I'm considering creating a fictional military organization designed in a highly organized and militarized manner such as you might find with the Norse of the 9th century... if the Norse had developed space flight, tanks, and powered armor.

Some quick research left me with the impression that the rank structure of the Norse was very simple: King, nobleman, freeman, and slave. Rather than have slaves, I'm going to use "thrall" as the rank for anyone who doesn't enter the military.

I found 3 cultural ranks that could be used: Jarl, Heisir and Thegn; and I'm considering as an example having a Jarl command 3 "boats" of 30 soldiers each, each boat is commanded by a Heisir, and each group of 10 soldiers are commanded by a Thegn.

My question is, are there other existing "ranks" or "honor names" (I'm looking for the words) that could be used as military rank in a similar way? Please remember, my basic groupings are king, noblemen, freemen, and thralls.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Reminder to close-voters: The problem cannot be fixed if the OP is not made aware of it. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Sep 25, 2017 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ That being said, the simple answer to your question is, "Yes." Anything more than that, such as defining other words, would be opinion-based. There is no objective way to rate one set of words over another. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Sep 25, 2017 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre I disagree, you can rate them by completeness (10 words are better than 1) and by accuracy (saying that Legionnaire was a Viking rank is worse then saying that Huskarl is). But it is still probably not a great fit for Stack Exchange as the best answer should be a combination of all answers given and that's not how the site works. $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2017 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ @worldbuilding I understand that the question is on the border to off topic. Soldiers will have a civilian life and would only rally after a thing or in time of need. The rank also shows their responsibility in the civilian life. Is a Jarl a major or a CO of a large company? Is a Hird a worker or foreman or the XO of a small company? $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2017 at 7:59

2 Answers 2


You've got the main ones I think but here's a list of some others (as well as some anglicised versions of ones you've already got which might be more familiar to people).

Jarl - Earl - Generally a nobleman or person of high standing.
Heisir - Hersir - Lesser nobility and landowners. Probably somewhat equivalent to medieval knights in a feudal system.
Thegn - Thane - Similar to Jarls, a type of nobleman, usually in service to the King.
King - Konungr - The head of state, fairly self explanatory.
Karl - Literally means man but could also mean something like servant.
Huskarl - House man, a term often used for soldiers sworn to someone's service (like a nobleman's guard)
Dreng - Drengr - A soldier or warrior, usually someone who is courageous or daring.
Hird - "an informal retinue of personal armed companions" but came to mean the king's guard or household.
Skald - A poet or bard
Thrall - Slave
Berserker - Champion warriors who fight in a trance like state.
Úlfhéðnar - Ulfsark - Berserkers who wore wolfskins instead of bearskins.
Einherjar - The chosen of the gods, dead warriors taken to Valhalla to feast with Odin until Ragnarok.

There's also a whole host of mythological terms and beings whose names you could use. I'll list those too if they are of interest.

As for the rank structure, 3 (and its multiples) was a very special and symbolic number in Viking culture so that would certainly make sense. I would say the Heisir / Hersir would be equivalent to a captain and would command a ship. I would then place Jarls above them as you have, commanding either 3 or 9 ships but I would probably put the Thegns above them as they are usually referred to as more directly responsible to the King.

  • $\begingroup$ Awesome! There's a bit more discussion of some of these titles at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikings#Everyday_life $\endgroup$
    – CaM
    Sep 26, 2017 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ @CaM That's a good reference too for more detail about the different ranks and roles. $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2017 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ By mirroring etymology, karl or huskarl would be equivalent of sergeant. $\endgroup$
    – M i ech
    Sep 27, 2017 at 11:51

@adaliabooks The input of 3 and 9 was very important - I did not recognized the strong emphasis on those numbers. Although it should be obviously 3 norns, 9 worlds...

  • recruits, conscripts, convicts are considered as Thralls
  • Enlisted are Karls or Huskarls
  • Non-commisioned Officer is a Hirdmen
  • Company Officier is a Hersir
  • Field Officer is a Jarl
  • General Officier is a Hertogi or Konungr

In structure:

  • 1 Brigade = Konungr
  • 3 Regiments = Hertogi
  • 3 Battalions = Jarl
  • 3 Companys = Hersir
  • 3 Platoons = Hird
  • 3 Squads = Drengr
  • 3 Points = Kertilsveinr

Its possible that a battalion CO is a Jarl and the XO is a Jarl too but both men and of course the men in the battalion should know who is superior. When they meet with other troops the senior might carry a symbol like a cord or seax.

Other terms like Einherjar or Berserker might be used for specialists or are honor titles like Thegn, Skald or Vaeringi.

  • $\begingroup$ Sounds very plausible to me. I imagine Berserkers might be something akin to Marines (i.e. the people who actually do the boarding rather then the crew of the ship, though in Viking terms they would be one and the same the crew of a space ship aren't likely to all attack in a boarding action or when assaulting by land). I agree the others make good honour titles, like medals or British knighthoods... and 3 and 9 are very important and symbolic, there are a whole host of things in Viking Mythology that revolve around either number. $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2017 at 10:01
  • $\begingroup$ I'm a bit of a Viking buff and have developed a couple of worlds inspired by their cultures so this kind of thing appeals greatly to me. $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2017 at 10:02

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