Tyra, Týr

  • Gender: Feminine
  • Origin: Old Norse
  • Meaning: debated; theorized
  • Eng (TYE-ruh); Swe/Nor (TUEW-rah).

Surely you must think of the beautiful runway model, Tyra Banks, host of the Tyra Banks Show and America’s Next Top Model. When in Sweden or Norway, where the name is prevalent, an anglophone would not recognize the name by ear. Pronounced something like Teuw-rah, the name is actually of very ancient origins, a survivor of the original Indo-European language, Tyra is a feminine form of Tyr. Tyr itself, is a derivative of the ancient Germanic Tiwaz*.

In Norse Mythology, Tyr was the one handed god who got his hand bit off by the Fenrir wolf. He was revered as the god of single handed combat, victory, glory and honesty. According to the Icelandic Prose Eddas and the Poetic Eddas, he is either the son of Odin or Hymir. In the language of Old Norse, the word tyr was possibly synonymous with the word god, as tyr is found in many Norse poems and kennings as a poetic term for a god, referring either to Odin or Thor.
Scholars tend to believe that Tyr/Tiwas was a far more important god than he is portrayed in ancient Norse religion. Before the Migration Age, he was possibly the head of an Indo-European pantheon. In fact, it is suggested by archaeologists and anthropologists that his original name was*Dyeus. It is theorized that he later evolved into the Germanic Tiwas or Tyr, the Greek Zeus, and the Latin word for a god in general, Deus. Lingusts suggest that *Dyeus is related to a Pre-Indic root, deywos, which possibly means: “celestial being.” Even more fascinating is that the Sankrit word deva: “god” is closely related. After the varying Indo-European tribes separated and became more distinct from each other, Tiwas or Tyr became relegated in power under both Odin/Wodin and Thor. In other Germanic religions, he appears as Tiw, Tuisto, Teiws and Ziu. In the ancient Rune alphabet, the t-rune, named by modern scholars as the Tiwaz rune, is believed to have been associated with the above mentioned god. The rune looks very much like an arrow pointing upward.
He even survives in modern English lexicon. Our very own name of the week: Tuesday is from the Anglo-Saxon meaning “Tiu’s Day” Tiu being the Anglo-Saxon form of Tyr. The name also survives in many modern English, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, German and Icelandic place names.

While Tyr has fallen out of usage, its feminine counterpart, Tyra, is still quite common in Sweden. She ranked in at # 43 in Sweden Top 100 Female Names of 2007. Meanwhile, in the States, despite the recognition of Tyra Banks, she was last seen in 2007, where she ranked in at a measly 939. As of last year of 2008, she completely fell out of the top 1000. In Sweden, the designated name day is September 12th.
So before you think of American Pop Culture when hearing the name Tyra, think twice, as the name actually has a primordial and colourful past.

1 thought on “Tyra, Týr

  1. Thank you for this! I live in the States, and my name is Tyra, pronounced the Nordic way (although with an American accent the first vowel sounds sort of like a short rhotic vowel i). When people say the name (like Tyra Banks’ name) with that long vowel ‘Y’, I cringe. To me, that’s a mispronunciation. I’m sure she doesn’t feel that way, but I do prefer the proper Nordic pronunciation!

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