen " de switik or swattyek" from the 
word " to swite " (O.N. skvettd), meaning : to pour out 
water in a splashing way. 

Other haaf-terms are : to snee or snae de neburd 
(North Shetland) : to cut (O.N. sniSa, sneiSd) the fish- 


bait ; " neburd " is Icelandic niSurburSur, a quantity of 
bait, properly : what is borne or let down into the sea 
(^«r^«;'= bearing; m'dur=(iovfn, Old Shetlandic : "ned"); 
further : to g/aan de sk^ni : to sharpen the knife (Gaelic : 
sgian). The sharpening-stone was called " de glaan or 
glaani " (originally same word as Icel. glan, " smoothness 
and brightness of something polished "). 

The halibut was in the North Isles called " de baldin " 
at the haaf, probably from O.N. baldinn, meaning : ob- 
stinate, intractable, unruly (akin to Engl. bold). The 
halibut was a very difficult fish to deal with ; when it had 
taken the bait and started running, a part of the line was 
given out, that the fish might spend its strength a little, 
before the fisherman began to haul. When the halibut was 
running with such force, that it was to be feared that it 
might break the line, the Unst fishermen would cry after 
it : " Haltagongi " or " altagongi" which means : stop 
running (going) (O.N. halt gongu) ! Said in English this 
would have had no effect on the fish at all, but said in 
Norn it was thought to be effectual and to stop the fish. 
The ling, of course, could not be called ling. The 
general name was " white." When the fisherman was 
hauling the line, and the first ling came in sight, he 
would sing out : " White," or : " Light in the lum." See- 
ing the second one : " White again " f i. or : " White 


inunder white." " For the third one sometimes : " White 
inunder dat," or : " White inunder ' wheedo ' !" Catching 
sight of the fourth Hng, the Unst fishermen would some- 
times say : " Wheeda ligger a wheedo" which is Norn, and 
means : " White lies on white." 

The fishing-lodge was called " de hoyd" or " bigg" and 
almost everything in the lodge would have a separate 
name too. The kettle was called " de ring(a)loadi " or 
" honger." " Ring(a)loadi " means : " that which hangs 
by the ring " and is compounded of " ring " (in O.N.) 
[kring-r] occasionally applied to the bool of the " kettle") 
and O.N. ioffa, to hang loose, dangling. " De honger " 
simply means : " the hanger." 

Finally, there is a third class of haaf names, con- 
sisting of ordinary Norn words which, having become 
obsolete in the daily conversational language, were 
retained at the haaf as lucky words, while substituted 
Scotch or English words were used at the fireside. 
For instance : de damp, for the end of the fishing line 
(Dan. tamp [from Low German], bit of rope, end of 
a line) ; de gr^tek or gr^dek (U) for the kettle (O.N. 
gryta, earthen pot) ; de ilder (Aithst.) or hildin (Fo) 
for the fire (O.N. eld-r) (-"in" in "hildin" is the 
suffixed definite article) ; de klova or kloven, klivven 
(-" en " : the definite article) for the fire-tongs, applied 


originally to any clefted tool or instrument (O.N. 
klofi) ; de rakki (Westside) for the dog ^O.N. rakki 
for the more common hund-r, dog) ; de russi for the 
horse (O.N. hross). Finally "de rae" (Scotch form 
of O.N. rd) for the yard of the mast 

But leaving the haaf terms and turning to the 
fireside language, we also find this latter saturated 
with Norn expressions. But of the vast number of 
subjects it is only a few, that space allows me to 
enter upon here, and it will not be more than a 
mere touching of the surface. Only one or two 
subjects can be entered more fully upon. The first 
is the old names for the various kinds of utensils, the 
household utensils and the baskets or boxes used in 
connection with the fishing. First of all there is "de 
kesshie" the common basket, made from straw or 
dried docken-stems. It is the Norw. kjessa, derived 
from O.N. kass{i), basket. In this connection I may 
mention " de maishie" open basket (net- work) (O.N. 
meiss, basket), etymologically the same word as Engl. 
" mesh." " De biiddie {b0dd{)" is the fisherman's basket 
(same word as Far. byd'i, Icel. byffa, tub, kit). A 
kuddie is a small " biiddie " ; originally it signifies pro- 
bably " bag," and is akin to the word kod, meaning : 
pillow. " De kuddie " is in Dunrossness called " de 


hovi" which word in most places signifies "bow-net, 
weel" (O.N. hdf-r, Norw. haav). A toieg (N.I.) is a 
small straw basket for holding meal or coin. It is 
the Norw. taegja, derived from taag (Shetl. tad), 
meaning " fibre," because the toieg was originally 
made from tree root fibres. A loopi (Du), a 
small meal or corn basket, is very much like a 
" toieg." It is O.N. laup-r, box, basket, most often 
(as in modern Norwegian) applied to a certain measure 
of butter, and Far. leypur, a long-shaped wooden box, 
used for the same purpose as the " kesshie " is used 
for in Shetland, namely, for carrying something (peats, 
manure) on the back ; " -lep,-lek " in the words 
Uthelep or toudilep (P, Fe) and to(o)delek (U) : a small 
tight kesshie (f. i. a manure-kesshie), are obscured forms 
oi laup-r; c.f Far. tocFuleypur, ma.nure-hox ("foffu" from 
O.N. iaffa, manure). A span is a high wooden hooped 
vessel (generally for holding milk to be churned) ; in 
Fair Isle it signifies the water-pail. O.N. spann is a 
kind of vessel and also a certain measure (J laupr^ 
Skepp or skebbik, which is O.N. skeppa, a dry measure, 
\ barrel, and r0i (Norw. rudda) are both names applied 
to a large basket for rubbing corn in. The word dullyak 
(N.I.) is in Unst and Yell sometimes applied to the water- 
pail or " daffock " (from Gaelic dabhach, mashing-tub). 


It is Norw., Icel. and Far. dylla, pail, kit. Most often 
the word occurs, not in its original sense, but applied to 
almost anything big, clumsy and untidy : " a dullyak o' a 
kesshie," and even : " a dullyak o' a wife " (i.e., woman). 
The old Foula-name for the " dafifock " is " de vats{a)- 
dudlin" (irom O.N. vatn, water, and dulla = dylla)ox "water- 
dudlik." In some parts of Shetland it is called defuddik 
ox fiddik (in Sandsting : vatik\ which is O^.fata, signi- 
fying tub or pail. The word remikel {r^mikel), signifying 
a wooden tub-shaped vessel for holding run-milk, &c., is 
now growing rare. It is the Norwegian rjome- or 
r^mekolla, where rjome or r^me signifies cream, and 
kolla a round-shaped wooden vessel, akin to the word 
koil or koll, which I mentioned for " head." The words 
koopi and kubbi originally mean something cup or bowl- 
shaped (O.N. k-Apa, bowl). The box or hollowed out 
stone, that the pig eats its food out of, is called in Unst 
and Foula "de grice kubbi" which name is more properly 
applied to the stone, which was the utensil formerly 
used. "Koopi" is used by the Bressay fishermen, 
applied to the box containing the limpet bait. A third 
name for the bait-box, used in Conningsburg, is " de 
krubbik." The word krub ( O.N. krubbd) signifies 
originally " confined space " and is akin to the word kr(^ 
as well as to English " crib," manger. Krub in " plantie- 


krub," is the same word, and also kribbi, used in Aiths- 
ting for the haddock-line creel. Another form of the 
word is kruff, which is in Foula and Aithsting applied 
to the lamb's or calfs box. The pig's box is in Aiths- 
ting called "de grice truggel." Truggel signifies 
originally a small trough (O.N. trygill) and is in Aiths- 
ting also applied to a vessel for holding liver-oil : " a 0li 
truggel," especially when partly broken. The common 
name for the haddock-line creel is "de skol!' The 
name skol is also applied to a certain kind of round- 
shaped wooden dishes, got from Norway (O.N. skdl, 
bowl). The old names for utensils have been kept best 
in connection with the liver-oil. I mentioned "de 0li 
truggel." In Unst a wooden oil vessel, broader at the 
bottom than at the top, is called " a 0li hoilk " ( = Norw. 
hoik), derived from the root kolka, to hollow out, and 
the same thing is called in Dunrossness " a roobel." 
A tub-shaped vessel for holding oil is sometimes called 
"a 0li bunki" which is Norwegian bunka, and akin 
etymologically to English "bunker." An oil-pot is 
called in the North Isles " a 0li poitik or pootyek" and 
a small or partly broken oil-pot is in some places called 
zpitti (pUtti) or piti, which is O.N. pytti, a diminutive 
form of pot. A pittiskord or potshkirt (Engl, "pot- 
sherd"), poitibrod and pannibrod (Fe) are all applied 


to a piece of a broken kettle for holding oil. Brod 
here signifies a broken piece (O.N. broi) and is 
different from the common word "brod," which is a 
Scotch form of the English word "board." The 
general name for a utensil is lost in Shetland, but it 
occurs disguised in a compound word : " de ouskerry" 
the boat-scoop. Kerry there signifies vessel (O.N. ker 
or kerald), so " ouskerry " properly means the " owsing- 
vessel," or the utensil for baling the water out of the 

My next subject is the old names for the various 
colours. Wheed-{queed-), meaning white, occurs in for 
instance brungi-queedin, which is a Foula word mean- 
ing "breast-white," and was used as a nickname for 
any man who had a fancy for wearing a white vest. 
"Wheed-" also occurs in place-names, such as Wheeda- 
murs it.e., white mires), wheedastack* &c. Gro, meaning 
gray, occurs in the words Grogi and Groga, applied in 
the North Isles the former to a gray horse or bull, the 
latter to a gray mare or cow. Further, in place-names, 
such as Gro-stane, which means "gray stone." Gul, 
meaning yellow, occurs in the word gulsa, the old name 
for the jaundice. It is a contraction of O.N. gulsdtt, 
" yellow sickness." Gul also occurs in place-names, such 

* A staci (O.N. stakk-r) is a high pointed rock in the sea. 


as Gulahamar {Gola-), called so from the yellowish 
colour of the rock. R0, meaning red, occurs in R0i and 
R0da, applied in the North Isles the former to a red 
horse, the latter to a red mare or cow. Further, in 
place-names, such as R^stack (" Roestack"). Gr^, 
meaning " green," occurs in the word gr^shka (Y, Sa), 
applied to the green tufts on the grass-grown side of a 
clod of earth, when turned over with the spade ; further 
in place-names, such as Gr^nastack (spelt " Grunastack"), 
that is : a stack, grass-grown on the top. Swart, 
meaning " black," occurs in swaabi, a contraction of 
swart-bak, the old Shetland name for the black-backed 
gull (in Unst called " de baagi") ; also in swartlinsf 
applied to black moory ground, and in swartatee, which 
is an oath and means " in black time." Swartaskerry 
(place-name) = " black skerry." Shetlandic broon is the 
unaltered form of O.N. bnlinn, brown. Bio, meaning 
" blue," occurs in place-names such as : Blogio. Mooret 
means reddish-brown (O.N. morauS-r, " moor-red") and 
has reference to the reddish-brown colour of dry moor- 
land. Shaila is a gray shade through black. Both 
" mooret" and " shaila" are colours applied to sheep-wool. 
The latter word properly means " hoar-frost," in which 
sense it is used in O.N. and modern Icelandic {hda, 
hjeld) ; and in this sense it is still used in the Shetland 


North Isles. " Shaila" is no colour in particular, but as 
a light covering of hoar-frost gives the earth a light- 
coloured shade, so the " shaila " colour just is a light 
shade through black. A dusky colour is expressed by 
the words skjomet or skoomet and moosket (O.N. sMm, 
Norw. musk, dusk). Cf. Shetl. " a skoomp o' mist," a 
lump of haze. Applied to a slightly obscured sky are 
the expressions • a skoomi sky, a homsi (Jioomsi) sky. 
Haze is called hooms (hums) or hoomsker (from O.N. 
Mm, dusk) and moosk, moosker (Fo), slightly different 
from ask which is generally windy. O.N. skiim and 
Mm are also applied to the twilight, in modern Nor- 
wegian especially the derivative forms skyming and 
hyming; but in Shetland only the latter word is used, 
pronounced h4min, and sometimes also the form hums 
occurs, used in the same way : " hds comin to de hums o' 
de nighf (Nm). There are a great many names in Norn 
applied to the colours of sheep and cattle. I shall 
mention and explain a few more of them. Moget 
{katmogei) refers to a separate colour of the belly and is 
derived from O.N. magi, meaning stotaach or belly. In 
Shetland the name moggi is only applied to the stomach 
of a fish (or whale). Sholmet is applied to a black 
cow with a white face. The word is derived from O.N. 
hjdlm-r, signifying a helmet, the derivative form of 


which, hjdlmStt-r, originally means "helmet-covered." 
Bjoaget means " ring-striped," and is derived from bjoag, 
O.N. baug-r, meaning a ring. In the Shetland North 
Isles the name bjoag is applied to for instance a 
collar of straw around the horse's neck in harrowing. 
Flekket means " spotted " and is derived from O.N. 
flekk-r, spot. Sponget is from O.N. spong, applied 
especially to a metal buckle, but the original meaning 
seems to be a patch. " A sponget coo " is properly a cow 
covered with patches of different colour from that of the 
body. Yuglet (U) is applied to a black sheep, white 
around the eyes, or the opposite. The word is com- 
pounded oi yoga, the old name for the eye (O.N. auga), 
and litt, meaning coloured. 

Another subject I should like to enter a little upon 
is the various Norn expressions that are used about a 
person, when in an offended or sulky state of mind. 
The great variety of these expressions according to the 
various degrees of sulkiness show clearly the humorous 
instinct of the Shetland people. I go through the list 
first and shall then try to explain the origin of some of 
the words. " He is stutsit" or " He is ta'en a stoit" 
" He is trumsket" or drumset, or troinshket. " He kjust 
him up in troitskka." " He is trullyet" or trulshket. 
" He is i' de {h)oonkoons." " He is lyin' up i' de heloor" 


" He is snoilket" or has ta'en a snoilk or a hwidd or a 
sniid or de fruntpses. " He is sniisket " or " ill-snUsket!' 
" He is hangin' a slebr " He is hangin' a soor »?«// 
(moot). " He was uncon munljeppin i' de mornin'." 
" He kjust him up in a dulhoit." " He is a dr^dt body," 
etc. This list is not supposed to exhaust the subject. I 
shall explain a few of these expressions, of which some 
refer purely to the mind, others to the way of utterance, 
others again, and that is the majority, to face and 
attitude, as revealing sulkiness. " He is i' de (]i)oori- 
kooris " (Fo. and Aithst.) : " Hoorikooris " is a com- 
pound word, the first part of which is oor or oori 
(Icelandic ^rar), meaning " a senseless state," akin to 
Scotch " oorie ; " and the second part is the root koor, 
signifying a state between waking and sleeping. " He's 
lyin' i' de hoorikooris " is originally applied to a person 
half-wake and half-asleep in the morning, before getting 
out of bed, and as he is then generally sulky, the ex- 
pression is most often applied in this latter meaning. 
We find both words also in the expressions : " to sit 
oortn or koorin (nodding, half asleep) ower de fire." The 
Yell expression " lyin' up i' de heloor'' has a similar 
origin. The word hel (Engl, hell) is in O.N. applied 
vaguely to the realm of death or the world beyond the 
earth. A person in the heloor is thus properly 


speaking a half-dreaming person whose thoughts are 
wandering away ; then it means a person, who will not 
speak, of which unwillingness sulkiness is most often the 
cause. " A troinshket body " is properly a person who 
makes a tr^ni, which means " a long snout (O.N. 
trynt)" and is most often applied to the pig's snout. 
Troinshket is sometimes used also in the meaning : 
depressed, in a depressed mood. There are three ex- 
pressions besides, taken from the way in which one 
forms the mouth, when one is sulky. " He is munljeppin " 
(Fe) : compound of O.N. munn-r, mouth, and lepi or 
lippa, signifying " a big lip " ; the expression literally 
means : he is making a big mouth-lip. " He's hangin 
a sleb " ; " sleb " is a big lip. " He is hangin a soor 
■mull or mool;" "mull, mool" (O.N. mAli) means a 
big down-hanging mouth, and is usually applied to the 
mouth of a horse (especially) or cow. The same word 
occurs in several place-names, applied to rounding-down 
headlands (or similar formations of land). Trullyet 
(truyllet) and trulshket originally mean " trowy-like," 
derived from truyll, O.N. troll, in the old language 
signifying trow (troll) or fairy, in modern Shetlandic 
an untidy being. As the trows were always supposed 
to be both sulky and untidy beings, the words trullyet 
and trulshket have acquired both these meanings. "He 


drumbet twa'rtree (two or three) words oot o' him : " 
he spoke the words out in a low drumming way. " He 
r0ded oot o' him," («) he growled, spoke so low, that one 
could barely hear him, {b) he spoke nonsense ; in both 
senses derived from O.N. hrjdta, to emit rough sounds, 
to growl, to snore, also: to rush, to tumble.* " Dr0bi" 
(U) is akin to English " drooping " and means originally 
"bent down, with bent down head and shoulders," 
which position often accompanies sulkiness. " He kjust 
hihi up in (intill) a dulhoit," or : " he kjust a dulhoit 
ower him," is a North Isles expression and means 
literally : " he threw a hiding-hat over himself," which 
phrase occurs in O.N., where the word for hiding-hat 
is dyl-hottr or -hattr. The phrase which originally 
refers to magic is in Shetland generally applied to a 
person who under some pretence refuses to do anything 
he is bidden or has promised to do. The hiding-hat 
thus ironically refers to the person's pretended excuse 
as a cover over his sulkiness. 

