For a more indepth look at the influence of Old Norse on the English language take a look at the series: How Vikings Changed the English Language: Intro
The English language has certainly been a heavy influence on many languages around the world – including modern Norwegian. Thanks to ‘internationalisation’ from the Internet, TV and film, Norwegians frequently use words like baby, drink, cool, jeans, web and chips – to name a few.
But once upon a time it was the other way around. Many English words actually come from old Norse language – brought by Vikings to England in medieval times. Here are some words you have probably uttered without realising you are speaking Norwegian!
- Anger – from angr (“trouble, affliction”)
- Bag – from baggi. Norwegians use the word bag today but, ironically, with an English pronounciation. The word has actually been re-imported from English!
- Berserk – from berserkr (“bare shirt”). Fierce warriors who fought without armour (and ate magic mushrooms for courage).
- Crawl – from krafla (“to claw”).
- Dirt – from drit (“feces”).
- Gun – from gunn (“war, battle”)
- Hell – from Hel, the ruler of the Underworld in Norse mythology.
- Hit – from hitta (“find”). Another example of a re-imported word.
- Husband – from husbondi (“master of the house”).
- Knife – from kniv, kvifr. You may have guessed this one already. In fact, any word starting with kn- is probably from old Norse.
- Raft – from raptr (“log”). Today we use the (English) word rafting in Norway when talking about the popular sport.
- Reindeer – from hreindyri. In modern Norwegian: reinsdyr.
- Scare – from skirra (“to frighten”).
- Steak – from steik, steikja (“to cook, roast”). Curiously, the word steak house is common in Norway today.
- Town – from tun, referring to the open space between buildings.
- Ugly – from uggligr (“dreadful”).
There you have it – no need for a dictionary when travelling in Norway. All you need to do is roll your R’s and you’ll be speaking Norwegian fluently!
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