Old Norse Dictionary - goði

Meaning of Old Norse word "goði" in English.

As defined by the Cleasby & Vigfusson Old Norse to English dictionary:

goði Old Norse word can mean:

a, m. [Ulf, renders ἱερεύς by gudja (ufar-gudja, ahumista-gudja, etc.), ἱερατεία by gudjinassus, ἱερατεύειν by gudjinôn; an Icel. gyði, gen. gyðja, would answer better to the Goth. form, but it never occurs, except that the fem. gyðja = goddess and priestess points not to goði, but to a masc. with a suppressed final i, gyði; a word coting occurs in O. H. G. glossaries, prob. meaning the same; and the form guþi twice occurs on Danish-Runic stones in Nura-guþi and Saulva-guþi, explained as goði by P. G. Thorsen, Danske Runem.; (Rafn’s explanation and reading of Nura-guþi qs. norðr á Gauði, is scarcely right): with this exception this word is nowhere recorded till it appears in Icel., where it got a wide historical bearing]:—prop. a priest, sacerdos, and hence a liege-lord or chief of the Icel. Commonwealth.
A. HISTORICAL REMARKS.—The Norse chiefs who settled in Icel., finding the country uninhabited, solemnly took possession of the land (land-nám, q. v.); and in order to found a community they built a temple, and called themselves by the name of goði or hof-goði, ‘temple-priest;’ and thus the temple became the nucleus of the new community, which was called goðorð, n.:—hence hof-goði, temple-priest, and höfðingi, chief, became synonymous, vide Eb. passim. Many independent goðar and goðorð sprang up all through the country, until about the year 930 the alþingi (q. v.) was erected, where all the petty sovereign chiefs (goðar) entered into a kind of league, and laid the foundation of a general government for the whole islanD. I. 964 A. D. the constitution was finally settled, the number of goðorð being fixed at three in each þing (shire), and three þing in each of the three other quarters, (but four in the north); thus the number of goðar came to be nominally thirty-nine, really thirty-six, as the four in the north were only reckoned as three, vide Íb. ch. 5. On the introduction of Christianity the goðar lost their priestly character, but kept the name; and the new bishops obtained seats in the Lögrétta (vide biskup). About the year 1004 there were created new goðar (and goðorð), who had to elect judges to the Fifth Court, but they had no seats in the Lögrétta, and since that time the law distinguishes between forn (old) and ný (new) goðorð;—in Glúm. ch. 1 the word forn is an anachronism. It is curious that, especially in the 12th century, the goðar used to take the lesser Orders from political reasons, in order to resist the Romish clergy, who claimed the right of forbidding laymen to be lords of churches or to deal with church matters; thus the great chief Jón Loptsson was a sub-deacon; at last, about 1185, the archbishop of Norway forbade the bishops of Icel. to ordain any holder of a goðorð, unless they first gave up the goðorð, fyrir því bjóðum vér biskupum at vígja eigi þá menn er goðorð hafa, D. I. i. 291. In the middle of the 13th century the king of Norway induced the goðar to hand their power over to him, and thus the union with Norway was finally brought about in the year 1262; since that time, by the introduction of new codes (1272 and 1281), the name and dignity of goðar and goðorð disappeared altogether, so that the name begins and ends with the Commonwealth.
B. DUTIES.—In the alþingi the goðar were invested with the Lögrettu-skipan (q. v.), that is to say, they composed the Lögrétta (the Legislative consisting of forty-eight members—on the irregularity of the number vide Íb. ch. 5), and were the lawgivers of the country; secondly, they had the dómnefna (q. v.), or right of naming the men who were to sit in the courts, vide dómr:—as to their duties in the quarter-parliaments (vár-þing) vide Grág. þ. þ. and the SagaS. The authority of the goðar over their liegemen at home was in olden times somewhat patriarchal, vide e. g. the curious passage in Hænsaþ. S. ch. 2; though no section of law relating to this interesting part of the old history is on record, we can glean much information from the SagaS. It is to be borne in mind that the goðar of the Saga time (10th century) and those of the Grágás and Sturlunga time (12th and 13th centuries) were very different; the former were a kind of sovereign chiefs, who of free will entered into a league; the latter had become officials, who for neglecting their duties in parliament might be fined, and even forfeit the goðorð to their liegemen, vide Grág. þ. þ. Neither þing (q. v.) nor goðorð was ever strictly geographical (such is the opinion of Konrad Maurer), but changed from time to time; the very word goðorð is defined as ‘power’ (veldi), and was not subject to the payment of tithe, K. þ. K. 142. The goðorð could be parcelled out by inheritance or by sale; or they might, as was the case in the latter years of the Commonwealth, accumulate in one hand, vide esp. Sturl. passim, and Grág. The liegemen (þingmenn) were fully free to change their lords (ganga í lög með goða, ganga ór lögum); every franklin (þingmaðr) had in parliament to declare his þingfesti, i. e. to name his liegeship, and say to what goði and þing he belonged, and the goði had to acknowledge him; so that a powerful or skilful chief might have liegemen scattered all over the country. But the nomination to the courts and the right of sitting in the legislative body were always bound to the old names, as fixed by the settlement of the year 964; and any one who sought the name or influence of a goði had first (by purchase, inheritance, or otherwise) to become possessor of a share of one of the old traditionary goðorð; see the interesting chapter in Nj. The three goðar in one þing (shire) were called sam-goða, joint-goðar; for the sense of allsherjar-goði vide p. 17.
C. NAMES.—Sometimes a chief’s name referred to the god whom he especially worshipped, as Freys-Goði, Hrafn., Gísl., whence Freys-gyðlingar, q. v.; (the ör-goði is dubious); more frequently the name referred to the liegemen or county, e. g. Ljósvetninga-Goði, Tungu-Goði, etc.; but in the Saga time, goði was often added to the name almost as a cognomen, and with some, as Snorri, it became a part of their name (as Cato Censor in Latin); hann varðveitti þá hof, var hann þá kallaðr Snorri Goði, Eb. 42; seg, at sá sendi, er meiri vin var húsfreyjunnar at Fróðá en Goðans at Helgafelli, 332. Names on record in the Sagas:—men living from A. D. 874 to 964, Hallsteinn Goði, Landn., Eb.; Sturla Goði, Landn. 65; Jörundr Goði and Hróarr Tungu-Goði, id.; Ljótólfr Goði, Sd.; Hrafnkell Freys-Goði, Hrafn.; Oddr Tungu-Goði, Landn.; Þormóðr Karnár-Goði, Vd.; Áskell Goði, Rd.; Úlfr Ör-goði, Landn.; Grímkell Goði, Harð. S.; Þorgrímr Freys-goði, Gísl. 100, 110:—964 to 1030, Arnkell Goði, Landn., Eb.; Þorgrímr Goði, Eb.; Geirr Goði, Landn., Nj.; Runólfr Goði, id.; Þóroddr Goði, Kristni S.; Þormóðr Allsherjar-Goði, Landn.; Þorgeirr Goði, or Ljósvetninga-Goði, Nj., Landn.; (Þorkell Krafla) Vatnsdæla-Goði, Vd.; Helgi Hofgarða-Goði, Landn., Eb.; Snorri Hlíðarmanna-Goði, Lv.; Þórarinn Langdæla-Goði, Heiðarv. S.; and last, not least, Snorri Goði:—in the following period goði appears, though very rarely, as an appellative, e. g. Þormóðr Skeiðar-Goði (about 1100):—of the new goðar of 1004, Höskuldr Hvítaness-Goði, Nj.:—used ironically, Ingjaldr Sauðeyja-Goði, Ld.
2. goðorð mentioned by name,—in the south, Allsherjar-goðorð, Landn. (App.) 336; Dalverja-goðorð, Sturl. ii. 48; Lundarmanna-goðorð, i. 223; Reykhyltinga-goðorð, 104, iii. 166, 169; Bryndæla-goðorð, Kjaln. S. 402: in the north, Ljósvetninga-goðorð, Lv. ch. 30; Möðruvellinga-goðorð, BS. i. 488; Vatnsdæla-goðorð, FS. 68; Fljótamanna-goðorð, Sturl. i. 138: in the west, Snorrunga-goðorð, 55; Jöklamanna-goðorð, iii. 166; Rauðmelinga-goðorð, Eb. 288; Reyknesinga-goðorð, Sturl. i. 9, 19; Þórsnesinga-goðorð, 198: the new godords of the Fifth Court, Laufæsinga-goðorð, Nj. 151; Melamanna-goðorð, id., Band., Sturl. i. 227. Passages in the Sagas and Laws referring to goðar and goðorð are very numerous, e. g. Íb. ch. 5, Nj. ch. 98, Grág., Lögréttu-þáttr, and þ. þ. passim, esp. ch. 1–5, 17, 35, 37, 39, 44, 58, 60, 61, Lv. ch. 4 (interesting), Vd. ch. 27, 41 (in fine), and 42, Vápn., Hrafn. ch. 2, Eb. ch. 10, 56, Sturl. iii. 98, 104, passim; for the accumulation of godords, see i. 227 (3, 22), BS. i. 54; for the handing over the godords to the king of Norway, D. I. i; and esp. article 3 of the Sáttmáli, D. I. i. 631, 632. The godords were tithe-free, ef maðr á goðorð, ok þarf eigi þat til tíundar at telja, vald er þat en eigi fé:, K. þ. K. 142.
COMPDS: goðakviðr, goðalýrittr, goðaþáttr.
II. = goð, i. e. good genius, in the Icel. game at dice called goða-tafl, with the formula, heima ræð eg goða minn bæði vel og lengi, … og kasta eg svo fyrir þig, cp. also ást-goði.

