Friday, March 18, 2011

Words of the Vikings

Ever wondered where words in the English language come from? No? Shame on you.

The Vikings invaded Britain in the 8th-10th centuries and eventually settled in the North and East, as well as parts of Ireland, Scotland and France. Not only did they leave us blonde hair and blue eyes, they also left some of their language, especially place names.

When you see a town with 'by' at the end it is probably of Norse origin, such as Rugby, Derby and Grimsby. Another marker is 'thorpe' as in Scunthorpe as are 'thwaite' and toft. The norse word 'by' meant farm or town, 'thorpe' meant village, 'thwaite' was a lonely spot whilst 'toft' was a piece of ground. Toft is probably where we get the word 'tuft' for a piece of grass.

They also left their mark in our surnames. Not only were the above endings used (my surname of Willoughby meaning a farm by the willows), there is also 'son' to contend with.

It doesn't necessarily mean that you are of Viking descent if any of the above apply, but it may just explain that urge to take a large axe and cleave someone in two if they are annoying you.

2 comments:

Whisky Dave said...

My last name too 'Stirk' is of Norse descent. Means Strong or Powerful (better than the Scots translation of 'Baby Bull').

The Vegetable Assassin said...

I've long since decided I have a Viking ancestor somewhere as all my family are dark haired and olive complexioned with either brown or dark blue eyes then there's me, with strawberry blonde hair and light grey blue eyes. A throwback. Probably the result of some distant raping and pillaging in the Highlands. Also my last name has a hint of Scandinavian about it.

I know, how interesting, right? :)