Viking

 

 

MEANING

 

any of the Danes, Norwegians and Swedes who raided by sea most of northern and western Europe from the 8th to the 11th centuries, later often settling, as in parts of Britain

 

 

ORIGIN

 

This noun was introduced in the early 19th century by antiquaries and poets. It is first recorded, in the form vikingr, in Caledonia: or, An account, historical and topographic, of North Britain; from the most ancient to the present times (1807), by the Scottish antiquary and political writer George Chalmers (died 1825):

The anarchical governments of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, during the middle ages, produced the pirate kings of the northern seas. The Vikingr, if we except the fictitious kings of the Greeks, are unexampled, in the annals of the world. The Goths, the Vandals, the Huns, are recorded, as the scourges of the human race, by land. The pirate kings were long the scourges of the shipmen, who sailed from every nation, on the European seas.

Viking is from Old Norse víkingr, which is usually regarded as being composed of vík, creek, inlet, bay, and the suffix -ingr, corresponding to the English suffix -ing and meaning one belonging to. A Viking was thus one who came out from, or frequented, inlets of the sea. But the New English Dictionary (1928 edition), as the Oxford English Dictionary was known, explains:

The name, however, was evidently current in Anglo-Frisian from a date so early as to make its Scandinavian origin doubtful; wícingsceaða is found in Anglo-Saxon glossaries dating from the 8th century, and sǽ-wícingas occurs in the early poem of Exodus, whereas evidence for víkingr in Old Norse and Icelandic is doubtful before the latter part of the 10th century. It is therefore possible that the word really originated in the Anglo-Frisian area, and was only at a later date accepted by the Scandinavian peoples; in that case it was probably formed from Old English wíc, camp, the formation of temporary encampments being a prominent feature of Viking raids.

The Old English wíc is the origin of wick, which had the general sense of an abode, dwelling-place, and survives in both forms -wick and -wich as an element of place names, for example in Alnwick, the dwelling on the River Aln, and Sandwich, the trading-centre on sand (Sandwich is known to have been a trading settlement in the early Anglo-Saxon period).

The word wick is probably based on Latin vicus, denoting a row of houses in town or country, a quarter of a city, a street, and a village, a hamlet, a country-seat. This Latin noun is cognate with Greek οἶκος (= oikos), a house as home, including the family, and other inmates and belongings.

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