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Saxons vs. Vikings: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 4, 2024
Saxons were a Germanic tribe in Europe, known for their settlement of England; Vikings were Scandinavian seafarers, famed for their raids and explorations.

Key Differences

The Saxons originated as a group of Germanic tribes in what is now Germany, before migrating to England in the 5th century. The Vikings, on the other hand, were seafaring Norse people from Scandinavia, known for their raids and explorations from the late 8th to early 11th centuries.
Saxons played a significant role in the early medieval history of England, where they established several kingdoms. In contrast, Vikings are remembered for their adventurous expeditions across Europe, North Atlantic islands, and even North America, showcasing their prowess in navigation and warfare.
The societal structure of the Saxons was based on kinship groups and warrior aristocracy, heavily influenced by their pagan beliefs before Christianization. Vikings, renowned for their warrior culture, were also traders and settlers, with a pantheon of Norse gods and a well-developed mythology.
Language and legacy differ significantly; Old English evolved from the dialects brought by the Saxons, while the Vikings contributed to the Old Norse language. Both groups left a lasting impact on European history, but while the Saxons became integral to English identity, Vikings are often seen as external influencers.

Comparison Chart

Origin of Name

From "Saxons," a Germanic tribe
From Old Norse "víkingr," meaning pirate or raider

Language Influence

Contributed to Old English
Contributed to Old Norse

Historical Period

5th to 11th centuries
Late 8th to early 11th centuries

Cultural Identity

Integral to English heritage
Seen as adventurous outsiders


Formed the basis of English medieval kingdoms
Known for exploration, trade, and cultural exchange

Saxons and Vikings Definitions


Warriors and settlers from present-day Germany and Denmark.
Saxons were known for their fierce battles against the Vikings.


Scandinavian warriors and traders from the 8th to 11th centuries.
Vikings were both feared and admired for their naval prowess.


A term used to describe early medieval Germanic tribes.
The Saxons’ migration significantly influenced European history.


Norse seafarers known for their raids and explorations.
The Vikings traveled as far as North America in their longships.


Contributors to the Old English language and Anglo-Saxon culture.
The literature of the Saxons includes the epic poem Beowulf.


Followers of Norse mythology and creators of sagas.
The Vikings passed down rich tales of gods and heroes.


Early inhabitants of England before Norman Conquest.
The Saxons established powerful kingdoms like Wessex.


Builders of a significant cultural and economic influence in medieval Europe.
Vikings established trade routes connecting different parts of Europe.


A Germanic people who settled in England in the early Middle Ages.
The Saxons played a pivotal role in the formation of English kingdoms.


Pioneers in sea navigation and shipbuilding from Scandinavia.
Vikings’ longships were marvels of ancient engineering.


A member of a West Germanic tribal group that inhabited northern Germany and invaded Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries AD with the Angles and Jutes.


One of a seafaring Scandinavian people who raided the coasts of northern and western Europe from the eighth through the tenth century.


A person of English or Lowland Scots birth or ancestry as distinguished from one of Irish, Welsh, or Highland Scots birth or ancestry.


A Scandinavian.


A native or inhabitant of Saxony.


Plural of viking


The West Germanic language of any of the ancient Saxon peoples.


The Germanic element of English as distinguished from the French and Latin elements.


What were the Saxons known for?

The Saxons were known for their settlement and cultural influence in England.

Where did the Vikings originate?

Vikings originated from Scandinavia, including present-day Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

Did Saxons and Vikings ever interact?

Yes, Saxons and Vikings interacted, often in conflicts during Viking raids in England.

What language did the Saxons speak?

The Saxons spoke Old English, which heavily influenced modern English.

Were Vikings only raiders and warriors?

Vikings were also traders, explorers, and settlers, not just raiders and warriors.

What is a Viking longship?

A longship is a type of highly maneuverable Viking ship used for warfare and exploration.

Did Vikings discover America?

Vikings are believed to have reached North America around 1000 AD, before Columbus.

What is the Viking Age?

The Viking Age refers to the period from the late 8th to the early 11th century, marked by Viking expansion.

How did the Saxons impact British history?

Saxons significantly shaped early English culture, law, and language.

What ended the Viking Age?

The Viking Age ended with the Christianization of Scandinavia and changing political dynamics in Europe.

Were Saxons originally from England?

No, Saxons migrated to England from regions in present-day Germany and Denmark.

Did Vikings have a written language?

Vikings used runes for inscriptions, but their sagas were initially transmitted orally.

What architecture is associated with Saxons?

Saxons are known for their early medieval churches and wooden architecture.

What religion did the Saxons follow?

Saxons were initially pagan but gradually converted to Christianity.

What was the Viking religion?

Vikings followed Norse paganism, worshipping gods like Odin and Thor.

Did Saxons have a written script?

Saxons used a runic alphabet before adopting the Latin script post-Christianization.

How did Saxons govern their territories?

Saxons governed through a system of kingdoms, each ruled by a king.

Were Viking women warriors?

Some historical sources and archaeological finds suggest there were female Viking warriors, known as shieldmaidens.

What were Viking settlements like?

Viking settlements were typically coastal, with farms, trade posts, and sometimes fortified towns.

What was the Saxon social structure?

Saxons had a hierarchical society with kings, nobles, freemen, and serfs.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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