Influence on English at largeMuch of the everyday vocabulary of English is of Norse origin: call, cast, fellow, gape, happy, hit, husband, ill, leg, loose, low, sister, skill, skirt, sky, take, weak, window, wrong. Occasionally, both the English and the Norse form of the same word have survived as DOUBLETS: shirt (English), skirt (Norse). Norse borrowings include such legal and administrative terms as hustings, law, bylaw, outlaw, and riding (as in the North Riding of Yorkshire and as used in CanE for a parliamentary constituency), but the overwhelming majority of Norse words in English are general, everyday expressions, such as must have arisen from close social contact between the two peoples, an impression reinforced by the Norse origin of a number of English grammatical words: they/their/them, though, both. It is also possible that some syntactic structures common to MODERN ENGLISH and Scandinavian but unknown in other GERMANIC LANGUAGES (such as the house we live in) had their origin in the Danelaw.
Influence on Northern English and ScotsA large number of Norse words which have not spread into English at large survive in the usage of northern England and Scotland: gate a street, ken to know (used in general English only in the phrase beyond our ken), lake to play, neb beak. Sometimes the Norse form is regional while a corresponding English form is standard: garth/yard, kirn/churn, kist/chest, skell/shell. In other cases of north—south doublets, both forms now belong to general English: kirk/church, skirl/shrill, screech/shriek. See SCOTS.
ConclusionThe extensive Norse settlements in the British Isles during the Viking age, followed by a long period of coexistence, have had a profound influence on English. Because of close kinship, Scandinavian influence is less immediately obvious than other foreign influences, yet it has altered basic vocabulary and grammar, and has permeated DIALECT usage even more than the STANDARD LANGUAGE. In its origin and earliest form, English is classed with the West Germanic languages, a group which comprised the ancestors of Dutch, Frisian, and German, but a detailed comparison of the languages in their present form might place English nearer to the North Germanic group. See IRISH ENGLISH, NORN.
Norse / nôrs/ • n. 1. the Norwegian language, esp. in its medieval form. ∎ the Scandinavian language group. 2. [treated as pl.] Norwegians or Scandinavians, esp. in medieval times. • adj. of or relating to medieval Norway or Scandinavia, or their inhabitants or language. DERIVATIVES: Norse·man / ˈnôrsmən/ n. (pl. -men) .
Norse, another name for the North Germanic, or Scandinavian, group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Germanic languages). The modern Norse languages—Danish, Faeroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish—all stem from an earlier form of Norse known as Old Norse. Now extinct, Old Norse was the language spoken by the Germanic tribes living in Scandinavia before AD 1000. It was first written in runes, some examples of which go back to the 3d cent. AD, but later the Roman alphabet was used. The earliest extant Old Norse manuscripts in the Roman alphabet are from the 12th cent. Old Norse is also noteworthy as the language of the Eddas and sagas (see Old Norse literature; Icelandic literature).
See E. V. Garden, An Introduction to Old Norse (2d ed. 1957).