Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. One of a band of ancient Norse warriors legendary for their savagery and reckless frenzy in battle.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. One of a class of legendary Norse warriors who fought frenzied and shirtless regardless of wounds (possibly due to ingestion of psychotropic and hallucinatory drugs such as Fly Agaric Mushrooms).
  • n. One who fights as if frenzied, like a Berserker.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A wild warrior or champion of heathen times in Scandinavia.
  • n. Hence A person of extreme violence and fury.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. one of the ancient Norse warriors legendary for working themselves into a frenzy before a battle and fighting with reckless savagery and insane fury

Etymologies

Old Norse berserkr : *bera, feminine of björn, bear; see bher-2 in Indo-European roots + serkr, shirt.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

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  • Berserkers were Viking warriors that wore bear-skin shirts to look more intimidating—the berserkers were also trained to embody the spirit of an enraged bear, and summon up all their inner heat and rage to be more effective in combat. This process was facilitated by the ingestion of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

    This is part of why the vikings were so terrifying. You'd be minding your own business in some village in Northern Europe or along the English coast, and suddenly a long-boat full of angry dudes, dressed in skins, stoned out of their minds and convinced they were predatory animals, would show up and start hacking everything to pieces.

    February 16, 2014