or why Danish is a lot like English.
Danish and English both belong to the Germanic family of languages so it shares many words with German and English. English speakers will recognize many "loan words" in Danish which have been borrowed from English in recent times as English has become an international language. But the deeper connections between Danish and English go back to Viking times and before that to the Angles, Saxon and Jutes who settled Britain before Roman times. The famous Viking raiders of the middle ages were actually Danish farmers and many of them settled permanently in England during the Viking expansions between about 700 and 1100 AD. I have heard it said that up to a third of England's population was of Danish origin towards the end of that time. Canute the Great, who became Denmark's king in 1018, conquered England fifty years before William the Conqueror and remained king of England for twenty five years. Many old English words are of Danish origin.
Here are a few English words which are identified by the Oxford dictionary as being from Old Norse. As you can see, they are usually short words of one or two syllables and they refer to things which would have been familiar to Danish farmers in the middle ages.
|book||bog||The noun, not the verb.|
|can||kan, kunne||The verb, not the noun. Kan is present of kunne.|
|come||kom, komme||kom is the present of komme|
|eye||øje||j in Danish is pronounced as y in English, which explains the English spelling.|
|gum||gumme||Fleshy part of mouth. The other meaning of resin is from Greek and French rather than Danish.|
|hail||hagl||As in pellets of frozen rain. Pronounced the same as in English.|
|know||kende||Know of rather than know about.|
|lay||lagde, lægge||As in to put down. lagde is the present of lægge.|
|leg||læg||læg only refers to the calf part of the leg.|
|long||lang||Same two meanings - of length and to yearn.|
|ring||ring, ringe||Same two meanings - ring is a circle, ringe is to ring.|
|slay||slå||slå means to beat or hit, not necessarily to death.|
|small||små||små is only for plural things.|
|snail||snegl||Pronounced the same as in English|
|tide||tid, tidevand||tid in Danish mean time or season and is pronounced teeth. tidevand means tidal cycle of the ocean.|
|time||time||time in Danish means an hour and is pronounced teema|
Danish for English Speakers
Copyright © Gordon Smyth