Old Norse anger

Words about words

anger

Photo: Public domain
Creation of the Sun and the Moon, Michelangelo’s fresco on Sistine Chapel ceiling, depicts God’s anger. The biblical use of the word brought it into common usage.

M. Michael Brady

The word anger, a noun and a verb in modern English, retains the sense and usage of two Old Norse words from which it descends, the noun, angr, meaning “trouble” or “affliction,” and the verb angr-a, meaning “grieve” or “vex.” It first appeared ca. 1200 in English in the works of Ormin, a monk of the order of Saint Augustine who lived in the Danish territory of England in the northeastern part of the former Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia (existed 527-879 CE).

The scriptural appearance of the word anger led to it becoming part of mainstream vernacular. In the New International Version of the Bible, anger appears twice in the Book of Isaiah, the first of the Major Prophets in the Christian Old Testament and the first of the Latter Prophets of the Hebrew Bible.

In Isaiah 54-8, The Lord remarks:

“‘In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord your Redeemer.”

And in Isaiah 54-9, The Lord remarks that: “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.”

Michelangelo’s Creation of the Sun and the Moon, part of the fresco painted between 1508 and 1512 on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, often accompanies text mentions of the anger of the Lord.

M. Michael Brady was educated as a scientist and, with time, turned to writing and translating.

This article originally appeared in the June 14, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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