noun (sometimes lowercase)

  1. any of the Scandinavian pirates who plundered the coasts of Europe from the 8th to 10th centuries.
  2. a sea-roving bandit; pirate.
  3. a Scandinavian.
  4. U.S. Aerospace. one of a series of space probes that obtained scientific information about Mars.

noun (sometimes not capital)

  1. Also called: Norseman, Northman any of the Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes who raided by sea most of N and W Europe from the 8th to the 11th centuries, later often settling, as in parts of Britain
  2. any sea rover, plunderer, or pirate
  3. either of two unmanned American spacecraft that reached Mars in 1976
  4. (modifier) of, relating to, or characteristic of a Viking or Vikingsa Viking ship

Scandinavian pirate, 1807, vikingr; modern spelling attested from 1840. The word is a historical revival; it was not used in Middle English, but it was revived from Old Norse vikingr “freebooter, sea-rover, pirate, viking,” which usually is explained as meaning properly “one who came from the fjords,” from vik “creek, inlet, small bay” (cf. Old English wic, Middle High German wich “bay,” and second element in Reykjavik). But Old English wicing and Old Frisian wizing are almost 300 years older, and probably derive from wic “village, camp” (temporary camps were a feature of the Viking raids), related to Latin vicus “village, habitation” (see villa).

The connection between the Norse and Old English words is still much debated. The period of Viking activity was roughly 8c. to 11c. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the raiding armies generally were referred to as þa Deniscan “the Danes,” while those who settled in England were identified by their place of settlement. Old Norse viking (n.) meant “freebooting voyage, piracy;” one would “go on a viking.”

Warriors from Scandinavia who raided much of coastal Europe in the eighth to tenth centuries. The Vikings traveled in boats with high bows and sterns, carefully designed for either rough seas or calm waters. Eventually some Vikings settled in the countries they plundered and established new societies.

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