High Icelandic

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A picture of the "armoured egg of life" (brynfjöregg).

In 1992 the Belgian Herman Jozef Braekmans became interested in Icelandic terminological work. During the 90’s, the emphasis in his work lied mainly on the search for native names for the chemical elements and a completely native terminology for chemical compounds. At the end of 1999 he released a small booklet titled “Icelandic Alternatives for the Names of the Chemical Elements”. In 2000 he made contact with the Dutch linguist Fabian Valkenburg, the man behind the Bond tegen Leenwoorden (Union against loan-words), who helped Braekmans construct the website Nýyrðasmiðja Málþvottahús (Neologistic factory: a language laundry). Braekmans tried to find cooperators on the is.islenska newsgroup but most of the people there firmly rejected the idea of purism. In 2003 he decided to present his words as an ultrapurist superset language called Háfrónska (November 2003). Before that he somtimes refered to the language as ofuríslenska or Hypericelandic. In 2005, he asked the Icelandic reverend Pétur Þorsteinsson to take the lead. During the last months of that year Breakmans created an additional web-page about High Icelandic symbolism (see below) The project received some minor media attention in Iceland, but only a few fanatics continue Braekmans' work. The Icelandic television channel Stöð 2 had a small item on the project in November 2005. Although many people see the language as a joke and a mockery of Icelandic language protectionism, Braekmans is dead-serious about it.

A neologistic poet wearing his characteristic cap (nýyrðaskáldshúfa), a blue shirt and a red tie.

Ultrapurism[edit]

The emphasis in High Icelandic mainly lies on málgjörhreinsun (ultra purism), the most extreme form of linguistic purism. Again this is a personal term of the creator, signifying that everything that can be expressed by human speech is to be considered a target for puristic intervention, even proper names, geographical names, and names of chemicals. According to Braekmans the first signs of ultrapurism go back to the neologistic excesses of the 19th century Fjölnismenn. In their magazine Skírnir, they translated personal names like 'Robert Peel' and 'John Russell' as Hróbjartur Píll and Jón Hrísill respectively. Also geographical names were translated: Góðviðra (Buenos Aires), Sigurborg (Cairo), Slettumannaland (Poland). In contrast to the existing Icelandic language policy, the removal of latinisms and germanisms in the old language is considered a top priority. In Braekmans opinion, the fact that Iceland has experienced the strongest wave of linguistic purism of all languages, makes it the most characteristic an important element of the language. More so than the old literature (other languages like Tamil also have an impressive literal tradition) and the fact that Icelandic has changed so little during the last millenium (Greek has changed as less as Icelandic during the same period). For this reason, he believes that staunch linguistic purism should be the main value feature in Icelandic society and be pursued.

High Icelandic symbolism[edit]

The woman and child of the mountains
The High Icelandic hammerflag

During the last months of 2005 Braekmans and a few neologist poets created Saga Fjallbarnssins ‘The saga of the Mountain child’. In this story the High Icelandic symbolism is explained.

  1. Brynfjöregg: The armoured fjöregg (vital egg). A 'vital egg' (fjöregg) is the equivalent of a ‘life-thread’ in Icelandic symbolism. It is a familiar motif in Icelandic folklore, where one can destroy trolls, giants, etc., by finding where their "life-egg" (fjöregg) is hidden and hurling it at them so that it hits them in the face, or on the temple or nose, or (most frequently) between the eyes or on the forehead. These life-eggs came in a variety of colors, some were golden. Many Icelanders still consider their language as the ‘vital egg’ of their culture. When it breaks, the thing it symbolizes dies. The High Icelandic ‘brynfjöregg’ is composed of two viking-helmets forming an oval armour around the egg, symbolizing language protection.
  2. Fjallbarn: The so-called linguisticly immaculate child of the mountains (Hið slettulausa Fjallbarn) of Fjallkonan (Woman of the mountains), the female incarnation of the Icelandic nation, and Bergrisinn (The Rock-giant), one of the four protectors of Iceland. In High Icelandic symbolism, a child born on the national holiday and whose mother takes the trouble to make this happen at Thingvellir is called a ‘fjallbarn’.
  3. Þórsfrónvé: Thor’s flag of Iceland, an alternate Icelandic flag with the same division of the three colours but with a stylized ‘hammer of Thor’ replacing the Danish Crusaders’ cross.
  4. Nýyrðaskáld: A nýyrðaskáld (neologist poet) is a native speaker of Icelandic, who differs from a ‘nýyrðasmíður’ (word-builder) in that ‘unlimited purism’ and ‘language protection’ are holy commitments. They wear a blue shirt, a red tie and a characteristic cap, patterned like a viking-helmet with the colours of the Icelandic flag. Both Icelandic flags are represented because a viking-helmet pattern on a cap always results into an inverted T-shape. The cap again symbolizes the protection of the language against foreign influence.

General word-list[edit]

