What is the origin of the word ‘berserk’?

The word berserk came into English in the early 19th century, as a noun used to describe an ancient Norse warrior who fought with uncontrolled ferocity (also known as a berserker).

The English word derives from the Old Norse berserkr (noun), itself probably from combining bjorn (bear) and serkr (coat).  It could also possibly from berr 'bare' (i.e. without armour) and serkr.

It is now mostly used in the expression ‘to go berserk’.

 

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