Sometimes Nordic names gain an extra ‘r’ at the end (as in Olafr, Astridr and Ragnarr). This additional ‘r’ can be seen in many nouns in old Norse writing. For the grammar gurus among you, it refers to the ‘nominative case of a noun’ or, in plain English, the subject of the sentence. To illustrate the point, let’s consider two men called Olaf. We could say “Olafr hit Olaf”, but we wouldn’t say “Olafr hit Olafr”, as that wouldn’t fit the grammatical rule. The nominative case of a noun is in contrast to the ‘accusative’ case, which is the direct object of the sentence (in this instance, the direct object is the Olaf who is being hit!).
There are some interesting quirks that have evolved over time to do with this extra r. Sometimes the ‘r’ at the end is capitalised due to the runic script that was once used – so you might see GrimR instead of Grimr. Some names/words will not have an extra ‘r’ at the end but rather gain an extra ‘l’ or ‘n’. A famous example would be Odin, which becomes Odinn in the nominative case (an extra ‘n’ rather than an extra ‘r’). Such double endings can be seen in modern Norwegian/Swedish/Icelandic in the –ur endings of some names.
So now that you are equipped with this grammar knowhow, you will be able to give Norse names their proper endings (e.g. Thorr). The perfect skill for impressing all your Viking friends.
Answer by Jenny Schofield
Image credit: Lucas Leite via Flickr