Old Norse Sayings: 75 Old Norse Vikings Proverbs from the Hávamál

Old Norse Sayings

The Hávamál (Sayings of the High One) is part of the Poetic Edda, a series of poems from Old Norse that survive in a manuscript from the 13th century. The numerous verses found in the Hávamál were collected from different sources, with some date back to the 10th century. The verses are written in the original Old Norse in the meter called Ljóðaháttr which was associated with the poetry of wisdom in the Viking Era.

Old Norse Sayings

Viking quotes, sayings, and phrases are important to learn … as they contain the wisdom of a legendary, wise people who conjure dreams of war, adventure, and conquest for most of us. Below are the best 75 ancient quotes from Viking to help you work with Viking guidance in your own life.

65 Old Norse Sayings

  1. Wake early if you want another man’s life or land. No lamb for the lazy wolf. No battle is won in bed.

  2. Never walk away from home ahead of your axe and sword. You can’t feel a battle in your bones or foresee a fight.

  3. Great deeds and ill deeds often fall within each other’s shadow.

  4. Many hands make light work.

  5. A wounded coward lies low. ( Old Norse Sayings ).

  6. Den hund som bieffer meget, han bider ikkun lidet. – Barking dogs seldom bite.

  7. Det är som mörkast innan gryningen. – It is darkest before dawn.

  8. There is more honor in accumulating little by little than in reaching for the sky and ending up flat on your face.

  9. A person should tend to the oak if they want to live under it.

  10. Bra vind i ryggen er best. – A fair wind at our back is best.

  11. Lidet er om den mans vrede, som ingen vurder. – If you cannot bite, never show your teeth.

  12. A man without wisdom is lacking in much.

  13. Ill is the result of letting fear rule thine actions.

  14. It is an old custom for the wisest to give way.

  15. A person should not agree today to what they’ll regret tomorrow.

  16. Gammel kjærleik rustar ikkje. – Old love does not corrode.

  17. Let no man glory in the greatness of his mind, but rather keep watch o’er his wits. Cautious and silent let him enter a dwelling; to the heedful comes seldom harm, for none can find a more faithful friend than the wealth of mother wit.

  18. It is fortunate to be favored with praise and popularity. It is dire luck to be dependent on the feelings of your fellow man.

  19. Enn skal lytte, når en gammel hund gjø. – One should listen when an old dog barks.

  20. The unwise man is awake all night worries over and again. When morning rises he is restless still, his burden as before.

  21. Better to die with honor than live with shame.

    Better to die with honor than live with shame.

  22. Let not thy mind be overmuch crossed by unwise men at thronged meetings of folk; for oft these speak worse than they wot of; lest thou be called a dastard, and art minded to think that thou art even as is said; slay such an one on another day, and so reward his ugly talk.

  23. Sjaldan er ein báran stök. – There seldom is a single wave. ( Old Norse Sayings ).

  24. Det som göms i snö, kommer fram vid tö. – What is hidden in snow, is revealed at thaw.

  25. Be your friend’s true friend. Return gift for gift. Repay laughter with laughter again, but betrayal with treachery.

  26. Gold is little comfort for the kinsman dead.

  27. Altfor reint har ingen smak. – Too clean has no taste.

  28. Trust not him whose father, brother or other kin you have slain no matter how young he be, for often grows the wolf in the child.

  29. Stand by your own trial and not by what others say.

  30. Du skal kravle, før du kan gå. – You have to learn to crawl before you can walk.

  31. Moderately wise a man should be, not too crafty or clever. A learned man’s heart whose learning is deep seldom sings with joy.

  32. A person’s actions are often worse than their intentions.

  33. Brennt barn forðast eldinn. – A burnt child keeps away from fire.

  34. Never a whit should one blame another for a folly which many befalls; the might of love makes sons of men into fools who once were wise.

  35. To take up great resolutions, and then to lay them aside, only ends in dishonor.

  36. Even in the sheath the sword must be sharp – so too must the mind and the spirit be within the body.

  37. Kinsmen to kinsmen should be true.

  38. Båtlaus mann er bunden til land. – Boatless man is tied to the land.

  39. Nothing good can happen to people who break their solemn vows.

  40. Too much ale and a man’s heart is laid open for all to see.

  41. Cattle die, kinsmen die, all men are mortal. Words of praise will never perish, nor a noble name.

  42. With many who come to power and honor, pride keeps pace with promotion.

  43. Better to fight and fall than to live without hope. ( Old Norse Sayings ).

  44. Kemst þó hægt fari. – You will reach your destination even though you travel slowly.

  45. Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder. – There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.

  46. Long is it remembered what youth has gained.

  47. Not every cloud which darkens the day brings rain.

  48. A fool will gape when he goes to a friend, and mumble only, or mope; but pass him the ale cup and all in a moment the mind of that man is shown.

  49. Go you must. No guest shall stay in one place for ever. Love will be lost if you sit too long at a friend’s fire.

  50. Wisdom is welcome wherever it comes from.

    Wisdom is welcome wherever it comes from.

  51. Often times it is not numbers that wins the victory, but those who fare forward with the most vigor.

  52. Who can’t defend the wealth they have must die, or share with the rover bold.

  53. Árinni kennir illur ræðari. – A bad rower blames the oar.

  54. Fight your foes in the field, nor be burnt in your house.

  55. Bara döda fiskar följer strömmen. – Only dead fish follow the stream.

  56. Always rise to an early meal, but eat your fill before a feast. If you’re hungry you have no time to talk at the table.

  57. Berre bok gjer ingen klok. – Merely book makes none wise.

  58. Oft one finds, when the foe he meets, that he is not the bravest of all.

  59. Never cheat your master.

  60. Ber er hver að baki nema sér bróður eigi. – Bare is the back of a brotherless man.

  61. Stubbornness brings either greater humiliation or greater honor.

  62. Ju senare på kvällen, desto vackrare folk. – The later in the evening, the more beautiful the people.

  63. Man må hyle med de ulve man er i blandt. – One must howl with the wolves one is among.

  64. Wise he is deemed who can question well, and also answer back: the sons of men can no secret make of the tidings told in their midst.

  65. Who can say what sorrow seemingly carefree folk bear to their life’s end. ( Old Norse Sayings ).

  66. When truth and fairness are different from what is law, better it is to follow truth and fairness.

  67. Ill it is to take love from another man’s wife.

  68. Where wolf’s ears are, wolf’s teeth are near.

  69. Tíðin rennur sum streymur í á. – Time runs like the river current.

  70. It is bettter to stand and fight, if you run, you will only die tired.

    It is bettter to stand and fight, if you run, you will only die tired.

  71. No one is a total fool if he knows when to hold his tongue.

  72. Ill it is to abandon honor and integrity in exchange for injustice and greed.

  73. Only a coward waits to be taken like a lamb from the fold or a fox from a trap.

  74. Often is there regret for saying too much, and seldom regret for saying too little.

  75. When men meet foes in fight, better is stout heart than sharp sword. ( Old Norse Sayings ).

There is never a time that isn’t right to share the love. Do well to share these messages with friends and loved ones.

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