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berserk

[ber-surk, -zurk] /bərˈsɜrk, -ˈzɜrk/
adjective
1.
violently or destructively frenzied; wild; crazed; deranged:
He suddenly went berserk.
noun
2.
(sometimes initial capital letter) Scandinavian Legend.. Also, berserker. an ancient Norse warrior who fought with frenzied rage in battle, possibly induced by eating hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Origin of berserk
1865-1870
1865-70; < Old Norse berserkr, equivalent to ber- (either *ber-, base of bjǫrn bear2 or berr bare1) + serkr sark, shirt, armor
Related forms
berserkly, adverb
berserkness, noun
Synonyms
1. violent, mad, maniacal, rabid, demented, lunatic.
Antonyms
1. rational, calm.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for berserk
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Well, get thee to horse, and make the most of thy time; my berserk here will guide thee past the guards.

    Erling the Bold R.M. Ballantyne
  • I am ordered to send this berserk with a troop of nineteen men to waylay thee.

    Erling the Bold R.M. Ballantyne
  • Of one thing he was assured: somewhere in the dim past an ancestor of his had died in a berserk rage.

    Parrot & Co. Harold MacGrath
  • “King Harald would speak with thee,” said the man, who was no other than Hake the berserk.

    Erling the Bold R.M. Ballantyne
  • "More likely to have them out on us in some sort of berserk rage," said the man, growling.

    A Sea Queen's Sailing Charles Whistler
  • A sort of berserk rage possessed him at the sight of that wound.

    The Black Buccaneer Stephen W. Meader
  • He is, therefore, the god of the battle rush, the divine force that inspires the athletic frenzy of the berserk.

    Canute the Great Laurence Marcellus Larson
  • One never gets used to the bulk and height of these berserk Campanias.

    A Fleet in Being Rudyard Kipling
  • He touched the hilt of his sword, and nodded good-humouredly to the berserk, who did not appear to relish the jest at all.

    Erling the Bold R.M. Ballantyne
British Dictionary definitions for berserk

berserk

/bəˈzɜːk; -ˈsɜːk/
adjective
1.
frenziedly violent or destructive (esp in the phrase go berserk)
noun
2.
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
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
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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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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