  • afn: atom, from 'efni' (matter).
  • alsverfir: diamond, from ‘al-‘ (all, pan-) + svarfa (abrade).
  • álftarlúður: saxophone, from ‘álft’ (swan) + ‘lúður’ (horn, trumpet).
  • ástblóm: rose, from ‘ást’ (love) and ‘blóm’ (flower).
  • baðmreyr: bamboo, from ‘baðmur’ (tree) and ‘reyr’ (cane). Named after the Latin name dendrocalamus (literally: tree-cane).
  • barreik: cedar, from ‘barr-‘ (pine-needle) + eik (oak). The oak (refers to strenght) of the conifers.
  • baunaystingur: bean-curd (tofu), from ‘baun’ (bean) and ‘ystingur’ (curd).
  • birtusteinn: brilliant (diamond), from ‘birta’ (brightness) and ‘steinn’ (stone).
  • bryngálkn: tank, from ‘bryn-‘ (armoured) and ‘gálkn’ (monster). The existing ‘bryndreki’ is a compound with the latinism ‘dreki’.
  • Erlendu-brúða: Barbie doll. The name Barbie is derived from Barbara, which means ‘foreign’ in Greek.
  • bláildishvolf: ozonosphere, composed of ‘blár’, blue and ildi, ‘oxygen’ et ‘hvolf’ (sphere).
  • blandlauf: lettuce, from ‘blanda’ (mix) and ‘lauf’ (leaf).
  • bleðmisbrot: origami, from ‘bleðmi’ (paper, the word 'blað' integrated in the word 'beðmi' (cellulose). Paper is almost pure cellulose.) and ‘brot’ (folding).
  • blístrabelgur: bagpipes, from ‘blístur’ (High Icelandic word for ‘flute’) + belgur (sac).
  • bænahöll: palace of prayer, a cathedral.
  • Brosmærin: Mona Lisa, the ‘smiling maiden'.
  • djúpmálning: fresco, from ‘djúpur’ (deep) + ‘málning’ (painting).
  • dreyradraugur: vampire, from ‘dreyri’ (blood (from a wound)) + ‘draugur’ (ghost).
  • dreyradrotting: Bloody Mary cocktail, from ‘dreyri’ (blood from a wound) + drottning (queen).
  • dúfuþjónusta: air-mail, from ‘dúfa’ (dove) and ‘þjónusta’ (service). Named after the first form of airmail.
  • efstingi: colonel, derived from the adjective ‘efstur’ (the highest). The existing Icelandic word is a germanism: ‘ofursti’, derived from German ‘oberst’ (upper, highest).
  • eindla, eindlingur: quark, the word 'eind is derived from 'einn' (one) and is the equivalent of the English 'particle' and the suffix '-on' in names of particles: e.g. róteind (proton, root-particle), nifteind (sister-particle). The suffix '-la' or '-lingur' is a diminutive prefix.
  • einhnýðingur: dromadare,composed of ‘einn’ (one) and hnúður (hunch).
  • Eirey: Cyprus, composed of ‘eir’ (copper) and ‘ey’ (island). The name of the metal was derived from Cyprus.
  • eirgyllir: zinc, composed of ‘eir’ (copper) and ‘gyllir’ (goldener).
  • eldvaber: olive, composed of ‘eldvi’ (the High Icelandic word for oil, derived from ‘eldur’ (fire) and ‘vökvi’ (liquid) + ber (berry).
  • eyjakirtill, pancreas, from ‘ey’ (island, referring to the islets of Lagerhans) and ‘kirtill’ (gland).
  • eyktla: quarter of an hour, from 'eykt' (period of three hours, or the time needed by the hour-hand to cover a quarter of the dial plate) and '-la', a diminutive suffix, because the same quarter is covered by the minute-hand in a quarter of an hour. The word is shorter than the existing loan-word 'korter'.
  • eyrnaker: amphora, from ‘eyrna-‘ (genitive plural of ‘eyra’ (ear)) + ker (pot).
  • fallréttur: perpendicular, from ‘falla’ (fall) and ‘réttur’ (straight).
  • fílstrokharpa: double-bass, from ‘fíl’ (elephant) + strokharpa (violin).
  • fjórborð: backgammon, from ‘fjórir’ (four) and ‘borð’ (board). The backgammon board is divided into four parts.
  • fjóreind: alpha-particle, from fjórir (four) and ‘eind’ (particle).
  • fjörveig: whiskey, from ‘fjör’ (vigour, live) and veig (wine, alcoholic beverage). The Gaelic name means ‘water of life’.
  • flatmót: stencil, from ‘flatur’ (flat) + mót (mould).
  • flatverplaborð: domino, from ‘flatverpill’ (domino-stone, from ‘flatur’ (flat) + ‘verpill’ (die)) + borð (board).
  • framandloft: xénon, composed of ‘framand’ (strange) et ‘loft’ (air).
  • frumgormar: DNA, from ‘frum’ (original) + ‘gormar’ (plural of ‘gormur’ (spiral, helix)).
  • freyðikyrgi: cappucchino, composed of the verb ‘freyða’ (foam, lather) and ‘kyrgi’ (The High Icelandic word for ‘coffee’, derived from ‘korgur’ (coffee grounds).
  • funafugl: flamingo, from funi (flame) and fugl (bird).
  • gatnaferjumaður: gondolier, from ‘gatna’ (genitive plural of ‘gata’ (street)) + ferjumaður (ferryman).
  • geimgat: black hole, from 'geimur' (space, universe) and 'gat' (hole).
  • geymslustöpull: silo, from ‘geymsla’ (storage) + ‘stöpull’ (tower).
  • ginnungahvellur: Big Bang. The old prefix 'ginnunga' means both 'big' and 'at the beginning of time' and is one of the most suitable prefix to coin an native Icelandic term for the 'Big Bang'.
  • glaðlauf: chervil, from khairéphyllon, rejoicing leaf.
  • gljábeðmi: cellophane, from gljá- (lustre) and ‘beðmi’ (cellulose).
  • Gnáfjöll, Gnæfagnípur: Himalayas, composed of ‘gnár’ (surpassing) and ‘fjöll’ (mountains).
  • gnálendisjöfur: Dalai Lama, from ‘gnálendi (highest highlands, Tibet) and jöfur (king).
  • gnæfingi: giraffe, from 'gnæfur' (jutting out above the rest).
  • grjúpranda: sponge cake, from ‘grjúpur’ (porous) and ‘randa’ (pie).
  • grjúpungur: sponge, from ‘grjúpur’ (porous).
