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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Scald \Scald\ (sk[a^]ld or sk[add]ld; 277), n. [Icel. sk[=a]ld.] One of the ancient Scandinavian poets and historiographers; a reciter and singer of heroic poems, eulogies, etc., among the Norsemen; more rarely, a bard of any of the ancient Teutonic tribes. [Written also skald.]

A war song such as was of yore chanted on the field of battle by the scalds of the yet heathen Saxons.
--Sir W. Scott.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"Scandinavian poet and singer of medieval times," 1763, from Old Norse skald "skald, poet" (9c.), of unknown origin, perhaps from PIE root *sekw- (3) "to say, utter." The modern word is an antiquarian revival. "Usually applied to Norwegian and Icelandic poets of the Viking period and down to c 1250, but often without any clear idea as to their function and the character of their work" [OED]. Related: Scaldic.


n. (context historical English) a Nordic poet of the Viking Age


The term skald or skáld , meaning ‘poet’, is generally used for poets who composed at the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age and Middle Ages. Skaldic poetry forms one of two main groupings of Old Norse poetry, the other being the anonymous Eddic poetry.

The most prevalent metre of skaldic poetry is dróttkvætt. The subject is usually historical and encomiastic, detailing the deeds of the skald's patron. There is no evidence that the skalds employed musical instruments, but some speculate that they may have accompanied their verses with the harp or lyre.

The technical demands of the skaldic form were equal to the complicated verse forms mastered by the Welsh bards and Gaelic (in both Scotland and Ireland) ollaves. Like those poets, much skaldic verse consisted of panegyrics to kings and aristocrats or memorials and testimonials to their battles.

Usage examples of "skald".

Their eyes went from Cro-Mag to Skald, whose mouth was twisted into a permanent sneer by a scar that ran from his left cheek to where his ear had once been.

Now that the killing lust had fled, Skald began to feel the effects of his emasculation.

Now they desired amusement to heighten their pleasure, and they began calling upon their skald to provide them songs.

Gathering his gourd, bowl, and chicken carcass, the skald withdrew and Harald came before the assembly, declaring himself pleased that so many had answered his summons.

The skald roved the meadow, hopping from camp to camp to sing songs in praise of his patron, finding willing, if somewhat bleary-eyed, listeners for his spirited performances.

Blade cursed him and swore he had missed his calling-instead of a mangy cutpurse he should have been a lying skald, setting his wild tales to music on a lute.

It reminded Ragnar of the way the skald would speak when quoting the epics of Russ and the All Father.

Ragnar said, repeating something he had heard the skald say after the spring trading.

Somewhere in the distance he could hear the skald tuning up his instrument, and his apprentices beating out basic rhythms on the drums with which they would accompany him.

There was an ancient saying that if the jarl was the heart of his people, the skald was the memory.

For as long as his clan existed, his name would be recalled by the skald and his apprentices, and maybe even sung on high holy days and other feasts.

The dancers had formed up into long lines and weaved in intricate patterns to the music of the skald and his apprentices.

His features were fine and he looked delicate and intelligent, more like a skald than a warrior.

Deed of the Thunderfists, their ancestral song, a work which had been begun in the lost reaches of time, hundreds of generations ago, and which had been added to by every skald who had held the position since.

Kattegat, where Harald, to lighten his vessels and escape, was forced to throw his rich Hedeby plunder overboard -- so that it floated on the windswept Jutland sea, as the skald Thorleik the Fair says in his song.