The form buri (acc.) on the Nolby stone and the place-name Birsta

By Magnus Källström

In: Ortnamnssällskapets i Uppsala årsskrift 2018


On the Nolby stone (M 1) in Njurunda parish in Medelpad there is a man’s name, recorded in the accusative form buri. Since the time of the antiquarian and linguist Johannes Bureus, this name has often been interpreted as ‘Bure’, but the sequence of runes in question, despite its brevity, is open to multiple interpretations. In this article, it is argued that it corresponds, rather, to a Runic Swedish form *Bȳriʀ. Such a name has been assumed to occur in a number of central Swedish place-names of the Byrsta, Börsta(d) type, and in the form biriR (previously interpreted as Birgiʀ) it may also be attested on a Södermanland rune stone (Sö 331). Runic Swedish name pairs such as Bøsiʀ : Bōsi, Skærðiʀ : Skarði and Ǣsiʀ : Āsi/Ǣsi also suggest a possible link with ON Búri, though the latter is only known as a mythological name.

From an etymological point of view, it is most natural to regard the assumed name *Bȳriʀ as a derivative of the noun OSw. bur m./neut. ‘women’s room; storehouse’, or of an onomatopoeic *būra, which has been suggested as the basis for the river name Buran and the parish name Bureå in Ångermanland. With the latter interpretation, the meaning would be something akin to ‘loud or talkative person’.

The article also discusses whether the name Birsta in the Medelpad parish of Skön could be interpreted in the same way as the central Swedish place-names Byrsta and Börsta(d), or whether it should be given a different explanation.