This came up on a Facebook group and I realized I just sort of assumed everyone knew how to say it. Being English speakers we don’t have a native way of writing or saying the compound word. For us, it’s a loan word that we got from Iceland back in the 1970′s. First, a little history on it and then on to the fun of language games!
We all know that there isn’t an ancient name for our faith, so where does the word come from? It is a compound word meaning “Faith in the Æsir” and was created by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg for his unfinished opera, “Olav Trygvason,” in the late 1880s. The piece it appears in is called “Evige Åsatro,” or “Eternal Åsatro.” For you heavy metal fans out there, this is where the name of the band come from. So, just how do we actually say it? I’ve made a small list that covers the Scandinavian languages that you might find helpful. I’ve tried to make the phonetic guide as easy to understand as possible but that’s no small task! All of these are based on what Google Translate pronounces the words as, so if there is an error, please let me know. I spent a lot of time playing and replaying the spoken guide and I believe I’ve gotten them pretty spot on. In other words, blame Google (everyone else does)!
Denmark: Asatro – AY-sah-troo
The first and second syllables sound a lot like “ace-uh” and the last syllable was a bit tricky to make out and might be a little off.
Norway: Åsatro – OH-sa-troo
The trick here is to make an A sound through O lips. This is not a sound English speakers are going to be familiar with and it takes some real practice.
Swedish: Asatro – AH-sah-troo
This is actually rather straight forward with no real tricks and should be pretty easy to say.
Icelandic: Ásatrú – OWS-ah-troo
To the best of my knowledge, the first S properly belongs in the first syllable and not the second. This is different from Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish.
Old Norse: Ásatrú – AHS-ah-troo
It should be noted that this is only a pronunciation exercise. The word doesn’t exist in Old Norse. The leading syllable is a slightly longer sound to the one found in modern Swedish and a little like “Say aaah” at the doctor but not quite sos sustained. You wil also notice that the first S is part of the first syllable as in Icelandic.
One of the things you will notice for all of them is that the first syllable is the stressed syllable. This would make the commonly spoken American English “uh-SAH-troo” way off the mark.
I find it funny that almost all of these sounds are made by English speakers in their pronunciation as well as different ones depending on syllable stress and placement. The truth is, there isn’t one way to say this and it’s just not worth getting your knickers in a bunch if someone says it in a way you don’t like. Sure, there are way that people say it that just make my ears bleed but since we don’t even have a single word we use to identify ourselves, it’s really only fitting that we don’t have a single way of saying the most commonly used word!
Edit: Reddit user Rense provided Azentrouw as the Dutch word. According to them, it should sound like “Ah-zun-trow.”