AskDefine | Define flyting

User Contributed Dictionary



From flyte.


  1. Contention, noisy argument.
  2. Scolding, rebuke.
  3. A poetic contest of insults or invective.
    • 2007: Rival poets in Scotland exchanged flytings that were packed with riddling conceits — Marina Warner, ‘Doubly Damned’, London Review of Books 29:3, p. 26

Extensive Definition

Flyting is a contest of insults, often conducted in verse. The word has been adopted by social historians from Scots usage of the fifteenth and sixteenth century in which makars (makaris) would engage in public verbal contests of high-flying, extravagant abuse structured in the form of a poetic joust; the classic written example is The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie. The convention can be detected earlier in the confrontation of Beowulf and Unferth.
In Norse and Germanic cultures, flytings are used as either a prelude to battle or as a form of combat in their own right. The exchange is regular, if not ritualized, and the insults usually center on accusations of cowardice or sexual impropriety or perversion. Several poems of Norse Mythology contain many flytings or consist solely of flytings, including the Eddic poem Lokasenna, wherein Loki insults the Norse gods in the hall of Aegir, told by Snorri Sturluson.
Hilary Mackie has detected in the Iliad a consistent differentiation between representations in Greek of Achaean and Trojan speech, where Achaeans repeatedly engage in public, ritualized abuse: "Achaeans are proficient at blame, while Trojans perform praise poetry" (Mackie 1998:83).
Flytings existed in Arabic poetry in a popular form called naqa'id. Taunting songs are part of Inuit village culture. Flyting is similar in both form and function to the modern African American practice of the dozens and freestyle battles.


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