The word "Russia" is derived from the name "Rus", the name of a Viking tribe originating from Sweden who ended up founding kingdoms in what is now Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, most notably the so-called Kievan Rus'.

Now the Vikings probably spoke a variety of Old East Norse and even though they were eventually assimilated in the slavic majority, their language probably enjoyed a prestigious position for a while and may have had some influence over the languages of the Slavic subjects.

So, what are the remaining traces of this superstrate influence in the East Slavic language, aside from the word "Russia" itself ?

The number of North Germanic loans in the East Slavic languages is rather low (the most critical estimate is around thirty).

For example, Panzer 2002 mentions 34 words (V. Kiparsky) or 30 words (Struminski 1996), such as кнут, селедка, шелк, ящик etc.; the other words are not very common in present-day Russian, e.g. варяг, витязь, стяг, ларь, пуд, ябеда etc.

Panzer further notes that some of those loans, e.g. акула, крюк, якорь, ящик, сельдь, скат etc. were borrowed from "later stages of Swedish and Norwegian" (after 1300 AD).

Re: some factually incorrect comments. The communis opinio is that OCS хлѣбъ most likely comes from Gothic hlaifs and not North Germanic (see e.g. Pronk-Tiethoff 2013), whose origin, in its turn, is rather murky/unknown. Overall, North Germanic has had almost no impact on the Proto-Slavic vocabulary.

As for акула, it is usually considered that the donor language in this case was Old Icelandic (hakall), i.e. a western dialect of Old Norse. Nedoma 2017 reminds us that Old Icelandic is not Old Norse per se, and that North Germanic (or "classical" Ancient Norse) was a "dialect-free Trümmersprache" that remained "practically unchanged" until the late 5th century (p. 877), later splitting into a number of Old Norse languages, Old Icelandic being one of them.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.