Where does the term “berserk” come from?

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ber·serk/bərˈzərk/

Adjective:

  1. (of a person or animal) Out of control with anger or excitement; wild or frenzied: “after she left him, he went berserk“.
  2. (of a mechanical device or system) Operating in a wild or erratic way; out of control.

 

The term berserk comes from the Old Norse word, berserkr, which means ‘a wild warrior or champion’.  These warriors wore hides of bears.   The term berserkr is probably a compound word from bera (bear) and serkr (shirt), a bear skin shirt.  Berserkers would howl like the bears they slaughtered in battle driving fear into their opponents.  They probably played up this fear a great deal, anything they could do to look more frenzied would add to their opponents fear.

Today the term still means a person in a frenzy, most likely smashing something or someone, but it is usually referred to those who are without control.

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