The Norsemen (or Norse people) were a North Germanic ethnolinguistic group of the Early Middle Ages, during which they spoke the Old Norse language.[1][2][3][4] The language belongs to the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages and is the predecessor of the modern Germanic languages of Scandinavia.[4] During the late eighth century, Scandinavians embarked on a large-scale expansion in all directions, giving rise to the Viking Age. In English-language scholarship since the 19th century, Norse seafaring traders, settlers and warriors have commonly been referred to as Vikings. Historians of Anglo-Saxon England distinguish between Norse Vikings (Norsemen) from Norway who mainly invaded and occupied the islands north and north-west of Britain, Ireland and western Britain, and Danish Vikings, who principally invaded and occupied eastern Britain.[lower-alpha 1]

The identity of Norsemen derived into their modern descendants,[5] the Danes, Icelanders,[lower-alpha 2] Faroe Islanders,[lower-alpha 2] Norwegians, and Swedes,[6] who are now generally referred to as 'Scandinavians' rather than Norsemen.[7]

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