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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Old English "meresteall" and Old Swedish "*marstall". A Northwest Germanic Compound and Place Name Element?

Author(s):
S Fridell
Uppsala University, Sweden

In the province of Uppland in Sweden, there is a hamlet called Marstalla, written as marstaldum, as marstal in 1312. The first element has been interpreted as mar ‘marsh, lake’ or *mar ‘horse’. In the latter case, the second element is explained as *stadhul ‘enclosure’ or ‘dwelling-place’, i.e., a compound *marstadhul ‘enclosure or pasture for horses’. In the same province, there is a large meadow area called Marstallen. This name has been interpreted accordingly.
OE meresteall means ‘a pool of stagnant water’. It has been argued that the etymological meaning of meresteall would be ‘a place where a pool is liable to form in wet seasons’. The sense ‘standing water’ is well documented for the words evolving from OGerm *mari-.
It is a striking fact that the two localities Marstalla and Marstallen correspond remarkably well with the meaning of OE meresteall. In both cases, there are rivers that flood seasonally, creating large areas of standing water. I therefore conclude that the names are formed from an OSw *marstall, formally and semantically identical with OE *meresteall. Most probably it is actually the same word, a Northwest Germanic *maristallaz.

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