Words for domestic animals used as metaphors in coastal naming

Author(s): Inge Særheim

Year: 2017


Place-names are important sources to understand and reimagine past conceptions of the landscape. Toponyms map animal lives on to the landscape. In some cases, however, words for animals – wild as well as domestic – are used as metaphors. In some names denoting sunken rocks along the Norwegian coast, e.g. Sugga (’sow’), Oksa (‘bull’), Hesten (’horse’), Porthunden (‘watchdog’), the words either refer to the shape or sound of the locations, or to some special circumstances, e.g. dangerous rocks in the sailing route. The names serve as warning to boatsmen. Words for animals were earlier taboo among Norwegian fishermen (who were also farmers). At sea they would instead use other words and names (noa) for the animals and the locations. Special behaviour was linked to some locations, e.g. to sting a pig or roar like a bull. The grammatical form indicates that some names date back to medieval times. Similar names of Old Norse origin are found in Viking settlements in the North Atlantic area. This paper discusses how words for domestic animals are used as metaphors in coastal naming, and how this type of naming reveals special traditions and conceptions among fishermen and sailors.

Cite this Record

Words for domestic animals used as metaphors in coastal naming. Inge Særheim. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429260)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14854