noun | masculine | the indefinite form: en åre (a åre) | the definite form: åren (the åre) | comes from the Old Norse word árinn.
What does the word mean?
In this context, the word åre means an open fireplace, placed on the floor in the middle of the room. The word åre can in other contexts also mean an oar, a vein, and more.
Similar or related words
Peis: is the most common word used today for an open indoor fireplace. The difference between an åre and a peis is that the peis has a chimney.
Arne, grue, ildsted: are all words with a similar meaning to that of åre and peis.
More on the historical context
Single-storey log houses
All through the Middle Ages – and in certain parts of Norway well into the 1700s – the typical farmhouse was a single-storey log building with no windows and an open fireplace in the centre of the room, an åre. This type of building is called an årestue. Many of the early emigrants who left Norway for North America during the second half of the 1800s and the early 1900s knew such buildings.
A transparent cow’s stomach
The årestue has an earthen or stone floor, and the smoke from the fire rises to the upper part of the room and escapes through a vent in the roof, a ljore. The only natural light comes through the smoke vent, which in earlier times consisted of a transparent cow’s stomach stretched over a wooden frame, or it comes through the entrance door.
Old houses got a new purpose
When people started building houses with chimneys and the type of open fireplaces that we know today, the peis, the old årestue was often kept and used for other purposes, for when a fire was needed: the brewing of beer, large-scale cooking and baking, doing the laundry during winter, et cetera. The building was then often referred to as an eldhus, bryggerhus, and more.
A chimney allowed more floor-levels
The introduction of the chimney also meant that people could build houses with a loft or a first floor.
Expanded and changed
The original årestue is sometimes also part of a house that has since been expanded and changed.
Examples from books and stories
Jacob Breda Bull Eline Vangen 1937
→ Men Trond Vangen gikk bort til åren og tendte på pipen sin.
→ But Trond Vangen went over to the åre and lit his pipe.
Leif Frantzen Flammer i hodet 2000
→ Om dagen er alle opptatt med sitt, og om kvelden er det trivelig å samles omkring åren og prate om dagens mange små hendelser.
→ During the day, everyone is busy with their many chores, and in the evening it is nice to gather around the åre to talk about the day’s many small events.
Sources: Nasjonalbiblioteket nb.no | Einar Haugen’s Norwegian-English dictionary | Det Norske Akademis ordbok | Bokmålsordboka and Nynorskordboka.