  • Guðbrynmey: Jeanne d’Arc, composed of Guð- (‘God-‘, prefix in Icel. pers. names) + bryn- (‘armoured’, prefix in Icel. pers. names) + -mey (‘maiden’, suffix in Icel. fem. pers. names).
  • Guðmey: Mary, from 'Guð' (God and prefix in Icelandic proper names) and '–mey' (virgin and suffix in Icelandic proper names).
  • Guðshersir: Bishop, from ‘guð’ (god) and ‘hersir’ (a noble-man comparable to a count).
  • haðarrúnir: Braille, from 'Höður' (the blind god in Nordic mythology) and 'rún' (rune).
  • háfaðir / hámóðir: abbot / abbess, from hár (high) and ‘faðir / móðir’ (father / mother). Only a compound with ‘hár’ yields trisyllabic compounds like existing loan-words. Other solutions like ‘ýfirmóðir / systrastýra’ are too long.
  • hákóngur: emperor, composed of ‘hár’ (high) and ‘kóngur’ (king).
  • Heimsósæð: Amazone, from ‘heimur’ (world) + ósæð (estuary artery, aorta).
  • Helgi Smári: Patrick, from 'Helgi' (proper name meaning ‘holy’) and 'Smári' (an Icelandic proper name meaning ‘clover’). The clover was the symbol of St Patrick and Ireland. It symbolized the holy trinity.
  • hetjusæla: héroïne, composed of ‘hetja’ (héros) and ‘sæla’, a word which is sometimes used as the second element in names of hard drugs, e.g. ‘alsæla’ (XTC).
  • Hlautland: Mexico, composed of ‘hlaut’ (sacrificial blood) and ‘land’ (land, country).
  • hljóðla: yodel, from 'hljóða' (cry) with the verbal prefix –la which has a repetitive function and refers to the the altenation of high falsetto and low chest notes.
  • hljómkvörn: street organ, from ‘hljómur’ (sound, tone) and ‘kvörn’ (grinder). A street organ is also called ‘grind organ’.
  • Hlynland: Canada, from 'hlynur' (maple) and 'land' (country). The country is named after the maple-leaf in the flag.
  • hnossgarn: silk, from ‘hnoss’ (treasure, gem) + ‘garn’ (yarn).
  • hvellrisi: supernova, from hvellur (bang) and ‘risi’ (giant, giant star).
  • hættuhjól: roulette, from ‘hætta’ (risk) + hjól (wheel).
  • Ilbláland: south africa, composed of Il- (sole) and ‘Bláland’ (Africa or Ethiopia).
  • jarlsteinn: corundum (also sapphire), from ‘jarl’ (earl, the second after the king in medieval Scandinavia) + steinn (stone).
  • kjálkagálkn: crocodile, from 'kjálki' (jaw) and 'gálkn' (monster). The crocodile has the strongest jaws of all living carnivores and its distant ancestor, deinosuchus had the strongest jaws of any animal known to science regardless of time period. The word has an internal rhyme. Other High Icelandic synonyms are 'brynmerill' (from 'bryn-', armour and 'merill', from 'mara', float just under the water-surface), 'bakkaskrímsl' (from 'bakki', bank (of a river) and 'skrímsl' (monster)), 'nykureðla' (from 'nykur', hippopotamus and 'eðla', lizard).
  • knattblekungur: ballpoint, composed of ‘knöttur’ (ball) and ‘blek’ (ink) + suffix ‘-ungur’.
  • Njóla og Dagbjartur: Yin and Yang. The feminine personal name ‘Njóla’ means ‘night’ and masculine personal name ‘Dagbjartur’ means ‘brightness of day’.
  • kóngaborð: chess, from 'kóngur' (king) and 'borð' (board).
  • kóngssteinn: diamond, from ‘kóngur’ (king) + steinn (stone).
  • kroprann: mosque, derived from the verb ‘krjúpa’ (kneel). The second element ‘rann’ is an old word for ‘house’.
  • kyrgisbeiskja: caffeine, from ‘kyrgi’ (coffee, derived from ‘korgur’) and ‘beiskja’ (bitter, alkaloid).
  • kæliblöðungur: peppermint, composed of the verb ‘kæla’ (cool, refresh) and ‘blöðungur’, derived from ‘blað’ (leaf).
  • Langahaf: atlantic Ocean, composed of ‘langur’ (long) and ‘haf’ (sea). The atlantic is the longest sea.
  • laufsoð: tea, from ‘lauf’ (leaves) + soð (broth).
  • leggskó: boot, from ‘leggur’ (leg) + ‘skór’ (shoe).
  • lífssáld: natural selection, from ‘líf’ (life) and ‘sáld’ (sieve). Natural selection is ofter compared to an imaginary ‘sieve’.
  • líft: oxygen, the word ‘líf’ integrated in ‘loft’ (air). The name originates from the term ‘vital air’, a word coined by the British chemist Robert Boyle.
  • limskylmingar: karate, from limur (limb) and ‘skylmingar’ (fencing). The use of these two words is an alternative way to express meaning of the japanese word: ‘art of the empty (unarmed) hand’.
  • lofsveigur: laurel wreath. From ‘lof’ (praise) and ‘sveigur’ (wretah).
  • lofviður: laurel, composed of ‘lof’ (praise) and ‘viður’ (tree, wood).
  • Miðvesturfljót: The Midwest River, the Mississippi.
  • mjólkurbaun: soybean, from ‘mjólk’ (milk) + ‘baun’ (bean).
  • mjólkurhnot (or ‘loðhnot’): coconut, from ‘mjólk’ (milk) and ‘hnot’ (nut) or ‘loð’ (hair, fur) and ‘hnot’ (nut). The compound ‘coconut milk’ translates as ‘hnotumjólk’ or ‘loðhnotumjólk’.
  • mógætisranda: chocolate pie, from ‘mógæti’ (chocolate) and ‘randa’ (the purely icelandic word for ‘pie’).
  • Morguneyjar: The Morning-Islands, Japan.
  • mundhemill: hand brake, from ‘mund’ (old word for hand) + hemill (brake).
  • Múspellsmilska: Molotov cocktail. The word 'milska' designated a mixture of mead and beer in Old Icelandic and is the most suitable word for 'cocktail'. The prefix 'Múspell' refers to 'Múspellsheimur', the burning world of 'Surtr', the fire-giant.
  • námshöll: university, from ‘nám’ (study) and ‘höll’ (palace). The word is an extrapolation of ‘námshús’ (school).
  • netskeyti: e-mail, from ‘net’ (net) and ‘skeyti’ (telegram, fast message).
