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Friday, 28 June 2013

Guest Post - on the name Bragi, by Elenhin Griffin

My friend was chatting to me about some things she'd discovered about Old Norse and the Viking gods, and I was interested, and I thought you guys might well be interested too, so I twisted her arm to write it up. I like her conclusions regarding the origins of the word bragging, as my etymology dictionary says 'origin doubtful' so I reckon she has as good a thought as anyone....


The name Bragi is an English and original form of Brage. The name now carries the meaning of ’the best’ or ’the highest’. In some cultures and languages it is now ’Brage’ but it would appear that the English has kept the original spelling.

Bragi was one of the Norse gods, one whose duty was to ensure that the deeds of the heroes and gods were never forgotten. He was also charged the task by Odin, to welcome those lucky to receive a seat with the heroes of Valhalla.  A task he shared with Hermod.

The origin of the name comes from the word Bragr, or it could be said that the word Bragr comes from the name. The meaning of ‘bragr’ is ‘poetry’ but also ‘what Bragi does’ which rather serves to make it a question of the hen or the egg being first.

Bragafull, which might be translated as ‘Bragi’s cup’ or ‘promise cup’ is the toasting of a deed you mean to perform. This is supposed to bring good luck. Especially when made when plenty of ale is consumed in good company.

A personal theory is that the word ‘bragging’ thus originates in ‘Bragi’ as it really is the telling of a feat one is proud of. The task that was the duty of Bragi. Also worth of notice is that the word ‘bragd’ is a Swedish word meaning a heroic deed, or a major feat. Both show strong similarities to ‘Bragi’ though it is hard to find proof. ‘Bragd’ is also a word that has fallen somewhat out of popular use even in Sweden.

Though it is not always well known there is still a lot of ‘old Norse’ or old Scandinavian languages in English, something the Vikings are to be held accountable for.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to add to the post with regard to Viking words that I DO use a lot in my Felicia and Robin books, as East Anglia is stiff with them - Gaet, or Gate, for street [from which we also get the word gait, a mode of walking] and staithe, a place to tie up your boat, which are two that spring readily to mind. Also haar and sm'rr, sea fog and light rain, which have subtly different meanings to the Viking descendants further north [as you'll find out if you stick with the series long enough to read 'The Crail Caper' which is about number 20.