All Nordic languages: tun


Senior Member
Belgium, Dutch
I am just wondering if there is a word like 'tun' in any Nordic (Germanic) language. It could perhaps mean
- garden, like tuin in Dutch,
- fence, like Zaun in German
- town, as in town in English
There is or was such in Icelandic, so I think I read.

But then, if not, how do you translate those words above and is there a parallel in other, West Germanic languages ?

  • For Icelandic I found:

    turn - tower
    tún - hayfield
    tonn - ton
    tóm - vacuum / emptiness
    tönn - tooth
    tunna - barrel / cask

    Does that help?
    Yes, it does. I get more information than I hoped for. I suppose the tun is the one etymologically linked with the others. Strange to learn that it is a hayfield this time, but there is some vague reference to a separatee territory.

    Just wondering: how do you translate garden, fence and town then, if I may ask ?
    The only thing close to any of these words I could think of (that has not already been mentioned) in any Danish dialect is

    fenn(e) = grassland with a fence around it.

    This is West Jutland dialect.
    'Fenn' might then be related with 'fence'. How about town, fence, garden? How do you translate them into Danish/ Jutlandish ;-) ?

    In standard Danish you'd say "græsmark" (grass field) for "fenne".

    fence = hegn (pronounced like "high" with an "n" added at the end. However "hegn" is not necesessarily something manmade. Can also be a row of hedges or bushes serving the same function.

    garden - we already had that - garður - closely related with "gård", meaning yard in standard Danish.
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    'tun' is an ancient word in nordic languages often meaning garden or yard. In Swedish it's never used nowadays, but it still remains in names of towns etc, for example 'Eskilstuna'. In Havamal, old Nordic poetry there is a vers 'Tallen på tunet tynar och dör, skyls ej av bark eller barr. Så är det med den som ingen håller av, vi skulle han leva länge?' (The fir tree in the yard is withering and dying, not shielded by needles or bark (?). It's the same for a man who has noone who loves him, why should he live longer?' (Perhaps not the best of traductions, but I hope you understand anyway... :) )
    Town: Sw. stad = Da/No. by
    Fence: Sw. gärde, staket
    Garden: Sw. trädgård

    Sw. gårdstun (archaic-rustic-litterary) 'yard around farmhouse and its close economy buildings' (meaning influenced by Western Scandinavian/Norse)

    Sw. gärda 'kind of fenced field'

    Sw- -tuna (in medieval toponyms) 'grassing field' (cf. the Icelandic meaning above)

    Sw. Tuna (or -tuna) (in iron age toponyms) 'signicant market place protected by a fortifiction'

    The last meaning corresponds best to the etymology for English town. It is debated whether the meaning is genuinely inherited or influenced by Celtic directly or indirectly. For those of you who read Swedish see "Tuna" at
    Great ifnormation again. Are you referring to modern Swedish in the two gard words ?

    Tradgard: a walking garden (like German treten) ?

    Gärda and gärde sound archaic/dialectal to me as a urban person but I believe the words are well and alive in the country.

    Trädgård is like "treegarden" - arboretum, not like "threadgarden". But the garden woud be a trädgård even if not a single tree was planted there, as long as green plants are found.
    In Norwegian, "tun" is a fairly common word, and means something like garden or yard, as in Swedish. It's mainly used of the open space between the houses on a farm ("(bonde)gård"), often more precisely called "gårdstun".
    In Swedish I think we would just call that 'gård/en', but otherwise 'gårdstun' has exactly the same meaning as in Norwegian, though I don't think I have ever heard anyone actually use it.
    My dictionary translates tun as country courtyard. And as Oskhen said, in Norwegian it’s still used.

    Garden is hage/have in Norwegian while fence is gjerde, skigard, innhegning.

    Town is by, village is landsby.

    I found a good article in Norwegian, at sprakraadet, about the words gård, and gjerde, which has been mentioned above, and how they are related. I can’t post links, but those who want to read can do a search for sprakraadet, and then a search on that site for skigard and then choose the first link that comes up. I’ve translated parts of it below.

    In Old Norse farm was garðr, and that has become gård in Norwegian (gard in Nynorsk), Swedish and Danish, and garður in Iceland and Faroese. The old English word was geard, which in modern English is yard. Related to these are the English words garden, gird, girdle and girth.

    The original meaning of the word was gjerde – fence. It meant; that which needs to be protected, and later on the meaning changed to; all that is protected and is within an enclosure, defence.
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    Like sepia I can't find any Danish words that are similar.
    vestfoldlilja mostly covered the Danish translations of the rest as well:
    Garden is have.
    Fence is hegn or gærde.
    Town or city is by (or stad which is more archaic), village is landsby.
    What the others call gårdstun, would simply be gårdsplads here.

    (and btw I don't think you'll be waiting for very many people to come home from work today - it's a public holiday :))
    Although, as my countrymen/-women have said, Norwegian "tun" is usually used about farms, according to the Dokpro dictionary, it can apparently refer to almost any space enclosed by buildings, whether rustic or urban. In Nynorsk it can also mean a cluster of houses (again, not necessarily with agrarian connotations :p ). My grandmother, who lived lived in a Nynorsk-writing municipality, spent her last months in a "helsetun", meaning nursing home, which, as I recall, consisted of several buildings.

    Oh, and I believe this is the article vestfoldlilja was talking about (I thought the post count limit for linking was 30)?
    This is all great information. But I'll first have to study Swedish or Norwegian (NYnorsk = new Norwegian ?), I am afraid. But when ?

    Apparently it is a Celt-Germanic word, also turning up as -dunum.
    It is, I was confused when he mentioned he couldn't because I saw he had over 30 posts, it did used to be 100, maybe he got confused.
    He's a she ;)

    ThomasK said:
    (NYnorsk = new Norwegian ?)
    If you're not familiar with the Norwegian language situation with bokmål and nynorsk, the wikipedia-page talks some about it, and I'd guess it has also been explained on this forum. Otherwise there's of course always google.
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    Thank you to Pteppic for posting the link. I’m not sure why I still believed I couldn’t post links, so thanks to everyone for the heads-up. :)

    And I am indeed a she. ;)
    Thanks for all the information. I'll try to summarize all this some day but it might cost some time, especially because I am not so sure about which are still common and which are historic.

    I suppose I could do it starting from the different words for (kinds of) gardens, for towns and for fences, per language. But thanks, it has been quite interesting ! Then the next project will be travelling to Scandinavia to go and see or hear for myself... But if anyone feels like starting go ahead.