A mini-guide to ‘Hygge’

Posted by Bronte Aurell | Fun stuff, Scandi Life

Is it a Danish thing?

The Danes claim it as their own. But really, it’s a Norwegian word. Danes started using it in the 1900’s, but truthfully, it isn’t Danish at all. Most Danes will deny this, of course, seeing as it is now such a huge part of what makes a Dane really Danish. In fact, let’s just say it is as Danish as Danish can be.

What does it mean?

It’s an elevated state of cosiness. Often with dimmed light (although not always – you can still hygge in the park or garden on a sunny day). Think people close to you, woolly socks, fire place, candlelight. Happy feelings, warm feelings. Nothing else matters.


How do I use the word ‘hygge’?

Hygge is a verb. You can ‘hygge’ with friends and family, even on your own. Something can be ‘hyggeligt’ which means it is has the potential to help you ‘hygge’. A corner of a room can look ‘hyggeligt’, but you need to be in it to ‘hygge’.

How do I pronounce it?

[ˈhyɡ̊ə]  – click here for a bit of help


Why do I need to understand ‘hygge’?

Because its such an important feeling, it is now taught as a subject at a UK college level. Click here for article 

Truth: The presence of sweets, cakes and crisps is the easiest way to speed up the feeling of ‘hygge’.

Example: You sit down in front of the telly with your besties to watch a good movie. It’s nice. Add a bowl of dillchips, some Marabou chocolate and a packet of Gott & Blandat and suddenly, it’s ‘hygge’.

Example 2: You invite friends over. You enjoy a glass of wine, you light some candles. Add a bowl of sweets or crisps to the table, and ‘hygge’ happens instantly.

‘Hygge’ is a compliment

‘Hyggeligt’ is a big compliment to someone who created it. If you’ve been at someone’s house for dinner and you tell the host it was ‘hyggeligt’, you are paying them a big compliment.

Is the English word ‘hug’ linked to ‘hygge’?

There is a slight debate about this.   Etymonline says:

HUG: 1560s, hugge “to embrace, clasp with the arms,” of unknown origin; perhaps from Old Norse hugga “to comfort,” from hugr “courage, mood,” from Proto-Germanic *hugjan, related to Old English hycgan “to think, consider,” Gothic hugs “mind, soul, thought,” and the proper name Hugh. Others have noted the similarity in some senses to German hegen “to foster, cherish,” originally “to enclose with a hedge.” Related: Hugged; hugging.

Well, it’s a possibility that there is a Scandinavian link there. In terms of meaning, there is certainly some overlap. You know that feeling you get after someone gives you a great big bear hug? That feeling, in candle light, with a bag of crisps and some chocolate and some good friends. Let’s decide that this is the link, shall we?


Does ‘hygge’ have seasons?

Sort of. While you can ‘hygge’ all year around, it is particularly easy to ‘hygge’ when it is darker outside. We do darkness quite well in Scandinavia – and we love candles. So it makes it easier to get to that ‘hygge’ feeling.

The high season for ‘hygge’ is Christmas. Think cottage in the snow. Mulled wine. Cosy, cosy, cosy.

Will a Swede understand it if I tell him we need to ‘hygge’?

It’s not a Swedish word. But he’ll probably get the meaning – in Sweden, a similar word is ‘Mysigt’. Same with a Norwegian (it’s called ‘Kos’ in Norway).


Can you ‘hygge’ alone?

Sort of. Maybe in bed on a Sunday morning, feeling warm and cosy. With the papers. TV on.

Can you, ehm, ‘hygge’, in a romantic way?

Yes. Candle light and Marvin Gaye. It’s universal ‘hygge’. A bowl of crisps optional in these situations.

Why are there no real translatable words to hygge?

We like to think it was only ever meant to be felt, not explained.

Join us. Feel it.


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