University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Icelandic Online Dictionary and Readings

Sverrir Hólmarsson; Sanders, Christopher; Tucker, John / Íslensk-ensk orðabók (1989)



The primary spelling and usage of the definitions represent standard North American English. Spelling and usage variants in British English are also given, preceded by the marker (UK). These variants are to be regarded purely as the preferred British form, and it is not necessarily implied that they cannot be used in American English. /(UK) introduces a British variant within a phrase.

gefa í botn
step on the gas (UK) accelerate

erfið/a v (-aði)

work hard, toil, labor (UK) labour
það er orðið ~
it has gotten light/(UK) got light

There is a deliberate bias toward everyday speech in the English renderings; thus contracted forms such as ‘couldn't' (rather than ‘could not') are frequently found.

4. Types of definition

4.1 The basic form

The basic form of definition is used for an Icelandic word for which a single meaning is registered and for which one or more English equivalents are provided.   [p. 27]  

háðung f (-ar)

shame, disgrace, ignominy


Within a definition, round brackets may be used to enclose part of an explanation that is optional in English (often dependent on the context).

kyn·þroska adj indecl

(sexually) mature

4.2 Collocations / illustrative phrases

The English equivalents of the Icelandic headword may be supplemented by collocations or illustrative phrases. They are printed in bold type and followed by a translation. Collocations (‘fixed phrases') often demonstrate idiomatic usage;

fanta·brögð n pl

dirty tricks
beita ~um
hit below the belt
illustrative phrases, on the other hand, demonstrate how an Icelandic word is used in one or more of its senses, and the translation shows how the phrase in which it appears can be conveniently rendered into English:

fern adj

four (of a type)
~ar buxur
four pairs of pants/(UK) trousers


Especially in the representation of phrases there is a tendency in this as in any dictionary of Icelandic to use masculine grammatical forms as illustrative material. This is done to avoid introducing variations to the headwords which, where applicable, in accordance with tradition are given in the masculine form. Grammatical gender is arbitrary (its roots are too deeply embedded in the history of language for us to be able to see any logic in it) and it has no sexist connotations.

hugsa um e-n
care for sby, care to sby's needs


Use of the tilde (~). In the Icelandic phrases incorporated in the definitions the sign ~ (single tilde) and ~~ (double tilde) are used as abbreviations for all or part of the headword.

~ is used to represent the whole of a headword that is not broken up by slash.

iðinn adj

diligent, industrious
~ við kolann (= iðinn við kolann)

í·grip n pl

gera e-ð í ~um (= gera e-ð í ígripum)
do sth on the side

~ is also used to represent the part of the headword that precedes the slash.   [p. 28]  

ímugust/ur m

hafa ~ á e-m (= hafa ímugust á e-m)
dislike sby

~~ is used where the headword is broken up by a vertical slash but both parts (the whole of the divided headword) are to be inserted in the example.

kynn/ast v refl (-tist, -st)

~~ e-m
get acquainted with sby, get to know sby


Round brackets are used to enclose part of an Icelandic phrase that is optional and may therefore be missing in a specific occurrence.

þol·rif n pl

reyna (á) ~in í e-m
put sby to the test


The slash is used to indicate alternatives in collocations and phrases.

fisk/ur m (-s, -ar)

e-ð/e-r er ekki upp á marga ~a
sth/sby is not up to much

4.3 Collocations on their own

When use of a headword outside a particular collocation or phrase is not registered in this dictionary, only the collocation itself (introduced by a colon) and its translation are given.

þrándur m

vera e-m ~ í götu
be an obstacle to sby

4.4 Complex entries for words with multiple meanings


Many of the Icelandic headwords in the dictionary have more than one meaning. Where this is the case the different senses are numbered separately, and as a rule the numbered definitions are distinguished from each other for the Icelandic user by means of a semantic indicator written in Icelandic and italicized in parenthesis.

ná·kvæmur adj

1. (áreiðanlegur) exact, precise
2. (gaumgæfilegur) thorough, thoroughgoing
3. (vandlegur) careful


A phrase may also be placed in an individually numbered section.

reynd f (-ar, -ir)

