Disputed, but almost certainly of Gothic origin. One common view as presented by Köbler (2014) is that it is borrowed from Gothic *𐌷𐌰𐌻𐌾𐍉𐍂𐌿𐌽𐌰 (*haljōrūna), from 𐌷𐌰𐌻𐌾𐌰 (halja, “netherworld, hell”) + 𐍂𐌿𐌽𐌰 (rūna, “secret, mystery, rune”). This would make it an exact cognate of Old English hellrūn (“sorceress”), and closely related to Old English hellrūna (“one adept in the mysteries of hell, sorcerer, necromancer”) as well as Old High German hellirūna (“necromancy, sorcery”).
A possible problem with this view which Köbler does not address is that there is no morphological indication (through a suffix or otherwise) that such a compound would refer to an agent instead of an abstract concept. After all, 𐍂𐌿𐌽𐌰 (rūna) simply means "mystery", not "one versed in mysteries" as one would expect given the meaning "witch". However, this is also true for the Old English cognate hellrūn, which despite an apparent lack of a suffix indicating an agent noun nonetheless means "sorceress". It may be a bahuvrihi compound, which would address this objection.
The above-mentioned reconstruction is rejected by Scardigli (1973), whose interpretation is shared by Lehmann (1986). Scardigli asserts that a reconstruction *𐌷𐌰𐌻𐌾𐌿𐍂𐌿𐌽𐌽𐌰 (*haljurunna) (from 𐌷𐌰𐌻𐌾𐌰 (halja) + *𐍂𐌿𐌽𐌽𐌰 (*runna)) would be more plausible. He argues that the geminated nn in the second element is not to be interpreted as a Latinization error. In his view, it is an accurate reflection of a Gothic agent noun derived from the verb 𐍂𐌹𐌽𐌽𐌰𐌽 (rinnan, “to run”), here taken to mean "to go". The proposed second element, *𐍂𐌿𐌽𐌽𐌰 (*runna), would thus be taken to mean "one who goes" (similar sense in Modern English runner). The entire compound would then mean "one who travels to the netherworld", referencing mythological or shamanistic journeys to Hel, of which there are parallels in Nordic mythology. He thus rejects an etymological connection to the Old English and Old High German terms.
- (Late Latin, hapax legomenon) Gothic witch or sorceress
- Mentioned once (in the acc. plural) in Jordanes' Getica (c. 550 AD), a history of the Goths, as a Gothic word for magas mulieres (“witches, literally 'magic women'”).
- Köbler, Gerhard, Gotisches Wörterbuch (4th ed., 2014)
- Lehmann, Winfred, A Gothic Etymological Dictionary (Leiden 1986)
- Scardigli, Piergiuseppe, Die Goten: Sprache und Kultur (München 1973) pp. 70-71.