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In the Old Norse written corpus, berserkers (or "berserks"; Old Norse: berserkir) were warriors who purportedly fought in a trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the modern English word "berserk." Berserkers are attested to in numerous Old Norse sources, with their name literally rendered as "bear-coats", along with úlfhéðnar ("wolf-coats").
The English word berserk is derived from the Old Norse words ber-serkr (plural ber-serkir) possibly meaning a "bear-shirt" or "bear coat"—i.e., a wild warrior or champion of the Viking age, although its interpretation remains controversial. The element ber- was interpreted by the thirteenth-century historian Snorri Sturluson as "bare", which he understood to mean that the warriors went into battle bare-chested, or without armour. This word is also used in ber-skjaldaðr that means "bare of shield", or without a shield. Others derive it from berr (Germ, bär = ursus, the bear); Snorri's view has been largely abandoned.
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