Ergi (noun) and argr (adjective) are two Old Norse terms of insult, denoting effeminacy or other unmanly behavior. Argr (also ragr) is "unmanly" and ergi is "unmanliness"; the terms have cognates in other Germanic languages such as earh, earg, arag, arug, and so on.
Ergi in the Viking Age
To accuse another man of being argr was called scolding (see "nīþ"), and thus a legal reason to challenge the accuser in holmgang. If holmgang was refused by the accused, he could be outlawed (full outlawry), as this refusal proved that the accuser was right and the accused was argr (= unmanly, cowardly). If the accused fought successfully in holmgang and had thus proven that he was not argr, the scolding was considered an eacan, an unjustified, severe defamation, and the accuser had to pay the offended party full compensation. The Grágás law code states:
"There are three words—should exchanges between people ever reach such dire limits—which all have full outlawry as the penalty; if a man calls another ragr, stroðinn or sorðinn. As they are to be prosecuted like other fullréttisorð and, what is more, a man has the right to kill in retaliation for these three words. He has the right to kill in retaliation on their account over the same period as he has the right to kill on account of women, in both cases up the next General Assembly. The man who utters these words falls with forfeit immunity at the hands of anyone who accompanies the man......