Come to mind

One way to say remember in Swedish is komma ihåg, which literally means “to come to mind”. It also means to recall; to recollect; to retain, or to bear in mind.

Komma [ˈkɔmːa] means ‘to come, arrive, move nearer’. It comes from the Old Norse koma (to come), from the Proto-Germanic *kwemaną (to come), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷem- (to step).

ihåg [ihoːg] means ‘to (one’s) mind’. håg means ‘mind, mindset, temper, inclination’, and comes from the Old Swedish hogher, from Proto-Germanic *hugiz (mind; thought; sense; understanding), which is also the root of the English words high, how, Hugh and Hubert.

Related words include:

  • ihågkomma = to memorialize
  • ihågkommande = recollection; reminiscent
  • hågkomst = to recall; recollection; remembrance
  • håglös = apathetic; grey; indolent; listless
  • håglöshet = apathy
  • hågad = agreeable; inclined; minded

Other words for remember include:

  • minnas = to recall; to remember; to retain; to come back; to recollect
  • erinra sig = to place; to recall; to recollect; to remember
  • lägga på minnet = to memorize; to register; to remember
  • dra sig till minnes = to remember

Are these words for remember used in different contexts?

Sources:, Wiktionary

Snail houses and creeping things


An interesting Swedish I learnt recently is snigelhus, which means shell, or literally “snail house”. Snigel is a snail or slug, and hus is house, case or residence.

The word snigel comes from the Old Norse snigill (snail), from the Proto-Germanic *snagila (snail), from the Proto-Indo-European *sneg- (to crawl, creep; creeping thing), which is also the root of the English words snail and snake.

Some related words include:

  • snigelfart = snail’s pace, e.g. att gå framåt i snigelfart = to proceed at a snail’s pace
  • snigelpost = snail mail
  • snigelaktig = snail-like
  • snigelgång = snail time
  • snigeltempo = snail pace

Another name for snail is snigel med skal (snail with shell), and another name for slug is snigel utan skal (snail without shell).

So it seems that skal is another word for shell. It also means coat, paring, rind, jacket or peel. A snail’s shell is not snigels snigelhus but snigelskal.

Other Swedish words for shell include:

  • balja = shell, tub, tubful, bowl, pod
  • snäcka = shell, helix
  • musselskal – clamshell, scallop, shell
  • snäckskal = scallop, scollop, seashell, shell
  • ärtskida = shell
  • ärtbalja = shell

Sources:, Wiktionary, Online Etymology Dictionary, and Linguee

Average dainty sandwiches

Recently I learnt the Swedish word genomsnitt [jèːnɔmˌsnɪt], which means average or approximately. I thought I’d write about it as I like the way it sounds.

It comes genom (though, across) and snitt (a cut, an average). Genom comes from the Old Norse gegn (through), and snitt comes from the Proto-Germanic *snit (cutting, pruning, harversting).

Genom also appears in other words, including:

  • genombrott = a breakthrough, a breakdown
  • genombruten = openwork, lace, laced, transparent
  • genomföra = carry out, realize, accomplish, execute
  • genomgående = throughout
  • genomgång = a walkthrough, a briefing, a summary
  • genomskinlig = translucent; transparent
  • genomslag = impact
  • genomsnittlig = average, mean

Genom also means genome.

Snitt also means dainty sandwich, fashion, incision, cut, section.

Related words, and other words containing snitt include:

  • snida = to carve
  • snidare = cutter
  • snideri / snidande = carving
  • snitta = averaging, dollar cost averaging, to gash
  • snittning = averaging
  • kägelsnitt = conic section
  • avsnitt = section, part, sector
  • kejsarsnitt = cesarean
  • tvärsnitt = cross section
  • träsnitt = woodcut

Sources:, Wiktionary


An interesting Russian word I learnt this week is глупый (glupyj) [ˈɡlupɨj], which means silly, stupid, foolish or inane, but sounds like one of the seven dwarfs.

The Russian name for the dwarf dopey is actually Простак (Prostak), which means simpleton.

Глупый comes from the Proto-Slavic *glupъ (stupid, foolish), which possibly comes from a Germanic source. Cognates in Germanic languages include glópr (idiot) in Old Norse, and glópur (fool, idiot) in Icelandic.

