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

References

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

The image used is by Becherel and licensed under Creative Commons

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13 Responses to “Some Irish words with Norse Origins” Subscribe

  1. Eoin Bairéad November 22, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    And see also:

    From the Viking word-hoard – A dictionary of Scandinavian words in the languages of Britain and Ireland

    A Supplement to the Dictionary of Scandinavian Words in the Languages of Britain and Ireland

    both by Diarmaid Ó Muirithe,

    and both available from Four Courts Press – http://www.fourcourtspress.ie

  2. Nevin Taggart November 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    Also Norse sker as in Skerries – Dublin and Portrush – and Skerranrone – just west of Giants Causeway.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skerry

    • Colm November 23, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Nevin. There are a good few place names alright, and like Skerries mainly coastal. Wexford, Arklow, Waterford, Smerwick, Satlee islands Lambey island, to name a few.

      • Jerome September 15, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

        Osterhafn (Oysterhaven), Olderness (Old Head), Edelfiord (Kinsale Harbour).

  3. Nevin Taggart November 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    The Norse word for a sweater/ganzie, possibly worn by seamen, is genser; the Irish is geansaí.

    • Colm November 23, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      Thanks Nevin :)

  4. Ciaran April 18, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    What about table? (“bord” in both languages)
    Is that a Norse thing or a common ancestor of both languages?

  5. Caitríona September 15, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    It was interesting to see bád referenced there. I always thought “long” (Irish for ship) might have a connection to “long boats”.

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