Geatish hero in the epic poem named after him, one of the oldest surviving pieces of beowulf english translation pdf in the English language. A number of origins have been proposed for the name Beowulf. Henry Sweet, a philologist and early linguist specializing in Germanic languages, proposed that the name Bēowulf literally means in Old English “bee-wolf” or “bee-hunter” and that it is a kenning for “bear”.
This etymology is mirrored in recorded instances of similar names. Biuuuwulf is recorded as a name in the AD 1031 Liber Vitae. The name is attested to a monk from Durham and literally means bee wolf in Northumbrian. The 11th century English Domesday Book contains a recorded instance of the name Beulf.
A scholar named Sarrazin also suggested that the name Beowulf was derived from a mistranslation of Böðvarr where -varr was interpreted as vargr meaning “wolf”. However, this etymology was questioned by Sophus Bugge, who instead suggested that the personage Böðvarr Bjarki was derived from Beowulf. English philologist Walter William Skeat proposed an etymological origin in a term for “Woodpecker” citing the Old Dutch term biewolf for the bird.
Skeat states that the black woodpecker is common in Norway and Sweden and further reasons that the “indominatable nature” and that the “bird fights to the death” could have potentially influenced the choice of the name. This etymological origin has been criticized as not being in accordance to Grimm’s law and Skeat may have recanted the proposal at a later date. The editors of Bosworth’s monumental dictionary of Anglo-Saxon propose that Beowulf is a variant of beado-wulf meaning “war wolf” and that it is cognate with the Icelandic Bodulfr which also means “war wolf”.
Scholars have long debated the origins of the character Beowulf. Some have argued that Beowulf existed in heroic-legendary tradition prior to the composition of Beowulf, while others have believed that the Beowulf poet invented his Geatish protagonist. Beowulf existed well before the composition of our extant poem.