In no point does the Shetland dialect reveal a 
greater wealth and flexibility than in regard to 
expressions for the different states of weather and sea. 
Hundreds of words and phrases concerning these 

* The same word is in modern Icelandic {hrjSta) and in Shetlandic 
{r^) commonly applied to small tight rain ; "he's r^din oot o' him." 


subjects can be traced back to the old Norn. I merely 
mention this fact, as the subjects are too vast to enter 
upon here. 

A great many Norn words survive in compounds, 
that is to say, they are neither used nor understood 
singly, while two such words but together as a com- 
pound may be in common use and applied rightly. 
I shall mention a few of them, as it tends to illustrate 
the process of the dying of a language. Most of these 
words at one time belonged to the most commonly 
used daily words. Thus, while haaf'x's, preserved, applied 
originally to the ocean, now more specially the deep sea 
fishing-grounds, the general Norn word for sea, sjS-r, 
is lost. Still this occurs in for instance: "de shoorniil, 
that is : the ebb or fore-shore, literally " sea mark :" 
shoo meaning sea, and mil mark, which latter word 
occurs also in summermil, the first day of summer 
(the summer half-year), the 14th of April. De shoopiltie, 
literally : " sea-boy," is a Northmavine name for the 
water spirit, called in the rest of Shetland " de njuggle " 
and in Scotland : the water-kelpie. S{h)oosamillyabakka 
is an old, now obsolete, Unst expression, literally 
meaning "between sea and banks." It was a fisher- 
men's phrase. A fisherman, coming from the limpet- 
ebb and asked where he had been, did not like to give 


a straightforward answer — it might prove unlucky — 
and therefore answered in the above-mentioned round- 
about way, that he had been between sea and banks 
(" shoo-" : sea, " amillya " : between, " bakka " : banks). 
An adnashoor is a Foula expression, literally meaning 
"a second or alternate sea" and applied to a few big 
waves in succession, running ashore and followed by a 
lull, and so on. Annar, second, occurs besides in 
" adnashoor " in the old Yell expression, now obsolete : 
"he's blawin' annyawhart": it is an uneven wind, 
" annyawhart " being literally : " second every," that is : 
every second moment blowing, every second moment 
calm. Further, in ann{y)ister, annis(Ji)ed or adnaset, 
applied to a two year old lamb or a lamb in its second 
year and in some places to the second lamb of a ewe 
or the second calf of a cow. Millya, milli, between or 
among, occurs in hoosamillya and skotta- or skoitamilli- 
skroo {skattamilliskrooa : Fe). " To geng hoosamillya " 
is to go among the houses, carrying gossip from the one 
to the other; "to rin skottamilliskroo" is an old hide-and- 
seek game, " skottamilliskroo " meaning literally : to run 
to and fro (Icel. skotta) among the "skroos" or corn- 
stacks (O.N. sktHf) in the corn-yard.* Ground, delved 

* The word "to rin" has been added, because the meaning of 
"skotta" is lost. 


the second year out of lay is generally called attifil{d) or 
attifils, but in some places (as Fetlar andWestside) it is 
called attavelta or attivelt, which is nearer the original 
form) : aptr-velta, " atti, atta " (O.N. a/>ir) meaning 
" again, anew," and " velta " delving or a delved piece of 
ground. Gord (O.N. garffr), dyke (wall) or yard, occurs 
in "gorsti," dyke-stead, foundation of an old dyke, which 
word is also applied (in some places) to a division 
between two corn-rigs. Further in : gorsimmens, that is : 
yard-" simmens," strong ropes for securing (fastening) the 
hay and the corn in the yard {simmen, straw-rope, is 
O.N. shni, band ; " n " is the suffixed definite article) ; 
to gorhird {korhird) de corn (U and Fe) : to put the 
corn into the yard {hird, O.N. hirSa, is properly : to keep, 
to secure). In Unst it is said about a person who either 
eats a great deal or talks a great deal, that he has "a 
guid (good) kjolka-kastl' which literally means : skill in 
the jaws {kjolka from O.N. kjdlki, jaw; kast=^^\). O.N. 
kinn, cheek, survives in Shetland in the word " ^««-fish," 
the fleshy part of the cheek of a fish. Both " kjolka " 
and " kin '' occur in place-names and denote a piece of 
steep banks, bearing some resemblance to a cheek- 
O.N. lik, corpse, is preserved in " leek-strae," the straw 
under the corpse in the death-bed, and in the expressions 
' calm as a leek," applied to the sea, and : " within de 


leek" (N.I.)> the funeral district. O.N. «i/, needle, 
survives in the compound "a noraleg" changed from 
nolaleg, meaning " needle-leg " and applied to a needle 
with the eye broken. or wo, O.N. d, burn, occurs in 
oarli (Nm), more commonly wurli, literally " burn's- 
gate," original form : dr-hlW, dr being the possessive form 
of «', and hliS meaning : gate ; in place-names, f i. Laxo 
(Lax-o)=trout-burn. O.N. s6kn is lost in Shetlandic in its 
common application, "parish," but preserved in the form 
" sookni" as applied to a crowd of people. Tant, tann, 
O.N. tonn, tooth, occurs in the old name of a certain 
kind of cod : tangruynin* (U) : " tooth-cod" (from its 
sharp teeth), now usually called " Iceland-cod ;" further, 
in tantfellyin (N.I.), a "teeth-caster": a young animal 
(horse) loosing its teeth. " Lat me see, if du's gotten dy 
tannyiks !" is a Fetlar phrase, addressed to a small child: 
Let me see, if you have got your teeth ! 

O.N. thari, sea-weed, is preserved in the word tari- 
crook, dung-fork (properly : fork for taking up the 
" ware " or sea-weed, used as manure)." O.N. Hcf, time, 
is still preserved in f.i. the oath swarta-tee, (" black time," 
evil hour). O.N. torf, peat, survives in " tuskker" the 
old name of the peat-spade (a contracted form of O.N. 
torfskeri, literally : " peat-cutter"). Yar, ixomjarS, O.N. 
* Gruynin=-\cA. grunnungr, cod, properly "ground-fish." 


jord, earth, occurs in the expression " to yar-fast de corn, 
de hay, de boat," etc., that is : to secure the corn, etc., 
against storms and sudden gales, properly: to fasten it 
down to the earth by means of weigths, stones) ; further 
in the expression " to yar-poan de ruiff (roof) " (Fe) : to 
" double-/ofl«," to put on two layers of sods (in thatch- 
ing) and not the usual layer of straw. " Poan " means 
" sod, green turf for thatching," and is probably derived 
from O.N. spdnn, shingle. 

Finally it will be necessary to enter a little upon the 
class of words which are used figuratively, that is to say : 
which are lost in their original sense and are now applied 
only to things which originally have been likened to the 
things the names stood for. There is a number of old 
words applied jocularly to thin and lean corn, but few of 
these words literally mean thin, lean corn. The list is 

fjandi or " fiend " (U) fjugg (fjaag) or fjusk (Fe), heeg 
(Du), heckle, henkle (Mainl.), h^ (N.I.), nakket corn, 
ogadoo (U), peesker (U), snaag (Wests.), standin' stilk 
(Du), str^gins or str0get corn (Conn,), tuggent^ (Y, 
obsolete), t^, t0a (N.Roe), a/Zv^-pluck (Y). " Fjugg, 
fjaag, fjusk " properly mean " light empty (airy) stuff." 
These words also signify haze or a slight obscuration of 
the sky. " Henkel " is akin to Norw. hengla, barely to 
hank together. " H0 " is O.N. h^, mould, a mouldy or 


musty covering. " Ogadoo " (properly : weed among the 
corn, in which sense it is still used in Y) is derived from 
O.N. akr-ddi, where akr signifies corn field, ddi: plant. 
" Stilk (staaylk) " is O.N. stilkr, stalk. " Str0gins " is 
derived from O.N. stry, tow, hards. "Tuggem0" is in 
Unst applied to a thick swarm, f i. of birds or midges, in 
the expression : "As tick as tuggem0." The word is 
compounded of O.N. thoka, mist, fog, and 111^, Norw. inoe, 
summer-colt. In Aithsting " a lock o' m0 " is jocularly 
applied to a quantity of small useless things (a lot of 
small potatoes, small " sillocks," etc.) ; a more common 
term is murr, " a lock o' murr " (in the North Isles : 
mudder), applied to small things (potatoes, "sillocks,") 
originally : small particles, dust particles, Norw. and Icel. 
mor (" mudder " from O.N. m6Sr= mor). " T0, t0a " is in 
Aithsting applied to old grass ; the word is derived from 
O.N. (d, tangled wool. " Ullya-pluck " properly means 
"wool-pluck," from O.N. «//, wool. In North Roe the 
word is applied to wool, hair or feathers as remains of 
the carcase of an animal or bird. 

A great many words are applied figuratively to an 
odd-looking person, a big and stout or untidy person 
(more especially a woman), a tall and thin fellow, etc. 
An odd-looking person is called in Unst and Yell a 
hjokfinni, which means properly " somebody or some- 


thing found in a burial mound," Norw. haugfunnen 
("hill-found") ; O.N. haug-r, Shetlandic hjoag, hill, mound. 
In Norwegian the word haugfunnen is sometimes applied 
to an odd, somewhat deranged person. An odd, small 
and square-built person was in Fetlar called " a traayll- 
fangin " (properly : a " thrall-captive," O.N. thrcel-fangi).* 
" A ootavid body" (U) is a person of strange behaviour (a 
person shunning company), properly : a person from the 
waste or wilderness, Norw. utvidd, utvida. The word 
" kurdik," literally " a big boulder, piece of rock," + is 
applied to a big clumsy woman. Such a woman is also 
called a h$stak, hustak and soadi, soadik. " H0stak " 
literally means " hay-stack " and " soadi " is O.N. sdta, 
another word for a hay-stack. A square-shaped woman 
is in Unst called a studdik (Norw. st^da, Icel. stoeSa, pile, 
stack). A great gj^re or gy-kairl is a big and tall woman; 
originally the words signify " giantess " (O.N. gygr; 
" kairl " is O.N. kerling, old wife). An untidy person is 
called a truyll (O.N. troll, troll ; the Shetlandic word for 
troll is Scotch "trow,") "A druyllsklaaget {truyllshlaagei) 
creature " (Y), properly " trow-struck (struck by a 

* It may be seen from the use of this word, that the thralls (war- 
captives) of the ancient Shetland vikings have been generally of smaller size 
than their conquerors and masters. 

t In Foula hurdin means " boulder " (O.N. urd, heap of boulders), 
"-in " is the suffixed definite article. 


fairy)," signifies the same as the above mentioned " hjok- 
finni." A big and stout fellow is called " a hulgin o' a 
fellow," where " hulgin " is Norw. Aolg;e, wisp of hay, 
bundle of straw ("hallow," windlin), also applied jocularly 
to a big fellow. A ra/i (O.N. rapt-r, rafter) and a sperrek 
or spurr (Du) (O.N. sperra, rafter) both denote a tall and 
thin person. 

An animal whose upper jaw projects beyond the 
lower one is commonly called' " gabeshot " (gapeshot), 
but the old Aithsting name is " a toossi" which is 
O.N. thussi (jhurs), goblin, troll. A wild ungovernable 
child is sometimes called a toossik or toossip, which is 
the same word as the afore-mentioned " toossi." 

In Fetlar bad butter was sometimes csWed jyaedemur, 
which really means " (fat) tallow " (from O.N. feit-r, fat, 
and morr, tallow). 

There is a number of jocular words denoting a very 
small person, specially a (small) child, f i. : bjartin (U) ; 
eerepi (Du) ; fjorek (U) ; (a) noshigirt (ting) (Du) ; ogagot 
(C) ; oomik{-in) ; oorik ; oormik (C), oormel (U) ; paaytin 
(U) ; steevin (C) ; tud or tuddik (Fe, Aithst.), etc. 
" Bjartin " is the same word as Icel. birting-r, a species 
of trout (named from the bright colour ; O.N. bj'art-r, 
bright). "Oomik(-in)" is O.N. iimagi, a helpless being (?{ : 
the denying prefix " un "-; " magi" from the root " mag," 


signifying " strength, power "). " Oormik " and " oormel " 
mean literally " a (little) worm " (O.N. orm-r), but are 
never applied to a worm. Reg. "steevin," see p. i8. 
" Tud (tuddik)" is O.N. tutt-r, a dwarfish being. 

"A r0dastab" is a figurative expression, used in 
Fetlar and applied to a person who does not care to 
move out of the way, a person who is always standing 
in one's way, when one is anxious to get on with any 
kind of work. The word often occurs in the expression : 
"to stand or sit lack (like) a r0dastab" but nobody is able 
to tell, what the word in this connection really means- 
The only explanation is this : within the memory of old 
Shetland people the larger vertebrae or joints of the 
spine of some big whale were used as seats, instead of 
stools. Now, in O.N. the name r^ySr is applied to a 
certain kind of big whale, and stab (O.N. stabbi) signifies 
any block used as a seat. In Faroe such " stabs " from a 
whale's spine are still to be found used as seats, and they 
are called roySrarstabbar (evidently the same word as 
" r0dastab"). Of course such a stab could not move, and 
the application of the word to a motionless person is 
obvious. "A rudderastub" (obsolete, U), applied jocularly 
to a small thickset person (child), is another form of 
r^d[t')arstabbt' — " r0dastab." 

Such figurative application of words indicates, that 


they have reached their dying stage. Every dying 
speech is full of expressions of this kind. I shall mention 
two words, which are on the way to be used figuratively : 
Ouskerri as a name for the boat-scoop is not yet obsolete, 
but it is growing obsolete. In some places in Shetland 
it is now chiefly applied to a big clumsy woman (a great 
ouskerri o' a wife*) and very little used in its original 
meaning. " A muckle hobran, a great ugly hobran " is 
in some places in Shetland (f i. N. Roe) applied to a big, 
repulsive looking person, but " hobran " really means 
" shark " (Norw. kaabrand), in which sense it is still used 
in other parts of the country. " H5bran " contains the 
word "hoe" the Shetland name for the dog-fish (O.N. 
hdfr, Norw. haa). 

I have hitherto in this lecture almost exclusively 
treated single words and not contexts in which the old 
language appears as spoken. There are a few nursery 
rhymes, two or three riddles {goadiks, guddiks; O.N. gdtd) 
and a few other small fragments in Norn preserved, 
although in a very much corrupted state (some of them 
are hopelessly corrupted). An old nursery rhyme from 
Foula, a rhyme for frightening unruly, disobedient 
children, runs thus : 

• In the Shetland dialect "wife" commonly stands for "woman." 


Skela komina reena toona 
swarta hesta bletta broona, 

fomtina (^fjomtan) haala andfomtina {^fjomtan) bjadnis 
a kwaara haala. 
The translation runs thus : " A skekkel (that is to say : 
some sort of bogie or fabulous animal) has come riding 
to the " toon" on a black horse with a white spot on 
its brow, with fifteen tails, and with fifteen children on 
each tail." This fabulous animal is here called a 
" skekkel." The word, which originally signifies a bogie, 
is still used in Yell and Fetlar to denote a straw guizard 
(masker). In Unst these guizards are called gr^liks, from 
O.N. gryla, signifying a bogie or skekkel. The way to 
treat children when they will not be quiet is mentioned 
in a nursery rhyme belonging to Unst : 

Buyn vil ikka teea, 

tak an leggen, 

slogan veggen, 

buyn vil ikke teea. 
Translated, this means : " The child will not be quiet ; 
take him by the leg, and strike him against the wall, 
if the child will not be quiet." As the third specimen of 
conversational Norn, I shall mention a riddle or 
" goadik" belonging to Unst and given me by Mr John 
Irvine, Lerwick : 


Fira honga, fira gonga^ 

fira staad upo skp, 

twa veestra vaig a bee, 

and ane comes atta driljandi. 
This is a riddle about the cow's body and may be thus 
translated : " Four hang (that is to say : the teats), 
four go (the legs), four stand sky-wards (horns and 
ears), two show the way to the town (the eyes), and 
one comes shaking behind (the tail)." 

