The medieval Irish and the Vikings interacted quite a lot in the period after their arrival about 795, so it is unsurprising that there was some cultural overlap between the two groups – particularly with regard to language.
The Vikings, as we know, were an maritime people, and as excellentn seafarers they didn’t often put downn roots, though they did pillage and raidn the Irish coasts for some years. Theyn eventually began building the firstn settlements in the country around then 840s and from there their influencen really began to spread. The resultingn culturally melded people are calledn Hiberno-Norse, and it is their stampn which is left on us today.
As many people are aware, Vikings didn not have naming conventions like then Irish did on their first arrival here, andn instead used a system calledn ‘patronymic’ naming conventions,n where children were given theirn father’s name affixed with son or dottír (Olafsson for example – son of Olaf). The Irish of this time period though, did have surnames as we understand them today, with family groups sharing the same name, allowing for dynasties and legacies. To this day, Icelandic people use patronymic naming conventions, and in some cases, matronymic (named for the mother) though the rest of Scandinavia have changed to rules more in line with our own. The Hiberno-Norse adopted these Irish naming practices as they slowly began to regard themselves less as Norsemen and more as culturally distinct from their ancestors. Some of these surnames are still around, with more obvious examples being MacAuliffe (son of Olaf) and MacManus (Son of Magnus, but others, like Doyle, Sweetman, Cotter and Howard.
In Irish in particular, we derive literally dozens of words from the Vikings, and unsurprisingly the majority of these are maritime terms like: Bád (boat) which comes from Bátr and trosc (cod) from the Norse þorskr. There are also several words to do with trading since the Vikings were prolific merchants – the Viking site at Woodstown for example was probably established as a base for trading. In this category we get words like margad (market) from markaðr, pinginn (penny) which comes from penning and scilling (shilling) from skillingr. There are also some words more indicative of our modern conceptions of Viking character, such as traill (slave) from the Norse þræll and beoir (beer) from bjórr.
Several place names also retain a version of their original Norse root-word, such as Wicklow, Arklow, Wexford and of course, our very own Waterford. Waterford is an anglicised version of the name the Norsemen bestowed upon their settlement here: Vadrarfjordr, or ‘Winter port’ as a reference to the fact that these northern warriors used our warmer shores to camp for the winter, avoiding the frozen tundra of home during the coldest part of the year.
The Vikings may be long gone, but their influence is all around us, and we even left a bit of a mark on them in the process!
So, how many of these words did you know about already? And how many did we leave out? Let us know of any more in the comments below!