Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nordic loan words in Irish?

I've heard from many sources that Irish has some Nordic loan words. Being a Swede, I've been keeping an eye out for them, but I haven't really come across any words that have any obvious Nordic origins.

This may of course be because both Irish and the Nordic languages have evolved quite a lot since the Vikings ruled Dublin. From what I understand (according to Wikipedia, that is), Icelandic is the contemporary language closest to Old Norse, and I must admit that I don't understand much Icelandic. I do have two words that have struck me as maybe having a Nordic origin, although the reasoning is maybe a bit far fetched.

The first word is 'freagair', meaning 'answer' or 'reply'. This, to me, sounds quite a lot like the Swedish word 'fråga', which means 'question'. Why the loan word would basically take the complete opposite meaning doesn't really make sense. Also, the Norwegian word is quite different, and it was the Norse that went to Ireland (Swedes went east, to modern day Russia and all the way down to Turkey). So, I admit this is dubious say the least.

The second word is 'fear/fir', meaning 'man/men'. In Norwegian, 'fyr' is slang for a man. According to Wiktionary, 'fear' goes back to Proto-Celtic '*wiros', so maybe it's actually an Irish loan word in Norwegian. But most likely, they are not related at all.

Anyway, if anybody knows of any proper Nordic loan words in Irish, I'd be very glad to be educated.


  1. Hi, Irish words I've noticed to be similiar to Swedish ones are brea (lovely), slí (path), corp (body) & agus (and) as well as freagra (answer), but middle & old Irsh would be a bit different; for instance, agus would have been ocus which sounds a lot nearer to Och. We were told in School that many Irish words to do with Commerce and the sea were from Norse - like pingin(penny), Long(boat) scilling(shilling)

  2. Here are a few more (derived from old Norse). Bord (table) Sceir (Skerry) margadh (market) trosc (codfish) fuinneog (window) bróg (shoe) bád (boat) cnaipe (button)

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