Cognates in Slavic languages include:

– Bulgarian глупав (glupav) = stupid, silly, foolish, fool, unwise, sappy
– Croatian glup = stupid, dumb, silly, dull, brainless, dense
– Serbian глуп = stupid, dumb, silly, dull, dense, obtuse
– Slovene glúp = dumb, stupid, moronic
– Slovak hlúpy = stupid, silly, foolish
– Czech hloupý = stupid, silly, foolish

A related word in Russian is тупой (typoj) [tʊˈpoj], which means ‘dull, blunt; obtuse; dull, stupid’. It comes from the Old East Slavic тупъ (tupŭ), from Proto-Slavic *tǫpъ, and sounds like the Welsh word twp [tʊp], which means stupid. Is there any connection?

The word stupid comes from the Middle French stupide (stupid), from the Latin stupidus (struck senseless, amazed), from stupeō (to be amazed or confounded, to be struck senseless), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)tup- / *(s)tewp- (to wonder), from *(s)tu- (to stand, stay).

I thought I’d made up the word gloopy, but it does exist, and means ‘Having a glutinous, sloppy consistency’.

The Art of Lists

List image

Lists might be considered art, and there was an exhibition of lists made by famous artists some years ago.

In Iceland art is a list – the Icelandic word of art is list. In Old Icelandic it also meant “craft, skill, adroitness, dexterity” [source].

Related words include:

  • lista- = artistic
  • listamaður = artist
  • listaverk = work of art
  • listflutningur = live performance
  • listhús = art gallery
  • listmunur = artefact
  • listvefnaður = tapestry


Incidently, a list in Icelandic is listi or skrá. Art in Danish and Norwegian is kunst, and it’s konst in Swedish.

Ambling Along

Walking stick figure

An Icelandic word I learnt recently is (að) labba [ˈlapːa], which means ‘to walk slowly, to amble, to stroll’ [source].

Here are a few examples of usage:

  • Mér finnst gaman að labba um bæinn = I like to stroll around town
  • Ljúft finnst mér að labba á pöbbinn = I like to walk to the pub [source]
  • Ég labba ein heim eftir myrkur = I walk home alone after dark [source]

Other Icelandic words meaning to walk include:

að ganga [að ˈkauŋka] = to walk, go on foot, to climb; to move, run, go; to go around, be passed on [source].

Here are some examples:

  • að ganga á fjall = to climb a mountain
  • vagninn gengur á 20 mínútna fresti = the bus runs every 20 minutes
  • klukkan gengur = the clock is going
  • vélin gengur vel = the machine is running well
  • sagan gengur = the story is going about
  • þetta gengur vel = this is coming along fine
  • þetta gengur ekki = this won’t work, this won’t do
  • hvað gengur á? = what’s going on?

This word comes from the Old Norse ganga (to go, walk), from the Proto-Germanic *ganganą (to go, walk, step), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰengʰ- (to walk, step) [source]. This is also the root of the Old English words gangan (to go, walk, turn out) and gang (a journey; way; passage), which is used in some northern dialects of English to mean to go – e.g. in Geordie gan yem = go home [source]. It’s modern meaning of a group of people probably comes from the idea of people travelling (ganging) together [source].

að troða [að ˈtʰrɔːða] = to trample, tread on, step on; to tread, walk; to stuff, fill, pack; to press forward, elbow one’s way [source].

This word comes from the Old Norse troða (to tread, walk), from the Proto-Germanic *trudaną (to tread, step on), which is also the root of the English words tread and trot.

að rölta [að ˈrœlta] = to stroll, saunter [source].

Incidentally, the English word amble comes from the Old French ambler (to walk as a horse does), from the Old Provençal amblar, from Latin ambulō (I walk) [source], and stroll comes from the German strollen, a variant of the Alemannic German strolchen, from Strolch (vagabond; rascal) [source].

Project-based learning

When learning languages I use a variety of tools. At the moment I’m using Duolingo and Memrise, and also Colloquial Icelandic. I like the way Duolingo puts words in different contexts and tests you in different ways. I like the way Memrise gives you the option to create your own memory hooks, and the conversations and grammar notes in Colloquial courses are useful.

To practise my speaking and writing, I find projects helpful. For example, I might decide to write a blog post, conversation, story, song or poem in a language I’m learning, or to write about some aspect of that language – words, idioms, grammar, etc. The process of doing this helps me learn new vocabulary and grammar, and it tends to stick if I find it interesting and/or amusing.

So today I will write about the Swedish word snart, which means ‘soon, shortly, any time soon, anon’. Here are some examples of use:

– så snart som möjligt = as quickly as possible
– det snart är jul = the run-up to Christmas
– för snart ett år = nearly a year ago
– vi måste göra det snart = we have to do it soon; we must act quickly

Related expressions include:

– snar = early, ready, quick, swift
– inom kort = shortly, before long
– om en stund = in a while
– strax = soon, close, directly

Snart comes from the Old Norse snart (quickly). Danish and Norwegian have the same word with the same meanings, and in Icelandic there are snar (quick, swift, fast) and snarlega (quickly, fast).

