The term Viking (from Old Norse ) is customarily used to refer to the Norse (Scandinavia) explorer, warrior, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic islands from the late eighth to the mid-11th century. These Norsemen used their famed longship to travel as far east as Constantinople and the Volga River in Russia, and as far west as Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland, and as far south as Al Andalus. This period of Viking expansion – known as the Viking Age – forms a major part of the medieval history of Scandinavia, Britain, Ireland and the rest of Europe in general.
Popular conceptions of the Vikings often differ from the complex picture that emerges from archaeology and written sources. A romanticized picture of Vikings as Germanic noble savage began to take root in the 18th century, and this developed and became widely propagated during the 19th-century Viking revival. The received views of the Vikings as violent brutes or intrepid adventurers owe much to the modern Viking myth which had taken shape by the early 20th century. Current popular representations are typically highly clichéd, presenting the Vikings as familiar caricatures.
The Old Norse feminine noun víking refers to an expedition overseas. It occurs in Viking Age runic inscriptions and in later medieval writings in set expressions such as the phrasal verb fara í víking "to go on an expedition". In later texts such as the Icelandic sagas, the phrase "to go viking" implies participation in raiding activity or piracy, and not simply seaborne missions of trade and commerce. The related Old Norse masculine noun víkingr appears in Viking Age skaldic poetry and on several rune stone found in Scandinavia, where it refers to a seaman or warrior who takes part in an expedition overseas. The form also occurs as a personal name on some Swedish rune stones. There is little indication of any negative connotation in the term before the end of the Viking Age. Regardless of its possible origins, the word was used to indicate an activity and those who participated in it, and not to any ethnic or cultural group.
In Old English, the word wicing appears first in the Anglo-Saxon poem, "Widsith", which probably dates from the 9th century. In Old English, and in the history of the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen written by Adam of Bremen in about 1070, the term is synonymous with pirate. As in the Old Norse usages, the term is not employed as a name for any people or culture in general. The word does not occur in any preserved Middle English texts.
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