orf (OSw) urf (OSw) noun

The principal meaning is ‘creature’. It frequently, however, seems to have referred to an inheritance in movables rather than in land. In this context, the word was always coupled with a word meaning the latter in the alliterative expression arf ok orf. Here arf is a neuter form of the masculine noun arver (‘land; inheritance, birthright’). It has also been suggested that a different meaning of orf is involved in this expression, and that it is just an example of a parallelism, with orf containing its ON attested meaning, ‘scythe handle’, just indicating insignificant items of inheritance: an equivalent to the English ‘goods and chattels’. Schlyter links the word to Anglo-Saxon words referring to livestock, ‘creatures’, to distinguish movables from real estate (the birthright land). A similar meaning attaches to , which can be used to mean ‘money’ amongst other things. In UL the expression is used in particular in connection with situations in which inheritance might be disputed — posthumous children or those born out of wedlock — so the expression could well indicate that the child concerned was to inherit both land and movables, and not just the latter. The word occurs only in the laws of Svealand.

inheritance in movables OSw UL Äb
OSw VmL Äb


(taka) arf ok orf (OSw)

birthright and inheritance OSw UL Äb VmL Äb

inheritance OSw HL Äb

inheritance and birthright OSw DL Gb

inheritance in land and movables OSw SdmL Äb

right of inheritance and birthright OSw DL Kkb


KLNM, s.v. arv; Schlyter 1877, s.v. orf; SL UL, 83−84 note 39

  • ‘orf’. A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law.

  • http://www.dhi.ac.uk/lmnl/nordicheadword/displayPage/4044