berserk was our Word of the Day on 01/09/2009. Hear the podcast!
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Origin and Etymology of berserk
Old Norse berserkr, probably from ber- bear + serkr shirt
First Known Use: 1800See Words from the same year
Recent Examples of berserk from the Web
There are a couple of nifty Rube Goldbergian action sequences — one with a bank vault, the other with a guillotine — that recall the berserk inventiveness of Gore Verbinski, the original director.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'berserk.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Did You Know?
Berserk comes from Old Norse berserkr, which combines ber- ("bear") and serkr ("shirt"). According to Norse legend, berserkrs were warriors who wore bearskin coverings and worked themselves into such frenzies during combat that they became immune to the effects of steel and fire. Berserk was borrowed into English (first as a noun and later as an adjective) in the early 19th century, when interest in Scandinavian myth and history was high. It was considered a slang term at first, but it has since gained broader acceptance.
BERSERK Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of berserk for English Language Learners
: crazy and violent especially because of anger
BERSERK Defined for Kids
Definition of berserk for Students
: out of control especially due to extreme anger or excitement
Seen and Heard
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