Gaut is an early Germanic name, from a Proto-Germanic gautaz, which represents an origin myth national god of a number of related Germanic peoples of the migration period, a period starting from the period when it affected the Roman world, running from about the 5th to 8th centuries AD.
Gautaz derived from the Proto-Germanic geutaną, meaning "to pour" which could allude to watercourses in the land where they were living.
This same root may be connected to the name of the Swedish river Göta älv at the city of Gothenburg. The earliest mention of the Geats was possibly made by Ptolemy in the 100s AD ("doutai" or "goutai") or in the 500s by Jordanes ("gauthigoth") and Prokopios ("gautoi")
Both the migration period Goths and the Scandinavian tribe of the Gutes (the Gotlanders) were called Gotar in West Old Norse, and Gutar in East Norse (for example in the Gutasaga and in runic inscription on the Rökstone).
According to the rules of Indo-European ablaut, the full grade (containing an *e), *gʰewd-, might be replaced with the zero-grade (with the *e disappearing), *gʰud-, or the o-grade (where the *e changes to an *o), *gʰowd-, accounting for the various forms of the name. The use of all three grades suggests that the name derives from an Indo-European stage; otherwise, it would be from a line descending from one grade.
It survives in the modern Scandinavian tribal name Gutes (Gutar in Gutnish, in Swedish Gotlänningar), which is what the inhabitants of present-day Swedish island Gotland in the Baltic Sea call themselves. Another modern Scandinavian tribal name, the Geats (in Swedish "Götar"), which is what the original inhabitants of present-day Götaland (originally south of Svealand, north of the former Danish regions Scania and Blekinge and east of the former Dano-Norwegian regions Bohuslän and Halland) call themselves, derives from a related Proto-Germanic word, *Gautaz (plural *Gautôz).
The names Geats, Goths and Gutes are closely related tribal names. Geat was originally Proto-Germanic *Gautoz, and Goths and Gutes were *Gutaniz.
The Gutasaga (c. 1300), which treats the history of Gotland before its Christianization, begins with Þjelvar and his son Hafþi, who had three sons, Graipr, Guti and Gunfjaun, who were the ancestors of the Gotlanders, the Gutes (which is originally the same name as Goths).
The German chronicler Johannes Aventinus (ca. 1525) reported Gothus as one of 20 dukes who accompanied Tuisto into Europe, settling Gothaland as his personal fief, during the reign of Nimrod at Babel. The Swede Johannes Magnus around the same time as Aventinus, wrote that Gothus or Gethar, also known as Gogus or Gog, was one of Magog's sons, who became first king of the Goths (Geats) in Gothaland. Magnus separately listed Gaptus as son and successor of Beric, first king of the Goths south of the Baltic.
Gautr is also one of the Eddaic names of Odin in Norse mythology, but also as an alternative form of the name Gauti, who was one of Odin's sons, and the founder of the kingdom of the Geats, Götaland (Gautland/Geatland), in Bósa saga ok Herrauðs (c. 1300). This Gautr/Gauti also appears as the father of the recurrent and undatable Geatish king Gautrekr in that saga, and several other sagas produced between 1225 and 1310.
Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies
Some versions of the English royal line of Wessex add names above that of Woden, purportedly giving Woden's ancestry, though the names are now usually thought be in fact another royal lineage that has been at some stage erroneously pasted onto the top of the standard genealogy. Some of these genealogies end in Geat, whom it is reasonable to think might be Gaut, while others continue with Geat's father Tatwa and even further. In the Life of Alfred (893), Asser states that the pagans worshipped this Geat himself for a long time as a god, quoting a disdainful verse attributed to Coelius Sedulius (5th century). The 10th century poem of Deor briefly mentions Geat, and his wife Maethehilde. The account in the Historia Britonum (c. 835; generally attributed to Nennius) says Geat was considered the son of a god by the heathens of England, but elsewhere it names Gothus, a son of Armenon, as the Goths' ancestor.
- Andersson, Thorsten. (1996) "Göter, goter, gutar" in Journal Namn och Bygd, Uppsala.