Updated: Oct 25, 2022
"Hello again Word Lovers!"
This is the third installment of words that came into English from Old Norse. In the first part of this episode we are going to look at objects and this often gives us an insight into what the people or the folk culture gave a country. Spanish is full of Arabic words connected to architecture. Alnaafidha for example is windowsill, which leads to the Spanish alféizar. Another example is he old word for fridge in Spanish, nevera, literally to mean, the place of snow. This was not so much from Arabic but an Arabic invention. A well packed with alternate layers of ice and straw to keep things cold.
Common nouns in English from Old Norse:
Axle: (the rod passing through a wheel or group of wheels) from öxull, meaning axis in Norse.
Ball: bǫllr in Old Norse to be a round object. Although this word almost certainly emanates from Proto Indo Roots through Proto- Germanic.
Band: (As in a ring) originally made of rope
Bulk: from bulki to mean cargo
Glove: lofi meant the middle of the hand
Knot: knut to mean knot
Loft: (The space in the roof of a house) lopt meaning air, sky or upper room. Note the similarity with Luft, the modern German word for air.
Mug: (A big cup) comes from mugge meaning the same.
Plough/Plow: (The tool to cut the land for planting) plogr.
Common adjectives from Old Norse:
Aloft: (to be up high) once again from lopt
Scant: (to mean not quite sufficient or not enough) skamt which meant short.
The amount of words for common things and concepts from Old Norse in English is enormous, demonstrating the cultural impact of the Vikings on the British isles:
Freckles: (small patches of brown colour on the skin) freknur
Girth: (to mean circumference, often in relation to the body) gjorð - which was a belt also gives us girdle and grid.
Fellow: (A man or boy) "Hail fellow! Well met!" was the old English greeting, felagi was fellow in Old Norse.
Kid: (to mean a young goat) kið
Lad: (to mean a young man or boy) ladd
Oaf (to mean a man who is clumsy and unintelligent) alfr in Old Norse to mean Elf.
Irk (to mean something is irritating): yrkja to work.
Happy: happ in Old Norse which meant luck.
Awe (a feeling of reverential respect, fear and wonder): this comes to us from agi which meant terror. which also develops into terrific. The American habit to use awesome to mean terrific means awe has been diluted in modern understanding.
Explore the full Interesting Etymologies series archive here
As well as being the host of our Interesting Etymologies series, Charly Taylor is a stand up comedian and author. His latest offering is available now:
SkipDeLirio's Worst Ever Gig : A novel by Charly Taylor
Caesar’s army has returned from the long campaign in Gaul and the enemy has been all but defeated. Some of Pompey’s army, however, remains in Africa. Together with straggling Roman rebels and the local king Juba, they are gathering forces to prepare one last attack on what is now Caesar’s Rome. But there is one problem – a descendant of Scipio Africanus is fighting on the side of the Africans. And without a Scipio of their own, the superstitious Romans refuse to go to Africa to fight.
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