A very striking specimen of the old Norn proverb, 
purely preserved, was given me by Mr. James Angus, 
Lerwick. It is : G^tt {guyi) a taka gamla manna ro" 
which means : It is good to take old men's advice 
(O.N. : Goti at taka gamla -manna rd&). There are 
other proverbs in Shetland of Norn origin, but the 
language in all these has been so much changed by the 
nfluence of English, that they do not merit special 
notice here. 

In conclusion only this : The amount of Norn re- 
mains still to be found in Shetland is truly astonishing, 
considering the fact, that the proper old dialect became 
extinct during the latter half of the last century. The 
specimens given in this lecture are only a few scattered 
ragments of the material collected. I hope that my 
researches, which have been undertaken chiefly with a 


view to the publication of an etymological glossary or 
dictionary of the old Shetland dialect, may do some- 
thing to preserve the remains of this now dying speech. 
The success of these researches is in great measure due 
to the kind hospitality and readiness to assist me with 
which I have met during my travels in the islands. 


I N dealing with the Shetland place-names, the first 
J^ thing that strikes one is the great abundance of 
these names. Nearly every hill, brae and knoll, 
every valley and glen, every loch, burn and marsh, every 
headland, ness and point, every bay and bight, "voe" 
and wick, every piece of banks, every "gjo" (cleft, inlet), 
every rock and "craig seat,"* every holm and rock in 
the sea (stack, skerry and " baa "), every croft and farm, 
every " corn rig,"t however small a patch of ground it 
may be, every fishing-ground, &c., has its own distinctive 
name. A few places have undoubtedly had names, 
which are now lostj especially by depopulation of certain 
districts, and also to some extent by the giving up of old 

* Rock at the shore, from which "sillocks" and "piltocks" (the 
young coal-fish) are drawn. 

t Small piece of corn-field. 


habits, in connection with which place-names were kept 
up. The small island of Fetlar alone, according to what 
Mr. Laurence Williamson of Mid Yell informs me, con- 
tains about two thousand place-names. There is 
nothing wonderful in this, when we consider the habits 
and modes of life of former generations. In the past 
people moved about more frequently in the open air, 
often to considerable distances, and were not scrupulous 
in counting the number of miles they had to walk. The 
sheep then, as now, pastured on the hills the whole year 
round and were allowed to wander about as they liked. 
As sheep-pasture in olden times was of almost equal 
importance with the fishing (nearly every poor body 
owned some sheep), the sheep and lambs had to be care- 
fully looked after. Then, one person would very often 
ask some one, coming from the hills, " Did du see my 
'mooret' hog ony way?" or: "Did du see my 'blaiget' 
yowe destreen ?" or, " Did du licht in wi' my ' kat- 
moget' gimmer?" &c. If every spot in the hills had 
not had a distinctive name, it would sometimes have 
proved very difficult to tell the exact spot, where the 
sheep were seen. But the exact spot could always be 

When the summer half-year commenced, that is : 
in the spring time, the cattle were driven to the hills to 


pasture there, till the harvest was over ; then the " okri- 
garth* was slipped," that is : the animals were allowed 
to come in on the " toons " or crofts and eat the remain- 
ing corn-stubble with the grass among it on the fields. 
But when pasturing on the hills, the cows would move 
about, shifting from place to place, so a girl going with 
her milk-kit to the hills to milk them, — for going to the 
hills to milk the cows was customary in former times 
during the summer season — would often ask some one 
coming from that quarter, if he or she had seen their kye, 
and where they were seen. Of course, they had gener- 
ally been seen somewhere. 

And the ponies too had to be looked after then as 
now. And besides, there were the swine. They were 
not kept always at home as nowadays, but went loose 
on the hills in the summer time, and they needed to be 
looked after as well as the other animals mentioned. 
Finally, there were the geese. The looking after and 
seeking for all these animals — sheep, cattle, ponies, 
swine, geese — caused the people to be on the move con- 
tinually, to and fro, through the hills, and consequently 
they would come to know every spot in the vicinity, and 
then of course names would arise. 

The craig fishing, the going to the craigs or shore 
• "Okri": from O.N. akr, corn-field; "garth" — enclosure. 


rocks to draw "sillocks'' and "piltocks," was followed 
to a far greater extent formerly than now. The Shet- 
land coast is thickly lined with ancient craig-seats, rocks 
and " stacks " bearing ancient names. As it would often 
be discussed among people before or in going to the 
craigs, which place it would be best to go to, where there 
would be prospect of getting most sillocks and piltocks 
that night, the different seats would soon get different 
names. The fishing seats near the shore or at the 
" haaf " were bound to get their names too, as there were 
so many of them and different seats had to be visited on 
different occasions. 

It is hardly necessary to state, that the great 
majority of place-names in Shetland are derived from 
the Norn or ancient Norwegian language. While the 
Norn speech gradually gave way before Scotch and 
English, and the old conversational terms became sup- 
planted by new, the place-names maintained their 
ground. The reasons are not so difficult to find. Place- 
names are not so liable to change as conversational 
words ; one particular name through time sticks to one 
particular spot, so the connection between a name and 
the place it represents is far closer than the connection 
between a conversational word and the article it repre- 
sents, as the word is applied to any article of that 


particular kind. Stoorhool* for instance, pronounced 
" stoor-hool," as two words with two accents, would mean 
a big knoll, any big knoll; but pronounced Stoor^ul dL.s 
one word and with only one accent, the word itself 
shows by the close connection between stoor and hool, 
that it is applied as a name to some big knoll in 
particular — a certain big knoll in a certain place. 
Whiteness, pronounced with two accents : White-ness, 
might mean any white ness, but pronounced Whiteness, 
with only one accent, it is applied to only one 
place of that particular description. But there are other 
reasons, why the old place-names have been kept up 
so well. At the time (last century), when the Norn was 
supplanted by Scotch and English, a great number 
of place-names were not understood by the people, 
either because the meanings of many old words had 
then been lost, or because the way in which some of the 
places had derived their names, was quite accidental, 
often derived from certain individuals' nicknames and 
connected with some old lost story. But there is a third 
reason. In a great many cases where the meanings of 
the names are — or at any rate some time ago were — quite 
clear it would not be possible to translate them properly 
into modern English in one or two words or in as 
* " Stoor " is O.N. st6r-r great, big ; " hoql " is O.N. hSll, hill, knoll. 


few words, as the Norse names are composed of. To 
give an instance : There are in the old Shetland 
Norn, upwards of twenty different words denoting a 
height : hill, knoll, or brae, according to the varying 
shapes of such heights. All these words occur in place- 
names of the present day, each name denoting a certain 
form of hill, brae, or knoll. Further, there are more 
than half a score of words denoting different kinds of 
inlets of the sea. The Shetland place-names are essen- 
tially descriptive, that is to say : the name of a place is 
most often derived from one or more words, describing 
its situation or nature. The first thing to be done in 
trying to make out meanings of old place-names is to 
enquire particularly about the situation of the place in 
question, the aspect of the ground, etc. As far as 
ability to describe the places by means of names is con- 
cerned, the old language was vastly superior to the 
modern language, as it possessed a far greater variety of 
words to express minute shades in difference of mean- 
ing. This quality which is very often conspicuous in the 
numerous old sea and weather expressions is equally pro- 
minent in the place-names. To translate an old Shetland 
place-name into the English language would often re- 
quire a circumlocution or so many words, that it would 
have to be called a definition and not a translation. 


But do then the languages grow poorer and poorer in 
their transition from an older to a more modern stage ? 
From one point of view they do, from another point of 
view they grow richer. While popular education now-a- 
days is acquired through books, it was in former times 
acquired through nature, outside life. This made the 
old languages richer in regard to general expressions for 
the various natural phenomena, but the development of 
the various branches of trade and science has made the 
modern languages abound in professional and technical 
terms, (not in general use). This is one of the things 
which make complete dictionaries of modern languages 
so bulky. 

Hardly any old Shetland place-names have been 
traced with certainty to any other language than the 
Norn* ; but still it is possible through a study of the 
Norn place-names to get a peep at an earlier period. 
We find the settlements of the ancient Irish mission- 
aries, the Papae : " popes " or Culdees, recorded in 
some Shetland place-names. The landndma-hodk or 
" book of settlement," describing the discovery of Iceland 
contains the following : — " But before Iceland was 
peopled by the Northmen, there were in the country 

* One or two Celtic personal-names (names of saints) are contained in 
Shetland place-names. 


those men, whom the Northmen called Papar. They 
were Christian men, and the people believed, that they 
came from the west, because Irish books and bells and 
crosiers were found after them and still more things, by 
which one might know, that they were west-men (" west- 
men" is the old Norse term for the Irish.) That was found 
in the island of " Easter Pap^y" and in Papyli. It is 
also mentioned in English books, that at that time there 
was intercourse between these countries." These same 
priests or " papas," as the Norwegians called these early 
Irish missionaries who went out before the viking period 
in order to convert the heathens, have their visit to 
Shetland recorded in the name " Papa Stoor"* " the big 
island of the priests" (" Papa" being O.N. /"^/i-)^ = priest- 
isle, " stoor" = big, O.N. stt^r-r); further : in " Papa little," 
Papil (North Yell ; Haroldswick, U ; Burra Isle), which 
name is a contraction of " Papa-b0l," O.N. Papyli, Papa- 
byli: the " \>9i\' (O.N. b6l, by It) or residence of the " papae." 
The same word " papa" occurs in the old name of the 
loch of Tresta in Fetlar, " Papil-water," besides which 
there is an old church-site. The great Irish missionary 
St Columba, who lived in the sixth century, directed his 
special attention to the conversion of the northern Picts. 
Mr Gilbert Goudie has suggested that a trace of his 
* Commonly (but erroneously) spelt Stour. 


name is to be found in the place-name Clumlie (for 
" Columlie," Celtic : Choluimcillie), a township in Dun- 
rossness * The name of another missionary who lived 
in the fourth century, St Ninian, or popularly St Ringan, 
is found in the name of a peninsula called " St Ringan's 
Isle," on the west side of Dunrossness. This isle, or 
rather peninsula, contains the ruins of an old chapel, 
said to have been dedicated to St Ringan or Ninian. 

But what race of people did these early missionaries 
labour among here in Shetland ? One would naturally 
think of the Picts. Many myths about the Picts linger 
in Shetland, but they are no real guide to us, as they are 
mostly of Scottish origin, not original Shetland myths. 
The origin of the " brochs," whether they are Pictish or 
Norse structures, has been disputed, although some of the 
arguments advanced are strongly in favour of the Pictish 
theory. Still there is no proof of any contact between 
Picts and Norsemen in Shetland. But there are a few 
place-names, in which we probably find the Picts com- 
memorated. The old Norn word for " Pict " is P^tt-r. 
The name " Pentland firth " is a corruption of Pett- 
land firth," which pronunciation still survives in Caith- 
ness. In the " Orkneyinga Saga " the name is Pdttlands- 

* See " Revenues of the parochial benefices of Shetland," p, 302, in 
•' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland," April 14, 1884. 


fjorSr, which means " Pictlands firth," Pictland being the 
old name for Scotland. On the border of Delting and 
Tingwall parishes is a loch called Peitawater. The 
immediate neighbourhood of that loch, the valley Petti- 
dale, has from old been dreaded as a place particularly 
haunted by trows. It was never thought safe to pass 
Petta water at night. In the eyes of the Norwegians 
there would certainly be something mysterious about 
these Picts whose language would be unintelligible and 
whose ways and customs would be strange to them. It 
is therefore quite natural that the Picts in the Norse 
traditions by and by, as these traditions became more 
indistinct, were identified with trolls, and -places origin- 
ally inhabited or frequented by them came to be looked 
upon as places where descendants of this original race still 
lingered on in the shape of trolls. There are still tra- 
ditions lingering in Shetland to the effect, that the Picts 
became trolls. And regarding Pettidale in particular an 
old South-Delting woman informed me, that apcording 
to an old local tradition the place in ancient times had 
been inhabited by Picts who were changed in the way 
mentioned. Of course she had no idea as to a possible 
derivation of the name in question from the Picts. In 
Northmavine, near Uyea, there is another " Pettidale," 
which valley, and especially the burn running through 


it, has from olden time been considered one of the 
most troll-haunted places in Northmavine. On the 
east side of Whalsay there is a hill called Pettigarths- 
fell, in the neighbourhood of which the trolls were 
often heard fiddling, singing and dancing. In the 
north of Unst there are some places which may from 
the nature of their names show traces of the Picts. 
At the back of Saxavord hill, in the Burrafirth banks, 
there is a place called "de Pettasmog." The word 
smog (O.N. smoga, smuga) means first a narrow pass- 
age, then a hiding-place or place of refuge (in Dun- 
rossness there is a place called " de Kattismogs" which 
means: the wild cat's hiding-holes). "Pettasmog" in 
Unst is a piece of " banks " * not too steep to be des- 
cended. Sheep often go down there on the green 
patches and are not able to get up again. People can 
get down there better than anywhere else in the neigh- 
bourhood and can at the same time remain quite unseen 
from above. The only plausible etymology of the name 
" Pettasmog " is " the Picts' hiding-place or (place of) 
refuge." On the top of Saxavord hill an underground 
entrance was discovered, according to what an old Nor- 
wick man told me, and in connection with this it may 
be worth mentioning, that according to old legends the 
* Steep rocky shore. 


top of Saxavord has always been a habitation for trolls. 
Every year at Christmas time the trolls of " Littlatoo," 
on the top of Saxavord, and the trolls of " Mucklatoo," on 
the top of Kleberswick between Haroldswick and Nor- 
wick, would visit each other to " had Yule " in company. 
An underground dwelling, or so-called " Picts' house," 
was found at Fjael, in the hill of Hoosifell above Har- 
oldswick. The walls were built of very big stones, set 
on edge, the one above the other, and according to an 
old record from 1731 a so-called Picts' house was found 
on the top of Hoosavord, now called the Wart of 
Norwick. But the place of main importance in this 
connection is " de 0ra" which is not very fai away from 
the " Pettasmog." North past Saxavord the land draws 
narrow and juts out into a point, terminating in the 
Noup. On this point between Saxavord and the Noup 
the ground in one place rises up from all sides to a con- 
siderable height, steep on the east side, but with a pretty 
gentle slope towards the west, rounding to the north east 
and south west. The top forms a circular flat space. 
This is the place " de 0ra," which means ear or lug, and 
on its top, called " de Croon o' de 0ra," has been an old 
broch-building. In the western slope of the 0ra, an 
underground room or Picts' house was found, dug out by 
the late Mr James Hay of Haroldswick. Its walls were. 


like those of the underground room in Hoosifeel, built of 
very big stones. Under the 0ra, along the foot of its 
western slope, are traces of three ancient stone-dykes, 
going somewhat in a circle, the one inside the other. 
There are several cases of brochs having been surrounded 
by three concentric dykes. One of the three 0ra-dykes 
can be traced all the way down to the east shore, on the 
south side of the 0ra. Right below the place where this 
dyke ends is a cave containing a beach, which place is 
called "de hellyer (cave) o' Fivlagord" or "de ayre 
(beach) o' Fivlagord." According to the legend this 
place has always been inhabited by trolls. Now, " Fivla- 
gord" is evidently the ancient name of this ancient 
dyke, because " Gord " in Norse means dyke. But 
what is the meaning of " Fivla ? " I shall in this con- 
nection mention an old Norse myth which is told in 
several places in Shetland with slight variations. The 
Fetlar version runs thus : The " guidman " of Taft had 
been to Urie (" 0ri ") with his butter-tithe and was on his 
way home again. He was riding a grey mare and lead- 
ing a red one. On passing a knoll he heard a voice 
from inside the knoll crying the following words : " Du 
at rins de red and rides de gray, tell t0na Tivla, at f0na 
Fivla is fa'en i' de fire and brunt her." When the man 
came home to Taft, he shouted these same words into 


the byre, where a fairy was sitting, milking one of his 
cows. The fairy on hearing this immediately left off 
milking and cried : " Oh, dat's my bairn," whereupon she 
fled, leaving the pan she was milking into. This pan 
was kept in the house of Taft and caused the house to 
prosper ever afterwards. In this old myth Fivla is the 
name of the troll's child, but at one time " Fivla " has 
been a common troll-name in old fairy legends, both 
Shetlandic and Scandinavian. In the old Norn the word 
fifill is applied to a person who behaves like a fool, a 
clown, or boor ; andfifla means to behave like a "fifill" 
or fool. On the west side of Shetland the word fifler is 
still used to denote a foolish person. The meaning of 
" Fivlagord " will thus be : the fools' or clowns' dyke. 
On the top of Crussifell, a hill between Baltasound 
and Haroldswick, are three concentric circles, ancient 
dyke-steads, which place has by certain authors been 
connected with Druidical worship. The name of the 
place is •' de tree Fivla," which points to a pre-Norse 
origin. There is no reason to suppose, that the names 
" Fivla " and " Fivlagord " are not as old as any of the 
place-names in the North of Unst, and the early inhabi- 
tants who gave these places their names would not have 
given such mocking and derogatory names to erections 
that they knew were made by their own fore-fathers. 


