Names of God in Old English poetry

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In Old English poetry, many descriptive epithets for God were used to satisfy alliterative requirements. These epithets include:


Main Name (Old English) Name meaning Attestations
wuldres Cyning "King of Glory" The Dream of the Rood[1]
ece Dryhten "eternal Lord" Cædmon's hymn[3]
dryhntes dreamas "the joys of the Lord" The Seafarer[4]
heofones Dryhten "heaven's Lord" The Dream of the Rood[5]
wuldres Ealdor "Prince of Glory" The Dream of the Rood[7]
Heahfæder "Highfather" The Dream of the Rood
Wuldorfæder "Glorious Father" Cædmon's hymn
Frea ælmihtig "Master almighty" Cædmon's hymn
Frea mancynnes "Mankind's Master" The Dream of the Rood[9]
God ælmihtig "God almighty" The Dream of the Rood[10]
weruda God "God of hosts" The Dream of the Rood
Hælend "Healer" The Dream of the Rood
Metod "Maker" Beowulf (110) [13]
eald Metod "Old Maker" Beowulf (945)[14]
Wealdend "Ruler" The Dream of the Rood[16]
Al-wealda "all-ruler" Meters of Boethius (11)
wuldor alwealda "Glorious all-ruler" Codex Exoniensis
fæder alwealda "Father all-ruler" Beowulf (630)
heofonrices Weard[18] "the heavenly kingdom's Guard" Cædmon's hymn Beowulf[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Swanton, p. 133
  2. ^ Derived from dryht ("troop", "company"), emphasizing a noble's role as lord of a band of warriors.
  3. ^ Whallon
  4. ^ Godden, p. 188
  5. ^ Swanton, p. 138
  6. ^ Derived from eald "old". ealdor can also mean "elder" (but "elder" derives from ealdra "older" rather than from ealdor).
  7. ^ Swanton, p. 138
  8. ^ From Proto-Germanic *frauwaz; emphasizes a lord's domestic rulership. In later Old English, it becomes a word for husband.
  9. ^ Swanton, p. 139
  10. ^ Swanton, p. 95
  11. ^ From hælan ("heal"); often translated "Saviour".
  12. ^ Also meotod cf. Old Norse mjötuðr ("god", "fate"). Also translated as 'creator' and often used for the concept of "fate" (also known in O.E. as wyrd). The word is possibly from a root meaning "measurer" or "one who measures" related to the O.E. metan ("measure") and its descendent the Mod.E. mete in the term "to mete out".
  13. ^ Whallon
  14. ^ Whallon
  15. ^ From wealdan ("rule", "control"; cf. modern English wield).
  16. ^ Swanton, p. 146
  17. ^ Emphasizes both guardianship and ownership.
  18. ^ Heofon is "Heaven", and rice is "kingdom" (cf. the German reich).
  19. ^ Whallon