Taking Turns

Linguistic economy and the name of the Vikings

  • Bernard Mees


The etymology of the term Víkingr is reviewed in this paper and the methodological shortcomings of the many suggestions made in previous scholarship are explored, particularly from the perspective of semantic theory. A majority of the etymologies proffered in prior accounts suggest that the term is best to be taken simply as a derivation of the early Nordic verb *wîkan ‘to turn’, much as Old Icelandic víkja (ýkva, víkva) ‘to move, to turn’ has well-attested nautical usages, even if many previous treatments have failed to take a linguistically economical approach to the development of this defining description in Old Norse studies.