The Difference Between Norse & Vikings

Updated November 21, 2016

The Norse were people from Scadinavia during medieval times, whereas Vikings was a term used to describe Norse explorers, the warriors who explored and settled in various areas of Europe. As Vikings, they also raided areas and traded goods. The difference lies in the intent of their activity.


The term "Norsemen," as Norse people were called, means men from Northern Europe (Scadinavia). The meaning of "Viking" is plundering or pirating. Norse refers to the Germanic tribes who emigrated and settled in Scandinavia around the year 1000 B.C. In A.D. eighth century, they started to concentrate in building ships, which helped them to travel long distances. This was the start of the Viking era. Viking is a term used to refer to the temporary lifestyle of Norse. Some of the young and adventurous Norsemen were very much interested in travelling and raiding foreign villages. This did not happen in their entire lifetime, but only for some months or years, especially in summer. These Norsemen were called Vikings.


Norsemen were rulers, nobles or farmers. Making the best use of the versatile ships they made, they travelled around the globe. This led to trading in different places, including Europe, Russia, Africa and India. Once they realised that stealing was much easier and more profitable than trading, the Viking within emerged. Norsemen used a similar language to that of Germans and Anglo-Saxon Britains, whereas Vikings used Icelandic and Faroese languages.


Norsemen, being farmers, were found to be more peaceful than their counterparts, the Vikings. However, Vikings were cruel and bloodthirsty barbarians who destroyed and looted everything they could. In retrospect, the Norsemen are viewed as good and the Vikings as evil.


Vikings were international tradesmen travelling around the world in their ships. They traded such items as silk and spices from Constantinople, amber from the Baltic, iron from Scandinavia, slaves from Russia, furs and walrus ivory from Iceland and Greenland.

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