Among theories to explain these names the most 
plausible one would seem to be that of a Pictish occupa- 
tion of the place. The trolls of Fivlagord are therefore 
not unlikely to be descendants of Picts. Pettina Shaigo 
is another instance of the name " Pett." The place so 
called is a bight in South Yell. " Pettina " is an old 
grammatical form of " Pett," being the possessive plural 
with the suffixed definite article : " of the Picts " (O.N. 
P/ttanna.) The meaning of " Shaigo " is as yet doubtful. 

The "brochs" or "Picts' castles" are commemorated 
in many place-names, f i. Burrafirth (U, Aithst.), Burra- 
voe (Y, N.Roe), Burraland (Sandw.), Burraness (De), 
Burga water (Sandness and Walls), Burga taing (N. 
Roe), where " Burra-, Burga-," is O.N. borgar, the 
possessive form of borg, broch, castle. Reg. " Burra 
isle " hereafter (see Index). Sumburg (Du) means 
" south-broch " {sunn-borg). 

Mentioning of the Picts suggests a mentioning of 
the Finns, the Norway Finns, who were the early inhabi- 
tants of the Scandinavian peninsula prior to the Norse 
conquest. The numerous myths about them, still linger- 
ing in Shetland, make one inclined to think, that they 
have been in these islands, but whether they have been 
here as an original and independent race or not, we have 
no means of knowing. It was customary among the 


Norsemen to take their servants or thralls from among 
the captives made by them in war, and as Finnish 
thralls were commonly kept by the Norwegians, there 
is reason for believing that they were kept also by 
the Norse settlers in Shetland* The Finn seems to be 
commemorated in one place-name at least (possibly 
more) in Shetland. It is the name of an ancient dyke- 
stead in Fetlar, about which an old myth is told. My 
attention was drawn to this by Mr Laurence Williamson 
of Mid Yell. The " guidman " Kolbenstaft in the north- 
west of Fetlar did not have a sufficiently good dyke 
around his property to keep away the sheep which broke 
in continually and destroyed his corn. One night when 
he went to bed, he expressed the wish, that a dyke 
sufficient to keep off the troublesome animals might be 
standing in the morning, when he awoke, even if he 
should give his best cow for it. Next morning, when he 
went out, he found a splendid new dyke standing where 
he had wished it, and at the same time his best cow had 
disappeared from the byre. Parts of the stead of this 
dyke still remain, and it can be traced all the way to 
Hoobie on the south side of Fetlar. There are a few 
legends told about places, situated alongside this dyke- 
stead, and the spot where it terminates on the south side 

* Cf. the word "traayl fangin " p, 48. 


of the island has been from old a noted troll-place. The 
name of this dyke or dykestead at the present day is 
"de Finnigirt dyke." But the old name is simply 
Finnigord: the Finns' dyke. The suffix "dyke" in 
" Finnigirt-dyke " thus comes to be a tautology, a 
modern addition caused by ignorance of the word 
" gord." As the Finns were from early times believed 
by the Norwegians to possess great magic power, and as 
there are several old myths about them to this effect, the 
just mentioned Fetlar legend is in favour of deriving the 
name " Finnigord " from the Finns. There can be no 
connection at all between this Finnigirt-dyke and the 
township in Fetlar called Finnie, as this latter is situated 
at the other end of the island. 

Thus far about the few place-names, containing pro- 
bable pre-Norse traces in Shetland. I now turn to other 
more common kinds of place-names and begin with the 
class which is by far most comprehensive, that is the one 
containing places, named according to the form of the 
land. Most of the Shetland place-names, as before 
mentioned, contain in themselves a description of the 
places they are applied to. I divide this class of names 
into sub-divisions, taking first the various kinds of inland 
heights (hills, braes and hillocks), then the level ground 
and the various kinds of valleys, glens and hollows, then 


the various formations of the shore or " banks," then the 
various indentations of the sea, and finally the small 
islands and rocks in the sea along the coast. There are 
in the Shetland place-names between twenty and thirty 
words standing for hill or height, each word most often 
denoting a certain shape of a height — and by compound- 
ing some ofthese words, two and two, the language is 
able to express two or more characteristics of a place in 
one name. 

O.N. fell, fjall, meaning " fell, mountain or high hill," 
occurs pretty frequently in Shetland. Standing alone 
it usually takes the form of "fj'ael." There are some 
townships, which go by the name of Fj'ael, because 
they are situated at the foot of such hills, (i, in 
Haroldswick, Unst ; 2, on the south side of R0nis hill, 
North Roe ; 3, in de Herra, Fetlar). Originally some 
preposition has been prefixed, as "on" or "under" (d, 
undir fjalli), which preposition has been dropped after- 
wards. The name of the township Vellyi (situated on 
a height) in Fetlar is probably derived from the same 
word : fell (O.N. d or undir felli, " on or under the 
hill"). In compounds the form "fjal-" sometimes occurs 
as the first part of the compound, such as : de Fj'alsa- 
mires (Fe) : the mires below the hill. 


As the latter part of a compound the word usually 
takes the form "-fil"* for "-fell." Instances: Berfil 
(" Berg-fell " : craig-hill, precipice-hill) (Sa) ; Hoofil : 
" high fell or hill," original form : hdfell or -fjall (in 
several places); Skallifil (De) (i.e. the hill with the 
bare crown or top), Skraefil (Quarfif) : " land-slip hill," 
Vaalafil (U) etc. — Filla (one of the small islands or 
holms between Whalsay and the Skerries) means " hill- 
isle " {^fell-i^ or fjall-ty'). The holm rises to a consider- 
able height 

Hjoag (O.N. haug-r, O Engl, howe) denotes a height 
or hill, not so big as a fell, but usually above the size of 
the heights called " hool," f i. " de muckle and de peerie 
(little) Hjoag " (U), " de Hjoag " (Fe). In O.N. the name 
haugr-r is often applied to a thrown-up monumental 
mound, a burial mound, and this is sometimes the case 
in Shetland too, f i. Hjoganess in South Yell, in which 
ness there are some places called " de Kumlins " from 
O.N. kuml, burial mound. Hjogen in Bressay is probably 
the same word. 

Hool, O.N. h6ll, meaning " hill, knoll, hillock," is an 
exceedingly common name in Shetland. Instances : 
" Hool " (N.Roe), Hoolen (name of several townships ; d 

* On the Ordnance map wrongly spelt "field" — it ought to be 


hdlum, undir h. : " on or under (the) hill," properly dative 
in plural : " hills "), Hoolin* brenda (Norwick, U) : the 
burnt knoll.t Hoolin skarpa (Weisdale) : the barren or 
dry (" sharp ") knoll, Hoolin stoora (Du) : " the big knoll," 
Stoor'liox Stoorhool (" big knoll ") (Nm)— cf. " Stoorhool 
loch" (U), Hoolna hoola : the "hool" of the "hools," or 
the highest part of the knolls : an old scattald-march in 
Yell. In compounds : Bratt{h)ool (Y) : " steep knoll," 
Swarthool (Br, Y) : " black knoll ;" sometimes "-wul " 
for " -hool," as Leerwul for Leerhool (Norwick, U) : the 
knoll on the slope, Skibberwul (Wh) : skipper-" hool." 

Snjoog or Snjoogi is O.N. kn^kr, knjiikr, meaning 
" high knoll or peak, hill-top." In Scotland it usually 
denotes a hill whose top shapes into a knoll or peak. 
Instances are : " de Snjoog" in Foula, de Snjoog or 
Berfinssnjoog in De {Bergfinn is a man's name), de 
Snjooga-hool (U), de Snjoogi o' de Bjorg (N Roe) : the 
end or corner of the high hill-ridge, called " de Bjdrgs" 
in Nm. 

* " -in " is the suffixed definite article. " Hoolin " is the accusative 

t The name probably refers to the burning of heather or copse wood 
in order to cultivate the soil. That burning of woods has been done in 
Shetland, we learn by the place-name " Siooin brenda " (Quarff) : " the 
burnt wood," O.N. skSginn brenda (accusative). " Brennya" (name of a 
croft in Fladabister, C) is probably O. N. brenna, I, burning, 2, burnt land — 
which word occurs several times as place-name in Norway. 


Kame, Kamb or Komba, O.N. kamb-r, means pro- 
perly " comb" or " crest," and is applied to a hill or ridge 
of hills, rising like a crest, (a hill with a long-shaped 
narrow top). "Kame" is a comparatively modern 
(Scottish) form of the word, " Kamb" and " Komba" are 
the Norse forms. Instances : " de Kames" (on the 
Mainland), " de Kame" in Foula, the old name of which 
is Komba, further " de Kamb" and " Kamb hill" in Yell. 
{Kamb is the name of a house in Mid Yell at the foot of 
« Kamb hill.") Fillakomb (i.e. hill-" kame"), point in Y, 
Berrishoola komba (Y), near the Kame of West Sand- 
wick. In Dunrossness near Sumburgh there is a ridge 
above the banks, called " de Kompis {Kombis)" on the 
Ordnance map spelt " the Compass," but the name 
means " de Kames." 

O.N. dss, ridge, occurs in : Windoos (erroneously 
spelt « Windhouse) (Y) : " the windy ridge" ( Vind-dss) ; 
cf. deed of 13 October, 1405. 

O.N. koll-r for a hill with rounding top, properly 
the upper rounding of the head, occurs in compound 
names in Shetland, as f i. Collifell (Nest), Kodlifell (Fo), 
Collafirth (Nm) : the firth below the " kolls" or round- 
topped hills ; probably also in Cullivoe (Yn) : the voe or 
bay below the " kolls." 

Kool is a rounding hill, f i. " de Kool o' Fladabister," 


from O.N. kiila, round lump or protuberance. 

There are two hills in Tingwall called " de Knappis" 
O.N. knapp-r is applied chiefly to the knob or head of a 
stick and also to a stud or button. The point of the 
elbow is in Shetland called " de knapp or knubbi o' de 
elbog." O.N. nabbi, knob, protuberance, survives in the 
name of the small promonotory south of Lerwick : " de 
Nab {Knaby 

Klub is a kind of square-shaped bulky hill. The 
word properly means "lump (a lump of a hill.)" In- 
stances : " de Klub o' Moola " (D), " de Klub o' Swin- 
ing" (Lunn.), "de Klub o' Tronister." The English 
" club," a club for striking with, is the same word (a lump 
of wood) and also " club " meaning an association (lump) 
of men. Several skerries go by the name of " Klub " 
from their shape. 

Tind or Tand means properly " tooth " or " spike," 
and is sometimes applied to a peak or conic-shaped hill. 
There is a point on the east side of Fetlar, called " de 
Tind," and three knolls in the hill of Kleberswick (U), 
called "de Tands" — used as land-marks by the fisher- 
men and having derived their names from their conic or 
tooth-like form, when seen from the sea. 

Bjorg, applied to a steep rocky hill, is the Icel. bjarg, 
precipice, crag, another form of the word berg (about 


which more hereafter.) Instances : " de Bjorg " in Ting- 
wall, " de Bjorgs " in Nm., " de Bjorgins " in D. 

There are several heights by the name of R^ni (^Ji^tt) 
in Shetland. It is O.N. hraun, which denotes origin- 
ally a rough or rocky place, a wilderness. The giants 
are in the old Icelandic poetry sometimes called hraun- 
bikar : " r0ni-dwellers," dwellers in the rocky wilderness. 
In the modern Shetland dialect "r0ni" is commonly 
applied to a heap of stones ( a cairn ) : "a r0ni o' 
stanes ;" in Lunnasting it sometimes denotes a big piece 
of rock, a boulder. In place-names the word denotes a 
rocky hill (knoll, brae) or plateau. Instances : de R^ 
(Fe), de Renins (at Skaw in Wh.) : " the r0nis," Hwam- 
wa;-^/ (valley-" r0ni")* and Longar0ni{ii\^\oTi% "r0ni") 
(N. Roe), Rdni fogra (the beautiful " r0ni ;" there is a 
beautiful patch of green below the rocks) (N. Roe), 
Berrar^i (crag-" r0ni " ) in Sandsting, Krogar^i 
(craw-" r0ni ") in Muckle Roe, and finally there is the 
king of all the " r0nis " : R^iis Hill in Northmavine, the 
highest hill in Shetland, rising up from a rocky plateau, 
the old name of which is '' de R^is " (on the Ordnance 
Survey map : Roonies). 

* Hiuamm is a small valley. 

+ The spelling " Roeness hill" (I need not speak of " Ronas" hill at 
all) is erroneous. 


Sometimes the word as the latter part of a com- 
pound is contracted into " -run," as Queedaruns {Hweeda- 
runs) (Nm) = Queedar^tis : " white r0nis," Koliyarun 
(Aithst.) : " round-topped r0ni," O.N. kollahraun ; Hoorun 
(Aithst.), probably " high r0ni," O.N. hdhraun (cf. Hoofil, 
-fell, p. 75). 

Duss, O.N. dys, means a (thrown up) heap. South 
past Lerwick the word is applied to a small stack of 
corn : " a duss o' corn ; " in Danish " dysse " is a cairn or 
stone-heap. There is a big round knoll in Weisdale, 
called " de Duss." 

Lee is O.N. hUd, incline, slope, commonly applied to 
the slope of a hill. It often occurs in place-names, fi. 
Leean (Nm), Daleslee (Delt), Bakkanalee hill (Y), 
(Bakkanalee = the slope above the banks or shore), 
Leefell (West Sandwick, Y), " sloping hill." 

Brek (O.N. brekka, akin to Engl. " brink ") means 
" brae, slope." It occurs in names of townships. There 
is a "Brek" in Du.; Brekkin ("the brae") in Y and 
Eshaness, Nm, Ootnabrek near Scalloway, etc. 

Haamar is O.N, hamar-r, hammer, metaphorically 
applied to a hammer-shaped crag, a jutting out rock or 
stretch of rocks, most often in the side of a hill. There 
are several places called "(de) Haamar" or "Haamars"; 
Haamamess (Nmw), Hamrifell (Y), the hill with the 


" haamars ;" Bruns Haamarsland in North Tingwall, etc. 
— Laavtar {Laahamar) is O.N. hlaShamarr, "loading- 
rock," a rock at which boats usually lie to be loaded 
and unloaded ; cf. Lodberrie (" Berg "). 

Broon (O.N. br^ti) or Broo is often applied to a rise 
in the ground ; it is the same word as Engl. " brow." 

Too (O.N. thifd) signifies " mound, a small piece of 
rising ground." Reg. Litlatoo (" the little mound ") and 
Mucklatoo (" the big mound ") see p. 68. 

Klodi is another name for a mound (etym. akin to 
Engl. "clod"). 

A third word for a mound, especially a burial 
mound, occurring in place-names, is Kuml {Kumbel). 
There is an old piece of burial ground in Westing (U), 
called " de Kumbels." 

Wart, Vord ( Voard), Virdik. I have as yet pur- 
posely omitted mentioning of the hills called "Wart" etc., 
because the name does not denote any shape of a hill. 
It is Icelandic varffi, English " ward," meaning watch- 
tower. Heaps of stones, ruins of ancient watch-towers, 
have been found on the tops of all these ward-hills, 
which hills are invariably high and conspicuous, always 
in sight of each other. They have been used for 
signalizing purposes — the signals were large kindled 
fires — and as the Warts could always be seen from a 


long distance, the country in case of danger, especially 
war, could be alarmed in a very short time. 

Wart is an Anglicised pronunciation of the name. 
The proper Shetland pronunciation is Vord (Voard), 
Virda, or Virdik, sometimes (in compounds) shortened 
into " -virt (vird), -firt (fird.)" Instances : Saxavord (U), 
Noonsvord (Wh), Hj'ukmannavord (iim) : " the hillmen's 
ward ;" Virdadale (the valley of the Wart) in Bressay, 
Virdifell (ths ward-hill) in Unst and Papa, de Virdins 
(watch-hills) o' Haavtar (Nm). " De Vord " is the sea- 
name for an ancient watch-tower on the top of the 
Gallow hill in the South of Unst, which tower the old 
fishermen used as a *' meed " or land-mark. 

In Unst there is a hill called "de Vordeld" 
(probably from O.N. varShald, keeping watches, 
guard), and in Fetlar there is a hill by the same 
name (commonly pronounced de Vdrdjeld), by the 
fishermen called " de Vaacht " : the watch or guard. 
On the top of "de Vordeld" in, Unst there was 
an old building, called " de Waak-hoose" i.e., the watch- 

In the island of Balta outside Baltasound (U) there 
is a high headland, called " de Veeti-hssA" which is most 
probably derived from O.N. viti, beacon, as the headland 
is well situated for a look-out place. In Hillswick ness 


there is a hill called " Vidifell {Veedifell) stoor" : the 
great beacon-hill. 

