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[ber-surk, -zurk] /bərˈsɜrk, -ˈzɜrk/
violently or destructively frenzied; wild; crazed; deranged:
He suddenly went berserk.
(sometimes initial capital letter) Scandinavian Legend.. Also, berserker. an ancient Norse warrior who fought with frenzied rage in battle, possibly induced by eating hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Origin of berserk
1865-70; < Old Norse berserkr, equivalent to ber- (either *ber-, base of bjǫrn bear2 or berr bare1) + serkr sark, shirt, armor
Related forms
berserkly, adverb
berserkness, noun
1. violent, mad, maniacal, rabid, demented, lunatic.
1. rational, calm. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for berserk
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I am ordered to send this berserk with a troop of nineteen men to waylay thee.

    Erling the Bold R.M. Ballantyne
  • “King Harald would speak with thee,” said the man, who was no other than Hake the berserk.

    Erling the Bold R.M. Ballantyne
  • A sort of berserk rage possessed him at the sight of that wound.

    The Black Buccaneer Stephen W. Meader
  • He had all the fervour of the fanatic, and when he prayed his eyes assumed a berserk look.

    The Secrets of a Kuttite Edward O. Mousley
  • One never gets used to the bulk and height of these berserk Campanias.

    A Fleet in Being Rudyard Kipling
  • But the innate craft of the wilderness rose to guide his berserk rage.

    Red Nails Robert E. Howard
  • When angry they used to fall into the berserk's fury, and nothing escaped that was before them.

  • The berserk was sitting on his horse wearing his helmet, the chin-piece of which was not fastened.

  • Thereupon, half the female population ran after the berserk Martian.

    Mars Confidential Jack Lait
British Dictionary definitions for berserk


/bəˈzɜːk; -ˈsɜːk/
frenziedly violent or destructive (esp in the phrase go berserk)
Also called berserker. a member of a class of ancient Norse warriors who worked themselves into a frenzy before battle and fought with insane fury and courage
Word Origin
C19: Icelandic berserkr, from björn bear + serkr shirt
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for berserk

1844, from berserk (n.) "Norse warrior," by 1835, an alternative form of berserker (1822), a word which was introduced by Sir Walter Scott, from Old Norse berserkr (n.) "raging warrior of superhuman strength;" probably from *ber- "bear" + serkr "shirt," thus literally "a warrior clothed in bearskin." Thus not from Old Norse 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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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