berserk

berserk (adj.) 1844, from berserk (n.) "Norse warrior," by 1835, an alternative form of BERSERKER (Cf. berserker) (1822), a word which was introduced by Sir Walter Scott, from O.N. berserkr (n.) "raging warrior of superhuman strength;" probably from *ber- "bear" + serkr "shirt," thus lit. "a warrior clothed in bearskin." Thus not from O.N. berr "bare, naked."
Thorkelin, in the essay on the Berserkir, appended to his edition of the Krisini Saga, tells that an old name of the Berserk frenzy was hamremmi, i.e., strength acquired from another strange body, because it was anciently believed that the persons who were liable to this frenzy were mysteriously endowed, during its accesses, with a strange body of unearthly strength. If, however, the Berserk was called on by his own name, he lost his mysterious form, and his ordinary strength alone remained. ["Notes and Queries," Dec. 28, 1850]
The adjectival use probably is from such phrases as berserk frenzy, or as a title (Arngrim the Berserk).

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • berserk — meaning ‘wild, frenzied’, is now mostly confined to the expression to go berserk. It is in origin a Norse word for a warrior who fought with wild fury. Berserk may be pronounced either bǝ zerk or bǝ serk, although the first is now more common …   Modern English usage

  • Berserk — Ber*serk (b[ e]r*s[ e]rk ; b[ e]r*z[ e]rk ; b[ e]r s[ e]rk) a. [See {berserk}, n.] frenzied; crazed; usually in predicate position. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Berserk — Ber serk, Berserker Ber serk*er, n. [Icel. berserkr.] 1. (Scand. Myth.) One of a class of legendary heroes, who fought frenzied by intoxicating liquors, and naked, regardless of wounds. Longfellow. [1913 Webster] 2. One who fights as if frenzied …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • berserk — index frenetic Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • berserk — [adj] crazed crazy, demented, deranged, insane, mad, maniacal, manic, violent; concept 403 …   New thesaurus

  • berserk — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ out of control; wild and frenzied. ► NOUN (also berserker) ▪ an ancient Norse warrior who fought with frenzy. ORIGIN Old Norse, probably from bjorn bear + serkr coat , or possibly from berr bare (i.e. without armour) …   English terms dictionary

  • berserk — [bər sʉrk′, bərzʉrk′; bəsʉrk′] n. [see BERSERKER] a berserker adj., adv. in or into a state of violent or destructive rage or frenzy …   English World dictionary

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