Posted by: Jack Henry | August 1, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Old Norse, Part II

Yesterday, we had a little bit of history about the Vikings and Old Norse words that we use in English. Today I have the remainder of the article for you (minus most of the writer’s extra comments) from Daily Writing Tips:

Old Norse Words That Meant Something Slightly Different

English word, with original Old Norse meaning

  • anger – trouble, affliction, which can make a person angry
  • bait – snack, food eaten at work. Now means food used to catch fish, wild animals, and susceptible people.
  • bask – similar to the Old Norse word meaning “to bathe”
  • berserk – either from bear-shirt (frenzied warriors wearing a bearskin shirt) or bare-shirt (frenzied warriors wearing no shirt)
  • blunder – to shut one’s eyes; to stumble about blindly
  • bulk – partition; cargo, as in the nautical term bulkhead
  • crawl – to claw
  • gang – any group of men, as in modern Danish, not necessarily dangerous
  • gawk – to heed, as in paying too much attention
  • gift – dowry, a kind of wedding gift. In modern Danish, gift means wedding.
  • haggle – to chop
  • hap, happy – chance, good luck, fate
  • lake – to play
  • litmus – from the Old Norse words litr (dye) and mosi (moss), used as a chemical test for acidity and alkalinity
  • muck – cow dung. An English dairy farmer may say he needs to muck out, or clean, his barn.
  • muggy – drizzle, mist. Today it means severely humid.
  • rive – to scratch, plow, tear. A poet might write about his heart being riven in two.
  • scathe – to hurt, injure. Only the opposite word, unscathed, is common.
  • seem – to conform
  • skill – distinction
  • sleuth – trail
  • snub – to curse
  • sprint – to jump up, one of the keys to winning in a sprint
  • stain – to paint
  • stammer – to hinder; to dam up, as in a flow of words
  • steak – to fry
  • thrift – prosperity. If you have thrift, perhaps prosperity will follow.
  • thwart – across, which has kept a similar meaning for sailors
  • window – “wind-eye” or in Old Norse, vindauga

Norse Alphabet

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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