Standard English words which have a Scandinavian Etymology

Objects

Abbreviations: E = English. ME = Middle English. SE = Standard English. Ice = Icelandic. Swe = Swedish. O Swe = Old Swedish. Dan = Danish. Nor = Norwegian. Scan = Scandinavian (in general). Fr = French. Du = Dutch. vb = verb. n = noun. adj = adjective. advb = adverb.

 

Standard English Source or present-day associations
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bilge (n,vb) The protuberant part of the belly of a ship or cask, hence the verb form 'to bilge' (to fill one's belly). Dan blge (to swill), Swed dialect blga (to fill one's belly).
billow (n, vb) A wave. Ice byjlga, Swe blja, Dan blga.
balderdash (n) Poor stuff. Scan. Originally meant a poor or weak drink. Dan balder (noise, clatter) + dask (to slap, flap). Compare with E slap-dash.
bark (n) The rind of a tree. Swe and Dan bark, Ice brkr.
bat (n) winged mammal. Dan bakke corrupted through ME. Ive lerblaka (leather-flapper).
beach (n, vb) Probably Scan XVI century. May be from Swe backe (hill, slope), O Swe backe (bank of a river), Dan bakke, Ice bakki (bank of a river, a ridge).
bilberry (n) The shrub and the fruit of the moorland vaccinium myrtillus or myrtle. Dan bllebr (bilberry), Ice bllr (ball). Compare with Yorkshire dialect blaeberry.
blemish (n, vb) A mark, a fault, an undesirable spot. Fr => Scan => ME. Probably associated with E blue. In the E verb form, to spoil something which was otherwise good.
bloater (n) A prepared herring. A fish cured by smoke but formerly 'soacked'. Swe bltfisk (soaked fish).
blot (n, vb) A spot. Scan => ME blot, blotte. Ice blette (a stain), Dan plet (spot, stain).
bloom (n, vb) A flower. Scan. => ME blome. Ice blm, blmi (a flower), Swe blomma, Dan blomme.
blur (n, vb) A stain. Scan.
bole (n) Scan. See bulge.
bolled (adj) Scan. See bulge.
booth (n) A shop, especially of a temporary nature. Scan => ME. Ice b, Swe bod, Dan bod. Compare with Irish Gaelic both and boith, Scots bothy and Welsh bwth (a hut).
bore (n) A tidal surge on a river, as the Severn Bore. Ice bra (a billow or wave caused by the wind), Swe dialect br (a mound - in which sense it may also be associated with the E bar as in 'sand-bar').
bow (n) Front end of a ship or boat. Literally the 'shoulder' of the vessel. Ice bgr.
boulder (n) A large stone. Swe dialect bullersteen (a large rolling stone) allied to Swe bullra (to thunder, to roar) + steen (a stone), so called from its rolling downstream with a crash. Dan buldre (to roar) and bulder (a crash).
bout (n) A turn. Dan bugt (a bend, a turn), associated with the Anglo-Saxon byht and the E bight.
brad (n) A spiked tool or nail. Scan => ME brod. Ice broddr (a spike), Swe brodd, Dan brodde (a frost-nail). Associated with SE bradawl (spiked tool). Compare with Yorkshire dialect broddle (to poke, pick out, make holes), brod (a kind of prodder used in making rugs, also verb to brod), thack-brod (a prodding tool used in thatching), all clearly associated with SE prod/prodding.
brazier (n) A pan used to hold hot coals. Fr => Scan. Swe brasa (fire) allied to brasa (to flame). See braze.
breeze (n) Cinders. Fr => Scan. In modern SE breeze-blocks are building blocks made from a congolmerate of cemented cinders.
brink (n) Verge, edge. Scan => ME brink. Dan brink (verge), Swe brink (descent, or slope of a hill), Ice brekka (a slope, crest of a hill). Compare with Welsh bryncu (a hillock), bryn (a hill) and bron (breast).
bubble (n, vb) Swe bubbla, Dan boble (a bubble).
bole (n) Stem of a tree. Scan => ME bol, Ice bolr, bulr (the trunk of a tree), Swe bl, Dan bul.
bulk (n) Size. Scan => ME bolke (a heap). Ice blki (a heap), O Swe bolk, Dan bulk (a lump).
bulwark (n) Top edge of a ship's side. Dan bulvrk, Swe bolverk. Compounded of Dan bul (tree, log) and Dan vrk (work), literally 'logwork'.
bulrush (n) Scan and Anglo-Saxon => ME bulrysche. Literally 'stem rush' from its stout stem. Dan bul (stem, trunk).
bun (n) A cake or small loaf. Fr => Scan. Ice bunga (a convexity). Compare with Fr bigne (a swelling or bump).
bunk (n) A wooden case or box. O Swe bunke (the planking of a ship forming shelter for the merchandise). Came to mean a box-like bed or bedspace in a ship in E and has now been extended to single beds which are one above the other (bunk beds).
brunt (n) Shock of an onset. Scan => ME brunt (an attack). Ice bruna (to advance with the speed of fire, as in battle) from Ice bruni (burning, heat). To 'bear the brunt of something' is used in contemporary E with the meaning 'to take the main weight (or first shock) of some occurrence or action'.
bush (n) Thicket. Scan => ME busch, busk. Dan busk (bush, shrub), Swe buske (bush, shrub).
by-law (n) A law affecting a township. Scan, from by (a settlement) and found mainly as an element in place-names as in Brondby, Hedeby, Derby, Rugby, Whitby, etc. in the former Danelaw of England and in Scandinavian countries.