  • niftungur: beta-particle, derived from 'nifteind' (neutron).
  • nýgarn: nylon, because it was the first truly synthetic fibre, developed in the modern (NÝtísku-) age.
  • Nykrafljót: river of hippopotamuses, the Nile.
  • orðaborð: scrabble, from ‘orða-‘ (genitive plural of ‘orð’) + ‘borð’ (board).
  • rákakóngur: tiger, from 'rák' (stripe) and 'kóngur' (king).
  • ratstrákur, rati: boy scout, from ‘rata’ (find one’s way, compare ‘path-finder’) + strákur (boy).
  • rauðgulur: orange, from ‘rauður’ (yellow) + ‘gulur’ (yellow).
  • Rauðheimur: Mars, from ‘rauður’ (red) and ‘heimur’ (world).
  • rauðuþeyti: mayonaise, from ‘rauða’ (yolk) and ‘þeyti’ (emulsion).
  • reiðherji: knight, from ‘reið-‘ (riding) + herji (warrior).
  • (reyk)horn: (smoking-) pipe, from ‘reykur’ (smoke) and ‘horn’ (horn).
  • reyklauf: tobacco, a loan-translation of the Tamil compound: ‘pugaiyilai’, which consists of ‘pugai’ (smoke) and ‘ilai’ (leaf).
  • reyksæla: nicotine, from 'reykur' (smoke) and 'sæla' (happiness, bliss; the word is used in names for different drugs, e.g alsæla (extacy).
  • reyrandi: rhum, from ‘reyr’ (cane) and ‘andi’ (spirit, compare ‘vínandi’ (alcohol)).
  • sandblómsfræ: sesame-seed. The Icelandic name for plants in the sesame family is ‘sandblómaætt’ (Íslenskar lækningajurtir 1992)
  • sálstafur: Psi, from ‘sál’ (psyche) and ‘stafur’ (letter).
  • sigðir: scimitar. This old icelandic word means ‘sword’ and was derived from ‘sigð’ (sickle)
  • sjáaldursbeiskja: atropine, from ‘sjáaldursjurt’ (atropos belladona, so-named because atropin widens the pupils) and 'beiskja' (from beiskjuefni, alkaloid)
  • Sjöhæðir: 'Seven-Hills', Rome.
  • skálpeldur: mustard, composed of ‘skálpur’ (siliqua, a term used for the typical bean-pod of plants in the Brassica family) and ‘eldur’ (fire).
  • skítskeyti: spam, from ‘skít’ (shit) and ‘skeyti’ (telegram, fast message).
  • skotmjöl: gun-powder, from ‘skot-‘ (shooting) + mjöl (flour).
  • skyppill: kangaroo, from the verb ‘skoppa’. The word sounds like ‘skippy’, the nick-name of the kagaroo, but is a purely Icelandic word.
  • Smáraey: Ireland, from ‘smári’ (clover) + ‘ey, eyja’ (island).
  • snæverji (also ‘nyrstingi’ and ‘Eiríks-Lappi’): eskimo, from ‘snær’ (snow) and ‘-verji’ (suffix in names of people).
  • sómaherji: honorable warrior, a samurai.
  • spjaldaleikur: card-game, from ‘spjald’ (card) + leikur (game).
  • spjaldefni: cardboard, from ‘spjald’ (card) + ‘efni’ (matter).
  • sprettvagn: sportscar, from ‘sprettur’ (sprint, burst of energy) + vagn (cart, but sometimes used in the meaning of ‘car’).
  • stálmannsstefna: stalinism. The name Stalin means ‘man of steel’ (Icelandic: stálmaður, stálmanns- in compounds).
  • strirningur: Pound Sterling. The English ‘sterling’ is a diminutive of ‘star’, like ‘stirningur’ in Icelandic.
  • stundsjá: clock, from stund (hour, moment) and sjá (-scope).
  • suðstrengjungur: sitar (Indian instrument), from ‘suða’ (hum) + ‘strengur’ (string).
  • surtsblóð: tabasco, from ‘Surtr’ (fire-giant of Múspellsheimr) and ‘blóð’ (blood).
  • Systurvetrarbrautin: Andromeda Nebula, from ‘systur’ (sister) et ‘vetrarbraut’ (galaxy).
  • sætungur: sugar, from ‘sætur’ (sweet).
  • Þakland: 'roof-land', Tibet
  • tíðniafstæði: Doppler effect, from 'tíðni' (frequency) and 'afstæði' (relativity). Alternatively the Doppler-effect could be called ‘frequency-relativity’.
  • toglúður: trombone, from ‘toga‘ (pull) and ‘lúður’ (horn, trumpet).
  • tyngla: uvala, diminutive from ‘tunga’ (tongue).
  • töggur: caramel (old neologism).
  • úlnungur: wrist-watch, from ‘úln’ in ‘úlnliður’.
  • vandsveinn: fascist, the same word is used for a lictor, a Roman official who bore an ax and fasces or rods, as ensigns of his office.
  • vélag: sect, the word ‘vé’ (sanctuary) integrated in the word ‘félag’ (society).
  • Verblaka: Batman, from ‘ver’ (man) and ‘-blaka’ used in names of different bat-species (leðurblökur).
  • verhafur (but also ‘klaufvættur’ and ‘bósapúki): satyr, from ‘ver’ (man) and ‘hafur’ (buck).
  • verulíki: virtual reality. The ending ‘-leiki’ in ‘veruleiki’ (reality) is replaced by ‘líki’ which is equivalent with English suffix ‘-oid’.
  • Vindís: Venus. The Icelandic ‘vinur’ and Latin ‘Venus’ are related.
  • vængálfur: angel, from ‘vængur’ (wing) and ‘álfur’ (elf).
  • yrmildi: caterpillar, the word ‘ormur’ (worm) moulded after ‘fiðrildi’ (butterfly).
  • ýborð: go (chinese board-game), from ‘ýr’ (yew) and ‘borð’ (board). Traditional go-boards are made from the Japanese nut-yew.
  • ýtglíma: sumo, from ‘ýta’ (push, shove, thrust) + glíma (wrestling).
  • þengisblár: violet, from ‘þengi’ (iodine) and ‘blár’ (blue).
  • þjálefni: plactic, from ‘þjall’ (flexible) and ‘efni’ (matter)
  • þjóðherji: nazi. In this construction, the suffix ‘herji-‘ (militant) replances the suffix –verji in ‘þjóðverji’ (German). The first element ‘þjóð’ also means ‘nation’.
  • Þurrgarður: Sahara, comosed of ‘þurr’ (sec, aride) and ‘garður’ in the old meaning of ‘world’ (e.g. ‘Miðgarðr’).
  • öskungur: human being, from Askur, name of the first man in Nordic mythology.
  • ökvi: gasoline (vökvi (liquid) + öku- (driving)