From the hills we naturally descend to the plains 
and valleys. O.N, voll-r, a plain (etym. Engl. " valley "), 
survives in f.i. Tingwall : the law-court (" ting ") plain ; 
further in names as Veyll, Vell{y)i and Vell{y)ins : " de 
Vell(y)ins (plains) o' Hamnavoe, o' 0re (Eshaness, 
Nm), a place, where formerly men used to play at 
football ; " de Likvell(y)ins" (Fe) : an old football 
ground (from O.N. leikvellir, " play-plains " ; leika = 
to play). 

Ft'd or Ft'tcA is O.N. _/?/, lowlying meadow-land at 
the side of water ; •' de dale and de hill o' Fitch" (at Dale 
in Tingwall), Fidna gr^a (Aithst) : the green " Fid." 

Daal is the old form of " dale" : valley (O.N. dal-r\ 
f i. Daalin gr0na (at Norwick, U) : " the green valley," 
Fogradaal (Westing, U) : " the beautiful valley." In 
Unst and Yell the word daalamist is applied to mist 
through the valleys. 

Wham (O.N. hvamm-r) denotes a small valley, not 
so deep as " daal" or " dale." 

Gil (O.N. gil) denotes a narrow glen. It occurs in 
several place-names, f i, Orgil (L) : " burn-glen," Swarti- 
gil (Sa) : " black glen," Djupa Gil (De) : " deep-glen." 

Boiten is O.N. botn, bottom, also applied to a deep 


round-shaped valley. Instances : " Boiten" in Connings- 
burgh (cf. " Boddom" in Dunrossness), " de Boiten hills" 
in Delting. 

Grave {Graav) or Gref denotes a pit or hollow 
(O.N. grof) f.i. Graven (De), de Graavins (house in Fo), 
Graveland (Y). The " gref" (bottom) of the peat bank 
is the same word. There is an expression used in Yell : 
" to lay onything in kolgref" : to do anything roughly, 
especially in delving : to leave the ground in a rough 
state (Icel. kolgrof AenoXes a pit for burning coals). In 
the island of Hascusay opposite Yell there is a place 
called " de Kolgrave or Kolgref" which is very rough- 
looking. It is from this place, that the sound between 
Hascusay and Yell derives its name : Kolgrave Sound. 

Kap and Koppa {Kop) denote a cupshaped hollow in 
the ground, f.i. " de Russkikaps" (Du) : " the horse- 
hollows," de Kops at Scalloway, " Koppa" in Bressay, 
Koppister ( : Koppa-seter) (Y).* Reg. " seter" hereafter 
(see Index.) 

Sloag and Slagin denote a lowlying wet hollow, f i. 
" de Sloag" in Foula, " de Slagin" at Tresta (Sandsting). 

Quarf (O.N. kvarf) denotes an isolated, hidden 

• " De Xoopins" (etym. akin to " Kap" and " Koppa") is the name 
of a hill in Weisdale ; it is named so from its " kooping" or overhanging 
top. — " to koop" means " to form a hollow, to hang out over." 


place or corner, a deep lying place, surrounded by high 
hills. Hvarf, which means properly " i, turning,* 2, dis- 
appearance," occurs as a place-name in Norway. 

Aid {AUK), O.N. eiS, is an isthmus, a narrow neck 
of land, joining two bigger places together. There is an 
" Aid" in Bressay, another in Conningsburgh, a third in 
Fetlar, and a fourth in Aithsting, from which the parish 
takes its name. " Aid, aith" further occurs, although 
quite obscured, in the name of a township in Delting, 
viz., " Brae," t contracted form of '' Brai-ai" (so pro- 
nounced sometimes by the oldest people) : O.N. breiS- 
eiS, " the broad isthmus," in contra-distinction to the 
narrower isthmus a little north of it, which forms the 
boundary between Delting and Northmavine, viz., 
"Mavis Grind," O.N. mcev-ei&s grind, "the gate of the 
narrow isthmus." The name of the parish itself, 
" Northmavine" is a corruption of " Northmavid," the 
ancient form of which is " {fyrir) norSan mcev-eiS" : 
" north of the narrow isthmus." It occurs in a deed of 
26 August 1403 (firer nordhan Mcefeid"). 

Vatn is the old word for water, also applied to a lake. 
It occurs in the expressions " a vatsgaari day" (Fo) : a 
day of nasty rain, and " a van{di)lup o' rain (Y) ; a 

* Cf. the Shetland expression " to wharv (turn) de hay." 

t Quite different from the common word " brae," meaning slope. 


downpour (O.N. vatnhlaup.) There is a waterfall in Dun- 
rossness called " Vanlup." Sandvatn (Br, Fo) : "the sandy 
loch or lake ;" Vatnabreck (Br) : " loch-brae;" " de loch 
o" Watlei' i^): "Watlee" being i/a/wAZ/a^ (" water-lee"), 
i.e., " the slope above the loch ;" Vats{e)ter (Y), contrac- 
tion of Vatn-seter: "loch-seter." Millya Vatna (Fe): "be- 
tween (the) lochs." Vassa (in Nesting) is a contraction 
of Vatns-aid {vatnsei&), which means " loch-isthmus," 
the narrow neck of land between the loch and the sea ; 
but now the name is applied to the township, situated 
on this isthmus. 

Shun or sheen is O.N. tj'om, small loch, pool, f.i. de 
Clubbi Shuns (N Roe). 

" O" is the old word for a burn (O.N. £), f i. Laxo 
(L), i.e., " trout-burn" (Lax-d), Bretto (C), " Bretto burn" 
(Tingw., Nm) : " steep burn" {Bratt-d). In the possess- 
ive the word takes the form Or or Wur ( Wir) from 
O.N. dr, f i. Orbister (Nm) : " the dwelling-house beside 
the burn," Ordale (U, Nm) : " burn-valley," Orwtck.iU. 
Roe) : "burn-wick (creek)," Wurwick, Wirwick (Aithst.) : 
another pronunciation of the same name. A orli (parlt) 
(Nm) or more commonly wurli, wirli (properly : " burn- 
gate," O.N. drhlicf) is a place where a burn runs under a 

O.N. fors, water-fall, is preserved in names as : 


"Forse burn" (Nesting), '' Forse water" (Aithst.), "de 
burn o' Forso" (Collafirth, Nm) from O.N. fon-d, 
" water-fall-burn." 

After mentioning the lochs and bums I might also 
mention some place-names, in which the old name for 
mill, water mill : When (Quen), Whin- (for " whem," Sco. 
quern, O.N. kvom, hand-mill), occurs, f i. Whinnigio and 
Quendale in Dunrossness, Whinnawater in Northmavine, 
Whinniloch in Nesting, etc. Old water-mills have been 
in the places mentioned, as Mr John Irvine, Lerwick, 
informs me. 

Kelda, O.N. kelda, spring, well, occurs in f i, Smiir- 
kelda (Fe) : " butter-well." 

Brun, O.N. brunn-r, well, occurs in f i. Hellyabrun or 
Yellabrun (U): "the healing well" (O.N. heillar-brunnr). 

Ljoag is a patch of green, through which a stream- 
let runs (O.N. loek-r, streamlet), f.i. Stooraljoag (Aithst) : 
the big " Ljoag." 

M0ri is O.N. myri, mire. In place-names : M0m 
(L) : " the mire," M^rseter (Y) and Monster (U, Sa) : 

I shall now take the coast and mention some of the 
various names applied to its various formations. 

The word " stane" (stone) is very often applied to 


the rocky shore, the land's boundary against the ocean : 
" Dey rowed f(r)ae de stane to de booels (bowels) o' de 
ocean (very far out) " ; '• de sillock was steeded 
(gathered) in to de very stane." 

Strand (O.N. strond) denotes " shore." There is a 
township in Fetlar by the name of " Strand," and also a 
" Strand" in Tingwall, named from being situated close 
at the shore. 

Klett (O.N. klett-r) denotes a (piece of) rock and is 
also applied collectively to the shore rocks, a stretch of 
low rocky shore. There is a place at Hillswick called 
Klettin r0 : the red " klett" or rock — it is now the name 
of a house. 

Hellya (O.N. hella from hall-r, stone) denotes a 
piece of smooth rock, generally (but not always) at the 
sea-shore. A hellyik, smooth stone, is the same word. 
The eave-stones : the flat stones, laid along the lower 
edge of the roof under the straw for running off the 
water, are called in the North Isles {h)ofsahelfyiks {ofs 
or hofs being the old word for the eaves), in Dunrossness 
taahellyiks {taa being a contraction of O.N. thak, roof). 
There are several craig-seats called " Hellya" (f i. in the 
ness of Sound at Lerwick) ; Skerhellya (Y) : skerry- 
" hellya," because the rock is nearly loose from the land. 
There is a place in Fetlar called Hellyina bretta : the 


Steep rock ; further : Hellyina wheeda in Yell : " the 
white rock" (an old scattald-march), Hellyina gro (Y) : 
" the gray rock" ; Millya Hellya (Fe) : " between (the) 
smooth rocks." 

Ayre means beach or a piece of sandy (gravelly) 
shore, but the older form of the word is 0ri (O.N. tyri, 
Icel. eyri), which occurs in f i. the place-name " 0ri" 
(spelt Urie) in Fetlar, and 0rafirth in Northmavine 
(there is a big beach at the head of this firth).* 

Bakka, O.N. bakki, is the old word for cliff or 
" banks" (steep rocky shore). Instances : " Bakka" 
(De), name of a house at the sea-shore, Leea-bakka 
(West Sandwick, Y) : the " banks" below the " lee" or 
slope (hill-side), Bakkigarth (Fe), Bakkaseter (Du). 

Berg (O.N. berg^ properly denotes " a mass of firm 
rock" and is in place-names commonly applied to a cliff 
or crag.t Instances : Hedliberg (Fo) : " smooth clifT' 
(Hedli = the afore mentioned Hellya), Longaberg (St. 
Ringan's Isle) : " long cliff." Ramnaberg (Aithst, Wh) : 
" ravens' crag," Stakkaberg (Fe) ; Djuba " berreg" (Sound 
near Lerwick : " deep-shore-rock." Berfaayll (for 
Berg-fell) (Aithst.): " cliff-hill, crag-hill," is the name of a 

* Different from "^■" is ' V'l" 4 of a mark of land (O.N. ^r), 
occuring in f.i. 0rtsland. 
+ Cf. Bjbrg p. 78. 


hill, rising up from the steep shore. The word " berg" is 
still used occasionally in conversation, not in its proper 
sense, but in expressions like these : " Here is naethin' 
[nothing] but a shauld [shallow] berg," applied to a corn^ 
rig (small piece of corn-land), where the soil is very 
shallow and hard rock beneath ; " he has a berg on de 
nose (N Roe)" : he has a big hump (literally : a crag) on 
the nose. " De berguylti {bergilt or bergiltik\ Norw. 
berggylta or berggalt, is a fish belonging to the same 
family as the " Norway haddock" (its English name is 
wrasse). The word is compounded of berg, rock, crag, 
and gylta, a sow (Shetlandic : guylti, pig, " grice"). The 
fish is so called, because it is a somewhat clumsy fish, 
having a mouth which resembles a pig's snout or " grice- 
tr^ti," and because it is always found close to the shore- 
rocks. The name " Berg" sometimes occurs in the form 
Berry. There is a rocky elevation in Tingwall, from 
which the township " Berry" takes its name ; Ollaberry 
(Olaf s " berg"), township in Northmavine. There are 
three townships in Shetland by the name of Skelberry 
(in Nm, in L and in Du). " Skelberry" is Norw. skal- 
berg, " shell-rock" : fleecy rock, rock very easily split 
The townships of course have derived their names from 
the nature of the ground in the immediate neighbour- 
hood. The name Lodberri is O.N. hlaSberg, meaning 


" loading-rock" : a rock at which boats usually lie to be 
loaded and unloaded ; instance : " de Lodberries" in 
Lerwick .♦ The word kleber {klaiber) [for " kleberg"] is 
used in several parts of Shetland for "soap-stone;" 
literally it means " clay-rock." This is the origin of the 
name Kleberswick in Unst Bersoad{i) or Berset, the 
old Shetland word for " craig-seat" (O.N. bergsdt, berg- 
scsti), now only occurs in names of old craig-seats, f i, 
" de Bersets" (U), " de Berset o' Haanahjoag' (« cock- 
hill") (U), etc. ; Krabbabersoadi and Tukkabersoadi (at 
Skaw, U). A craig-seat is in Unst sometimes called " a 
cti\%2L-soad" compounded of Scotch " craig" and Norn 
" soad" (O.N. sat, seat). 

Keen, O.N. kinn, cheek, is applied to a steep place 
in the banks, bearing some resemblance to a cheek. 
There is f.i. " de Keen o' Haamar" in Swinaness (U). 

Kjolka, O.N. kjdlki, jaw, cheek, is applied in a 
similar way to a piece of steep banks. There is a 
" Kjolka" in Tingwall. 

Brunga, O.N. bringa, meaning "breast,"' is also 
applied to a piece of banks, bearing some resemblance to 
a breast. There is a " Brunga " in Fetlar. 

Ord [Hurd) is O.N. urd, which usually denotes a 
heap of boulders, huddled together at the bottom of a 
steep face. In Foula the word hurdin is applied to a 

* Cf. " Laamar" p. 8l. 


big boulder. There is a place in Bressay called "de 
Ord," and one in Dunrossness called " de Ords." Hurdi- 
fell'vn. Northmavine is a steep rocky hill, full of down- 
fallen boulders. 

I now turn to the various forms ol projection along 
the shore. 

The name Hevda or Hevdi (O.N. ho/Si, derived 
from hofuS, head) is applied to a head-shaped headland. 
There is f.i. " Eswick Hevda " (South Nesting), " Easter 
and Wester Hevda" (Fo). Hevda-grun is a fishing- 
ground (" grun " : from O.N. grunn-r) between Foula 
and the mainland, so called from its proximity to the 
headland " Easter Hevdi." Hevdigarth (Midyell) is the 
name of a house, situated at the foot of the headland 
called "de Head o' Hevdigarth." 

" De H^s " (SandnessJ is the name of a headland — 
" h0s " being O.N. hauss, skull, head. 

" De Sti4s " is the name of a headland in Foula — 
" sn0s " being the word " nose " in its pure old form. I 
may in this connection mention " de snushiks" a name 
given to a small wooden frame, put on a calf's nose to 
prevent it from sucking the mother. 

Niv denotes, like Far. n^, a long jutting-out head- 
land, f i. " de Niv " at Haroldswick, U ; in Icelahdic no/ 
and nop signify " nose." 


Noss (applied to a peak- or nose-shaped headland) 
is probably the word " nose." Instances : " the isle of 
Noss ;" " Noss " in Dunrossness (headland, township.) 

The names Noop and Neep are both applied to a 
peak-shaped headland. They are derived from O.N. 
(g)n^p-r and (g)n{pa, peak. Instances: "de Noop o' 
Noss," " de Neep " (North Nesting). 

The name Bard is applied to a headland whose top 
projects beyond its base, f.i. " de Bard o' Bressay." In 
O.N. the word barS is applied to the stem of a ship, 
properly the continuation of the keel fore and aft. 

Mool is O.N. m^li, projecting upper lip, muzzle, 
(big, downhanging) mouth, often applied to the mouth of 
a horse. In place-names it usually denotes a headland, 
rounding down like such a mouth, fi. "de Mool o' 
Aeswick " (South Nesting), " de Mool o' Levenwick " 
(Du), "de Blue Mool" (U); sometimes the name de- 
notes an inland height of a similar form, as " Moola" 
(Norwick, U). 

Ness, O.N. nes (Engl, naze, ness) is a point or head- 
land, generally of some extent. Instances: Neshin 
(De) : " the nesses ;" Brimness (Tingw.) : " surf-ness ;" 
Eshaness (Nm.) (in Norwegian dialects esja signifies : i, 
a kind of soap-stone, 2, a kind of easily split rock); Fora- 
ness (in several places): ness, dangerous for cattle and 


sheep pasturing (O.N. foraS, dangerous place or situa- 
tion); Fuglaness ox Fulaness (Nm.): "bird-ness;" Gr^t- 
ness (Du.): "rocky ness;"* Mioness (De, Skerries): 
" narrow ness "; Mooness (U) : " moory ness " (O.N. md- 
nes) ; Roeness (Sa, Hillswick in Nm.): " red ness " (from 
the reddish colour of the rock); Wheyness (in Whiteness): 
" cattle-park-ness." The nesses were generally enclosed 
for pasturage, and in their names we sometimes find the 
names of animals which pastured there, prefixed : Bu- 
ness {Bootless) (Baltasound, U): cattle-farm-ness or cattle- 
ness (O.N. b^ means household, farm, and is also applied 
to the domestic animals, especially the cattle) ; Hesta- 
ness (Fe): •' horse-ness ;" Lambaness (at Norwick, U): 
'• lamb-ness ;" Maraness (Wh.): " mare-ness ;" Russaness 
(Sa): " horse-ness or mare-ness"; Swinaness (at Balta- 
sound, U): " swine-ness." 