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chump (n) A log of wood. Ice kumbr. Compare with Yorkshire dialect chump (firewood) and chumping (collecting wood), both of which are usually specific to collecting wood for bonfires for Guy Fawkes Night (5th November).
chops (n) Jaws. Ice kjaptr, Swe kft and Dan kift (jaw).
cleft (n) The older spelling is clift. Ice kluft, klufu; Swe klyft, Dan klft (a cleft, a chink, a cave).
clough (n) A hollow in a hillside. Allied to Ice klofi (a rift in a hillside) from klfa (to cleave). See also cleft. In Yorkshire and other parts of northern England clough is common as a landscape term, as an element in place-names and, derived from this, the family/surname Clough. The E pronunciation in all cases is 'kluf'.
clown (n, vb) A slap-dash comedy entertainer, a foolish person. From Ice klunni (a clumsy, boorish fellow). Swe dialect klunn (a log) and kluns (a clownish fellow), and Dan kluntet (clumsy) are associated. The original sense was a log.
cock (n) A pile of hay. Dan kok (a heap), Ice kkkr (lump, ball), Swe koka (clod of earth).
cake (n, vb) A baked confectionery. Latin => Scan => ME cake. Ice kaka, Swe kaka, Dan kage.
crab (n) A kind of apple. Swe krabbple (a crab-apple). Perhaps allied to 'crab' in the sense of 'pinching, sour'.
cur (n) A dog. Scan => ME curre. Swe dialect kurre (a dog).
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dastard (n) Scan => ME dastard, where -ard is a Fr suffix. Ice dstr (exhausted, weary). The original sense of the word is sluggard.
dapple, dappled
(n, vb, adj)
A spot on an animal is the earlier meaning, though it has been extended to describe an area of irregular shadow, as in 'a dappled orchard'. Ice depill (a spot or dot; adog woth spots over its eyes is also called a depill). The original sense is 'a little pool' from Nor dapi (a pool), allied to the Dan dialect duppa (a hole where water collects), and Swe dial depp (a pool).
dimple (n) A small hollow. Nasalised form of Nor depil, dipil (a pool - in which sense see also dapple).
dingle (n) Formerly dimble, a variant of dimple (see above).
dairy (n) Scan => ME deyerye (a room for a deye, i.e., a milk-woman or farm servant). Ice deigja, Swe deja (a maid, dairymaid who was also a bread-maker. The original sense is 'kneader of dough').
dirt (n) Scan => ME drit. Ice drit (dirt, bird excrement) and drita (to void excrement).
dormouse (n) A small rodent. Scan and Anglo-Saxon. Literally, a 'doze mouse' => ME dormous. Ice dr (benumbed, very sleepy). Compare with the Fr verb dormer (to sleep).
down (n) Soft plumage. Scan => ME down. Ice dnn, Swe dun, Dan duun.
dregs (n) Lees, residue which is left, especially in a liquid such as tea. Scan => ME dreg (mire). Ice dregg, draga (to draw, extract).
dug (n) A teat. Allied to Swe dgga, Dan dgge (to suckle).
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egg (n) The oval body from which chickens are hatched. Scan => ME eg, egges. Ice egg, Dan g, Swe gg.
firth (n) An estuary. Scan => ME firth. Ice fjrr (a bay or inlet), Dan fiord, Swe fjrd, Nor fjord. More commonly used in Scotland than in England or Wales as a landscape term and feature name.
flag (n, vb) An ensign. Dan flag, Swe flagg. From the Ice flgra (to flutter).
flake (n, vb) A thin slice. Nor flak (a slice, an ice-floe), Ice flakna, flagna (to flake off), Swe flaga (a flake).
flag (n) A paving stone. Ice flaga (a slab of stone). A common term in the north of England for pavements.
flaw (n) A crack or blemish. Scan => ME flawe. Swe flaga (a crack, a flaw, a flake - in which sense see flake above).
floe (n) As in ice-floe. Dan flage and see flake above. Literally, 'a flake of ice'.
filly (n) A female foal. Ice fylja (a filly) from foli (a foal), Dan fl, Swe fll.
fog (n, vb) Dan fog, as in snee-fog (a blinding fall of snow); fyge (to drift as snow).
fetlock (n) Scan. Originally the 'lock' or tuft of hair behind a horse's pastern joint. The syllable -lock = Ice lokkr; fet- is allied to Ice fet (a pace, a step).
freckle (n) A small spot of skin colouring. Ice freknur, Swe frkne, Dan fregne (a freckle).
froth (n, vb) Foam on liquids. Scan => ME frothe. Ice froa, Dan fraade, Swe fradga.
fry (n) Spawn of fishes. Scan => ME fri. Ice fr, frj, Dan/Swe fr.
furlough (n) Leave of absence. A term used more in North American English than British English. Du => Scan => E. Borrowed from Dan forlov and Swe frlof (leave).
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gain (n) Profit, earnings. Scan => ME gain. Ice gagn (gain, advantage), Swe gagn, Dan gavn. See also gain (vb).
gait (n) Scan. A peculiar use of the ME gate (a way).
gale (n) Dan gal (furious). Compare with Nor 'en gal mann' (a furious/insane man). Ice galinn (furious) from gala (to enchant, in the belief that storms were raised by witches).
gap (n) Scan => ME gappe. Ice and Swe gap (a gap, an abyss).
gate (n) A street, a way. Ice gata, Swe gata, Dan gade. Compare with German gasse (a street) derived from Old High German kezzan (to get (to)). Found almost exclusively as an element in street names in settlements within the former Danelaw of England (especially Lincolnshire and the northern counties), in parts of Scotland and in Scandinavian towns (e.g. Kirkgate = church street, Eastgate = the east way).
gig (n) A light carriage, a light boat. Ice geiga (to take a wrong direction, to rove at random). Allied to jig.
gill (1) (n) Organ of respiration of fishes. Scan => ME gille. Swe gl (a gill), Ice gjlnar. Allied to SE yawn.
gill (2) (n) A ravine, a chasm. Ice gill, geil (ravine). Mainly in use in Yorkshire and the north-west counties of England, usually in the form ghyll, descriptive of the landscape feature itself or an element in the name of such a place.
girth (n) A measurement around something, such as a body or a tree trunk. Scan => ME gerth. Ice gjr (a girdle, girth), ge (a measurement around the waist).
glade (n) Open space in a wood. Scan. The original sense was an opening for light, a passage through a wood. Ice glar (bright, shining), Nor glette (a clear spot amongst the clouds).
glimpse (n, vb) A slight gleam, a brief sighting. Scan => ME glimsen (to glimpse).
gloss (n, vb) Lustre. Ice glossi (a blaze), glys (finery), Swe dialect glossa (to glow) extended from Swe dialect gloa and Ice gla (to glow, shine).
gang (n, vb) A crew of persons. Scan. Ice gangr (a going) and gangr (to go); also a gang as in jfagangr (a gang of thieves).
gravy (n) Scan. Formerly greavy, originally an adjective formed from greave (refuse of tallow, melted candlewax), hence gravy is 'tallowy' or fatty.
greyhound (n) Scan => ME greihound. Ice greyhundr (a greyhound) made up of Ice grey (a dog) and hundrr (hound). Not allied to the colour grey which in Ice is grr.
grime (n) A smut or dirt on the face. Swe grima (a smut on the face), Dan grim griim (lampblack, soot, grime), Ice grima (a disguise). Allied to SE grimace though grime has now been extended to anything covered in dirt.
groin (n) The fork of the body where the legs divide. Ice grein (a branch, an arm), Dan gren, Swe gren (branch, arm, fork). Compare with Yorkshire dialect grain (a branch or fork of a tree, the branching of a stream, the prongs of a fork).
geysir (n) Literally gusher. Ice geysir, allied to gjsa. This became in English a generic term for a small, gas-fired water heater suspended above a kitchen sink.
gust (n, vb) A blast. See gush.
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hank (n) A parcel of skeins of yarn. Ice hanki (a hasp, clasp), hnk, hangr (a hank or coil), Swe hank (a string).
hinge (n, vb) Scan => ME henge (that on which a door hangs). Ice hengje (to hang).
haste (n) (n, vb) O Swe hasta and Dan haste (to hasten).
hawse (n) As in hawse-hole (a round hole through which a ship's cable passes, so called because it is made in the 'neck' of the ship). Ice hls, hals (the neck).
haze (n, vb) A mist. Scan ? Perhaps from Ice hss (grey, dusky).
how (n) A hill. Scan => ME hogh. Ice haugr (a hill), Swe hg (a mound), Dan hi (a hill). Found mainly in place-names in England, as in Greenhow - and sometimes with a variation as in Buckhaugh, etc.
hue (n) Clamour, outcry, as in 'hue and cry'. Possibly Fr => Scan => ME. O Swe (see hoot, above).
husband (n, vb) Ice hsbndi (the master of the house).
hussif (n) A case for needles and thread etc. Scan. The final /f/ is due to confusion with housewife. Ice hsi (a case).
hustings (n) The modern use is incorrect. It is properly the singular husting and means a council, an assembly for the choice of a candidate. Ice hsing (a council meeting) from hs (house) + ing (an assembly).
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jam (2) (n, vb) A conserve of fruit. Scan. A soft substance like that which is chewed (see jam (1)).
jaunt (n, vb) A rambling or playing around. Swe dialect ganta (to play the buffoon, to sport, to jest), Ice gan (frantic gestures).
jib (2) Dan. The foremost sail in a ship, so-called because it is easily shifted from side to side (see jib (1)).
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keg (n) A small barrel or cask. Ice kaggi (a keg), Swe kagga, Nor kagge (a keg, a round mass).
kid (n, vb) A young goat. Dan and Swe kid, Ice ki. Allied to chit, child in E.
kidney (n) Scan. Corruption of the ME kidnere, kidneer. Ice kvir (womb), Swe qved (womb) anotomically inappropriately combined with Ice nra, Dan nyre, Swe njure (a kidney).
kilt (n) Scan. From kilt (to truss up), Dan kilte (to truss, tuck up), Swe dialect kilta (to swaddle). Compare with Ice kjalta (lap).
kink (n, vb) A twist in a rope. Swe Swe and Nor kink (a twist in a rope), allied to Nor kika, kinka (to writhe) and Ice kikna (to sink at the knees under a burden) and Ice keikr (a bent back), all in the sense of something bent or twisted. Compare with Yorkshire dialect verb 'to kink', i.e., when a child's body goes into spasm through holding the breath as in whooping cough (which is called kincough in Yorkshire), with the back arched or bent.
kirk (n) Church. Scan but borrowed from the Anglo-Saxon cirice, circe (a church), then coming back into The Danelaw and Scotland from the Scandinavian.
kirtle (n) A sort of gown, also a petticoat. Ice kyrtill, Dan kiortel. Probably a diminutive of skirt (Ice skyrta, Dan skiorte, Swe skjorta [a shirt, a skirt]). Compare with Yorkshire dialect kytle (working coat of coarse linen, worn by Yorkshire Dales leadminers and farmers).
knacker (n, vb) A dealer in old horses and other livestock. Scan. It formerly meant a saddler and harness maker. Ice knakkr (saddle). Now used as a verb in colloquial E to indicate anything spoilt or ruined or tired-out (knackered).
knout (n) A scourge, thick whip. Russian and Scan. Ice kntr (a knot).
knowledge (n) E with Scan suffix. The suffix -leche is a weakened form of -leke, answering to Ice leikr, -leiki, Swe -lek, a suffix used for forming abstract nouns as in Swe kr-lek (love).
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lathe (n) A machine for turning metal and wood to create round shapes. Ice l.
lee (n) Sheltered place; part of a ship away from the wind. Ice hl (lee of a ship), Dan l, Swe l.
leech, leach (n) The border or edge at the sides of a sail. Ice lk (a leech-line), Swe lik, Dan lig (a bolt rope).
leg (n) Ice leggr (a leg), Dan lg, Swe lgg (the calf of the leg).
ledge (n, vb) A slight shelf, a ridge. Scan. Allied to Swe lagg (the rim of a cask), Ice lgg (the ledge or rim at the bottom of a cask), Nor logg (the lowest part of a vessel), all from Ice liggja, Swe ligg, Dan ligga (to lie - in the sense of 'to support').
log (1) (n) A block or piece of wood. Ice lg (a felled tree, a log), Swe dialect lga (a felled tree, a tree that has blown down).
log (2) (n, vb) A piece of wood with a line for measuring the rate of a ship. Swe logg (as a sea term) hence log-lina (a log-line), log-bok (log book), Dan log, log-line, log-bog, logge. As the verb 'to log' it has come to be used in SE for the recording of any sequence of events.
logger-head, loggerhead (n) A dunce; a piece of timber in a whaleboat over which is passed a line to make it run more slowly through friction. Scan. A similar formation to 'blockhead'.
loft (n, vb) An upper room, an attic. Properly 'air'. Ice lopt, loft, luft (air, sky, an upper room). Dan and Swe loft (a garret). Used also in SE as a verb : 'to loft' (to cast something into the air) with the adjectival form lofty to indicate something 'reaching upwards towards the sky', i.e., high.
lugsail (n) A sort of square sail. Scan. Probably from the verb lug (see lug (vb)), the sail being easily hoisted by a pull on a rope.
lump (n, vb) Swe dialect and Nor lump (a block, stump, piece hewn off a log). Used in SE also as a verb as in 'to lump everything together'.
lunch (n, vb) A large piece of bread, etc. Scan. Now used as short for luncheon (a light meal). As a verb, 'to lunch' is to take a luncheon meal.
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maze (n) Confusing place, a puzzle. Compare Nor masa-st, where -st is reflexive (to lose one's senses and begin to dream) and masa (to pore over a thing,also to chatter), Ice masa (to chatter). Associated with the SE amaze (to astound, to bewilder, to perplex).
mazer (n) A large drinking bowl. Scan. Ice mssur (a maple tree) whence mssur-bolli (a bowl truned from maple wood).
mess (n, vb) A mixture or disorder. E or Scan. A corruption of the older form mesh, which again stands for mash (see mash). The verb form 'to mess' means to interfere with, play around with unconstructively.
mire (n) Deep mud. Ice mrr, Swe myra, Dan myre, myr (a bog)
mishap (n) Scan => ME mishappen (to fall out ill).
mistake (n, vb) An error, to err. Ice mistaka (to take by error, make a slip).
muck (n, vb) Filth, dirt. Ice myki (dung), Dan mg (dung). Dialectal in E but has now passed into SE usage. The verb form 'to muck (about)' means to behave irresponsible, to mess with things; the associated adjective is mucky.
muff (n) A warm, soft cover for the hands. O Swe muff, Dan muffe (a muff). Oldest sense is 'a sleeve'.
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oaf (n) A simpleton, fool. Ice lfr (an elf).
outlaw (n, vb) A villain, a criminal. Ice tlgi (out of or beyond the law). The SE verb 'to outlawsomething or someone' means to declare it or them outside the law. In the original sense this meant that an outlawed person could expect no protection from the law and could therefore be harmed with impunity by anyone.
outrigger (n) E and Scan. A projecting spar for extending sails or positioning rowlocks on a ship or boat.
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pap (n) A teat, a breast. O Swe papp (the breast), changed in modern Swe to patt. Also Swe dialect pappe. Associated with E pap (an infant's soft food).
peg (n, vb) A wooden pin. Dan pig (spike). Probably ultimately of Latin origin. The SE verb 'to pegsomething' means to fix it in place, to hold things at an existing level as in 'pegged the interest rate at..'.
plough (n, vb) Ice plgr (a plough), Dan plov, Swe plog. But all these may be borrowed from the Celtic ploc (block of wood or stump of a tree, hence a primitive plough).
pod (n) A husk. Originally a leather bottle or flask, a bag. Swe dialect pude (a cushion), Dan pude (a cushion). Associated with SE pad; a pad is a stuffed bag, i.e., a cushion.
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quandary (n) An evil plight. Ice vandri (difficulty, trouble), O Swe wandrde (difficulty).
raft (n) The original sense is rafter. Ice raptr, raftr (a rafter, a beam), extended from Ice rfr, rfr (a spar, a rafter).
rake (n) A dissolute man. Swe dialect rakkel (a vagabond) from raka (to run hastily), O Swe racka (to run about). Compare also Ice reikall (vagabond) from reika (to wander).
rake (n) The projection of the extremities of a ship beyond the keel; also, the inclination of a mast from the perpendicular. Swe dialect raka (to reach), Dan rage (to project). Compare Yorkshire dialect reckan (a projecting iron bar for hanging cooking vessels over the fire).
rigmarole (n) Scan and Fr-Latin. A corruption of ragman-roll, originally meaning a deed with many signatures, a long list of names, and hence a long, stupid story. Literally 'a cowards' roll'. Ice ragmenni (a coward) + roll (list).
rowan tree/roan tree (n) Mountain ash. O Swe runn, rnn (roan tree), Swe rn, Dan rnn, Ice reynir.
roe (n) Spawn, fish eggs. Ice hrogn, Dan rogn, Swe rom.
rug (n) Swe rugg (rough entangled hair).
row (n, vb) An uproar. Scan. From rouse, with loss of final /s/.
ruck (n, vb) A fold, crease. Ice hrukka (a wrinkle), Dan rynke and Swe rynka (a wrinkle). In the SE verb form 'to rucksomething up' is to cause it to fold or crease.
rump (n) Ice rumpr, Swe rumpa, Dan rumpe. Originally meant the bulk of the body without the head but now in SE indicates the buttocks, the 'rear-end' of a person.
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sale (n) Ice sala (a sale, a bargain), Swe salu, Dan salg. In the original sense meant delivery or 'handing over'.
scoop (n, vb) Swe skopa (a scoop or hollow shovel).
shrike (n) The butcher bird. Ice skrkja (literally 'a shrieker'). Allied to Ice skrkja and SE shriek. Compare with Yorkshire dialect skrike (to screech or scream).
shoal(s) (n, vb) Shallows, a sandbank. Originally an adjective meaning shallow. Ice sklgr. The verb form 'to shoal' is still in use in SE meaning 'to become shallow(er)'.
scrap (n, vb) Ice skrap (scraps, trifles - literally 'scrapings'), Ice skrapa (to scrape).
scar, scaur (n) A rock; a bare rock face. Ice sker (a skerry, an isolated rock), Dan skir, Swe skr, so called because cut off from the main land. In E more likely to refer to a cliff-like bare rock feature, especially dialectally in Yorkshire and the north-west of England where it used generically in the 'rock outcrop' sense and as a feature or place-name as in White Scar, Ravenscar, etc.
