Norwegian words in English: Troll

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Photo: Gil Mnogueira / Wikimedia Commons Troll warning!

Photo: Gil Mnogueira / Wikimedia Commons
Troll warning!

M. Michael Brady
The Foreigner

The word troll in English is a loanword from Norwegian which designates a species of supernatural beings, originally giants, but more recently dwarfs or imps.

It came into general use in English in the mid-19th Century, but there are earlier records of it in the Norse dialects of the Shetland and Orkney islands.

There’s legal record of the use of the word in Shetland in 1616, in the taking up of dittay—the formulation of indictment according to Scottish law of the time. The Dittay Sheriff Court Shetland entry for 2 October reads: “The said Catherine for airt and pairt of witchcraft and sorcerie, in hanting and seeing the Trollis ryse out of the kyrk yeard of Hildiswick.”

Trolls have remained firmly ensconced in Norwegian mythology through the centuries and are prominent in many of fairytales, as in Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe’s Norske folkeeventyr (“Norwegian folk tales”) of 1844.

Many species of trolls evolved with time, in English as well as in Norwegian. This millennium started with the entry of an amazing array of trolls in films. The Lord of the Rings films featured Cave Trolls, Mountain Trolls, Stone Trolls and Two-Headed Trolls, while the Harry Potter films featured Forest Trolls, Mountain Trolls and River Trolls.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit

It also appeared in the Sept. 12, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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