The article is devoted to the study of the epic word on the example of O-Icel. hel ‘world of the dead; the dead-goddess’ in the Old Icelandic Elder Edda, used to nominate one of the most important loci of the mythopoetic model of the world, as well as its personification. The author focuses on the analysis of the context, on the basis of which it is possible to realize the main goal — to understand the principles of distribution of this lexeme in the Elder Edda. A multi-component analysis is used, taking into account statistical data (primarily the frequency of word usage), grammar (the case paradigm of the corresponding forms), morphology (types of combination of composite components), syntax (predicates that perform a number of functions), etymology capable of actualization in certain situations, mythology (attraction to certain mythologems, motives, plots or myths), poetics (alliteration, sound repetitions, anagrams) and extralinguistic aspect — connection with the “world of things.” Particular attention is paid to composites, which include O-Icel. hel as the first or second components, since it is in compound words that the semantic potential of this lexeme can be realized. It was found that O.-Icel. hel is opposed to the “world of the living” (O.-Icel. heimr), associated with the bottom, indicating the localization of hel, the way to get into the lower world (to kill) and the subjects that inhabit it (people), mainly performs the function of direction, combined with verbs of movement. A hypothesis is put forward about semantic evolution: locus (the underworld) > character (its owner), and the various stages of this process found in the Elder Edda are reconstructed. To determine the semantics of O.-Icel. hel, the anthropocentric factor acquires special significance, since the starting point is the “middle world” inhabited by people, in relation to which spatial reference points are used underneath and from here. Based on the Eddic facts, the extralinguistic specificity of the corresponding denotation as a fenced space with a gate is established. The affiliation of O.-Icel. hel with the sphere of funeral ritual and sacral terminology is verified.