All of us have a certain fascination with history. We may not choose it as a subject in college but we love learning about the way people lived in the past. This is the reason TV shows and movies about ancient civilizations are often a hit. Humans have come a long way since the Stone Age but that doesn’t mean we don’t value the old times. Without going through all the essential steps of evolution, we never would have gotten where we are today. So, when you tell people about the Aztecs, the Egyptians, the Mayans, and the Vikings, they will listen with the utmost interest.
Who Were the Vikings?
Vikings were seafarers who lived during the late 8th to 11th centuries in Northern Europe and raided and explored other European countries like Greenland, Vinland, and Iceland. They spoke the Old Norse language and took their culture and language to the lands they visited. The era of the Vikings is now commonly known as the Vikings Age. In history, they are either mentioned as savages or as noble warriors. Every representation of the Vikings in the media is different from the previous one. Our ability to romanticize our past has played a huge role in changing the history of various nations. There are, however, a few misconceptions about them that can be cleared easily.
For starters, they never wore horned helmets. In contemporary Europe, when people wanted to portray Vikings as pagan and savage, they added horned helmets on their head. Their helmets were made to look like Satan’s. It is not known what they used to call themselves but whatever it was, it wasn’t Vikings. The term originated in the 19th century, it couldn’t have been used in the 8th to 11th centuries. It is easier for us to comprehend our progress when we can imagine our ancestors as dirty savages who never knew what washing their face meant and who only killed for the sake of it. But one of the most famous facts about the Vikings is that they loved hygiene. They were well-groomed and according to excavators grooming tools were their most used tools.
What Are The Vikings Known For?
The Vikings are not merely known for their raids and exploration of various European countries, they also influenced the culture of the land heavily. Even the modern culture and languages of Europe have some hint of the old times. They spoke Old Norse which was a North Germanic language that fell out of use after the 13th century. However, the Old Norse didn’t die, in fact, it developed into modern languages. These modern North Germanic languages include Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese. Out of these, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian are mutually intelligible to some extent. If a Swede wants to learn Danish, they will be able to do it pretty easily. The languages have a lot of similarities due to originating from Old Norse.
The Vikings are also known for sailing long distances and that should be credited to their boatmaking abilities. They built the best ships which enabled them to carry out their raids with success. Longboats were their most commonly used boats because of their ability to depart from land easily. They could also fit in 60 people. They are also known for giving us the names of the days. All the days are named after Viking Gods. For instance, Thursday is named after Thor, the God of Thunder.
The Old Norse:
Old Norse was not limited to the Northern European countries where the Vikings lived, it went everywhere with them and changed the linguistic future of many countries. All the stories about the people of that time reached us thanks to the Old Norse. Many words from that time are still in use today. Other than that, a lot of words we use today have Vikings origin.
Their obsession with war and death brought some brilliant and scary words to the English language. Without them, we would not have had the word knife. Although it was called knifr by them, it got changed into knife when it arrived in the English language. Other words related to war and violence that originated from Old Norse include scathe, gun, club, and slaughter.
Those savages didn’t only give us words related to combat; a lot of words that are spoken frequently today by our civilized people also originated from those old Gods. For instance, law, heathen, hell, saga, steak, skill, troll, and litmus all originated during that period when Northern Europe was being ruled by barbarians.
Other important words that have their origins in the ancient age of these seafarers include anger, happy, awe, lad, kid, guest, freckles, ugly, weak, window, raft, seat, glove, egg, cake, ball, bag, band, want, take, sway, seem, kindle, run, glitter, call, and crawl.
A lot of interesting and useful words that are part of our vocabulary today owe their origins to the old pirates of Scandinavia. Whether you consider them savages and Satan worshippers or mighty and brave warriors, you can’t argue with their influence on languages and culture. A lot of Europe’s linguistic history has a clear indication of Viking influence. Even if we don’t consider them a civilized nation, we have to accept that they gave us words that are today part of our civilized culture. We owe it to them for giving us cool names for objects.