English - High Icelandic names of the chemical elements[edit]

Names of the chemical elements
English High Icelandic explanation
actinium hnossarblý The daughter of protactinium (freyjublý, because it has properties of elements of the vanadium group (freyjujárn) and because it ends as lead. Hnoss was the daughter of Freyja.
aluminium leirstál Aluminium is the metal in ‘clay’. This idea was once expressed in nowadays obsolete terms like the 18th century Swedish ‘lerjord’ (literally ‘clay-earth’ but designating ‘alum-earth’) or the Dutch expression ‘het zilver in klei’ (the silver in clay). These references to ‘clay’ exist even in present day-nomenclatures. An example of this is the Polish word for aluminium ‘glin’,which derives from ‘glina’ (clay). In Icelandic we can found a term upon the same idea: ‘leirmálmur’.
americium heimríkisblý The continent is named after Amerigo Vespucci. The name amerigio is the early-medieval Italian form of the German name "Heinrich" (earlier: "Heimerich" from: Old German heim = "home, estate" + Old German ric = "force, power, government"). The truly Icelandic name of America is HEIMRÍKI.
antimony hvarmtin ‘Eye-lid tin’. The term ‘kohl’ (antimony trisulfide), is a Semitic word used in early Biblical references and is the Arabic word for antimony sulfide, a fine cosmetic powder, used as eye make-up by women of the Middle East. In such countries as India and Yemen, they even went so far as to throw the powder directly into their eyes to increase their brilliance or sparkle. The word ‘surma’, which denotes the same product has become the name for antimony in most Altaic and some slavic languages. The native Mongolian term for this element ‘budag’ also means ‘eye-pigment’.
- stafmálmungur The metalloid in type-metal.
argon letiloft from the Greek 'a-, (negative prefix) and 'ergo' (working), the lazy gas)
arsenic vomálmungur The metalloid historically known for its deadly poisons. Although selenium and tellurium form exceedingly toxic compounds, it is arsenic that will always be associated with its killing properties, due to the classical reputation of its deadly toxic minerals.
astatine stundarsöltungur, valtsöltungur The instable halogen.
barium þungjörðungur The metal in ‘heavy earth’. The term ‘heavy earth’(þungjörð) was used for barium oxide.). Examples in other languages: Old Dutch ‘zwaaraarde-metaal’ (heavy-earth metal)
berkelium birkilóarblý ‘Birkiló’ is the Icelandic etymological equivalent of ‘Berkeley’
beryllium sætumálmur The former name of Beryllium is glucinum, from Greek glykos ‘sweet’. Beryllium salts have a sweet taste.
bismuth ísblý Very unusual (and very useful) is the fact that solid bismuth has a lower specific gravity as liquid bismuth. So solid bismuth floats on its own melt like ice on water and expands when crystallizing.). This effect is furthermore only known from water(ice), gallium and germanium.
boron harðmelmingur Boron is the the hardest metalloid.
bromine rokroði volatile redness
cadmium eitursilfur The very poisonous metal in the neighbourhood of silver.
calcium beinmálmur Calcium is situated on the same period as iron so the rules of cross-wise positioning aren’t broken. In Icelandic ‘KELKI’, an i-shift derivation of ‘KALK’ is possible.
californium gullríkisblý The element was named after the nick-name of California: The 'golden' or 'gold' state. It was named after the great gold rush.
carbon kolefni existing name
cerium þórstin The lighter brother of ‘þórsblý’ (Thorium), which is also, like ‘tin’ tetravalent.
cesium andgull When free from surface contamination, the metals Li, Na, K and Rb are silver-bright and lustrous. Caesium, however, is PALE GOLD in colour in both solid and liquid states. Because cesium is an incredible reactive metal, it was believed to be always contaminated by oxygen. Only recent techniques of purification prooved its genuine golden colour. Many reference works, who mentioned ceasium as a ‘silvery-white’ metallic element, are beginning to correct this mistake. The most unnoble metal has the same colour as the (only symbolically) noblest metal.
chlorine selti In Europe the term ‘halogen’ (salt-builder) has once been taken under consideration as a name for chlorine for it was the single known member of the halogen series. In some eastern countries like Japan, chemists prefered to derive the element’s name from ‘salt’, which in its original meaning stood for the chlorine-containing NaCl compound, rather than referring to the colour, which underlay the creation of the Western term: en-so. The old Czech name for chlorine was ‘solík’, derived from ‘s?l‘ (salt). In Icelandic, related words are often differentiated (in the root syllable) by the i-shift. Some names of elements are i-shift derivations of names of their chief sources: e.g. ‘loft’ (air) became ‘lyfti’ (nitrogen), eldur (fire) has been converted into ‘ildi’ (oxygen) and from ‘vatn’, the equivalent for hydrogen ‘vetni’ was derived. Analogous to these examples ‘selti’ would be the name for chlorine.
bleikiloft This term refers to the bleaching properties of elemental chlorine and its compounds. The name of the preceding element ‘brennisteinn’ served as a model for the coining of this neologism. The first part of the compound is a verbal derivation, designating a characteristic property (brenni, bleiki), the second part is a noun, refering to the state of aggregation of the element (steinn, loft). The word is based on the old Hungarian name ‘halvany’, derived from ‘halványit’ (to take the colour out of, to bleach).
gallreykur Although an alkaline substance, bile has some characteristics in common with chlorine. It has a greenish-yellow colour and has corrosive properties. There’s also an etymological connection. The Greek translation of bile (khole) is related to ‘khlorós’ (greenish-yellow), which is the root of the name ‘chlorine’.
chromium brynskin Armour-shine. A metal known for its high lustre. It is the hardest of all metals. It equals corundum in hardness (9 on Mohs’scale).
cobalt fjörvamálmur The only metallic element found in a vitamin (B12)
copper eir The existing name. The synonym ‘kopar’ is foreign and can’t exist in High Icelandic.
curium Cm miðkjarngull The central ‘nuclear gold’. Curium is the central element in the actinide series.
dysprosium torfenginmálmur Dysprosium comes from Greek ‘dysprositos’ and means ‘hard to get at’ was discovered in 1886 by Lecoq de Boisbaudran. The name is based on the difficultness of separation of the element. Neither the oxide nor the metal was available in relatively pure form until the 1950s following the development of ion-exchange separation and metallographic reduction techniques. The Greek prefix ‘dys-‘ is related to Icelandic ‘tor-‘.
einsteinium albjartsblý albjartur, aðalbjartur = Albert Einstein.
erbium  ???? This element is for the time being untranslatable.
europium kvöldlandsefni
fermium efni hundrað Fermium is the hundredth element
fluorine átloft Fluorine is a pale yellow gas that is a powerful oxidizing agent. It is the most reactive and electronegative of all the elements and reacts with practically all substances.
