INTRODUCTION. Ivii

But besides this extended field of reference and quotation, Mr. Vigfusson has
done much more than improve and arrange the Cleasby transcripts. So far as can
be ascertained from the printed specimen, it was Cleasby's intention to pay particular
attention to the etymology of the Icelandic language, and this intention has been
followed in the new Dictionary, though there was scarcely a trace of etymology in
the transcripts. At the head of the account of each word its etymology and affiliation
with other tongues are given, and this information will be found to be both ample
and reliable. There may be, as there must always be, differences of opinion as to
the etymology of certain words—for the region of etymology contains some of the
darkest paths to be found in the realm of philology. But in every case the
etymologies here given are scientific and reasonable, which cannot be said of most
Dictionaries. In a word, they are free from that wildness and extravagance which
have so often brought this branch of philology into disrepute, and on the whole
are stamped with a modesty and forbearance which speak loudly for the good sense
and discretion of their author. Under another point of view this Dictionary presents
a feature never seen, or at least far less prominently seen in other Dictionaries.
This feature may be called the literary life of important Icelandic words. It con-
tains an exhaustive collection of Icelandic proverbs, which are, as it were, the marrow
of the language; and whenever a word occurs which has played a great part in the
laws or literature or history of the Northern races, the fullest account of it is given.
If the reader will refer to such natural words as ' Ntt,' 'Sl/ and ' Sumar/ such law
terms as ' Lyritr,' ' Ml/ ' Mot/ and ' ing/ such mythological compounds as ' Muspell'
and ' Ragna-rk/ such religious and social words as ' Baugr/ ' Bauta-steinn/ ' Go$i/ and
' Lgmar/ and to words of reckoning, such as ' Fimmt/ ' Tigr/ ' Hundrafc/ and
' Yisund/ he will find not only an exact etymological account of each, but a whole
history of the word in the various relations which it bore to the development of religious,
social, and political feeling in the Icelandic Commonwealth. These instances have been
taken almost at random, but what is true of them is true also of hundreds of words in
this Dictionary, which in this characteristic is matchless of its kind.

And now nearly all has been said that could be said of the origin, progress,
and completion of this Icelandic Dictionary. The writer, who has watched over it,
so to speak, from its birth, and who has been, as it were, a second father to it
ever since the untimely death of its natural parent, cannot but feel a glow of exulta-
tion as he beholds it issuing from the press in all the maturity and fulness which
it at one time seemed hopeless that it could ever assume. In it the English student
now possesses a key to that rich store of knowledge which the early literature of
Iceland possesses. He may read the Eddas and the Sagas, which contain sources of
delight and treasures of learning such as no other language but that of Iceland can
furnish. But when he wanders through these fresh pastures, and his heart warms as he
reads the mighty deeds of the gods and heroes, of the kings and earls and simple
yeomen of the North, let him not forget to honour those to whom honour is due. The
time and trouble bestowed upon this work would have been of little avail had it not