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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for berserker
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "It is likely that your son is going to make a berserker, Karlsefne," he answered.

    The Vinland Champions Ottilie A. Liljencrantz
  • Then in the Jam-wagon there awoke the ancient spirit of the berserker.

    The Trail of '98 Robert W. Service
  • Conceive the Calls coming over in a dragon ship, filled with berserker rage, to ravage England and glut themselves with our blood.

    Cornish Characters S. Baring-Gould
  • In berserker madness, torrent and uproar, clashed the two colours.

    The Long Roll Mary Johnston
  • Men of the berserker type, however, are more addicted to going straight through the lot.

    The Protector Harold Bindloss
  • But he was no match for the berserker rage which had transformed the man from the woods.

  • She is seized by a sort of berserker fury, throws herself upon her horse, cries to her hounds, and dashes off.

  • He believeth thee the slayer of Sikend the berserker from under the bridge.

    Ned, the son of Webb William O. Stoddard
  • As the mother on learning the tragic truth had taken refuge in a dead faint, so he took refuge in a berserker rage.

    Woman William J. Robinson
British Dictionary definitions for berserker


/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 berserker

alternative form of berserk (q.v.), from Old Norse berserkr, accusative of berserk. This is the oldest form of the word in its revival in Modern English (1822), and perhaps Scott, who introduced it, mistook the -r for an agent-noun suffix. Further compicated because it has the form of the Old Norse plural, and English berserker sometimes is plural.



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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