shirt (n) Ice skyrta (a shirt, a kind of kirtle - see above), Swe skjorta, Dan skiorte. So called because of its shortness - Ice skortr (shortness). See also skirt below.
shore, shoar (n, vb) A prop, as in 'to shore up'. Ice skora (a propr or stay, particularly under a boat), Nor skorda, skora (prop), Swe dialect skre (a piece of cut wood), so-called because shorn, or cut off of, a suitable length and therefore probably associated with Ice skor-inn, skera (to shear).
skirt (n) Ice skyrta (a shirt, kind of kirtle - see shirt above). A doublet of shirt but restricted to the lower part of the garment.
skid (n, vb) Originally a thin slip of wood to put under a wheel. Swe skid (a wooden shoe or sole), Ice sk (a billet of wood). In modern SE usage a skid is an uncontrollable slide, with skidding as the verb form.
shiver (n) A splinter, a small piece of wood. Shiver is the diminutive of shive (a thin slice). Ice skfa (a slice). Compare with Yorkshire dialect (to split, to pare - especially of leather) and the E slang shiv (a knife).
skewer (n, vb) Scan. Formerly skiver, the old form of shiver (above), i.e., a splint or wooden pin.
skittle (n, vb) Wooden pin used in the game of skittles where they are knocked down by a rolled ball. Dan skyttel (a shuttle), Ice skuttill (a projectile, harpoon, bolt of a door). Compare Ice base-word skut (to shoot). The shuttle association may be because the pins, once knocked down, are restored their original position, as the shuttle on a loom returns after each pass. Compare the Yorkshire dialect upshill, upskittle (to overturn, to tilt up). As a verb in E it means to upset something or thwart someone.
shingle (n) Coarse, round gravel on the sea-shore. Corruption of Nor singl or singling (coarse gravel). Named from the crunching or ringing noise made by walking on it - Nor singla (to ring, tinkle), Swe dialect singla. Associated with Swe dialect singa, the same as the SE word sing.
silt (n) Swe sila (to drain, strain, filter) and sil (a filter). Compare with Ice sa, Dan sie and Anglo-Saxon shan (to filter).
siskin (n) A songbird. Dan sisgen, Swe siska. It means 'chirper'. Compare with Swe dial sisa (to make a noise like a wood-grouse).
sister (n) Ice systir, Swe syster, Dan sster.
seat (n) Ice sti (a seat), Swe ste, Dan sde.
skate (n) Large flat fish. Ice skata, Nor skata.
skill (n) Discernment, in the sense of making judgements. Ice skil (a distinction); compare with Ice skilja (to part, to separate, to distinguish), Dan skiel and Swe skl (reason). Compare with Dan skille, Swe skilja (to separate).
skull (n) The cranium. Named for its bowl-like shape. Ice skl, Dan skaal, Swe skl (bowl, basin). See the legend of Wayland the Smith where skulls are made into drinking bowls.
scull (n, vb) A small, light oar. 'To scull' is to row. Named from the slightly hollowed blades like the dishes of, for example, a weighing machine or balance. Ice skl (hollow - see skull above), Swe sklig (concave).
skin (n, vb) Ice skinn, Swe skinn, Dan skind. As a verb, 'to skinsomething' is to remove the skin.
sky (n) Ice sk (a cloud), Dan and Swe sky (a cloud). Allied to the Anglo-Saxon sca (shade).
slag (n) Dross. Swe slagg (dross of metal), so calloed from flowing over when fused. Compare Ice slagna (to flow over) and slag, slagi (wet, damp).
slattern (n) An untidy woman. From the meaning 'to be untidy', 'to throw about'. Ice sletta (to slap, to dash liquids about), Nor sletta (to fling or jerk about).
sleet (n) So named from dashing in one's face. See slattern above with Ice and Nor sletta. Compare with Yorkshire dialect slart, slaht (to splash, splatter with mud etc., to spill or dribble liquid) and slatter (to spill, splash, slop).
sleight (n) Dexterity, as in 'sleight of hand'. Ice slgr (sly), Swe slgd (dexterity). Associated with the SE sly.
sledge (n, vb) Corrupt form of sled. Scan.
sleigh (n, vb) Nor slee (short for slede). Se sledge/sled above.
slang (n) Vulgar language. Nor sleng (a slinging, a device). All forms from Ice slng, slengja (to sling, to throw about).
slop (n) A loose garment. Ice sloppr (a long, loose gown), Ice sleppa (to slip), so named from the garment trailing on the ground. Compare Dan slb (to trail), modern SE sloppy (loose, slipshod), SE 'slopping about' (acting in a lazy, unpurposeful manner); also Yorkshire dialect slob (loose-fitting, especially of shoes) and slop (a loose-fitting smock), slops (trousers).
smudge (n, vb) Dan smuds (smut, dirt). The verb form 'to smudge' means to smear, as in 'the ink was smudged'. Allied to smut, below.
smut (n) A spot of dirt or soot. Dan smudse and Swe smutsa (to soil). See smudge, above.
