By Staffan Fridell
In the timber of a cottage in Våmhus parish in Dalarna there is a runic inscription reading orus. The timber has been dated by dendrochronological analysis to 1495. The sequence of runes is probably to be interpreted as the earliest name, hitherto unattested, of the church village in Våmhus’s neighbouring parish of Orsa. The parish name Orsa goes back to an Old Swedish form *Oru-os, with the genitive of the old name of the river Oreälven, *Ora, as its first element and os or us ‘river mouth’ as its final element. In Dalarna, us is very well attested as a variant form of os. During the Middle Ages, the parish name was always written in the plural – Orosa or Orusa. This plural form probably derives from phrases such as Orosa/Orusa sokn/kirkia, with the genitive plural of an inhabitant designation formed from the originally singular place-name. In the name of the church village, on the other hand, it is more likely that the original singular form has been preserved, but a form *Oru-us must have developed early on into Orus, which is precisely what we find in this runic inscription.