Icelandic Nouns

Icelandic nouns play a crucial role in the language, as they are used to identify people, places, things, or ideas. These words can be categorized into two broad groups: common nouns, which refer to generic concepts, and proper nouns, which represent specific names of people, places, or entities.

In the Icelandic language, nouns have one of three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. They are declined in four cases (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive) and two numbers (singular and plural). This unique structure allows for a rich and expressive way to convey meaning and relationships between words in a sentence.

Understanding and mastering Icelandic nouns and their grammatical features are essential for anyone learning or engaging with the language. Becoming familiar with noun categories, gender distinctions, and declension patterns will enable more accurate, nuanced, and diverse communication in Icelandic.

Icelandic Nouns Overview

In the Icelandic language, nouns play a significant role as they describe a person, place, thing, or idea. Nouns in Icelandic are inflected, which means they take on different endings and inflections depending on their gender, number, and case. This section provides an overview of Icelandic nouns, with a focus on their gender, number, and case.


Icelandic nouns can have one of three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. This categorization is more about determining the correct inflections and endings for the noun and is not directly related to the gender of the object or person being named. Nouns, adjectives, and pronouns are declined according to their gender, which plays a crucial role in determining their correct form in different cases and numbers.


Like many other languages, Icelandic nouns have two numbers: singular and plural. This distinction indicates whether there is one or more of a particular thing. Nouns, adjectives, and pronouns require proper inflections and endings depending on whether they are singular or plural, as well as their gender and case.


Icelandic is an inflected language with four cases: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. These cases determine the syntactic function of a noun within a sentence, such as the subject or object. Each case has specific inflections and endings that depend on the gender and number of the noun.

To summarize, Icelandic nouns are inflected according to their gender, number, and case. These features play a crucial role in the proper formation and use of nouns in the language and provide information about the relations between words in sentences. Mastering the intricacies of Icelandic nouns is essential for anyone learning the language.

Declension Patterns

Icelandic nouns can be broadly categorized into two main declension patterns: strong and weak nouns. These declension patterns are further divided into smaller groups based on factors such as sound shifts and consonant clusters. Nouns in Icelandic have four cases: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. To understand the declension patterns, it is essential to first comprehend these cases.

Strong Nouns

Strong declension nouns have their root ending in a consonant. Strong declension can be further grouped into several subcategories based on their gender and case patterns. S

Here are some general patterns for declension of strong nouns:

  • Masculine: -ar/-ir, -ar/-ir, -um/-um, -s/-ja
  • Feminine: -ur/-ir, -ur/-ir, -um/-um, -ar/-na
  • Neuter: usually have no ending or have a final accented vowel

These strong declension patterns exhibit various changes in endings based on their case and gender.

Weak Nouns

Unlike strong nouns, the root of weak declension nouns typically ends with a vowel. The specific declension patterns depend on the gender and case of the noun. It is important to note that there is no way to predict how a noun will be declined. The group to which a noun belongs is defined by the declension endings in the genitive singular and nominative plural.

Here are some general patterns for weak noun declension:

    • Masculine: -i/-ar, -a/-a, -a/-um, -a/-na
    • Feminine: -a/-ur, -u/-ur, -u/-um, -u/-na
    • Neuter: -i/-i, -i/-i, -i/-um, -i/-ja

Weak nouns exhibit their own set of changes in endings based on case and gender, which learners need to memorize individually.

Irregular Nouns

In Icelandic, some nouns deviate from the standard declension patterns and are classified as irregular nouns. These nouns take unique forms and may be affected by I-shift. While the following examples provide an overview of common irregular nouns in Icelandic, it is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list.

Irregular nouns in Icelandic can be found across all genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter) and may appear in each of the four cases (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive). Their non-standard patterns of inflection contribute to the distinctive characteristics of the Icelandic language.

Here are a few examples of Icelandic irregular nouns:

  • faðir (father)
  • kærasti (boyfriend)
  • móðir (mother)
  • vín (wine)
  • andri (wild goose)

When learning Icelandic, it is essential to familiarize oneself with these irregular nouns and their declensions, as they are frequently used in everyday conversation. Both native speakers and language learners alike should recognize and master the irregular patterns to become proficient in Icelandic.

