The year 795 AD saw a new force arrive on the Irish political scene, the Vikings. These seaborne warriors were to have a significant impact on Irish life. Their attacks on religious centres and propensity for warfare are well documented, as is their contribution to the development of urban centres and new trade routes. However, something which is sometimes over-looked is their input, albeit small, to the Irish language.
Unsurprisingly, considering the Viking’s seafaring roots, the majority of these words are associated with nautical activities. They include the Irish words for a boat (bád), as well as various parts of the sailing vessel, such as the anchor (ancaire), rudder (stiúir) and sail (scod). Fishing terms of Norse origin are also found, including the Irish words for fish such as cod ( trosc) and ling (langa) as well as for a fishing-line (dorú/dorgha).
Facilitated by their naval expertise, the Vikings also excelled in trade. This is reflected in the Irish word for a market (margadh), which is borrowed from Old Norse (markadr). Similarly the Irish word for a penny (pinginn) is derived from the Norse word penninger. This latter example is not surprising, as the first person to mint coins in Ireland was the Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin, Sitric Silkbeard.
A number of additional words are listed below.
Some Irish words of Old Norse Origin (after Greene, 1973)
Irish English Old Norse
ancaire anchor akkeri
bád boat bátr
scod sheet/sail skaut
stiúir rudder stýri
tochta thwart popta
dorú (dorgha) fishing-line dorga
langa ling (fish) langa
trosc cod (fish) porskr
margadh market markadhr
pinginn penny penninger
cnaipe button knappr
bróg shoe brók
pónair beans baunir
garrdha Enclosed plot/yard gardhr
Greene, D. 1973 ‘The influence of Scandinavian on Irish’ in Bo Almqvist & David Greene (eds.) Proceedings of the Seventh Viking Congress, Dundalgan Press, Dundalk, pp. 75-82