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berserk

[ber-surk, -zurk]
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adjective
  1. violently or destructively frenzied; wild; crazed; deranged: He suddenly went berserk.
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noun
  1. (sometimes initial capital letter) Scandinavian Legend. Also ber·serk·er. an ancient Norse warrior who fought with frenzied rage in battle, possibly induced by eating hallucinogenic mushrooms.
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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 formsber·serk·ly, adverbber·serk·ness, noun

Synonyms

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1. violent, mad, maniacal, rabid, demented, lunatic.

Antonyms

1. rational, calm.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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


British Dictionary definitions for berserk

berserk

adjective
  1. frenziedly violent or destructive (esp in the phrase go berserk)
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noun
  1. 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
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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

Word Origin and History for berserk

adj.

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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper