10 Common English Words Originated From Vikings

Gone are the Viking glorious days. What we have now are archaeological remains and mythological texts. But the scholars don’t agree with this as they believe the Viking influence is far greater than those we have mentioned. The most outstanding example is English language and many of common English words originated from Vikings. In this blog post, we will discuss ten of them with the meanings behind them all.

Berserk

In English, “berserk” is an adjective presenting the state of super excited or angry in a violent way. This word comes from Old Norse word of “berserkr” which is probably a combination of “bjorn”/”birn” + “serkr”. This word means “bare shirt” or “bear shirt”. In the Viking Age, there were elite warriors who fought in a frenzy of violence. The scholars believed that the berserkers wore no armor (bare shirt) or wore only animal’s skin (bear shirt) and joined the battle. They either practiced bear cult and worshipped Odin the Allfather.

Viking berserker would join the combat without wearing any mail chain at all. They wore either bear skin or nothing.
Viking berserker would join the combat without wearing any mail chain at all. They wore either bear skin or nothing.

Egg

What comes first? Egg or chicken? This question has always been popular and attracted much attention. Every time you try to regard it as a stupid question, you realize it isn’t. If we are yet to figure out what comes first, we now learn that the word “egg” comes from the Vikings. Many scholars believe that this word comes from ” æg”

Husband

English word “husband” is a word coming from the Vikings. In Old Norse language, they had the word ” húsbóndi” which means the master of the house. Indeed, back to the Viking Age, although the women had their basic rights, the men were the main pillar that supported his family with food as much as possible. The women only took over when the men were away for raiding.

Thursday

Who do you think of if you happen to know that everyday’s name is to honor a god in Norse mythology? Indeed, Thursaday was the day for Thor Norse God of Thunder and Storm in Norse mythology. In Old Norse, they once had “thōrsdagr”.

Thor God of Thunder and Storm was honored with "Thursday"
Thor God of Thunder and Storm was honored with “Thursday”

Ugly

No one wants to be called “ugly” and so did the Vikings. In the Viking Age, if they wanted to insult someone, they would call that person “uggligr“. This “uggligr” word comes from “ugga” meaning “to fear”. If a Viking warrior wasn’t fiercesome enough, an ugly person was just enough to make a Vikings choke on the mead.

Window

A house without a window would never be an ideal place for any of us to live in. A window is a “wind-eye” stemming from the Old Norse word “vindauga“. It was actually a combination word of “vind” meaning “wind” and “auga” for “eye”. The Vikings viewed their house as a human body and every part of the house was closely connected with the body parts. And the window was the most shining example for this.

Gift

English word “gift” is also an example of Viking words. In Old Norse, they once had the word “gipt” which probably meant “to give”. Even if the wars were raging on, we still loved to exchange gift (give and receive). It is scientifically proved that we all love exchanging gift. So who still believed that the Vikings only went on raiding and pillaging?

Happy

Happiness is not only hard to measure but also difficult to measure. Even if you can explain it to yourself, chances are that you cannot explain it to everyone’s stratification. Basically, everyone is in pursuit of different life goals and that is why. But the scholars believe that the English word “happy” comes from Old Norse “happ” associating with “good fortune”. When Ragnar Lothbrok and his crew finally saw their fortune, they shouted “happ” !

When seeing a good fortune, Ragnar Lothbrok and his crew would yell "happ". English words originated from Vikings
When seeing a good fortune, Ragnar Lothbrok and his crew would yell “happ”

Blunder

English “blunder” joins the team of English words originated from Vikings. Old Norse language had “blundra” which meant to close your eyes to walk around banging into things. And the word “blunder” now we have means stupid mistake which shares that similar layer of meaning with the “blundra”.

Cake

Everyone loves cake. We usually prepare a cake to celebrate something, for example, a milestone in our life. Wedding, birthday, graduation, retirement, etc. always have a cake. Somehow a cake presents something with big meaning and happy atmosphere. The Vikings called their “cake” “kaka” which was quite small in size.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *