Why do so many Icelanders translate Útrásarvíkingar as “Outvasion Vikings”?

Ask IR

Why do so many Icelanders translate Útrásarvíkingar as “Outvasion Vikings”?

Q: I’ve just read your Daily Life article “Nú er Frost á Fróni” and I have a question for you: why do so many Icelanders translate útrásarvíkingar as “Outvasion Vikings”?

Útrás is the opposite of innrás, but “outvasion” is not the opposite of “invasion”—that would be “breakout” or “sortie”.

I think the term “Breakout Vikings” is apt, as those guys should all be in prison and thus fantasizing about breaking out! ;o)


Bob Ryan, Hafnarfjörður*, Iceland


A: In her article “Outvasion” in the 46.03 issue of the print edition of Iceland Review, published shortly before the banking collapse in October 2008, Eliza Reid covered the Icelandic útrás phenomenon with the intention of launching a new series on the “expansion of the Viking spirit,” as she called it.

However, those plans were shattered as the Icelandic economy collapsed and all the “clever business models” that were “turning heads,” as written in another article in the magazine, proved not to be as clever as they were promoted to be.

In explanation for her choice of title, Eliza wrote in the intro (click here to read the full article):

“An Icelandic-English dictionary translates it as ‘outlet; vent; outbreak; break-out.’ Others prefer the mouthful ‘internationalization.’ Whatever you call it, the útrás phenomenon has been on the lips of all Iceland analysts for the past few years.”

Útrásarvíkingar is a term used to describe the Icelandic tycoons conquering foreign markets with their investments, likening them to the Vikings who once raided foreign shores.

Instead of using the negative term innrás, used to describe forceful or militant entry, such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003, their conduct was glorified by describing it as an útrás, breaking out from the boundaries of Iceland and globalizing Icelandic businesses.

After Eliza’s article I stuck with the term “Outvasion Vikings” because even though “outvasion” isn’t strictly a word, I thought it best suited to describe what they were. Besides, it’s the literal translation of the Icelandic term.

I assume others who use it feel the same way but without the back story it is understandable that the term confuses people. Your suggestion is certainly apt.

* The Icelandic letter ð is pronounced like th in that.