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[ber-surk, -zurk] /bərˈsɜrk, -ˈzɜrk/
violently or destructively frenzied; wild; crazed; deranged:
He suddenly went berserk.
(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
1865-70; < 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
1. violent, mad, maniacal, rabid, demented, lunatic.
1. rational, calm. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for berserk
  • Instantly, the concert goers went berserk.
  • We're all familiar with new email users who go berserk and swamp us with interminably long and chatty messages.
  • Many of the smartest, most patriotic Americans have gone berserk over this new budget.
  • Some of the Armageddon-like coverage encouraged fans to go berserk.
  • My proposal was labeled ludicrous and reporters speculated that I had gone berserk.
  • Investors went berserk, buying and selling and selling and buying, mindlessly reaping profits merely by conducting transactions.
  • Now is as good a time as any for your kitten to learn to be handled without going berserk.
  • We had two horses cross-tied in the aisle that went berserk, as well as others in their stalls.
  • GP went berserk, squawking and fluffing and racing around his bower.
  • When those people come home from work, my dogs go berserk barking.
British Dictionary definitions for berserk


/bəˈzɜːk; -ˈsɜːk/
frenziedly violent or destructive (esp in the phrase go berserk)
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

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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