1. (reynsla) experience
2. (veruleiki) reality
í ~
in practice


Where the headword is registered in many phrases, they are grouped   [p. 29]   together in a separate numbered section marked phrases. Within this numbered section, the instances are arranged in roughly alphabetical order, usually according to the prepositions or adverbs incorporated in the phrases.

kast/a v (dat) (-aði)

1. (varpa) throw, fling, hurl
2. (ala afkvæmi) foal
3. phrases
~~ eign sinni á e-ð
claim sth as one's own
~~ kveðju á e-n
greet sby briefly
~~ rýrð á e-ð
belittle sth
~~ af sér vatni
make water, take a leak
~~ aftur
~~ e-u fram
throw out a remark
~~ fram vísu
make up a quatrain on the spot
~~ mæðinni
take a breather
~~ upp
vomit, throw up

4.5 Entries for complex verbs


Numbered divisions in verb entries may be introduced by grammatical markers, such as impers for impersonal, refl for reflexive, pp for past participle, prp for present participle, where meanings or groups of usages are associated with these grammatical forms.

dett/a v (datt, duttu, dottið)

1. (hrapa) fall, drop
2. (missa fótanna) fall, stumble and fall
3. impers
mér ~ur e-ð í hug
sth occurs to me
það datt yfir mig
I was amazed…

Reflexive or middle-voice usages of verbs are often presented in this manner.


2. refl
~~st við



Where a verb changes its meaning in accordance with which grammatical case it governs, the entry is divided accordingly.

ausa v (dat/acc) (eys ; jós, jusu, ausið)

A. (dat) (taka með ausu) scoop, ladle
~ skömmum yfir e-n
pour abuse on sby
B. (acc)

1. (~ bát) bail
~ barn vatni
baptize a child…


The introduction of the division into parts A. and B. may give rise to further grammatical divisions in a manner similar to that described in 4.5.1 above (in the following example C. impers and D. refl).

hen/da v (dat/acc) (-ti, -t)

A. (dat)

1. (kasta) throw
2. (fleygja) throw away, discard
B. (acc)
1. (grípa) catch
~~ e-ð á lofti
catch sth in midair
2. phrases
~~ reiður á e-u
grasp (the significance of) sth
~~ gaman að e-m
make fun of sby
C. impers
það ~ti mig
it happened to me
D. refl dash, rush

  [p. 30]  

4.6 Entries for prepositions

Prepositions in Icelandic usually also function as adverbs. The entries for these words are divided up in a manner similar to that described above for verbs. Thus the structure for the entry for the preposition í is as follows:

í prep /adv

A. prep (acc)
1., etc.
B. prep (dat)
1., etc.
C. adv

5. Restrictive markers

It is the deliberate policy of this dictionary to keep the number of markers and labellings concerning usage to a minimum. English speakers will come to the dictionary with questions occasioned by encountering a given word in a particular context. We expect that this context will supply the information necessary to determine the word's specific application and stylistic level.

5.1 Usage

Some explanation, often concerning sphere of usage, is occasionally given in brackets after the English equivalent.


3. (~~ á taflborði) square (in chess, etc)

5.2 Figurative meanings

Figurative meanings (as opposed to literal) are not usually given a separate marker. A clearly differentiated figurative usage will sometimes be apparent either by the introduction of a new numbered section with its corresponding Icelandic semantic indicator and translation:

yfir·bragð n (-s)

1. (útlit) appearance
2. (yfirskin) pretext, excuse
or by the inclusion of a phrase demonstrating the figurative sense:

tugg/a f (-u, -ur)

chewed mouthful
gömul ~~

5.3 Colloquialisms


Colloquial words and phrases in Icelandic are rendered as far as possible by English equivalents which are equally colloquial. No special marking is given.

  [p. 31]  


Idiomatic or highly colloquial English equivalents of Icelandic phrases (equivalents which are not exact translations but unabashed ‘renderings') are enclosed by single quotation marks.

fíl/a v (acc) (-aði)

~~ e-ð vel, ~~ e-ð í botn
‘be really into sth'

5.4 Slang

No specific marker is used for slang or ‘vulgar' speech.

5.5 Poetic or archaic vocabulary

Poetic or archaic vocabulary is readily incorporated in everyday Icelandic. Such words are marked poet for ‘poetic'.

fold f (-ar)

poet ground, land

Go up to Top of Page