Kudda is usually applied to a small rounding point. 
Originally the word probably signifies " bag " or " some- 
thing bag-shaped," and is akin to the word kod (O.N. 
koddt), pillow. Some of the " Kuddas " go by the name 
of Tfvakudda or Tevakudda, the first part of the com- 
pound being the word "t^ve" O.N. thoefa, to walk or 

• Gratis O.N. grj^t, rock, stone (ct Shetl. "mill-grot," rock from 
which mill-stones are made). Gr^tin, spelt "Gruting" (Sa, De, Fe), 
means "the rocky place" (O.N. grfting-r). 


shrink cloth. The " T0vakuddas " are places at the sea- 
shore, where people used formerly to fasten " wadmel," 
the old Shetland cloth, in order that it should shrink 
and consequently grow thicker and closer by the action 
of the flowing and ebbing of the sea. The word " t0ve " 
is now lost in its original sense in Shetland, but is pre- 
served in the expressions : " to t^e (toss) a body (per- 
son) aboot " and " dere's a tipve (commotion) i' de sea." 

Taing (O.N. tangi) and Tonga {tangi or tunga) both 
mean a tongue of land, such as f i. " de Taing o' Ham " 
(Br), Longatonga (Fe): the long " taing," etc. There are 
several points called Skjotaing, named from skjos, stone- 
huts, which have been standing there formerly. A 
"skj'o" (Norw. skjaa) is a roughly built stone-hut with 
slits to admit the wind for the purpose of drying fish 
and flesh (mutton), not salted.* This manner of curing 
is now obsolete. 

Odd (O.N. odd!) means " point " (sharp point). The 
extremity of the point called " Stoora point " {i.e., the big 
point) in Conningsburgh is called "de Odd." There is a 
township Oddsta in Fetlar, named so from being situated 
at a point. 

" Blade " or Blaa (O.N. blaS, blade, leaf) is a blade- 
shaped point, a point bearing some resemblance to the 

* The flesh (mutton) so dried was called "vivda." 


blade of a sword, such as f.i. " de Blade o' Hellyer," " de 
Blade o' Fiblister " (both in Nm), There is a point in 
the Out Skerries called 0rablaa, which means "ayre- 
blade" (beach-point.) There are a few points in Yell 
called Snooti, Tr^ni and Raana, all meaning " snout." 

There are many instances of places deriving their 
names from resemblance to the different parts of a 
human body or the body of lower animals. I have 
already mentioned some names of this kind. To begin 
at the top we have " de Kroon o' de 0ra," about which 
seep. 68. Culswick (Sa): O.N. -^(?//-r, the top of the head, 
see p. 1 5. Ennisfirth (Nm): O.N. enni, forehead, also " a 
steep face of land." — StKjis (nose) and Niv, see p. 92. 
Keen (cheek, see p. 91. Kjolka (jaw, cheek), see p. 91. 
0ra (U): ear, see p. 68. Minn (Burra Isle): O.N 
minni, mynni, mouth, inlet, arm of the sea, from munn-r, 
mouth ; cf Swarbacks Minn. — Nakkaskerry : " Nakka " 
(O.N. hnakki), the back of the head.— Whulse, Whilst 
(jQuulse, Quilse) (Delt., Aithst, Sandness): O.N. hdls* 
neck (Sco. halse), also applied to " a slack in a hill ;" " de 
Holsins" (U): "the necks," the slacks; cf Holsigarth 
(Y). Brunga (breast), see p. 91. — de Yokkeli^^di^ yokkel 
o' de hill") (C) properly "the shoulder": O.N. oxl{axU\ 

* To "4" in O.N. corresponds in Shetlandic: o (oo), u, wu (wi), etc. 


shoulder, also: shoulder-like formation in a hill, pro- 
tuberance in the side of a hill ; " de Yokkel :" knoll at the 
foot of R0nis hill ; the name " de Akkels " (U) is derived 
from the same word.t From the body of lower animals 
we have f.i. "de Baag" (U): "the back" (name of a 
ridge) ; Moot (mouth, muzzle), see p. 93 ; " the Duke's 
(duck's) Nebb" (beak) (Lerwick); " Rovi head" (point 
near Lerwick): rovi, rovek (O.N. r6fa)f tail. 

I shall mention shortly the different kinds of inlets 
of the sea. 

O.N. fjorS-r, firth, survives in the old name of the 
bight of Conningsburgh, called " de Fjord" which name 
is also applied to the open bight west of Fedaland in 
Northmavine. The plateau north of Collafirth in Nm 
was called " de Fjardapall {-paayll)": the firth-plateau. 

The older form of the word "voe" (O.N. vdg-r, bay, 
inlet) survives f.i. in the name Vog Minn (Vogminn): 
"voe-mouth," applied to the entrance of Gunnister voe in 
Nm, and in the name Voxter in Delting. " Voxter " is 
shortened from " Vog-seter (Voe-seter.)" 

The older form of the word " wick " (O.N. vik, creek) 
survives in f.i. Veegen in North Yell, which means " the 

t As to the dropping of "s" in "xl (ksl)" cf. yakkel, molar tooth, 


wick (creek)"; further in Moovik (Lambhoga in Fe): 
" moor-wick," and probably in " Viga water " (N. Roe.) 

Ham means "harbour." All the places called 
" Ham " in Shetland are comparatively good harbours, 
at least for small craft. There are places by this name 
in Bressay, Foula, Whalsay, etc. (now names of town- 
ships). The word is Norwegian hamn (O.N. hofn, hafn-), 
Danish havn (f.i. in K^benhavn, in German and English 
wrongly called "Copenhagen" instead of " Copenhaven.") 
English " haven " in f.i. " Whitehaven," " Newhaven " is 
the same word. In Shetlandic as in Norwegian there is 
a change here from an original " vn (fn) " into " mn," and 
as the " n " is difficult to pronounce after the " m," it is 
dropped in Shetlandic, but it appears again, when a 
vowel follows, as f i. in Hamnavoe, Hatnna Voe (Y, P, 
Eshaness) : " harbour-voe " (O.N. Hafnarvdgr), Hanina 
Dale (L). Hamister (Wh) stands for "Hamnister ": "har- 
bour-seter." There is a similar change from "vn(fn)" 
into "mn" in " Ramn" O.N. " hrafn" Danish ravn, Norw. 
ramn, Engl. " raven "). This word occurs in f i. Ramna- 
berg : " the ravens' cliff," Ramnagio : " the ravens' gio" 
(chasm, inlet), de Ramnastacks (north of Fedaland, N. 
Roe) : the stacks, where the ravens build. 

Hoob is in O.N. h6p-r, applied to a small shallow bay 
or bight There are several " Hoobs," f.i. " de Hoob " 


and "de Hoobins" in Nm, Hoobie (Fe) : name of a town- 
ship at the head of such a bight. 

In connection with a " Hoob " there is generally a 
" Vadiir or " Vaddle," O.^. vaSill, a wading-plape, a 
shallow piece of water, forming the mouth of a burn 
running out into the bight 

P^l {PoyW) is a small rounding bight, O.N. poll-r 
(same word as Engl. " pool "). There is a Saltap^l 
("salt-pool") at Haroldswick (U), so called, because 
formerly people used to gather salt there, left in the 
small hollows in the rock, after the sea-water had evapor- 
ated. This salt was gathered chiefly for the purpose of 
putting it into butter. The name Saltness is probably 
to be accounted for in a similar way. 

Minni, Minn, Mine, is the O.N. mynni, mouth, bight, 
entrance of the sea. The old name of the bight now 
called " de Mooth o' Funnie " in Fetlar is " de Minni" 
Swarbaks Minn {Mine): "the black gull mouth (bight)" 
is the entrance between Muckle Roe and Aithsting. 
Cf " Vog Minn " p. 97. 

Gjo (Gio) is the O.N. gjd, chasm, big rift in a fell or 
crag. In Shetland the word is always applied to a 
narrow little inlet of the sea with steep rocks on both 
sides. There are several gios by the name Gorsendigjo, 
which means "dyke-end gjo," that is, a gjo where 


an old dyke (wall)-stead terminates ; Ramnagjo (U, 
Hascusay, etc.) : " the ravens' gjo; " Tarigj'o^" sea-weed- 
-gjo " (gjo where sea-weed gathers.) 

Gloop (O.N. gMp-r) means throat or gullet The 
place called " Gloop " in North Yell is a very long and 
narrow inlet of the sea, formed something like a gullet. 

Hellyer is the name for a cave, O.N. hellir ; Gola 
Hellyers (P) : " the yellow caves " (from yellowish colour 
of the rock). There are several caves as well as points 
called Trumba, Trombd, which means the drumming 
noise, made by the surf in such places. 

The old Norn word for an island is ty (j^Jt^)- This 
word survives in Shetland in several place-names. The 
full form of it occurs in the name of the island Uya, 
Uyea (pronounced " 0ya ") near the Unst coast, which 
simply means " the isle." This name has been given to 
it by the South-Unst people, who still often speak of 
"going to the isle," meaning Uyea, because this has 
always been the principal isle near their shore with 
which they had communication, and compared with 
Uyea Unst was to them the mainland. There is an old 
township " Uyea " and opposite to it " the isle of Uyea " 
(pron. " 0ya ") in Northmavine. The sound between 
Unst and Uyea is called Uy{e)asoond, by the older people 
pronounced "0yasoond " or "0asoond " : "island-sound." 


The name is in Unst now applied to the village situated 
at the side of the sound. "Yooasound" is a quite 
modern pronunciation, derived from the south people 
(Englishmen, Scotchmen) who cannot well pronounce 
"0(y)asoond." There are three other " Uyeasounds " in 
Shetland. In the island of Egilsay (Nm) there is a big 
crevice called " 0akluv " : " the island-cleft." In the 
small isle of Nibon (Nm) there is a hill called " 0afil 
{-fell)": "island-hill." In the names of islands the ter- 
minations " ay (ey) " and " a " are unaccentuated forms 
of ^ (island), f i. Bressay (" Bress "- is of doubtful origin), 
Whalsay : " whale-island," Burra : a contraction of 
Borgar-ty : " broch-island," Foula (pronounced : Foold) 
for Fuglty : " bird-island," Gruney (pron. " Gr0ni") : 
" green isle," Linga and Lingey : " heather-isle," Mousa 
(erroneously for " Moosa") -. " the moory isle" {M6s^, 
from O.N. m6-r, moor), Trondra : a contraction of 
Thrdndar-^ : " Trond^s island." " Trond" (O.N. 
Thrdnd-r) is an old Norse personal name. Cf. the dis- 
trict called " Trondheim" in Norway (in Shetlandic : 
Druntin). The name " Trond" occurs several times 
in Shetland place-names, Trondavoe (De), Tronister 
(Trond's seter) (L), Tronafirth and Tronamires. The 
islands of Egilsa(y) and Vementry also derive their 
names from original possessors (O.N. Egill and 


V^mund-r are men's names). " R^" in the name of the 
island Muckle Roe, pronounced R0, is a contraction of 
i?0-0, O.N. Rauff^y, meaning " red isle" (from the red 
colour of the rock). We find the word " 0" or " isle" 
applied not only to an island in the proper sense of the 
word, but also to a peninsula, f.i. " Gluss isle" (Nm) and 
" St. Ringan's isle" (Du), both peninsulas. North Roe 
{R^) is the north-part of the district formerly called " Roe 
{R(li)"—" R0" being " R0-0," red isle— and this district has 
c0mprised the part of Northmavine parish which is north 
of "R0nisvoe" and "Quheyfirth voe" and forms a penin- 
sula. There is a loch called " R^rwater" : " the loch 
(water) of R0" {Rauff^arvatn), besouth North Roe on 
the top of " de Bjorgs." 

Holm denotes a small island (like O.N. hSlm-r). 
The older form of the word survives in f.i. Hoolmawater 
(Sa) : " holm-loch," and " de Hoolmaleei^' (see " Lee " 
p. 80) above " Hoolmawater." 

Skerry (O.N. sker) denotes a rock in the sea above 
water ; there are several such rocks called Swartaskerry : 
" black skerry ; " Fuglaskerry (" bird-skerry") and Leera- 
skerry (sea-bird-skerry),* both at Papa Stoor ; Skipta- 
skerry) (Fe) : " division (bound)-skerry," from O.N. skipti, 

• O. N. Hri = Puffinus Anglorum, 


Baa (O.N. boSi) denotes a rock in the sea under 

FUs (O.N. fles) denotes a flat skerry ; " de Fleshins 
(the " fleses ") o' Sandwick " (Wh). 

Stakk (O.N. stakk-r) denotes a high pointed rock 
in the sea ; there are a few stacks called " Wheedastakk" : 
"white stack;" Grostakk: "gray stack;" Gr0nastakk 
{Grona-), see p. 36; Hoostakk: "high stack." Some 
stacks are from their shape called "Spindles;" there is 
a stack at " Papa Stoor " called Snolda : i.e. " spindle," 
O.N. snaelda. In O.N. the word drang-r is synony- 
mous with " stakk-r ;" it survives in the names of the two 
stacks off Hillswick ness (Nm), called " de Drongs" 

I now leave this subject : the natural features of the 
land, and pass to the settlements and enclosures, made by 
the Norse inhabitants. 

In the Shetland place-names more than half a score 
of words occur, which all mean " enclosure " or " a piece 
of enclosed land." Different names have been used 
according to the diiiferent purposes for which the 
enclosures have been made. The majority of them 
have been for animals. In a great many cases the 
old dyke-steads can still be traced, in other cases they 
have disappeared, and only the names have been left. 


applied to the places where these ancient enclosures 
have been. 

The name Garth or Gord {Goard) occurs pretty fre- 
quently, especially in names of old " toons," farms and 
crofts. It is O.N. garS-r, dyke (wall) or yard (etym. Engl. 
" yard)," also applied to a piece of ground enclosed by 
such a dyke or yard, especially a cultivated piece of 
ground with a house on it. Hence the many names of 
houses and crofts ending in " -garth," usually pronounced 
" -girt," as f i. Bessigarth (Tingw.), Evrigarth (P) : " the 
upper yard or farm," Efstigarth (Y): the uppermost 
yard or farm, Fogrigarth (Aithst.) : " the beautiful 
yard," Kurkigarth (Weisdale): " church-yard," Linggarth 
(Du), named from the heathery ground {Ling is O.N. 
lyng, heather), Skerpigarth (Fe) (" Skerpi," akin to Engl. 
" sharp," denotes the hard and dry soil), Smirgarth (U) : 
" butter-farm " (O.N. sm'dr, butter) — the name is derived 
from good pasture-ground. The old Norse name for the 
city of " Constantinople " is MykligarSr, Shetlandic : 
" Mukligarth (-girt) " : " the big yard or enclosure." 

There is a house called Galtigarth in South Yell, 
which has been originally an enclosure for " gauts " or 
pigs. Further : Grisigarth (the name of a house in 
Foula) : pig (" grice ")-yard ; Hestinsgarth (Du) : " horse- 
enclosure," and Lammigarth (Du) : " lamb-enclosure." — 


Uncompounded the word occurs in f.i. " Garth "(township 
in Delting), " Garths voe " (Delt.; 

" Gord" (not " Garth ") is the proper Shetland pro- 
nunciation of the word (cf. Vord and Wart p. 8i). 
" Gord " is the name of a house in Conningsburgh ; 
Bjaelagord (Fe) ; Framgord (Eshaness, Nm) : " the 
croft or house further out, nearer to the sea."* In the 
meaning " dyke " the word occurs in f.i. Millya Gorda 
(place in Fetlar) : " between (the) dykes " (O.N. milium 
garSd), Gorhool (Fedeland, N. Roe) : " dyke-knoll (O.N. 

Gairdie (O.N. gerffi) is etymologically connected 
with the just mentioned " Garth, Gord " and English 
" garden." It signifies originally a small piece of un- 
cultivated ground enclosed either for pasture or with a 
view to cultivation immediately outside the " toon-dyke " 
(the dyke enclosing the township). Such "gairdies" 
through time come to form part of the cultivated " toon " 
itself, as this had to be enlarged, but on account of the 
origin of these "gairdies" we never find them in the 
centre of a township, but either on its outskirts or 
near its outskirts. There is a place in Bressay called 
"Gairdie;" further: " Gairdie " in Mid- Yell, Gairdtn{Sdi, 

* Cf. " fram " in the expression "to geng fram": to go far out by 
boat (to the deep-sea fishing) (O.N. fram, forward). 


Delt.) : "the gairdies" (O.N. gerSi-n), "Gairdie hill" and 
Gairdaness in Delting, and so forth. 

