What do these words have in common?

awkward birth both cake dirt gap get give ill mire muggy ransack root rotten rugged same scant scathe scowl seem skill skin skirt sky sprint steak their them they wand wrong

Answer after the jump . . .



All of these words were brought into English, mostly in the eighth through tenth centuries, by the Norse (Viking and Dane) invaders who followed the Romans and preceded the Normans. Words of Norse origin make up a fairly small percentage of the total number of English words, but they include some common ones.

A few more words in this category include anger, bag, bait, blackmail, bleak, bloom, booth, call, cast, club, crooked, die, drag, fellow, freckle, gaze, hit, husband, kid, kindle, knife, law, leg, lift, loan, loft, loose, low, meek, oaf, raft, raise, reindeer, rid, rug, sale, scalp, scare, score, scrap, scrub, scuffle, simper, slaughter, sleuth, sly, snag, snare, take, tangy, thrift, thrive, troll, trust, ugly, want, weak, window, and wing.

On balance the Norse contributed to English an abundance of useful dark and gloomy words that are handy when life is a drag and one is ill, hit, wronged, scowling, angry, simpering, ensnared, low, scared, or otherwise in an ugly mood.