The English language is full of words and phrases that have their origins in Viking culture. From place names to terms for common objects, the influence of the Norse people can be seen throughout the English language. In this article, we will explore some of the most common English words and phrases that are named after Viking gods, and not only.
Who were the Viking gods, and what are their names?
Viking gods were the gods and goddesses worshiped by the Vikings. Viking mythology comes from the Norse sagas and Eddas, written down in the 13th century. There are many different gods in Scandinavian culture, with different roles. Here are some of the most common Scandinavian gods.
The most famous Viking god is Odin, the god of war and wisdom. Interestingly, he gave his name as Wednesday. The chief god has two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who fly around the world and tell him what they see. He also has a magical spear called Gungnir. The Allfather Odin had many sons, but Thor and Loki were the most recognizable.
Another well-known Viking god is Thor. He is the god of thunder and carries a hammer called Mjolnir. Whenever Thor throws his hammer, it always comes back to him. Thor was believed to be very strong, but not very smart.
Loki is a Norse mythology figure known for his trickery and cunning. He is often depicted as a mischievous god who causes chaos and disruption. Loki is also responsible for creating the first woman, named jötunn. In many ways, Loki embodies the qualities of the ideal Viking warrior: he is brave, fearless, and resourceful.
Freya was also widely worshiped by Nordic nations. In Viking mythology, Freya is the goddess of love, beauty, fertility, war, and death. She is also the sister of Frey, the god of sunshine and summer. Her name means “lady” in Old Norse. Freya is a Vanir goddess, one of the two groups of gods in Norse mythology. The other group is the Aesir. The Vanir are associated with nature, wildness, and fertility. They are often depicted as being more beautiful than the Aesir.
A list of modern English words named after Viking gods
Odin: a god of war and death who was also the ruler of the Norse pantheon. His name is the root of many English words, including “odd,” “outside,” and “ode.”
Thor: the god of thunder, was often depicted as wielding a hammer. His name is the root of many English words, including “thunder,” “Thursday,” and “tornado.”
Freya: the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. Her name is the root of many English words, including “fragrant,” “freyja,” and “fruitful.”
Loki: the god of mischief, from whom we get our word “logarithm.”
Frigg: the goddess of marriage, from whom we get the words “Friday” and “friggatriskaidekaphobia” (the fear of Friday the 13th)
Ymir: a giant. Norse mythology also includes a giant named Ymir. His name is the root of the English word “yawn.” Maybe when you yawn, you’re thinking of those huge giants!
Viking vocabulary: Popular English terms derived from old Norse words
The English language is full of words and phrases that have their origins in Viking culture. Even today, many of these terms are still used in everyday conversation. Here are a few examples of common Viking vocabulary that you might be surprised to learn are derived from Viking words.
“Berserk” is a word often used to describe someone acting in a wild and uncontrollable manner. This term comes from the Old Norse word “berserkr,” which means “a wild warrior or fighter.”
“Bylaw” is another common English word that has its roots in Viking culture. This term was initially used to describe the laws set by Norse chieftains.
“Fjord” is a type of inlet or bay found along the coastlines of Norway and other Nordic countries. The word “fjord” is derived from the Old Norse word “fjörðr.” A fjörðr was a narrow sea inlet, especially one with steep sides or cliffs, as typically found in Norway. The word entered English in the late 19th century.
“Bacon” is a word that comes from the Old Norse word bakki, which meant “back meat.”
“Skald” is among the Viking terms for a poet or storyteller, derived from the Old Norse “skald,” meaning “maker of verses.”
If you’re feeling particularly “ugly” today, don’t worry, it’s just a word derived from Old Norse ugga, meaning “fear or dread.” This word was used to describe the appearance of trolls and other mythical creatures.
Another common English word with Viking origins is “window.” The Old Norse word for the window was “vindauga,” which means “wind eye.
If you enjoy a good tipple, you can thank the Vikings for your alcoholic beverage of choice. The word “ale” derives from the Old Norse “öl.” This was originally a fermented drink made from wheat or barley, but it now refers to any alcoholic beverage in English.
Husky is another word derived from the Old Norse húskarl, meaning “household guard” or “servant.” Huskies were strong and loyal dogs used by the Vikings for hunting and transportation.
If you’re a winter sports fan, you might be surprised to learn that the word “ski” comes from Old Norse. Skiing was a popular pastime among the Vikings, leaving their mark on the English language. Ski is just one of many English words that come from Old Norse.
The final thoughts
The Norse influence on the English language is evident in many ways, with multiple Viking words in English. We can see how the Vikings shaped the English language by studying Old English texts and place names. There are many Norse words in English with roots in Old Norse, mainly since the two languages have a shared history. So next time you’re using common English words like a window, ski, or bacon, remember that you’re using terms that were once spoken by Viking raiders!