francium stundarmálmur named after stundarsöltungur At, which is the daughter-product of 'francium'. Francium is the most unstable of the first 101 elements.
gadolinium leyndarjárn Gadolinium is unique in being ferromagnetic up to room temperature. No other chemical elements except iron, cobalt and nickel are ferromagnetic.
gallium ísmálmur Gallium exhibits the unique property of melting at an ordinary temperature (29°C) and the liquid metal can exist in the supercooled state at a temperature as low as 0°C. The metal expands on solidifying like ice. As a consequence, solid gallium floats on its own melt like ice on water and expands when crystallizing. It shares this property only with two other metals (bismuth and germanium). At extremely high levels of purity, the metal takes on a glassy white appearance. In earthly temperate environments gallium is, like ice, a thawing substance.
germanium hálftin The prefix ‘hálf’ refers on the one hand to the semimetallic properties of germanium and on the other to its being situated exactly in the middle between silicon and tin. In this latter sense the prefix is used in the same way as someone in his semitwenties is called ‘hálfþrítugur’.
gold gull the existing name
hafnium hliðarblý
hahnium hanaefni The German name ‘hahn’ means ‘cock’
helium kóngsloft The three heavier noble gases can be converted into fluorides, argon into insertion compounds, but not helium or neon. But a few insertion compounds are now predicted for helium. If confirmed by experiments, this will end the chemical nobility of helium leaving neon as the only inert element. It is the second noblest of the noble gases, the royal gas (kóngaloft). The use of ‘king’ as a superlative of ‘noble’ isn’t unprecedented in the chemical nomenclature. Think of aqua regia, royal water (kóngavatn). The latter substance was so named by the alchemists because it dissolves gold and platinum, at that time called ‘the royal metals’. Another characteristic of helium is its nuclear stability. The most abundant isotope He 4 has magic numbers for protons and neutrons. The only other gas possessing this property is oxygen (O-16), but this element is most unnoble in chemical respect. Helium is a royal gas both in its chemical and nuclear properties. The Dutch dictionary mentions the synonym ‘zonnegas’ (sólarloft), a native equivalent of the standard term. It is true that most of the helium in our solar system is found in the sun’s interior, but hydrogen is still the most abundant solar gas.
holmium hólmefni
hydrogen vetni, frumloft existing name
indium skræksilfur Indium and tin produce the so-called tin-cry if a bar of the pure metal is bent. Indium is situated more closely to silver than is tin.
iodine þengi The old Czech name of the element was ‘chaluzík’, derived from ‘chaluha’ (sea-weed). We can also refer to the original source of iodine, the seaweeds, from which it has been recovered on a commercial scale for a long time: ‘þengi’.
iridium litagull Because of the variety of its colours, the metal was called after Iris, the godess of the rainbow. We can use ‘gull’ because the metal is known as a silvery white metal but with a yellowish cast.
iron járn
krypton stikuloft because The SI standard definition of the length of the metre was based on a certain amount of wavelengths of the orange-red emission line emitted by krypton-86 atoms.
lanthanum leyndarmálmur The icelandic name means ‘secret metals’, which is close enough to the idea expressed by the word lanthanein (to be conceiled, which is the origin of ‘lanthanum’.
lead blý, sakk from ‘sakka’, (sinker, which were originally made of ‘lead’
lithium sálmálmur The best-known metallic element in psychopharmaceuticals.
lutetium leðjuhólmsefni Lutatia means ‘mud-hovels’, from ‘lutum’ (mud), ancient name of Paris. The Romans call it ‘Lutetia’ Parisiorum, the mud-town of the Parisii, lying on the ‘île de la cité’ (These kind of islands are called ‘hólmur’ in Icelandic.
magnesium klémálmur Soapstone, the most abundant magnesium compound is often used in ‘kljásteinn’, also called ‘kljár’ or ‘klé). Soapstone is also called ‘kléberg’ in Icelandic. In Icelandic, the derivation ‘TELKI’ from ‘TALK’ is possible.
manganese valjárn Because manganese ores were confounded with magnetic iron ores.
mendelevium mundilleifsblý Mendeleev means ‘descendent of Mendel’. In German the name ‘Mendelsohn’ is the Germanic equivalent of the Russian name. Mendel is a Yiddish pet form of ‘Menahem’, which means ‘ comforter’ in Hebrew. The closed Icelandic name that sounds alike is ‘Mundill’, mentioned in the orðsifjabók. It is the name of a sea-king. It also exists as the first member in the mythological name Mundilfari. The Russian ‘-ev’ ending means the same as ‘-son’ in Icelandic patronymic names. The suffix ‘leifur in proper names means ‘descendant of’ and is semanticly similar with the ‘ev’ ending. The name Mendeleev (German spelling ‘Mendelejeff’) in High Icelandic is MUNDILLEIFUR (descendant of Mundill (Mendel)).
mercury flotmálmur kvikasilfur is a loan-translation
molybdenum lífssilfur Molybdenium is the only element on the period of silver that has a biological function.
neodymium nýtvíburamálmur Didymia is sometimes called the ‘twin earth’. It consists of ‘praseodymia’, which means ‘leek green twin earth’ and ‘neodymia’ (new twin earth). Neodymium is the most abundant metal in dydymium. For that reason we call neodymium the ‘new twin earth metal’
neon glóloft Coined after the Maori word ‘haukura’ (hau = air, gas + kura (red glowing). The brightness of the discharge of neon is the most intense of all noble gases. In Icelandic the reddish-orange colour can be translated by ‘gló-‘. It is the only totally inert element and the most noble element of the periodic table.
neptunium njarðarblý named after the star Neptune, Njörð
nickel hvíteir Nickel is situated left of copper. The resemblance between the most important ore of nickel (niccolite, kupfernickel) and copper-ore is so striking that both minerals were more than often confused. The clearest point of distinction between the pure metals is of course the colour. The latter is silvery-white, while copper has a reddish-brown colour. Two periods up in the same series we encounter a similar case: platinum, a white metal that precedes the lustrous yellow gold. In many languages, also in Icelandic, the name for platinum was found upon its colour, differing from the neighbouring gold (hvítagull, white gold). In the same way, nickel could be designated as ‘hvíteir’ (white copper).
niobium freyjusilfur The heavier brother of ‘Freyjujárn’ on the period of silver.
nitrogen hyldi, lyfti existing names
nobelium elfráðsblý Alfred’s lead
osmium þefmálmur The stinking metal. Of the platinum metals, osmium is the most rapidly attacked by air. The powdered metal, even at room temperature, exudes the characteristic odour of the poisonous, volatile tetroxide.
oxygen ildi The gas that make things burn. The word is derived from ‘eldur’ (fire).
