Home > Iceland > Eyjafjallajökull – a lesson in Icelandic and geology

Eyjafjallajökull – a lesson in Icelandic and geology


jökull is Icelandic for glacier. Glaciers do not erupt, volcanoes do.

The volcano underneath the glacier is called Eyjafjall. Note it’s Eyjafjall, not Eyjafjalla. Eyjafjalla is the genitive (possessive) plural form: Eyjafjallajökull literally means “eyja mountains’ (sic) glacier”. (Fjall is Icelandic for “mountain”, it is derived from the Old Norse, as is our English word “fell”. Eyja is Icelandic for “island”, it is derived from the Old Norse íeg as is our word “island” – which is why the “s” is not pronounced. “Ey” lives on in English placenames, such as Anglesey, Guernsey, Jersey and Sheppey.)

Talking about the Eyjafjallajökull eruption is not only inaccurate, it is also long-winded. Let’s be accurate and more concise and say “Eyjafjall”.

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  1. Apr 19, 2010 at 18:20

    Your tweet on the subject was in mind when I read this Q&A on the BBC News website:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8627253.stm

    Quote: “It’s the interaction of the molten rock, the magma, and the glacial ice which is causing the magma to cool very quickly and to be pulverised into tiny fragments of rock.”

    So, while the glacier isn’t causing the eruption, it does seem to be contributing to the size of the ash cloud. Not that this contradicts your point, just found it interesting is all!

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