Definite and Indefinite Forms

Icelandic nouns differ in their usage of definite and indefinite forms. Unlike English, Icelandic does not use an indefinite article, such as “a” or “an”. However, it does have a definite article, which is usually attached to the end of a word.

The definite article in Icelandic takes on a different ending depending on the gender, number, and case of the noun it is attached to. This results in the definite article appearing in various forms:

  • Masculine: -inn, -inum, -ins, -ina
  • Feminine: -in, -inni, -innar, -ina
  • Neuter: -ið, -inu, -ins, -ið

As an example, the Icelandic word for “book” is “bók”. In its indefinite form, it simply remains as “bók”. However, in the definite form, the appropriate ending for a feminine noun in the nominative case is added: “bókin” (the book).

The absence of an indefinite article in Icelandic may be unusual to English speakers, but context usually makes it clear when an indefinite noun is intended. For example, “Ég keypti bók” can be understood as “I bought a book” because the lack of a definite article implies the indefinite form.

Possessive Forms

In Icelandic, possessive pronouns usually follow the noun they modify, and the noun is typically in its definite form. This can be observed in sentences like “Þetta er jakkinn minn” (This is my jacket) or “Er þetta húsið þitt?” (Is this your house?). Occasionally, the possessive pronoun may appear before the noun for emphasis, in which case the noun is indefinite.

Possessive pronouns agree in gender, number, and case with the noun they modify. Icelandic nouns have four cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative. In addition to these case forms, nouns can be masculine, feminine, or neuter, and they can be singular or plural.

Here is a table of the possessive pronouns in Icelandic and their various forms:

my (singular)minnmínmitt
my (plural)mirminarmin
your (singular)þinnþínþitt
your (plural)ykkarylarykki
its (singular)sittsínsil
its (plural)sysinsil

When forming sentences with possessive pronouns, it is important to keep in mind the gender, number, and case of the noun being modified. For example, “peninginn hans” means “his money,” where “hans” agrees with the masculine gender of “peninginn.”

Compound Nouns

Compound nouns are formed by combining two or more words together to create a new meaning. In Icelandic, compound nouns are common and can help to avoid ambiguity and express complex ideas. Just like in English, Icelandic compound nouns can describe various concepts such as places, things, people, or abstract ideas.

Icelandic compound nouns can be divided into three main categories: genitive singular, genitive plural, and stem compounds. Genitive singular and genitive plural compounds use the genitive case to show possession or association between the combined words. For example, the Icelandic word “hundakofi” (doghouse) is a genitive singular compound, while the word “slökkviliðsmaður” (fireman) is a stem compound.

When forming compound nouns in Icelandic, it is important to consider the root forms of the words being combined. The word’s form may change depending on its position within the compound. The Icelandic grammar also dictates the appropriate endings and inflections, as seen in the word “vindmylla” (windmill), which is a genitive plural compound noun.

While creating compound nouns in Icelandic, following the grammatical structure and understanding the role of each word within the compound is crucial for conveying the intended meaning. Moreover, being familiar with the genitive case and the relevant endings for compound nouns can greatly enhance one’s command of the language.


In summary, Icelandic nouns play a critical role in the language’s inflection system, with three grammatical genders, four cases, and various declension paradigms for strong and weak nouns. Understanding these will improve comprehension and usage of the Icelandic language.

When learning Icelandic nouns, it’s essential to recognize the importance of gender, as each noun has a specific gender assignment: masculine, feminine, or neuter. The gender influences the noun’s behavior in terms of inflections and agreement with other parts of speech.

Additionally, Icelandic has four cases: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. These cases dictate how nouns function in sentences and must be considered when learning the language.

Furthermore, mastering the declension paradigms for strong and weak nouns will enhance a learner’s ability to effectively use Icelandic in everyday conversations and written communication. Practice and exposure to the language is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of Icelandic nouns and their various intricacies.