berserk

[ber-surk, -zurk]
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.

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 for berserk

Antonyms for berserk

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

Examples from the Web for berserker

Contemporary Examples of berserker

Historical Examples of berserker

  • Then in the Jam-wagon there awoke the ancient spirit of the Berserker.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • In Berserker madness, torrent and uproar, clashed the two colours.

    The Long Roll

    Mary Johnston

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

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

    Ned, the son of Webb

    William O. Stoddard

  • I want to let him know the truth about that affair of Sikend the Berserker.

    Ned, the son of Webb

    William O. Stoddard


British Dictionary definitions for berserker

berserk

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

Word Origin for berserk

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 berserker
n.

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.

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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper