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Mountains of East Greenland

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Kulusuk by Simon Dubreuil
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East Greenland

Did you know many of the words in the English language come from The Old Norse language?

Did you know that “cake”, “egg”, “fellow”, “gun”, “happy”, “husband” and many other words used in the English vocabulary is of Old Norse origin? The reason is the Viking colonization of eastern and northern England between 850 and 1100 AD. The Vikings quickly assimilated and brought with them an important gift: The rich and powerful Old Norse language.

Old Norse diverged into West Norse (Norway, Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland) and East Norse (Denmark and Sweden). With some minor regional variations in loan words, both West Norse and East Norse are essentially the same. The Vikings who raided and later settled in Great Britain came mainly from Norway and Denmark.

Below you will find an alphabetical list of many common English words of Old Norse origin.

A

aloft – á (“=in, on, to”) + lopt (“=air, atmosphere, sky, heaven, upper floor, loft”)

anger – angr (“=trouble, affliction”); root ang (=”strait, straitened, troubled”); related to anga, plural öngur (=”straits, anguish”)

awe – agi (“=terror”)

are – merger of Old English (earun, earon) and Old Norse (er) cognates

awkward – the first element is from Old Norse öfugr (“=turned-backward”), the ‘-ward’ part is from Old English weard

axle – öxl (“=ox tree”)

B

bag

barn

bait

ball – bǫllr” (=”round object”)

band – band (=”rope”)

bark – bǫrkr

berserk – berserkr, lit. ‘bear-shirt’, (alt. berr-serkr, ‘bare-shirt’) frenzied warriors

birth – byrðr

bleak – bleikr (=”pale”)

blunder – blundra (=”shut one’s eye”)

both – baðir

bug – búkr (=”insect within tree trunks”)

bulk – bulki

bull – boli

bylaw – bylög (‘by’=village; ‘lög’=law; ‘village-law’)

C

cake – kaka (=”cake”)

call – kalla (=”cry loudly”)

cast – kasta (=”to throw”)

choose – kjósa (=”to choose”)

clip – klippa (=”to cut”)

club – klubba (=”cudgel”)

crawl – krafla (=”to claw”)

crook – krokr (=”hook-shaped instrument or weapon”)

cur – kurra (=”to growl”)

D

die – deyja (=”pass away”)

dirt – drit (=”feces”)

dregs – dregg (=”sediment”)

E

egg – egg (=”egg”)

F

fellow – felagi

fjord – fjǫrðr (= ”walk”, ”pass”, ”bring over to the other side”)

flat – flatr

flit – flytja (=”cause to fit”)

fog – from Old Norse fok through Danish fog, meaning “spray”, “shower”, “snowdrift”

freckle – freknur (=”freckles”)

G

gad – gaddr (=”rod, long stick”)

gap – gap (=”chasm”)

get – geta, gat (> got), gittan (> gotten)

geyser – from Icelandic geysir, from Old Norse geysa (=”to gush”)

gift – gift (=”dowry”)

girth – gjörð (=”circumference, cinch”)

give – gefa (=”to give”)

glitter – glitra (=”to glitter”)

gosling – gæslingr” (=”goose”)

guest – gestr (=”guest”)

gun – from Old Norse Gunnhildr (female name, both elements of the name, gunn and hildr, have the meaning “war, battle”)

gust – gustr

H

hail – heill (=”health, prosperity, good luck”)

happy – happ (=”chance, good luck, fate”)

heathen – heiðinn (=”not Christian or Jewish/ the word for an exclusively Christian idea, a person or society prior to Christianity.”)

Hell – may be in part from Old Norse Hel, the daughter of Loki and ruler of the underworld in Norse mythology.

hit – hitta (=”to find”)

how – haugr (=”barrow, small hill”) Usage preserved mainly in place names

husband – husbondi (=”master of the house”)

I

ill – illr (=”bad”)

K

keel – kjölr

kid – kið (=”young goat”)

kindle – kynda

knife – knifr

knot – knutr

L

lad – ladd (=”young man”)

law – lagu

leather – leðr

leg – leggr

likely – líkligr

link – hlenkr

litmus – litmose (=”lichen for dying”, lita =”to stain”)

loan – lán (=”to lend”)

loft – lopt (=”an upper room or floor : attic, air, sky”)

loose – lauss (=”loose/free”)

low – lagr

M

mire – myrr (=’bog’)

mistake – mistaka (=”miscarry”)

muck – myki (=”cow dung”)

mug – mugge

muggy – mugga (=”drizzle, mist”)

N

Norman, Normandy – from Old Norse through Old French, meaning “northman”, due to Viking settlement in Normandy region.

O

oaf – alfr (=”elf”)

odd – oddi (=”third number”, “the casting vote”)

Odin – Óðinn

Ombudsman – from Old Norse umboðsmaðr through Swedish ombudsman, meaning “commissary”, “representative”, “steward”

outlaw – utlagi

P
plough, plow – plogr

R

Ragnarok – “Doom of the gods” or “Destiny of the gods”, from Norse mythology. Composed of words ragna, genitive of “the great powers”(regin), and rǫk (later rök) “destiny, doom, fate, end”.

race – rás (=”to race”, “to run”, “to rush”, “to move swift”)

raft – raptr (=”log”)

raise – reisa

ransack – rannsaka (=”to search the house”)

reindeer – hreindyri

rid – rythja (=”to clear land”)

rive – rífa (=”to scratch, plow, tear”)

root – rót

rotten – rotinn (=”decayed”)

rugged – rogg (=”shaggy tuft”)

run – renna (=”to run”)

S

Saga – saga (=”story, tale”)

sale – sala

same – same, samr (=”same”)

scale – (for weighing) from skal (=”bowl, drinking cup”, or in plural “weighing scale” referring to the cup or pan part of a balance) in early English used to mean “cup”

scant – skamt & skammr (=”short, lacking”)

scare – skirra (=”to frighten)

scarf – skarfr (=”fastening joint”)

scathe – skaða (=”to hurt, injure”)

score – skor (=”notch”; “twenty”)

scrape – skrapa (=”to scrape, erase”)

scrap – skrap (=”scraps, trifles”) from skrapa

seat – sæti (=”seat, position”)

seem – sœma (=”to conform”)

shake – skaka (=”to shake”)

skate – skata (=”fish”)

skid – probably from or related to Old Norse skið (=”stick of wood”) and related to “ski” (=”stick of wood”, or in this sense “snowshoe”)

skill – skil (=”distinction”)

skin – skinn (=”animal hide”)

skip – skopa (=”to skip, run)

skirt – skyrta (=”shirt”)

skull – skulle (=”head”)

sky – ský (=”cloud”)

slant – sletta, slenta (=”to throw carelessly”)

slaughter – slahtr (=”butchering”)

slaver – slafra (=”slaver”)

sledge – sleggja (=”sledgehammer”)

sleight – slœgð

sleuth – sloð (=”trail”)

sly – sloegr (=”cunning, crafty, sly”)

snare – snara (=”noose, snare”)

snub – snubba (=”to curse”)

sprint – spretta (=”to jump up”)

stagger – stakra (=”to push”)

stain – steina (=”to paint”)

stammer – stemma (=”to hinder, damn up”)

steak – steik, steikja (=”to fry”)

sway – sveigja (=”to bend, swing, give way”)

T

take – taka

tarn – tjörn, tjarn

their – þierra

they – þeir

thorp – þorp

though – from Old English þēah, and in part from Old Norse þó (=”though”)

thrall – þræll

Thursday – Þorsdagr (=”Thor’s day”)

thrift – þrift (=”prosperity”)

thrust – þrysta (=”to thrust, force”)

thwart – þvert (=”across”)

tidings – tíðindi (=”news of events”)

tight – þéttr (=”watertight, close in texture, solid”)

till -til (=”to, until”)

troll – troll (=”giant, fiend, demon”; further etymology is disputed)

trust – traust (=”help, confidence”)

U

ugly – uggligr (=”dreadful”)

until – from Old Norse und (=”as far as, up to”) and til (=”until, up to”).

V

Vanadium – from Old Norse Vanadis, another name for Freja

Viking – viking, “one who came from the fjords

W

wand – vondr (=”rod”)

want – vanta (=”to lack”)

weak – veikr (=”weak, pliant”)

whirl – hvirfla (=”to go around”)

whisk – viska (=”to plait”)

wight – vigr (=”able in battle”) – the other wight meaning “man” is from Old English

wile – vél (=”trick, craft, fraud”)

window – vindauga (=”wind-eye”) – although gluggi was more commonly used in Old Norse

wing – vængr (=”a wing”)

wrong – rangr (=”crooked, wry, wrong”)

This is a satellite image taken from NASA’s Earth Observatory showing a gigantic display of sea ice flowing down the coast of Greenland. Taken on the 30th of December 2012, the image show tendrils of Arctic sea ice hitching a ride on the East Greenland Current. This current brings Arctic ice to the Southern tip of Greenland at the start of every winter. To make the image even more beautiful, a fresh blanket of snow makes it extra bright!

-Jean