English Words with Old Norse Origin

Posted by Ms Elly on

English Words with Old Norse Origin

We owe the Vikings and Old Norse very much in the linguistic terms. Specifically, many of our English words that we use daily these days are derived from the Old Norse words. 

Days of the Week

We thank the Old Norse language for passing down the days of the week to our generation. Indeed, the days of the week were named after the names of many famous and important figures in Norse mythology. The most obvious Old Norse influence on English was Thursday which, you can guess, came from Thor's Day. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday were the days to honour Tyr, Odin (sometimes known as Woden), and Frigg respectively. Monday and Sunday were for the siblings known as Mani and Sol who rode the chariots carrying the Sun and the Moon through the skies. 


The thing that made the Viking famous the most was their obsession with war. And they did win overwhelmingly against their enemies. They did not spread death only to the land that they raided, but they brought cool words for war and destruction as well. So if you look at a Viking warrior a rangr (wrong) way, he will þrysta (thrust) a knifr into your skulle

English Old Norse Meaning
berserk berserkr "bear-skin". The Viking warrior who joined the battles armourless and worshipped Odin (See Viking Berserkers)
club clubb heavy and blunt weapon
gun gunn originated from female name Gunnhildr "War and Battle"
ransack rannsaka to search a house
scathe skaða to injure


Society and Culture

English Old Norse Meaning 
bylaw bylög Village-law
Hell Hel Loki's daughter who presided over the land of the dead
husband húsbóndi hús (house) + bondi (occupier of the land)
skill skil distinction
steak steik to fry
thrall þræll slave (See Viking Social Structure)



English Old Norse  Meaning
anger angr trouble, affliction
awe agi terror. Symbol Helm of Awe was also the Aegishjalmur
happy happ good luck, fate
irk yrkja to work



English Old Norse Meaning
bug búkr an insect with tree trunks
bull boli
reindeer hreindyri
skate skata fish
wing vængr

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