snipe (n) A bird. Ice snpa (a snipe), Dan sneppe (a snipe), Swe snppa (a sand-piper).
snout (n) Swe snut (snout, muzzle), Dan snude.
squib (n) A paper tube with combustibles or pyrotechnic explosives; a small firework. Ice svipa (to flash, to dart), Nor svipa (to run swiftly). Allied to SE adjective swift.
stith (n) An anvil. Ice stei (an anvil), allied to star (a fixed place), named for its firmness or steadiness and thus allied to the SE steady. Swe std (an anvil). Compare with Yorkshire dialect stithy (an anvil).
stilt (n) Swe stylta, Dan stylte (to walk on stilts).
stang (n) A pole, a stake. Ice stng, Swe stng, Dan stang (a pole, a stake). Compare with Yorkshire dialect biggerstang (a builders' scaffold pole: bigger from the Scan bygga [to build] + stang) and the Yorkshire folk custom of 'Riding the Stang' where a person to be upheld for public ridicule (especially for wife-beating) was placed astride a pole and carried around to the accompaniment of whistles and jeers.
stump (n, vb) Ice stumpr, Swe and Dan stump (stump end, a bit). In cricket, the wooden stakes used as wickets are also known as stumps. In the E verb form, 'to be stumped' can be a way of being given out in cricket and can also mean 'to be puzzled or at a loss'.
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tackle (n, vb) Equipment, gear, tools. O Swe and Swe tackel (tackle of a ship), Dan takkel (tackle), whence takle (to rig, as a ship). Associated with Ice taka (to grasp, seize). The E verb form 'to tacklesomething' is to set about a task, to get on with a job.
tarn (n) A pool, especially a mountain lake. Ice tjrn (a pool), Swe dialect tjrn, trn (a pool without an outlet). Found in E almost solely in Yorkshire and other parts of northern England and generally as part of a feature name, e.g., Malham Tarn.
tatter (n) A shred. Ice ttur (rags, tatters), Nor totror, tottrur. In SE, used most often in the plural form tatters.
tern (n) A seabird. Dan terne, trne, Swe trna, Ice erna (a tern).
thrall (n) A slave. Old Northumbrian rl borrowed from Old Norse, Ice rll (a thrall, a slave), Dan trl, Swe trl. In modern SE the verb 'to be in thrall tosomeone' is to be obliged to them or under their influence; the SE enthralled (spellbound, fixed upon) is no doubt from the same source.
thrave (n) An archaic term for a number of sheaves of wheat. Scan => ME raue, reue (thrave, threve). Ice refi (a thrave), Dan trave (a score of sheaves, i.e. twenty), Swe trafve (a pile of wood). Originally 'a handful' or 'an armful'. All related to Ice rfa (to seize, grasp).
thrift (n) Frugality. Ice rift (thrift), Nor trivelse (prosperity).
thrum (n) The end of a weaver's thread. Ice rmr (edge, verge), Nor trm, tram, trumm (edge, brim), Swe dialect trumm, trm (a stump, the end of a log). In the textile areas of Yorkshire the term is considered dialectal and used specifically for the ends cut from the warp yarn to tidy up the edges of the cloth while still on the loom, hence the dialect word thrummly (awkward, untidy, muddled).
thrust (n, vb) Ice rsta (to thrust, press, compel). Allied to the SE threat/threaten. Probably more in use in SE nowadays as a verb 'to thrust', with the noun applied more as a technical term as in 'the thrust of the jet engine'.
Thursday (n) Day of the week. E but confused with Scan. Thur is a corruption of ME thuner (thunder) ny confusion with Thor, which had the same sense. ME urs-day, from Anglo-Saxon unres + dg (thunder + day).
thwart (n, vb) Transverseley, transverse. Ice vert (adverse), Dan tvr (transverse), Swe tvr (across). As a noun in E it is used mainly of transverse panels across a ship or boat, including seats, with the associated maritime term 'athwart' standing for 'across'. In its original maritime usage it probably indicated a part of a ship's architecture which prevented (thwarted) the ingress of water or the movement of cargo. The SE verb 'to thwartsomething' means to prevent something happening or put some obstacle in the way, as in 'they thwarted his plan to become president'.
tidings (n) Scan => ME tidinde, tidinge. Ice tiindi (tidings, news). Originally 'things that happen'. Dan tidende.
tike (n) A dog; a low, untrustworthy fellow. Scan => ME tike. Ice tk, Swe tik (a bitch). Compare with the folk generic term for a Yorkshire person, Tyke, a derogatory appellation which may first have been applied to the population of the Viking Kingdom of York when it was a distinct political entity from the rest of England.
tit (n) Originally something small, as a horse or a child. Ice tittr (a tit, a bird), Nor tita (a little bird). Now used in E as an element in the names of small bird, e.g., bluetit, coaltit, etc. See titmouse.
