Ettins in the D&D universe are described as giants which have two heads, and this has carried over to many different games that draw from the D&D lore, for example Dwarf Fortress and many roguelikes.

However, the original etymology for the word doesn't imply any dicephalous nature of the giants, and I was unable to find an earlier citation that described ettins with two heads.

Was the description of ettins having two heads based on Norse (or any other) mythology?

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ettin does it exist?
    – bleh
    Jul 4, 2016 at 22:21
  • @bleh What exactly are you pointing to? I already saw the Wikipedia link but didn't find it relevant to the question.
    – March Ho
    Jul 4, 2016 at 22:27

1 Answer 1


I always thought (and maybe I was wrong) ettin was a corruption of or derived from Jotun, the original name for Norse Frost Giants; many of which had multiple heads though how many one had often varied with the individual (from a book I once read concerning Norse trolls, a Frost Giant having as many as five hundred heads was not impossible).

  • Do you have a reference for the 500-headed frost giant?
    – March Ho
    Jul 5, 2016 at 6:58
  • @March Ho- I think it was D'Aulaire's Book of Trolls (I was around twelve when I read it so I might be mistaken, but I do recall the authors' name had a D'-something). Jul 5, 2016 at 17:57

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