Possible runic inscription in Younger Futhark:ᚴᚢᚦᛁ
Younger Futhark runes were used from 8th to 12th centuries in Scandinavia and their overseas settlements

Abbreviations used:

et cetera.
Iceland, Icelander, Icelanders, Icelandic.
O. H. G.
Old High German.
proper, properly.
A. D.
Anno Domini.
q. v.
quod vide.
e. g.
exempli gratia.
i. e.
id est.
idem, referring to the passage quoted or to the translation

Works & Authors cited:

D. I.
Diplomatarium Islandicum. (J. I.)
Eyrbyggja Saga. (D. II.)
Víga-Glúms Saga. (D. II.)
Íslendinga-bók. (D. I.)
Grágás. (B. I.)
Hænsa-Þóris Saga. (D. II.)
K. Þ. K.
Kristinn-réttr Þorláks ok Ketils = Kristinna-laga-þáttr. (B. I.)
Njála. (D. II.)
Sturlunga Saga. (D. I.)
Gísla Saga. (D. II.)
Harð. S.
Harðar Saga. (D. II.)
Heiðarv. S.
Heiðarvíga Saga. (D. II.)
Hrafnkels Saga. (D. II.)
Kristni S.
Kristni Saga. (D. I. III.)
Landnáma. (D. I.)
Laxdæla Saga. (D. II.)
Ljósvetninga Saga. (D. II.)
Reykdæla Saga. (D. II.)
Svarfdæla Saga. (D. II.)
Vatnsdæla Saga. (D. II.)
Banda-manna Saga. (D. II.)
Biskupa Sögur. (D. III.)
Forn-sögur. (D. II.)
Kjaln. S.
Kjalnesinga Saga. (D. V.)
Vápnfirðinga Saga. (D. II.)
➞ See all works cited in the dictionary

Also available in related dictionaries:

This headword also appears in dictionaries of other languages descending from Old Norse.