líft Icelandic ‘loft’ + ‘líf’. A calque of the 18th century term of the English chemist Robert Boyle: ‘vital air’.
palladium gleypisilfur sometimes called ‘metal sponge’ because the metal can absorb up to 900 times its own volume of hydrogen.
phosphorus hélog After the first name 'aerial noctiluca', coined by the British chemist Robert Boyle. Noctiluca was named ‘hélog’ in the 19th century but the term became obsolete. In High Icelandic it is revived in the meaning of phosphorus.
platinum hvítagull existing name
plutonium heljarblý Named after the Nordic equivalent of the name Pluto
- kjarngull Substances, valuable to men are often compared to gold as appears from some alternative designations: e.g. the black gold (coal), the liquid gold (gasoline), the soft gold (fur) and so on. This way of name-giving is also applicable to plutonium for it was the first and still is the most important element used in nuclear power industry. Uranium was known before people knew about its fissionability.
polonium múspellsblý The lead in the group of ildi, brennisteinn (surtsgull), the “elements of fire”.
potassium andeir the unnoble metal in group 1A on the same period as copper, which is situated in group 1B, compare andsilfur (rubidium) and andgull (cesium).
praseaodymium grænburumálmur The lanthanide in the leek-green earth, also sometimes called ‘green twin earth’): grænburajörð (praseodymium).
promethium eldþjófsmálmur Promethium stole the fire of the gods.
protactinium freyjublý The element that desintegrates into lead which has the properties of elements in the Vanadium group (freyjujárnsflokkur).
radium magnablý Radium-isotopes are mostly alpha-decay products of Thorium-isotopes. Magni was the first son of Thor. He inherited Mjölnir.
radon geislaloft radon = magnaloft (see ‘radium’), thoron = þórsloft (see ‘thorium’), actinon = hnossarloft (see ‘actinium’).
rhenium rínefni
rhodium góðsilfur The noblest metal on the period of silver. Rhodium has been used for honours, or to symbolize wealth, when more commonly used metals such as silver, gold, or platinum are deemed insufficient. In 1979 the Guinness Book of World Records gave Paul McCartney a rhodium-plated disc for being history's all-time best-selling songwriter and recording artist. Guinness has also noted items such as the world's "Most Expensive Pen" or "Most Expensive Board Game" as containing rhodium.
rubidium andsilfur The unnoble, alkali counter-part of silveron the same period but in the A series.
ruthenium ofurjárn super-iron
rutherfordium nýhlíðarmálmur The new transition metal
samarium efstingjamálmur named after a mineral Samarskite, which was named in the honour of COLONEL samarski.
Scandium þorþveitarjárn the mineral thortveitite is the primary source of scandium. It was named after Olaus Thortveit (Icelandic: Þortveit). The element belongs to the iron-group of transition elements.
Seaborgium ofurtorsoði super-, or eka-tungsten
selenium rætlumelmingur radish-metalloid. Selenium and selenides are detected by heating the powdered mineral on charcoal and are detected by a very pronounced smell described as radishes or rotting radishes. The element also occurs in radishes to a significant extent. The Old Hungarian name for Selenium is ‘reteny’ derived from ‘retek’ (radish). The Icelandic ‘rætla’is the purely Icelandic equivalent of ‘hreðka’ and ‘radísa’.
silicon sandkol, sendi the carbon in sand (silicon dioxide).
silver silfur existing name
sodium sæmálmur The terms ‘muriatic acid’ and ‘marine acid’ were synonymous terms for what is now called ‘hydrochloric acid’, thus signifying its relation to the sodium contained in brine (Latin: muria) or sea (Latin: mare). Since sodium is the most abundant metallic element in sea water we could refer to it as the ‘marine metal’ (sæmálmur). An example of the use of this particular compound is Maori: ‘konutae’ (sea-metal, konu-, prefix denoting a natural metal, tae, sea.
strontium beinsilfur The bone-metal on the period of silver.
sulphur, brimstone brennisteinn existing name
surtsgull The gold of Surtr, the fire giant
tantalum þorstmálmur The oxide Ta2O5 is insoluble in acid, and was unable, just as the mythological Tantalos in the Hades, "to quench his thirst".
technetium gervisilfur The artificial element on the same period as silver.
tellurium múspellstin The prefix ‘Múspells-‘ is used for elements of the chalcogen familily. The chalcogens are ‘the elements of fire’. Fluorine and Chlorine are more aggressive, but they are much rarer than their periodical predecessors. They could never have become the large part of a breathable atmosphere on a planet. So it was oxygen that was named after ‘fire’ instead of F and Cl. This is visible in the names ‘ildi’ (oxygen, the element that eables burning), ‘brennistein’ or ‘surtsgull’ (sulphur), the fire-coloured burning element, which was considered to be earthy equivalent of fire in Alchemy.
- kóngsmálmungur Gold has for some reason a special affinity for tellurium. The most abundant gold-compounds found in nature are the various tellurides of which calaverite is the most important. For that reason tellurium is called ‘kóngsmálmungur’ (compare: Aqua regia (king's water) was named after its property to dissolve gold, the king of metals)
terbium mógætisjörðungur Its oxides (earths) are chocolate in colour. chocolate = mógæti.
thallium linblý Thallium is always described as resembling soft lead. I can’t imagine a better description for this element. In the neighbourhood of lead on the periodic table only one applies to the description ‘soft lead’: thallium.
thorium þórsblý Named after the minerals thorite and thorianite.
thulium nyrstingjamálmur nyrstingar = the northernmost people
tin tin existing name
titanium léttjárn The light metal on the iron-group of transition elements. Scandium rather belongs to the so-called rare-earth elements.
tungsten torsoði Tunsten has the highest boiling point (5660°C) of all substances). The Icelandic ‘wolfram’ is a foreignism and ‘þungsteinn’ is a loan-word from Swedish.
uranium áablý Metallic element having the two heaviest of the three so-called parent isotopes, which could also be called forefathers in the radioactive series. I used the term ‘áablý’ (forefather lead) because the planet-name Uranus, from which the name of the element is derived, was originally the name of the forefather of all Greek gods.
vanadium freyjujárn The name originates from ‘Vanadís’(the fairy of the Vanir), which was a nick-name of the godess Freyja.
xenon framandloft from Greek 'xeno', strange
ytterbium ytribæjungur The name Ytterby is composed from ytter = outer (Icelandic ‘ytri’), and by = village (Icelandic ‘bær’, genitive ‘bæjar’), and means ‘outer village’.
yttrium leyndarsilfur The brother of lanthanum (leyndarmálmur) on the period of silver.
zink eirgyllir In 1677, a chemist called Kunckelin pronounced that cadmia (zinc ore) is a metallic calx and that it gives the copper a golden-yellow copper by giving its metal up to it. Zinc is the ‘golden-yellow-maker’ of copper.
zirconium hliðartin, tinfrændi The equivalent of tin in the group of transition elements

