VIKING NORSE LOAN WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Most of us have probably heard about the Vikings plundering in England. The English people were not only affected by the warfare of the Vikings but also their the Viking impact on English language. The trading and raiding were not the main source of the loan words that came into the English language but the settlement, conquering and ruling from the Danish Vikings. Anglo Saxons and Danes lived together for centuries in England, especially in the north where York was conquered around 866.  So how many are the loan words from Old Norse (mostly Danish) in English? According to the language learning company Babbel it is at least 139 words so we are likely talking about hundreds of words.

Babbel have chosen to not focus specifically on any words so I will link to their words and then write some more about a few of them. https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/139-norse-words

First of all. The names for the weekdays come from the Nordic-Germanic mythology.

Monday means the day of the Moon.

Tuesday means the day of the Tyr, a war-god in the mythology that lost his hand to the Fenrir Wolf.

Wednesday means the day of Odin, the high god in the mythology.

Thursday is the day of Thor, God of thunder and lightning.

Friday refers to Freyja, a goddess of fertility and erotica who took fallen warriors to her hall. It is also suggested that it could be refering to Frigg, the wife of Odin.

Interesting Viking Norse loan words to English

 

Berserker (Old Norse: berserkr)

 

The berserkers was a specific warrior type that were famed for their bravery (or foulness to some) in battle. They put themselves into a rage before charging on the enemy with full force. The word berserkers is separated in to “ber” and “serk”. Ber meaning “bear” and “serkr”  “chemise”. Historians think berserks hade chemises made of bear skin.

More on berserks – Article from Norweigan historian Kim Hjardar


yule(Old Norse: jol)

The modern Swedish and Danish word for the Christian christmas is “jul”. This go back to when “christmas” was a pagan holiday at the time of the winter solstice. It is believed to have been a feast to the high God Odin.

 

window – vindauga (lit. “wind-eye”)

Gunnes Gård - Viking farm and a outdoor museum.
Gunnes Gård – Viking farm and a outdoor museum. The “vindauga” is the opening just below the top of the roof in the center. Picture: Upplands Väsby municipitality.

 

The English word window had a complete different meaning in the Danish language. A “window” or vindauga was not an opening in the wall covered by glass. Instead it was an opening in the gable under the roof. This “eye” of the “wind”. (“ow”/”auga” means eye) was used to lead out smoke from the buildings and they were probably closed by a wooden lock.

lad – ladd (young man)

 

The word lad is today commonly used in the North English and Scottish English language, but it is originally Danish.

Source: Online Etymology

oaf – alfr (elf)Elfs, Viknings in England. Danish influence on English culture.

 

The elves are of course a famous part of both Scandinavian and English folklore traditions.

The bigger impact of the Old Norse on regional English dialects

Old Norse has affected all of the English language but the presence of loan words and other words of more distant Old Norse origin is bigger in the Yorkshire region that was in the Danelaw for around 100 years. York were conquered by Danish Vikings in year 865-867 and the Danish control of the York area was once and for all put to an end 954 but the Dane Sweyn II tried to take the English crown in 1069. He is not the only one to try this though, nor before or after his own attempt. Harald Hardrada tried in 1066 but failed at Stamford Bridge and the last serious attempt failed in 1085.

 

england 878 danelaw viking history tours
Political Map of England from year 878. A modern version of England-878ad.jpg made using Inkscape. Source: England and Wales at the time of the Treaty of Chippenham (AD 878). From the Atlas of European History, Earle W Dowe (d. 1946), G Bell and Sons, London, 1910 

By Hel-hama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

More Sources and Read more links:

Viking Words in English

Babbel – 139 Old Norse Words That Invaded The English Language

VikingNorse – Learn more about Viking language!

Tech Times – About the names of the Week Days.

Books: Attenborough, F.L. Tr., ed. (1922). The laws of the earliest English kings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 96–101. Retrieved 31 July 2013.

Sawyer, Peter (2001). The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings (3rd ed.). Oxford: OUP. pp. 17–18. ISBN 0-19-285434-8.

 

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