Subject: [Tweeters] Pronunciation of "gyr"
Date: Mon Nov 25 09:40:23 PST 2019
From: Bob Sundstrom - ixoreus at

The etymology of the "gyr" in gyrfalcon isn't fully clear. Some sources say it comes from the Old Norse for spear, others the Old High German or Old French for vulture. And it's possible the connection to "gyre", meaning to circle, came later in the word's history.

While leading a birding tour in Iceland, I learned from my Icelandic co-leader (who felt that the "gyr" in the falcon's name meant spear) that the Icelandic pronunciation (which is essentially Old Norse) is "gire" (with a hard "g" and rhyming with "fire").

I think it's fascinating that this bird name has such a rich history. And we haven't even entered the debate about how best to pronounce "falcon".

Bob Sundstrom
Lead Writer, BirdNote

Sent from my iPhone

> On Nov 24, 2019, at 8:18 PM, kelsberg <kelsberg at> wrote:


> I had heard that "gyr" meant "to circle", as in "gyrate" or "gyroscope", which would keep the "j" sound.


> Of course, when I want to get a photo of one they seem not to circle but take off in a fast flight!


> Gary Kelsberg

> Seattle

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