Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Skarf, Skarfjellet, Scharfe - Norse Surname Roots. Imaginations Wander Like People.

History in itself is dry.  Start to learn about a country with something perhaps personal, like a name with echoes to your own. Name frame here:  Skarf.  Otkell, son of Skarf, son of Hallkell, from the Icelandic Saga, Burnt Njal's Saga.
  •  Is there a connection linguisically to later surnames sounding like Skarf - Scharf, Scairbh, Scharfe, etc.  Dictionary Norwegian to English:  Skar means indentation, glen, or hack (as in a hacked-out place?).  Fjell means mountain.  Makes sense.  Would the surname come from people who lived near there. 

Here:  Linguistics  FN 1

Linguistics give clues to roots. Find and interpret, search linguistics, fact-check, follow ideas, cultural migrations, and exploring theories.  Vikings -  See overview of language clusters at Did the Norse begin their attacks on Europe's monasteries in response to the militance of Charlemagne in forcing Christianity north, the slaughter of the Saxons in 782, not far.

a.  Norway was not so far away as to be unaffected by Christian incursions ot the south. Old Norse:  Guide to the pronunciation of the name Skarf and its variations and movement, see Scandinavian Influence on Southern Lowland Scotch, by George Tobias Flom 1900, reprint 1966, at - fair use snippet --


O. N. f initially always remains.
Medially and finally f remains in cloff, nefe, lufe, laif.
Medially and finally f > v in: nieve, nevin, rive, lave, crave.
O. N. f > th in scarth (O. N. skarfr).
An epenthetic f appears in unrufe (v?).
b.  Follow the SkarfRWe may have gone as far as we can go with this SkarfR, word, or so we thought.
1. Tally back: From a family name from Canada, we - Scharfe - tracked ourselves by specific line back to Norse linguistic roots:
  • Red Scariff in the early 16th Century in Ireland.  There are place names there from the same root - Gaelicized -  An Scairbh.  
  • Scharfs from Kilkenny, Ireland, and what the Scarf-Scariff-Scharf group might have done there, see Scharf, Ironworking Norse to Ottawa, Canada, in the early 19th Century. Spellings continue to be changed.  Scharf arbitrarily went to Scharfe, for example, with the superfluous e  thanks to my great-greats.  They sought to keep the mail straight, and differentiate their gang from all the other Scharf family farms outside Ottawa, say 1900.
2. Going further back from Red, we are left with our great imaginations, but we did find
  • Skarf from the 11th Century recorded Old Icelandic Saga (oral tradition from before that), Burnt Njal's Saga -- meet Burnt Njal's Saga, Otkell, son of Skarf .  Otkell was not a model citizen..  Find related topics at Normans, Strongbow, and Norse Migrations.  The Saga refers to people going back and forth to Norway, and place names there, and we did find what might have been intermediate stopping points in Orkney
Skarf or SkarfR in Old Norse in Orkney; probable meaning, cormorant or shaley places where they nest, on sharp cliffs, and
  • Skarfskerry in northern Scotland; and now
  • Skarfjellet, a mountain in Norway that rock climbers seem to like.  That must refer to the sharp idea, not the cormorant?  In German, the scharf means sharp, we understand. See http://www.en.wikipedia.oprg/wiki/Skarfjellet.  Sundal, More og Romsdal, Norway.  The Trollheimen Range.  Elevation 1790 m (5,873 ft.  See the picture there, view from Vassnebba. It is just above Innerdalen. Rock climbers favor it.
3.  Now, the smoking linguistic bow and arrow found back in Norway, a mountain with Skarf in it - Skarfjellet.

So, we leave for Scandinavia at the end of August, hope to include Norway (update -- no time -- have to go back) and have the Mountain Skarfjellet, or Skarfjell as it sometimes appears, on our mental list.  
FN 1

A favorite resource for tracking linguistics has been An Icelandic-English dictionary: based on the ms. collections of the late Richard Cleasby, from 1874.  After his death, Guðbrandur Vigfússon and Sir George Webbe completed the work.  It is a google book.  The history and migrations of the Norse are laid out at the Introduction at iii.  Find it at

4,  Name meanings through Runes.  SKARF in runes

No, not Skarf in ruins. Runes. We do not have the font for the Ancient Futhark or the Younger Futhark or the Icelandic or Anglo Saxon runes (Saxons to Britain in the 400'); but did find charts of some of them, all looking duplicative of each other, see Sweden Road Ways: Widing Name in Runes and some basic meanings, to be adjusted as we learn more.

So, for Norway to Iceland to Scharfs in Ireland to New York --go:

S ....Sun
K ....Torch
A ....Oak
R .... Riding
F .... Wealth

None of those come up to "cormorant" or the mountain in Norway or our other total word meanings apart from the runes.  And we have no family story like my husband's family has, about the meaning of his (now my) surname, but the runes support the tale we do have. See the posts in Sweden Road Ways for the path to it. Maybe it's all wet, but it has been an enjoyable journey.

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