Norwegian words in English: Viking

Photo: Ardfern / Wikimedia Commons Viking reenactors at the Magnus Barelegs Viking Festival in Northern Ireland in June 2012. Many Irish cities were Viking Age trading posts.

Photo: Ardfern / Wikimedia Commons
Viking reenactors at the Magnus Barelegs Viking Festival in Northern Ireland in June 2012. Many Irish cities were Viking Age trading posts.

M. Michael Brady
The Foreigner

The word Viking in English is a loanword from Norwegian and the other Scandinavian languages. Its origin remains uncertain.

In Scandinavia, it is popularly regarded to have been derived from vik, the word for bay or inlet, with the suffix -ing meaning “hailing from,” so the Vikings were the people who “came from the bays.”

The word may be older, though, as it appears in Anglo-Saxon glossaries of the early eighth century. If so, the Vikings might have owed their name to those they met abroad. During the Viking Era that began in AD 793 with the sacking of the monastery at Lindisfarne—a tidal island off the northeast coast of England—and ended in 1066 at the Battle of Stanford Bridge, the word Viking meant “people who travel by sea abroad on warlike expeditions.”

Though relatively short, the Viking Era is vital in the history of Norway. The country was pagan before it, and was divided into innumerable chiefdoms and small kingdoms. Norway was united under a King and the Christian Church when it ended.

Vikings’ voyages crossed the oceans to discover Iceland, Greenland, and North America, as well as southward and eastward to the Mediterranean Sea and up the Russian rivers to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The Vikings traded as they went; cities afar, such as Dublin and York, were Viking trading ports.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the Nov. 14, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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