Fun Etymology Tuesday – Viking

Hello, good followers! It’s Tuesday, and you know the drill by now: it’s Fun Etymology time!
Today we’re doing a word we should have done a long time ago: “Viking”! Considering we have two in our staff, this is an unpardonable oversight.

The word “Viking” comes from the Old Norse “vikingr”, meaning “pirate, raider”. As you can imagine, this was not the name they gave to their people, as it was not exactly flattering, but it was the name they gave to the activity which they engaged in from time to time: namely, raiding and pillaging.

The word itself is of uncertain etymology, but it’s probably related to the word “vik”, meaning “bay” or “fjord”, from which Vikings used to launch their raiding expeditions. It’s also the second part of the name “Reykjavik”, the capital of Iceland, whose name literally means “smoking bay”.

Curiously, the Old English name “wicing” (wee-king), meaning “raider” or “viking”, appeared 300 years before the Old Norse “vikingr”, and might therefore have a wholly different etymology: it could come from Latin “vicus”, meaning “village, abitation”.
That would make the similarity between the two words completely coincidental!

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