Updated: Jan 16, 2020
Place names are an important part of our Icelandic heritage.
As we explore more places in Iceland, we are likely to encounter some common, yet unfamiliar terms that are used in farm names. Understanding these terms can help us to find our historic places more easily. In this post we will examine a few of the more common terms.
Many farms in Iceland were founded as offshoots from the original, so we often encounter adjacent or nearby farms of the same name followed by a numeral, such as 1, 2 or 3. Additionally, such farms are often described by their geographic position. Prefixes, which can end in a, i, or u, are often appended to the original farm name. (the hyphen may be excluded)
Efra- -Upper, as in Efra-Lón or Efri-Skálateigur.
Nedra- -Lower, as in Neðra-Apavatn or Neðri-Þverá.
Fremra- -Front or inland, as in Fremra-Skógskoti or Fremri-Fitjar.
Mið- -Middle or central, as in Mið-Meðalholt.
Innra- -Inner, as in Innra-Leiti or Innri-Njarðvík.
Ytra- -Outer or seaward, as in Ytra-Hvarf or Ytri-Neslönd.
Litla- -Little or small, as in Litla-Saltvík or Litli-Árskógur.
Stóra- -Big or large, as in Stóra-Vatnshorn or Stóru-Laugar.
Eystra - -Eastern, as in Eystra-Fróðholt or Eystri-Loftsstaðir.
Nyrðri- -Northern, as in Nyrðri-Flankastaðir.
Syðra- -Southern, as in Syðra-Dalsgerði or Syðri-Vík.
We may also see these terms written as a separate word after the farm name. An example would be Nyrðri-Flankastaðir written as Flankastaðir nyrðri.
Still other unique names are created by appending a suffix to the original.
-hjáleiga Adjacent parcel, as in Sólheimahjáleiga. May also be -parti or -partur.
-hús House, such as Hálshús.
-kot Very small farm, such as Fjósakot.
Improved understanding of these terms, correct spelling, and GPS coordinates / geotagging on our interactive maps will help take the confusion out of Icelandic place names. We are here to help.
If you are not a member of Icelandic Roots, we hope you will consider joining and come explore your family’s Icelandic places in the IR database. Our volunteer team has geotagged thousands of places including abandoned farms, cemeteries, and other locations in Iceland. There are histories, documents, photos and stories that we are adding each week about these places and people in the IR Database. Come join us!