Native names of large numerals[edit]

  • miklund: million. From 'mikil-hund-rað'. The adjective 'mikill' is a translation of Greek 'megas', which is the Greek etymological and semantical equivalent.
  • þursund: billion. From 'þurs-hund-rað'. The word 'þurs' means 'giant' and is a translation of 'giga-' (which is related to English 'giant'.)

The names of the following three magnitudes of thousand are coined by employing 'þús-' (from þúsund, denoting a thousand units) and 'þurs-' (from þursund, denoting a billion units): þús-þursund (thousand times a billion), þurs-miklund (A billion times a million) and þurs-þursund (a billion times a billion).


Names of large numbers
10x High Icelandic system Icelandic sytem American system
103 þúsund þúsund thousand
106 miklund (mikill, mégas) milljón million
109 þursund (þurs, gigas) milljarður billion
1012 þúsþursund billjón trillion
1015 þursmiklund billjarður quadrillion
1018 þursþursund trilljón quintillion
1021 sjömælt þúsund trilljarður sixtillion
1024 áttmælt þúsund kvaðrilljón septillion
1027 nímælt þúsund kvaðrilljarður octillion
1030 tímælt þúsund kvintilljón nonillion


For numbers larger than 1018 the formula 'X-mælt þúsund' is employed. The origin of this method can be found in the Íslensk Orðsifjabók (Icelandic etymological dictionary), where the entry 'kvinkvilljón' (1030) is explained as 'fimmmælt milljón'.