Tag Archives: scandinavian language

Useful Scandinavian words to start using in English

February 26, 2015 | 19 Comments

Image: The utterly brilliant satwcomic.com

The best untranslatable Scandi words you need to include in your everyday use from now on and forever

We have some great words that deserve to be used. Thank you to everybody who wrote in with suggestions – we got far too many words to use them all, but we have included our best ones here.


(pronounced [ˈlɑ̀ːɡɔm]). A very Swedish word. It means not too much, not too little. Just the right amount. You can have a lagom amount of coffee, for example. How many meatballs do you want? Lagom, please. Your shower can be lagom hot. Your coffee lagom strong.  It expresses a sense of balance and satisfaction with having your needs met without needing excess.


A Swedish word meaning ‘messy hair after having sex’. Yes, we have a word for that. ‘Hi Brenda, you have knullrufs today – I guess your date went well last night?’


An old Sami word meaning ‘the distance reindeer can travel before needing to urinate’. Used as a distance measure, as in “ There’s a Poronkusema to his house’ (7 kilometres, in case you were wondering).


A Swedish word meaning ‘ to meet up for a cup of coffee and a bun/cake. You can Fika as a noun or verb – to fika or go for a fika. It’s casual, but you can fika with your friends, or even have a fika date. You can fika with colleagues at work or even fika with your family. It’s a social thing: you can’t really fika alone.

Hygge (hyggelig)

The ultimate Danish word. It means a state of lovely cosiness, on your own or with people you like. Doesn’t have to involve food, but it involves good feelings and happiness. You can hygge in front of the telly, or you can hygge at the local café. In front of the log fire with a good book is a nice place to hygge, too.

Same word in Norwegian is Koselig.


A Danish word, meaning ‘tooth butter’. Meaning: There is so much butter on your bread that your teeth leave bitemarks.

Sambo and Mambo

In Sweden, if you live with your partner, you have a sambo. Samman = together and Bo = live. If you live at home with your mother, you Mambo. Yes, really.


A great Finnish word, literally: a comma fucker. A pedant; a person who corrects trivial or meaningless things. A person who believes it is their destiny to stamp out all spelling and punctuation mistakes. As in ‘Seriously, don’t be such a pilkunnussija’.


A Danish dialect word that describes feeling under the weather, a little bit tired and just not quite right and have no desire for food. (Pronounced with a soft j, not a hard one).


A brilliant Norwegian word that simply means: To sit outside and enjoy a beer.


A Finnish word that means: “I wonder if I should run around aimlessly?”


Norwegian. Literally, Cable Salad. When all your cables and leads are mixed together.


Norwegian and Danish word that means: That intoxicatingly euphoric feeling you experience when you’re first falling in love. Pre-real-love. More than fancy, less than love.


A Swedish word, meaning ‘lens louse’ – Someone who always wants to have their face in a photo.


Swedish. To steal fruit off trees. Eg. ‘Hey Kalle, let’s go palla in Andersson’s garden– they have pear trees and plums, too’.

No doubt word enthusiasts will now email us saying the English word is “scrumping”. But as far as we could work out, you can only scrump apples. Let us know if we’re wrong about that, though.


The Danish word for ‘clearance sale’ (you can find this one almost always somewhere written largely across the store’s front windows). Literally: Race to the end.


Swedish word, literally meaning Squeeze Day. If there is a bank holiday then a working day and then another day off, that working day will become a ‘squeeze day’ – and we’ll all be off work.


A Danish word for gossiping and chitchat. (The d is soft)


What you call someone who has had sex with someone you’ve already had sex with. A useful Swedish word.


Swedish for ‘ungoogleable’ – something you cannot Google.

Orka / Orke

Danish, Swedish, Norwegian: This verb is a tremendously common word meaning “to have the energy”: ‘Do you orka to go into Oxford Street this weekend? No, Kalle, I don’t orkar it’.


A Swedish word, literally meaning “attitude incontinence,” meaning: Inability to keep one’s opinions to oneself. As in: ‘Sorry for that long comment I left on your page, I guess I had a case of attitydinkontinens.’


Swedish. Every Friday, we do this: Fredagsmys means Friday Cosy. Eat nice food, sweets, get cosy. Only on Fridays, though. Usually involves tacos (for some reason).


Swedish for someone who refuses to enter the water. As in: ‘Get in the lake, you badkruka’.


Swedish – to wake up in the morning with the purpose of going out to hear the birds sing.

What a great collection of words – feel free to add more in the comments.

Bye for now

The Kitchen People




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