8 Ways Vikings Are Still Leaving Their Mark on the World

The Vikings have a hard-earned reputation for pillaging, but it turns out they also have a rich history that has influenced many cultures throughout the years. Viking influence on modern life is all around you, if you know what to look for.

Their ability to build the most modern ships of their era led to advances in exploration and travel, as well as settlements in Ireland and England. Perhaps their greatest legacy is the trade route they established that connected England and China; this advancement allowed for the exchange of goods across two continents.

Many English words are derived from Old Norse, the language spoken by the Vikings. Even today, modern technology - such as Bluetooth - is inspired by their exploits and keeps the lives of modern people linked to theirs. How are the Vikings influencing modern life today? Read on!

Photo: History Channel

  • They Used an Early Method of GPS

    They Used an Early Method of GPS
    Photo: RobCan9 / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    The Vikings were not only master shipbuilders, they were also master navigators, using the positioning of the sun to navigate the seas. If it was overcast, or if their view of the sun was obstructed, they used a feldspar solarsteinn or "sunstone." It is believed these sunstones polarized light, helping Viking sailors figure out the position of the sun and orient themselves accordingly.

  • The Bluetooth Symbol & Brand Name Comes from the Vikings

    The Bluetooth Symbol & Brand Name Comes from the Vikings
    Photo: Qwikili / YouTube

    Ever wonder what the deal is with the Bluetooth logo or how it got its name? It was derived from the Viking king Harald Blåtand, which translates to "Bluetooth." Blåtand was revered as a uniter who chose peaceful communication over violent wars.

    Jim Karhach, the founder of Bluetooth SIG, thought King Harald’s legacy dovetailed so nicely with his company's message, he decided it name it after the Viking ruler. The Bluetooth company's symbol is a combination of the Runic symbols for Blåtand’s initials.

    (And yes, Blåtand probably got his name because he really had a blue (or bluish) tooth, though there are many different theories.)

  • Many English Words Have Roots in Old Norse

    Early Viking activity in and around England consisted of raids and pillaging, as any history book will tell you. However, by the late 9th century, the Vikings and the English began trading and therefore many Viking phrases were adapted into the English language. Dark words of war such as “club,” “slaughter,” and “ransack” have origins in Old Norse, the language Vikings spoke. Cultural words like "bug," "husband," and "loan" also have origins in Old Norse.

  • They Pioneered Trade Routes Still Used Today

    It may come as a surprise, but the majority of Vikings were more interested in exploring and trading than pillaging and raping. Their extensive trade network covered all of Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and China. They pioneered trade routes that are still used to this day. Because of the international market they created, entire countries were able to participate and trade in the “world market” of that time.

  • They Founded Dublin, Ireland

    The Irish city of Dublin that we know today was actually founded by the Vikings in 841 C.E. It was originally called "Dubh Linn," which translates to "Black Pool"; it was named for the lake where the Vikings kept their ships (pictured above in modern day). After about 300 years of Viking rule, the Irish rebelled and took the city for themselves in 1014. Several other Irish cities also once belonged to the Vikings, including Wexford, Limerick, and Waterford.

  • They Sort of Invented the Modern Soap Opera

    Vikings were also storytellers and the word “saga” most likely gets it origins in Old Norse. They passed down stories of kings, family, and the everyday struggles of both the hero and the everyman. Their Icelandic Sagas chronicled the deeds of ordinary people in addition to the rulers of the day. While they were probably exaggerated, the stories nevertheless set a dramatic precedent for centuries to come.