Toon (O.N. t^n) is a third word denoting originally 
"hedge, enclosure." It is the same word as Engl. 
" town " and German " zaun," hedge. In O.N. tin com- 
monly signifies a piece of cultivated ground enclosed. 
Instances : " de Hametoon " (Fo) : the home-" toon," the 
original " toon ;" Bigton (Du) : " ton " (unaccentuated) 
for " toon," ("Big" is probably O.N. bygS, inhabited place, 
from byggja, to build, cf. Shetl. " a biggin o' hooses," a 
cluster of houses) ; Hooston (Haroldswick, U) : " house- 

B0 (O.N. boe-r, farm) is synonymous with " Gord " 
and " Toon." It occurs in Dunrossness, where there is a 
township called "B0" and another close by called Exnab^, 
which latter place has originally been a grazing-place for 
oxen. When unaccentuated the word takes the form of 
"-by." Kjurkaby{-py) in Westing (Unst) is " Kirk-b0 " : 
the farm near the church. Further instances are : Melby 
(Sandness): "the sandy farm," (O.N. mel-r, sand), Norby 
(Sandness) : " the north farm." The word also occurs in 
place-names in England, as : Whitby, Tenby, Appleby. 

Fund (English " pound ") is a small enclosure for 
putting animals into, f i. in order to keep them off from 
the " toon," also for putting stray animals into. It occurs 


in names of places where such enclosures have been, f.i. 
/'«»d^// (pronounced: Punshfil; in Unst, Pundal^t (name 
of a house in Firth, Delting): "the pund-lot" (/(!»/= an 
allotted piece of ground). 

Kr^ (sheep-fold) in place-names usually takes the 
form Kroo, as f.i. Kroosteri^x) ; "kr0-seter," Kroodale (Fe), 
Stoori Kroo (in the Conningsburgh west-cliffs) : " the big 

Synonymous with " Fund " and " Kroo " is Ret (O.N. 
ritt, fold, sheep-fold). It occurs in the names : Tararet 
(L), place at the shore, where sea- weed (O.N. thari) 
gathers, and where a sheep-fold has been in former 
times ; S^ret (Wh), " s0 " being O.N. sauS-r, sheep. The 
last word also occurs in f i. S^bel or Sobel (name of two 
hills in Unst) : " sheep-*<!t/-(<J«7)"— " b0l " being O.N. b6l, 
couch, resting-place for animals (pasturing on the hills) ; 
cf. Koobel (Du- : "cow-b0l.") "So" (sheep) further occurs 
in f.L Soberlee (Fo) : " So-berg-lee " {sauS-berghlid), the 
slope (" lee ") above the cliff (" berg ") and being used for 
sheep-pasture (the name is descriptive of the place). 
B61 (" b0l ") also occurs in f.i. " Bola hill " (Y). 

Whee {Quhee) or Quee, Whie {Quhie, Quhey) or Qute, 
etc., are variations in the pronunciation of O.N. kvi, 
meaning an enclosure for cattle, a cattle park. Several 
houses and townships go by this name, because the 


places where they have been built have been originally 
enclosed parks. Instances: "Quee"(Conn.), Quheyin (pron. 
"Wheein") (Otterswick, Y): "the Whee," Gr^twhee 
(spelt :"Grutquoy") (U,W):, "the rocky Whee," Okraquee 
(Fladabister, C) : " the Quee near the cornfield " (O.N. 
akr, corn-field). " De Quheys o' Catfirth " is the name 
of a piece of ground in Catfirth (South Nesting). "Quhey- 
firth " see p. 102. Vatshwi (Wh) stands for " Vat(n)s- 
hwee " : " loch-hwee." 

Hoga {Hag) is O.N. hagi, a piece of hill or unculti- 
vated land enclosed for pasture, or in a more general 
sense : hill-pasture, in modern Shetlandic : " skattald." 
The word originally signifies " enclosure," and is etymo- 
logically akin to Engl. " hedge " and " haw " in f i. " haw- 
thorn," " haw-haw " (a sunk fence). Instances : "Hogan "* 
(Whiteness), de Hogan o' Fogrigarth (Aithst), Lambhoga 
(Fe). Several places go by the name of Hogaland. 

" Hoga " also occurs in a few conversational words, 
as hoga-leave (from O.N. hagaltyfi), properly " scattald- 
permission," i.e., liberty either to cut peats or to have 
animals grazing for a certain payment in another skat- 
tald, and then secondly : payment for this liberty to 
make use of another skattald, and hence the phrase : to 

* «- is the suffixed definite article. 


pay hoga-leave. " Hoga " further occurs in buynhoga 
(U, Fe), meaning " calf-ground," home of birth, old place 
of residence (literally : " child-pasture," O.N. bamhagi). 

" Hag '' occurs in place-names as the first part of a 
compound, f i. Hagtnarsgio (for Hagmarksgio : " skat- 
tald-march gio ") and " de Horns o' Hagmark" ( : " skat- 
tald-march " ) (U) ; Hagdjeld (U) : " skattald-division," 
the name of an old march between Baltasound and Har- 
oldswick (U). A hagmet is an old word for a (skattald-) 

There is an old Shetland expression : " to ride de 
hagri" — "hagri" being an O.N. hag{d)reiS: skattald-ride. 
In former times neighbouring proprietors used to ride in 
company around their skattald-boundaries in order to 
inspect the marches or put up new march-stones and 
thus prevent future disputes. Every year, when this was 
done, they took with them a boy, the son of some 
crofter, residing on the one or the other of the pro- 
perties. At every march-stone they came to, the boy 
got a flogging ; this, it was thought, made him remember 
the place ever after. For every year this "hagri" or 
skattald-riding was done, a different boy was selected to 
accompany the proprietors and receive the floggings. 
Thus when the boys grew up to men, even if some 
among them should die, there would always be some 


men in the place who in a case of dispute would be able 
to swear, where the right march was. 

In this connection I may mention the old name for 
common pasture, or a piece of pasture-land held in 
common by neighbouring proprietors. In Connings- 
burgh there is a piece of ground, now cultivated, called 
" de Wulmtn ( Wilmin)" and in Yell there is a piece of 
" skattald '' or hill-pasture called " Wullamina ( Willa- 
mind) skattald," the older form of which name is Hol- 
tnennis Hoga." The names mentioned are derived from 
O.N. almenning-r, common-pasture (literally : " land for 
all the men "). 

Still or Stilli (O.N. stilli, trap, enclosure for catching 
animals in) is synonymous with " Kr0," " Fund," " Ret '' 
(see pp. 106-7). There are two " toons " (in Fe and U) 
called " Still." At Nibon (Nm) there is a piece of 
ground called " de Stilli o' Nibon." 

Seter(p.N. setr) occurs frequently in Shetland place- 
names (names of pieces of ground, of crofts and town- 
ships). It signifies originally " summer-pasture " and is 
in Norway still commonly applied to a pasturing place 
in the mountains, where people stop in huts during the 
summer-time to tend and milk the cattle and to make 
butter and cheese. In Tingwall there are three crofts in 
a row from Crista towards Scalloway : " North, Mid, 


and South Seter." South past these seters are three 

crofts, called " North, Mid, and South Garth." The three 

Seters mentioned have evidently been the places where 

the Garth people have had their animals grazing during 

the summer-season. There is a " Seter " in Bressay, 

another in Noss. Further : " de Seter o' Ennisfirth " 

(Nm), Bakkaseier, Gioseter (Du), etc. In compounds, 

"-seter " is generally abbreviated to " ster," f.i. Bixter 

(Sa) ; " Bigg-seter " {bigg, biggin = a cluster of houses), 

Bjoster (Br), Brooster (for " Broo-seter " : " bridge-seter "), 

near the Bridge of Walls, Hellister (Weisdale) (see 

" Hellya " p. 88), Hooster (Aith, Aithst), Kollaster (Aiths- 

ting) (reg. " Koll " see p. "JT, and Culster (De) : " Koll- 

seter." Reg. Vatster and Voxter, see pp. 86 and 97. 

Many " seters " derive their names from the different 
kinds of animals which pastured there, as fi. Booster 

(Y) (reg. Boo^ O.N. bik, see p. 94; Hestinseter (Sa) : " horse- 

seter," Yoknister (Nm) ; " oxen-seter," Kolvister {Colvi- 

ster) (Y); " calf-seter," (cf Colvidale (U) : "calf-valley") 

Marister(^\C) :" mare-seter," Swinister (Nm, De, Tingw, 

Walls) : " swine-seter." 

"-bister " (in compounds) is probably a contraction 

of O.N. b6lstaSr, dwelling-place (occuring in place-names; 

modern Norw. " -bust "), f i. Fladabister : " the flat ground 

dwelling," Isbister (Nm, Wh), Symbister (Wh) (" sym " 


probably = " sum-" in Sumburgh, see p. 71), Trebister 
(Lerwick parish) for " Utrebister " : " the outer dwelling," 

O.N. sel means " seter-hut." This word is possibly 
contained in names as Sellafirth (Y), Selivoe (Gruting voe, 
Sa). But in several cases the prefix " Seli-" in place- 
names is to be derived from O.N. sel-r, seal. 

Names of houses and townships are most often 
second-hand names, that is, in most cases the places 
where the habitations arose had their names, before 
houses were built on or at them, and then the houses 
(townships) simply borrowed these names. Several 
instances have been given of this in the foregoing pages. 
Lerwick means " clay-creek," and has originally been 
applied only to the creek itself " Voe " and " Firth " 
in Delting are now names of townships. Burravoe (Y) 
is I, the bay, 2, the township. The village of Sound 
(pronounced " Soond ") is named from its being situated 
at Bressay Sound. Prepositions (at, in, on, under, 
etc.) were prefixed to names of places to indicate the 
sites of the houses and townships, but now these pre- 
positions have been dropped. Got (Conn, Tingw) is 
O^.gata, {gotu), pathway* ; the houses have been called 

* In modern Shetlandic " gate" signifies " way, path,'' while grind 
(O.N. grind) expresses English "gate." 


originally " at the pathway." Gj^den, spelt " Gudon " 
(Y), is probably the same word (-n : the suffixed 
definite article). Further instances : Aid : "on (the) 
isthmus" (p. 8s) ; Brekken : " on or under (the) brae" 
(p. 80) ; Dale (De) : O.N. / dali, in (the) valley ; Fjael : 
« under (the) hill " (p. 74) ; Kamb : « under (the) hill 
crest" (p. jj"). 

In some cases the old name of a certain firth, voe or 
wick has disappeared and been supplanted by a new 
name, while the old name still lingers applied to the 
oldest township in the immediate neighbourhood, f.i. 
Olnesfirth, a township at the firth or voe, now called 
Hamars voe in Nm ; Reafirth at the head of Mid Yell 
voe / Sellafirth at the head of Basta voe in Yell ; 
Trondavoe at the head of Voxter voe in Delting ; Effirtk 
(" Aid-firth") at the head of Bixter voe in Sandsting. 

There are three old words, meaning " house" or 
" room," occurring in names : O.N. Ms (house), stofa 
and skdli. Instances : 

a. Uphoose (Br) ; " the house further up," Oodhoose 
(Bastaness, Y) : " the house further out ;" " Innyus" 
(Uyea, Nm), abbreviated from O.N. inni i Msi, " in the 
house further in (the inner house)." 

b. Sto/a occurs in f.i. Stove (the name of a house in 
Haroldswick, U ; Sandw), Stiwa (Aithsting). There 


are two houses in Uyea, Nm., called Innistova and 
Uppistova (O.N. inni i stofu and uppH stofu ; /=in), i.e., 
a " in the inner house," b in the upper house." 

Baths and bathrooms are often mentioned in the 
old Icelandic sagas. BaSstofa in O.N. denotes " bath- 
room" or " bath-house." There is a patch of ground in 
Fetlar called " Ae Bastivvategs": "the bath-house rigs* 
(corn-rigs)." In Faroe there is a township called "i 
BaSstovu " from some ancient bath-house on the place. 

c. Skdli occrurs in f.i. Skollan (name of a house in 
Du), meaning " the house " or properly " in the house" 
(O.N. / skdlanum ; -n in " Skollan " is the suffixed 
definite article) ; further : Leeskol (Eshaness, Nm) : " the 
house" (" skol") on the slope" (" lee," see p. 80), Fram- 
miskolla {-swilla,-swulld) (Uyea, Nm) : " (in) the house 
(" Skolla") further out or nearer to the sea" (O.N./m;«;«« 
/ skdla), Uppiskolla (Firth, Delt.) : " (in) the house higher 
up " (O.N. uppi i skdla). Skdli in O.N. often denotes 
" booth" or " hut." Scalloway, by the older people pro- 
nounced " Skalowaa" is the voef of the " skollas" or 
booths, occupied by the ting-men, assembling for the 

* In names, applied to corn-rigs or patches of cultivated ground, the 
words tegtflut (flit), djtldaxA velt (felt) very often occur as terminations : 
O.N. /«]j-r, (cultivated) piece of ground (cf. 7lK^e», the name of a town- 
ship in Voe, Delt. ),flot-r, flat piece of ground, deild, division, velta, delv- 
ing, a delved piece of ground, 

+ "Waa," meaning "voe," also occurs in the name " KirkwcAfl)" 


meeting of the general " ting " or law-court of the islands 
in Tingwall. 

O.N. staff-r, dwelling-place, occurs in the form 
" sta " in f i. Busia (Delt.) (O.N. b^stvffr or bdlstaSr), 
Grimtsta near Lerwick, {Grim, O.N. GHtn-r, is a man's 
name), Grista (Tingwall). If " Crista" be O.N. griSa- 
staSr, place of safety (for criminals), the picture of the 
Tingwall or law-court plain with its ting-booths or 
" skollas," already mentioned, would be remarkably 

Taft, Toft or Topt, Tupt {Tipt) is O.N. thopt, house- 
stead, site, (ground) plot. Instances : " Taft " : house in 
Funnie (Fe), " Toft" (De), Toften (Fe), Topten (Harolds- 
wick in U) : " -en" is the dative plural termination! (cf. 
Hoolen p. 75), Tuptaby {Tiptaby) (Fe) (reg. "-by" see 
" bf p. 106), de Tuptigarths (Firth in Delt.), Colbinstoft 
(Fe) — " Colbin " being O.N. Kolbeinn, a man's name (the 
same name is contained in " Cullinsbrock" a township in 

These remarks on place-names would be incomplete 
without some allusion to such spots as have received 

erroneously spelt " Kirkwall" (Orkney), O.N. Kirkjuv&gr ; further in the 
name " Waas" in Shetland and Orkney, erroneously spelt " IValls-" the 
ancient form of "Waas" in Orkney is Vdgar ( Vdgaland) : "(the) voes 

X " Toften, Topten" ■- O.N. I thoptum, "in (the) plots" etc. 


names in connection with old popular superstition, such 
spots as were formerly believed to be inhabited or fre- 
quented by trolls and fairies. O.NT troll, troll, occurs in 
f.i. Truylhoolen (Sa) : the troll-knoll (cf Hool p. 75), 
Tr'dlliwater and Trolligio (in several places). Troswick 
(Du) is probably " Trollswick." Wulv, or Wt'lv-, from 
O.N. dl/-r, elf, fairy, occurs in fi. Wulvers- or Wilvers- 
hool (Mid Yell) : " elf-knoll," Wul- or Wilhool (Du), 
now commonly called '' de fairy-knowe (knoll)." 

The water-spirit called " de njuggel" (= water- 
kelpie, "tangie"), O.N. nykr, is commemorated in the 
names of a fe\y lochs and " shuns," f i. " Njuggels water " 
(Tingw), " Nuckro water " (Wh) ; " Njugger-shun " — 
" njuggel-loch, njuggel-pool." ^ 

There are a few knolls by the name of " Henkis- 
knowe." The word " henki" is sometimes applied to a 
troll or fairy. There are old legends in connection with 
these knolls, that the trolls used to dance there at night, 
and the trolls were always supposed to " hink " or limp, 
when they danced. Hence the name " henki." There 
is a knoll called Lunkhool in North Yell, about which 
there is a similar tradition. The trolls here were evi- 
dently accustomed to " lunk," when they danced (Shetl. 
to lunk = to go with a limp). 

The name of the place called Haltadans {Haayl- 


tadans) in Fetlar is of a quite similar origin. It means 
" lame or limping dance." On the place so called are 
three concentric rings of stones and two higher stones 
in the middle. The old tradition is, that these rings 
are petrified dancing trolls, the two in the centre 
being the fiddler and his wife. They were petrified, 
because they continued dancing, till the sun rose on 

We pass now to an important series of names, 
connected with the great Norse legal customs. I have 
already mentioned the great " ting " or law-court for the 
whole islands, held in Tingwall. There were also minor 
law-courts for the various districts. In connection with 
these lesser "tings" I heard an interesting statement 
from an old woman in Fetlar. She informed me, that 
she had been told by her grand parents, that the island 
of Fetlar had once been divided into three separate 
districts, each with its own ting or law-court. O.N. 
MraS, district, county, is preserved in the name "de 
Herra " (Y, Fe, L). There are several survivals of the 
word " ting " in district names in different parts of 
Shetland. These districts were each under the juris- 
diction of a minor ting. Hence the word, meaning 
originally " assembly," came to mean also " jurisdiction," 
and hence we have district-names as Belting ( : " dale- 


or valley-ting"; the law-court was held at "Dale"), 
Lunnasting* Nesting, Aithsting (see " Aith, Aid " p. 85) 
and Sandsting (named after the place " Sand," where the 
law-court was held). 

