Top 10 Interesting Facts About The Norsemen

Here’s a top of 10 interesting facts you should know about the Norsemen:

10. By far the most well known misconception about the Norsemen is that they are many times mistaken for the name of their occupation, namely for the term ‘Viking’. Although the term ‘Viking’ denotes in Old Norse the occupation of a sea traveler and of a warrior, in the Old English texts they were portrayed as pirates and pillagers, a thing which attributed them this widely spread denomination.

9. By starting to invade, create settlements and establish kingdoms almost everywhere they landed, the Norsemen were no more ‘savage’ nor less ‘greedy’ during their presence in Britain than the Angles, Saxons, or Jutes altogether during the Anglo-Saxon period.

Artistic depiction of a group of Norsemen. Image source:

Artistic depiction of a group of Norsemen from the PC game Mount & Blade. Image source: www.wordpress.com

8. The expeditions carried out by the Norsemen were not all made in the purpose of looting and plundering churches, villages or towns. Instead, their main goal was to search for new land in order to farm and settle on, as it was the case of England, Iceland or the Faroe Islands.

7. According to recent studies, the Norsemen first traded, then looted.

6. Linguistic studies prove the fact that there are many words stemming from Old Norse in the English language (most of them having been retained in Old English after the Danelaw had been established). Linguists claim that there are roughly nine hundred English words of Danish origin as well as another nine hundred of which their roots are not certain to date. Most of the linguists are not sure whether these additional nine hundred words with uncertain origins were borrowed from Danish or were already existent up to that point in history in Anglian English. There are also many cognates in Danish and Standard English such as ‘husband’, ‘egg’, or ‘leg’.

5. The Norsemen weren’t barbarian or filthy looking at all, as erroneously assumed by some. On the contrary, in the time of the Danish rule over England (that lasted during the early Middle Ages), the Norsemen were renowned for their cleanliness and were also reputed for taking a bath at least once a week.

4. The Norsemen set foot on American soil long before Columbus. Leif Erikson, the son of Erik the Red, overtook Columbus by spotting Newfoundland in circa 1000. Leif Erikson gave it the name Vinland.

3. Another intriguing fact about the Norsemen is that, in many cases, wherever they settled down they would have gradually gave up speaking Old Norse. Concomitantly, they started to be speakers of the languages spoken in the territories where they’ve arrived. So it is that in Ireland they became speakers of Irish, in Sicily they became speakers of Sicilian, and in Normandy they became speakers of French.

2. The Viking warriors didn’t wear horned or winged helmets. This is a myth that has been gaining ground for quite a long time, being thus erroneously associated with the Norsemen since the 19th century, when various Romantic artists portrayed them with unusual headgear.

1. The Norsemen were skillful craftsmen and very talented traders. They traded with the Byzantine Empire and later on with the Holy Roman Empire.

Below you can watch two short animated videos on the Vikings and the Viking Age from NutShellEdu uploaded on Youtube:

The Vikings in a nutshell:
Below you can also watch a short video presentation on the Vikings made by John Green from Crash Course World History channel uploaded on Youtube:


5 Responses to Top 10 Interesting Facts About The Norsemen

  1. Steve Spence says:

    Very good memo. My family is from the Orkney Islands and I knew some of this history… I studied languages, especially German and linguistics. Well done you folks!

    • Duane Whitby says:

      What a weird coincidence! My family came to Canada from the Orkney Islands. I have majored in German and have studied Linguistics at the University of Manitoba and am apparently related to a James Spence who came to Canada in the mid 1800’s. I have been reading extensively on the Viking settlers of Orknejar. It seems I am descended from a Thokell Fletta. Bizarre!

  2. I. Andryha says:

    Спасибо!очень интересно.

  3. Duane Whitby says:

    This was very informative and again interesting. A comprehensive outline of Norse culture.

  4. Valerie Emerson Theriault says:

    Loved this article! Wonderful info. I’m looking forward to proving my Viking blood line in the near future. I’ve know silently in my heart since I was a child that I am Viking.

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