Norse, another name for the North Germanic, or Scandinavian, group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Germanic languages). The modern Norse languages—Danish, Faeroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish—all stem from an earlier form of Norse known as Old Norse. Now extinct, Old Norse was the language spoken by the Germanic tribes living in Scandinavia before A.D. 1000. It was first written in runes, some examples of which go back to the 3d cent. A.D., but later the Roman alphabet was used. The earliest extant Old Norse manuscripts in the Roman alphabet are from the 12th cent. Old Norse is also noteworthy as the language of the Eddas and sagas (see Old Norse literature; Icelandic literature).
See E. V. Garden, An Introduction to Old Norse (2d ed. 1957).