titmouse (n) A small bird. Scan and Anglo-Saxon. Not connected with mouse and the proper plural is titmouses, though titmice is used in confusion with mice. A compound of tit (a small thing) and Anglo-Saxon mse (a name for several varieties of small bird).
tit for tat Blow for blow. Scan. A corruption of 'tip for tap', where tip is a light tap. Now used in E in the sense of repaying in kind or getting even.
toft, tuft (n) A plantation, a green knoll. Ice topt (pronounced toft), also tupt, toft, tomt (a knoll, clearing, cleared space). Found in E in the term 'croft and toft' (a cottage and a small holding of land attached to it) and in Danelaw place-names such as Willitoft, Altofts, etc. Compare Scandinavian place-names such as Ebeltoft (Denmark).
tram (n) A coal-waggon, a cart on rails, a light-railway form of public transport. Scan. Swe dialect tromm (log, stock of a tree; also a summer sledge), O Swe trm, trum (piece of a cut tree). Original sense is a beam or shaft, then a shaft of a cart. The tram-road was probably originally a log-road, later becoming a rail-road on sleepers.
trash (n, vb) Refuse, garbage. Scan. The original sense was bits of broken sticks found under trees. Ice tros (rubbish, twigs used for fuel), Nor tros (fallen twigs, half-rotten branches), Swe trasa (a rag, tatters), Swe dialect trs (a heap of sticks - derived from Swe dialect sl i tras (to break in pieces).
trist, tryst (n) An appointment to meet. Scan. Properly, a pledge. From traust (see trust).
tungsten (n) A heavy metal. Swe tungsten (heavy stone), Ice ungr (heavy).
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Valhalla (n) The hall of the slain. Ice valhll (the hall of the slain).
Viking (n) A northern pirate. Ice vkingr (a pirate, freebooter, rover). Thought to mean literally 'a creek dweller' from vik (a creek, an inlet).
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
wad (n) A small bundle of stuff, little mass of tow or textile waste. Swe vadd (wadding), O Swe wad (clothing, stuff, textiles), Ice vamal (a plain woollen stuff). Allied in E to the noun weed.
waif (n) A thing abandoned, a thing found astray. Fr => Scan => ME waif, weif. Ice veif (anything moving or flapping about - applied, e.g., to the fin of a seal) from veifa (to move about).
wake (n) The track of a ship. The proper sense is an opening in the ice. Ice vak (stem of vk - a hole, opening in the ice), Swe vak, Nor vok, hence Nor vekkja and Dan vaage (to cut a passage for ships through the ice). The original sense was 'wet place' from Ice vkr (wet). Compare with Lowland Scots wak (wet) and Du wak (moist).
walrus (n) A large member of the seal family. Du => Scan. Swe vallross, Dan hvalros (literally, a 'whale horse'). Said to be named from the neighing sound of the animal.
want (n) Lack, deficiency. Scan => ME want. First used as an adjective signifying 'deficient'. Compare with Yorkshire dialect usage of a verb form in, for instance, 'the grass wants cutting', where 'want' stands for 'needs' or 'requires', whereas the SE would be 'the grass needs (or requires) cutting'.
wapentake (n) An administrative district in parts of Scandinavian England; a Viking subdivision of the former Ridings (rijungr) of Yorkshire, similar in form and function to the 'hundreds' of Saxon England. Scan => ME, borrowed from Ice vpnatak (literally, a 'weapon touching', hence a vote of consent so expressed).
welcome (vb, n, adj) Ice velkommin (welcome, in greeting), Dan vel-kommen, Swe vl-kommen. Similar forms throughout the Germanic languages.
wherry (n) A shallow, light boat. Ice hverfr (shifty, crank - siad of a ship), Nor kverv (unsteady, quick - said of a boat).
whim (n) A freak. Ice hvima (to wander with the eyes, as of a silly person), Nor kvima (to whisk about, to trifle). Compare Swe dialect hvimmerkantig (giddy in the head) allied to Nor kvimsa, Swe dialect hvimsa, Dan vimse (To be giddy, to skip about). In modern SE the meaning is a sudden desire or notion to do something without a great deal of thought, as in 'she did it on a whim'.
whitlow (n) Painful swelling on the finger. Corruption of whickflaw, where wick is the northern E pronunciation of quick (i.e., the sensitive part of the finger around the nail). Ice kvika. Flaw is the Swe flaga (a flaw, a crack). The sense is 'a crack near the quick', hence a painful sore.
whore (n) A prostitute. The /w/ is unoriginal. Scan => ME hore. Ice hra (an adultress), feminine of hrr (an adulterer), Dan hore, Swe hora.
wicket (n) A small gate. Fr => Scan => ME wiket. The wicket used in cricket was, at first, a small gate.
window (n) Original sense is 'wind-eye'. Ice vindauga (a window) from Ice vindr (wind) + auga (eye).
wand (n) A slender rod. Scan => ME wand. Ice vndr (a switch), O Swe wand, Dan vaand (originally a pliant stick).
 
- 14. august 2004 -