Monday, June 14, 2010

Skarfskerry. Norse Surname - Skarf, Skarfr, Scharfe

North, on the flatland north of the Highlands, farming country, near Orkney.

1.  The Norse were in Scotland early, the 9th Century or so.  Their surnames and place names remain, but are eclipsed in modern times by all the tartan-related clan names.

For a history-chronology of Norse settlements-invasions of the British Isles, see page 2 at Scandinavian Influence on Southern Lowland Scotch, by George Tobias Flom back in 1900, reprint 1966:  see page 59, at

2.  Norsemen moved in later years also from Ireland and Man to Scotland and the Western Isles, the Hebrides (Harris, Lewis, others) in about the 852 AD (how can they be so precise? This from the Cleasby Introduction to the Dictionary, see below.  The work by the Late Richard Cleasby, completed by Gudbrud Vigfusson, MA,, introduction by others, here the Cleasby Dictionary, from 1874.  It, can be downloaded from .  Also find there manuscripts and specific references, pages given by first entry to last on that page.

3.  Specific word -- skarfr, or variations.

For the Cleasby dictionary, you need the page to go directly to the Skarfr - Do a search either for Cleasby Icelandic Dictionary, or try the address at
For the Cleasby dictionary, you need the page to go directly to the Skarfr - Do a search either for Cleasby Icelandic Dictionary, or try the address at

Find Norse words skarf or skarfeor at page 539 of the dictionary. In Orkney, skarf as cormorant.  

4.  Also at that site, are Grammar outlines, signs, wonderful for International Scrabble or the worst crossword puzzle you could imagine.  Memorize this book and you WIN.

 There is also a list of the Sagas (our family is represented, at least by name, in the Icelandic Burnt Njall Saga,, with Otkell, son of Skarf, and Otkell was not a generous person).  There are poetries, laws and histories. Icelandic was spoken by the four main branches of the Scandinavians, see Introduction at iii, and was called Old Norse. Is that so?

Kindle can never compare to holding this old book. I need that book.

5.  Browsing:

In the Shetland Islands, skarf
In Scotland, scart

the green pelican
pelicanus grandus
topp-skarfr   that is the crested cormorant
dila-skarfr     that is the common cormorant (what is that?)

Local names: Skarfakletter

Plant: Skarfakal, or "scurvy-grass" - a plant growing on rocky shores, "good against scorbutic diseases" (like citrus?)

6.  Spelling - many variations as the word eased into the Gaelic with Norse plundering and settling. Or just  repeated contacts.

Scarth, sb. the cormorant. Dunbar, T.M.W., 92; F., 194; Douglas, I, 46, 15. O. N. skarfr, Norse skarv, cormorant. Shetland, scarf.  People of the Settiscarth

And later, at page 81, another spelling - : O. N. f > th in scarth (O. N. skarfr).

Find the Scandinavian origin of Gaelic names in the Gaelic sgarbh ("SKAR-av") and the Norse scarf, at The Nature of Scotland, at / -- scroll down to Seabird Names, cormorant.

The name "Skarf" or a variant such as Skarfr, scarff, occurs in Orkney, and Shetland, and in Skarfskerry, Scotland; near John o'Groats, in Caithness, near Thurso.  See it at  In the Gaelic, it is Sgarbh Sgeir.  In Old Norse, it means Cormorant's Rock, see

Norse roots: Norway itself.

 Skarfjellet is a mountain in Norway, above Innerdalen in Nordmere, and rock climbers flock there, see and on a map and also a photo at