As to the other district or parish names I may in 
this connection mention Dunrossness, which takes its 
name from the "dinning roost or tide-way,'' commonly 
called "Sumburg roost"; O.N. Dyn-rost and Dynras- 
tames. Reg. Northmavine and Walls see pp. 85 and 
114 (the note). 

The names of the North Isles ; Unst, Yell, Fetlar, 
are as yet quite obscure ; the explanations hitherto 
offered are useless. 

Each ting had its own " gallow-hill " or place of 
execution for criminals sentenced to death. There is a 
"Gallow-hill" at Scalloway connected with the great ting, 
and hills by the same name are found in Unst, Fetlar, 
Dunrossness and on the westside. We find the name 
also in the form Golga, which is O.N. gdlgi, gallows. 
There is a hill called "Golga" in Northmavine and 
another in Sandwick parish. Wulga (name of a hill in 
Conningsburgh) stands for Gwulga, which is another 

* The old form of the name is " Luttd-eids-thing" (Lunna being 
Lund-eid or " -aith "). " Lund " is probably O.N. lund-r, grove, occurring 
in several place-names in Scandinavia and Iceland. " Lund" is the name 
of a place in Unst. As to woods in Shetland, see p. 76 (the note). 


form of " Golga ; " about this place there is an old tradi- 
ion, that a sheep-thief, named Kel Hulter, was hanged 

I shall conclude this lecture with a few remarks on 
the name Shetland itself, or rather on the original form 
of the name, which was Hjaltland. There is a popular 
tradition telling us, that some of the Picts, when they 
had been conquered by the Scots, left Scotland and fled 
north. When they had passed Orkney and got sight of 
Shetland, they cried : " Yet land, yet land ! " — and this 
was the way, Shetland got its name. There is a similar 
tradition about Fedeland in North Roe. Fedeland is 
said to have been the last place in Shetland, where the 
Picts lingered. When they were driven from there, their 
only place of refuge was the sea, and so they cried : 
"Fae de land, fae de land (from the land)." Fancy 
the Picts speaking modern Shetland English ! " Fede- 
land " simply means " fat land " : rich pasture. No sure 
explanation has as yet been offered of the name " Hjalt- 
land." It has been explained from the man's name 
Hjalti, occurring in the old Norse literature — but there 
are no instances of countries being named after single 
men. Then it has been derived from O.N. hjalt, hilt, 
the hilt of a sword, but the shape of the country does 


not present any striking resemblance to a hilt. Yet the 
name might contain the word hjalt. 

I have in this lecture endeavoured to suggest 
general rules, according to which the place-names have 
been given, and I further insist on the necessity for 
great caution in either forming or accepting conclu- 
sions in regard to names, that are of uncertain etymo- 
logy, for derivations which even a slight knowledge of 
the Old Northern language might have shown to be 
erroneous have occasionally been offered in regard 
to these names. 


[The nwmbers indicate the Pages.] 

Aid (Aith), 85 

Blaa, 95 

Busta, 115 

Aithsting, 118 

Bloglo, 36 

Bo, 106 

Akkels, 97 

Boiten, 83 

Ajrre, 89 

Bola hill, 107 

Clubbi Shuns, 86 

Booness, 94 

Clnmlie, 65 

Baa, 103 

Booster, 111 

Colbinstoft, 115 

Baag, 97 

Brae, (Brai-ai) 85 

Collafirth, 77 

Bakka, 89 

Bratt(h)ool, 76 

Collifell, 77 

Bakkanalee hill, 80 

Brek, 80 

Colvidale, 111 

Bakkaseter, 89, 111 

Brekkin, 80 

Colvister, 111 

Bakkigarth, 89 

Brennya, 76 (the note) 

Cullinsbroch, 115 

Bard, 93 

Bressay, 101 

CuUivoe, 77 

Bastiwategs, 114 

Bretto, 86 

Culster, 111 

Berfaayll, 89 

Brimness, 93 

Culswick, 96 

Berfil, 75 

Broo, Broon, 81 

(Names wanting under C may 


Berfinssnjoog, 76 

Brooster, 111 

sought under K). 

Berg, 89 

Bmn, 87 

Berraroni, 79 

Brunga, 91 

Daal, 83 

Berrishoola komba, 77 

Bruns Haamarsland, 81 

Daalin grbna, 83 

Berry, 90 

Buness, 94 

Daleslee, 80 

Berset, Ber8oad(i) 91 

Burga taing, 71 

Belting, 117 

Bessigarth, 104 

Burga water, 71 

Djuba Berreg, 89 

Bigton, 106 

Burra, 101 

Djupa Gil, 83 

Bixter, 111 

Burrafirth, 71 

Drongs, 103 

Bjselagord, 105 

Burraland, 71 

Dunrossness, 118 

Bjoster, 111 

Burraness, 71 

Duss, 80 

Bjorg, 76, 78 

Burravoe, 71, 112 



Efflrth, 113 
Efstigarth, 104 
Egilsa(y), 101 
Ennisfirth, 96 
Eshaness, 93 
Evrigarth, 104 
Exnab5, 106 

Fedeland, 119 
Fetlar, 118 
Fid, Pitch, 83 
Fidna grona, 83 
Filla, 75 
Fillakomb, 77 
Finnigirt, Finnigord, 73 
Fivla, 70 
Fivlagord, 69 
FjsBl, 74 
Fjalsamires, 74 
Fjardapall (-paayll), 97 
Fjord, 97 
Fladabister, 111 
Flea, 103 
Fleshins, 103 
Fogradaal, 83 
Fogrigarth, 104 
Foraness, 93 
Forse, 87 
Forso, 87 
Foula (Foola), 101 
Framgord, 105 
FrammiskoUa, 114 
Fuglaness, Fulaness 94 
Fuglaskerry, 102 

Gairdaness, 106 
Gairdie, 105 
Gairdin, 105 
Galtigarth, 104 

Garth, 104 

GU, 83 

Gio, Gjo, 99 

Gioseter, 111 

Gjoden, (Gudon) 113 

Gloop, 100 

Gola Hellyers, 100 

Golga, 118 

Gord (Goard) 104, 105 

Gorhool, 105 

Gorsendigio, 99 

Got, 112 

Graav, Graavins, 84 

Grave, Graven, 84 

Graveland, 84 

Gref, 84 

Grimista, 115 

Grisigarth, 104 

Grista, 115 

Grostakk, 103 

Grostane, 35 

Gruney, 101 

Gronastakk, Grona, 36, 103 

Grotin (Gruting)94 (the note) 

Grotness, 94 

Grbtwhee (Grutquoy) 108 

Gulahamar (Gola-) 36 

Haaraar, 80 
Haamamess, 80 
Haanahjoag, 91 
Hagdjeld, 109 
Hagmark, 109 
Hagmar(k)sgio, 109 
Haayltadans, 116 
Ham, 98 
Hametoon, 106 
Hamister, 98 
Hamna Dale, 98 

Hamna Voe, Hamnavoe, 98 
Hararifell, 80 
Hedliberg, 89 
Hellister, HI 
Hellya, 88 
Hellyabrun, 87 
Hellyer, 100 
Hellyina, bretta, gro, 

wheeda, 88, 89 
Henkisknowe, 116 
Herra, 117 
Hestaness, 94 
Hestinseter, 111 
Hestinsgarth, 104 
Hevda, Hevdi, 92 
Hevda-grun, 92 
Hevdigarth, 92 
Hjoag, 75 
Hjoganess, 75 
Hjogen, 75 
Hjukmannavord, 82 
Hoga, Hogan, 108 
Hogaland, 108 
Holm, 102 

Holniennis Hoga, 110 
Hoob, 98 
Hoobie, 99 
Hoobins, 99 
Hoofil, 75 
Hool, Hoolen, 75 
Hoolin, brenda, skarpa, 

stoora, 76 
Hoolmalees, 102 
Hoolmawater, 102 
Hoolna, hoola, 76 
Hoorun, 80 
Hooster, 111 
Hooston, 106 
Hoostakk, 103 



Hurd, 91 
Hurdifell, 92 
HwammSLTdni, 79 
Hos, 92 

Innistova, 114 
Innyus, 113 
Isbister, 111 

Juba, Jupa, see Djuba, 

Kamb, 77 

Kaine, 77 

Kap, 84 

Kattismogs, 67 

Keen, 91 

Kelda, 87 

Kirkwaa, Kirkwall, 114 

(the note). 
Kjolka, 91 
Kjurkaby, (-py) 106 
Kleberswick, 91 
Klett, 88 
Klettin, ro, 88 
Klodi, 81 
Klub, 78 
Knab, 78 
Knappis, 78 
Kodlifell, 77 
Kolgrave, Kolgref, 84 
KoUaster, 111 
KoUyarun. 80 
Kolvister, 111 
Koinba, 77 
Konipis (Kombis), 77 
Koobel, 107 
Kool, 77 
Koopins, 84 (the note.) 

Kop, 84 
Koppa, 84 
Koppister, 84 
Krabbabersoadi, 91 
Krogaroni, 79 
Kroo, Kro, 107 
Kroodale, 107 
Kroon, 96 
Krooster, 107 
Kudda, 94 
Kumbel, Kami, 81 
Kumlins, 75 
Kurkigarth, 104 

Laamar, 81 
Lambaness, 94 
Lambhoga, 108 
Lammigartb, 104 
Laxo, 86 
Lee, 80 
Leeabakka, 89 
Leean, 80 
Leefell, 80 
Leeraskerry, 102 
Leerwul (Leerhool), 76 
Leeskol, 114 
Lerwick, 112 
Likvell(y)ins, 83 
Linga, Lingey, 101 
Linggarth, 104 
Litlatoo, 81 
Ljoag, 87 
Lodberri, 90 
Longaberg, 89 
Longardni, 79 
LoDgatonga, 95 
Lund, 118 (the note.) 
Lunkhool, 116 
Lunna, 118 (the note.) 

Lunnasting, 118 
Maraness, 94 
Marister, 111 
Mavis Grind, 85 
Melby, 106 
Millya Gorda, 105 
MUlya Hellya, 89 
Millya Vatna, 86 
Minn, 96, 99 
Minni, Mine, 99 
Mioness, 94 
Mool, 93 
Moola, 93 
Mooness, 94 
Moovik, 98 
Mousa (Moosa), 101 
Mucklatoo, 81 
Mori, 87 
Monster, 87 
Morn, 87 
Morseter, 87 

Nab, 78 

Kakkaskerry, 96 
Nebb, 97 
Neep, 93 
Neshin, 93 
Ness, 93 
Nesting, 118 
Niv, 92 

Njuggels water, 116 
Njugger-shun, 116 
Noonsvord, 82 
Noop, 93 
Norby, 106 
Northmavine, 85 
Noss, 93 
Nuckro water, 116 



Odd, 95 
Oddsta, 95 
Okraquee, 108 
OUaberry, 90 
Oodhoose, 113 
Ootnabrek, 80 
Ord, 91 
Orbister, 86 
Ordale, 86 
Orgil, 83 
Orwick, 86 

Papa, Papa Stoor, 64 
Papil, 64 
Pettasmog, 67 
Pettawater, 66 
Pettidale, 66 
Pettigarthsfell, 67 
Pettina Shaigo, 71 
Poyll, 99 
Pund, 106 
Pundalot, 107 
Pundsfell, 107 
Pol, 99 

Quarf, 84-85 

Quee, 107 

Queedarnns, 80 

Quendale, 87 

Quhee, Quhey, Quhie, 107 

Qnheyin, 108 

Qailse, Quulse, 96 

Baana, 96 
Bamnaberg, 89, 98 
Raiunagio, 98, 100 
Ramnastacks, 98 
Bet, 107 
(St) Ringan's Isle, 65 

Roe, Rooe, (Muckle R., 

North B.) 102 
Boe, see Bo 
Boeness, 94 
Boenis Hill, see Bonis 
Bovi, 97 
Bussaness, 94 
Busshikaps, 84 
Bo, see Boe 
Bon, Boni, 79 
Boni fogra, 79 
Ronins, 79 
Bonis, 79 
Benis Hill, 79 
Rorwater, 102 
Rostakk, 36 

Saltapol, 99 

Saltness, 99 

Sandsting, 118 

Sandvatn, 86 

Saxavord, 82 

Scalloway (Skalowa), 114 

Selivoe, 112 

Sellafirth, 112 

Seter, 110 

Shetland, 119 

Shun, 86 

Skallifil, 75 

Skelberry, 90 

Skerhellya, 88 

Skerpigarth, 104 

Skerry, 102 

Skibberwul (Skibberhool), 

Skiotaing, 95 
Skiptaskerry, 102 
Skollan, 114 
Skooin brenda, 76 (the note) 

Skraefil, 75 
Slagin, 84 
Sloag, 84 
Srairgarth, 104 
Smorkelda, 87 
Snjoog, Snjoogi, 76 
Snjoogahool, 76 
Snolda. 103 
Snooti, 96 
Snos, 92 
Sobel, 107 
Soberlee, 107 
Sound (Soond), 112 
Stakk, 103 
Stakkaberg, 89 
Still, Stilli, 110 
Stivva, 113 
Stooraljoag, 87 
Stoorapoint, 95 
Stoorhool, Stoor'ul, 61-76 
Stoori Kroo, 107 
Stove, 113 
Sumburg, 71 

Swarbaks Minn (Mine), 99 
Swartaskerry, 36, 102 
Swarthool, 76 
Swartigil, 83 
Swinaness, 94 
Swinister, 111 
Symbister, 111 
Sobel, 107 
Sbret, 107 

Taft, 115 

Taigen, 114 (the note) 

Taing, 95 

Tand, 78 

Tararet, 107 

Tarigio, 100 



Tevakudda, 94 
Tind, 78 
Tingwall, 83 
Tiptaby, 115 
Toft, Toften, 115 
Tonga, 95 
Too, 81 
Toon, 105-6 
Topt, Topsten, 115 
Trebister, 112 
Tromba, 100 
Tronafirth, 101 
Tronamires, 101 
Trondavoe, 101 
Trondra, 101 
Tronister, 101 
Troswiok, 116 
Trumba, 100 
Trnylhoolen, 116 
TroUigio, 116 
Trolliwater, 116 
Troni, 96 

Tukkabersoadi, 91 
Tuptaby, 115 
Tuptigarths, 115 
Tovakudda, 94 

Unst, 118 
Uphoose, 113 
Uppiskolla, 114 
Uppistova, 113 
Urafirth, see Orafirth 
Urie (0n), 89 
Uya, Uyea, 100 

Uyeasound, 100 

Vaalafll, 75 

Vaacht, 82 

Vaddle, Vadill, 99 

Vanlup, 86 

Vassa, 86 

Vatn, 85 

Vatnabreck, 86 

Vata(e)ter, 86, 111 

Vatshwi, 108 

Veegen, 97 

Veeti-head, 82 

Vellyi, 74 

Vell(y)i, Vell(y)ins, 83 

Vementry, 101 

Veyll, 83 

Vidifell (Veedifell) stoor, 83 

Viga water, 98 

Virda, Virdik, 81, 82 

V^irdifell, 82 

Virdins, 82 

Vog Minn (Vogminn), 97 

Vord (Voard), 81, 82 

Vordeld, Vordjeld, 82 

Voxter, 97, 111 

Waakhoose, 82 

Waas (Walls), 114 (the note) 

Wart, 81, 82 

Watlee, 86 

Whalsay, 101 

Wham, 83 

Whee, Whey, Whie, 107 

Wheedamurs, 35 
Wheedastakk, 35, 103 
Wheyness, 94 
Whilse, 96 
Whinnawater, 87 
Whinnigio, 87 
Whinniloch, 87 
Whiteness, 61 
Whulse, 96 

Wilhool, Wulhool, 116 
Willamina, Wullamina, 

skattald, 110 
Wilmin, Wulmin, 110 
Wilvershool, Wulvers- 

hool, 116 
Windoos, 77 
Wirwick, Wurwlok, 86 
Wulga, 118 

Yell, 118 
Yellabrun, 87 
Yokkel, 96 
Yoknister, 111 

Oafil, 101 

Oakluv, 101 

Ora, 68 

Orablaa, 96 

Orafirth, 89 

Oresland, 89 (the note) 

Ori (Urie), 89 

Oya, 100 

Oyasoond (Oasoond), 100