Vikings bearing gifts

The history books we read in school characterise the Vikings as murderous raiders, pillaging, murdering, burning, looting… These things did happen, but it wasn’t just like that. Land-hungry people came in search of a better life for themselves and their families, and settled in different areas of the British isles.

They brought many things with them, culture, art… and language. Because Scandi films, TV series and books are so popular here, we are exposed to the cultures and languages of the different Scandinavian countries much more than we were a few years ago.

I am a big fan of such TV series as Forbrydelsen / The Killing, Borgen, Bron / Broen / The Bridge and 1864, and watch them, reading subtitles as I don’t understand the language… however, I am picking out different words which I can recognize. Some I recognize because they are said so often, some because they are similar to English words – and the reason they are similar is because the Vikings brought language with them – they gave us many words which are now commonplace in our everyday communications. Up to 20% of the 5,000 basic words of the English language are derived from Old Norse. The Viking Age is roughly from 793AD to the Norman Conquest, and in those 250 years they ruled much of Britain, chiefly the north and east.

Here’s a list of very common words whose origins lie on the tongues of the Vikings:

  • arm
  • bread
  • birth
  • bull
  • calf
  • cow
  • crawl
  • die
  • drag
  • egg
  • farewell
  • harbour
  • hit
  • horse
  • husband
  • knife
  • knot
  • land
  • law
  • leg
  • loan
  • loft
  • low
  • man
  • ride
  • root
  • ship
  • sister
  • skill
  • skin
  • skirt
  • sky
  • starboard
  • time
  • weak
  • white
  • window
  • wise
  • wrong

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