back to the Old Norse Page

English words of Norse origin

The following is an annotated list of English words taken from Old Norse. It should be noted, however, that as English and Old Norse arose from the same ancestral Germanic language, many words in both Old Norse and English arose from the same ancestral Germanic word. For example, the word father comes from the Old English fæther, and is the same word as the Old Norse faðer. These cognates, as they are called, will not be listed here. Instead, this is a list of Norse words that replaced an English word at some point.

I suppose one could page through the dictionary and find these things, but that might be a bit time-consuming. I searched the web for such pages and found one with a half dozen words. Everything here comes from a chapter in a book called "A history of foreign words in English" by Mary S. Serjeantson (1961, Barnes & Noble, NY). I highly recommend this book as it gives a lot of great detail on the origin of the use of these and many other foreign words, and is very readable. It also gives a lot of words that are of Old Norse origin and are no longer in use in English. I shall restrict this list to common words in Modern English. Words were double-checked in my desktop dictionary and were not included if that dictionary did not also consider them derivative of Old Norse. An effort was made to give the original Old Norse spelling. Each word was given a period in which it was found in English.

Thanks to Bob Kantor for the additions (noted with an '*')

Abbreviations OE-Old English, ON-Old Norse, ME - Middle English

Let me know if you have any additions or see any problems.

Send me an email - via web form, it can be anonymous

Return to Old Norse Page