Sources:, Wiktionary and The Old Norse World

Do you set yourself projects or tasks when learning languages, or other things?

Do you find it useful?

Orkar du?

A useful Swedish expression I learnt recently is Orkar du?, which can mean “Do you have the energy?”, “Can you be bothered?” or similar.

It doesn’t mean “Are you a killer whale (orca)?”, as I thought it did when I first heard it.

Orkar is the present tense of orka [ˈɔrˌka], which means to manage, to be able to, to cope with, or can. It is used in Icelandic and Faroese as well. It comes from the Old Norse orka, from Proto-Germanic *wurkijaną (to work, to make), from Proto-Indo-European *wṛǵ- (to make), which is also the root of the English word work.

Here are a few examples of how it’s used:

– så mycket de orkar bära = as much as they can bear
– ät-så-mycket-du-orkar = all-you-can-eat
– Jag orkar inte = I can’t be bothered
– Jag orkar inte med tanken på att förlora de små skatterna = I can’t stand the thought of losing my little treasures.
– Hur ofta hör vi inte att människor inte orkar bry sig? = How often do we hear that people just don’t care?
– Jag orkar inte med detta längre. = I can’t take this anymore

A related word is ork, which means energy.

Sources: Linguee, and Wiktionary

How many roads?

How many roads?

Last week I learned that there are quite a few words for roads in Irish. These include:

bóthar [ˈbˠoːhəɾˠ] = road; way, manner. From the Proto-Celtic *bow-itros (cow path).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– bóthar [boː.ər] = alley, lane (Scottish Gaelic)
– bayr [bajr] = avenue, drive, lane, pad, roadway (Manx)
– beidr [beidɪr] = lane, track (Welsh)
– bownder [‘bɔʊndɛr] = lane (Cornish)

bóithrín = country lane, boreen (diminutive of bóthar)

bealach [ˈbʲalˠəx] = way, road track; pass. From the Old Irish belach (gap, pass, road, path).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– bealach [bjal̪ˠəx] = pass; access; detour; breach, gap, opening; inlet (Scottish Gaelic)
– bollagh = channel, course, curving uphill road, gap, gorge, lane, passage, route, thoroughfare (Manx)

ród [rˠoːdˠ] = road, highway. From the Old Irish rót (road, highway).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– rathad [] = road, way, route (Scottish Gaelic)
– raad [reːd̪, raːd̪] = avenue, drive, lane, pad, roadway (Manx)
– rhawd [r̥aud] = course, career (Welsh)
– roud = route, trace (Breton)

slí [ʃliː] = way, road, track, route, passage. From the Old Irish slige (gap, pass, road, path).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– slighe [ʃl̪ʲi.ə] = path, track, trail, way; course, passage, route (Scottish Gaelic)

cosán = path; footway, track; way, passage; direction. From the Old Irish casán (path, footpath), from cás (foot).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– casan [kasan] = path; supporting beam; treadle; wattle (Scottish Gaelic)
– cassan [keːzən] = passage, path, pathway, sidewalk, thoroughfare; walk, footpath; trajectory (Manx)

cabhsa = causeway; path, lane

sráid [sˠɾˠɑːdʲ] = street; level (surfaced) ground around house; village. From the Old Irish sráit (street, road, path, way), from the Old Norse stræti (street), from Late Latin strāta (a paved road).

Related words in other Celtic languages:

– sràid [sdraːdʲ] = street (Scottish Gaelic)
– straid = street; farmyard; thoroughfare (Manx)
– stryd [striːd] = street (Welsh)
– stret [strɛ:t] = street (Cornish)
– straed = alley, lane (Breton)

Incidentally, the English word road comes from the Middle English rode/rade, from the Old English rād (riding, hostile incursion), from the Proto-Germanic *raidō (a ride), from the Proto-Indo-European *reydʰ- (to ride).

Sources:, Wiktionary, Fockleyreen, Am Faclair Beag, Dictionnaire Favereau breton, cornish dictionary / gerlyver kernewek

Wandering prattlers

It has been brought to my attention that in Swedish the most common way to say ‘speak’, at least in Stockholm, is pratar, and that few people use talar anymore.

Är detta sant? Is this true?

The Duolingo course I’m studying Swedish with uses talar, – pratar has not come up yet.

According to Witionary, Pratar is the present tense form of the verb prata (to talk, speak), and comes from the Low German praten (to talk), from the Proto-Germanic *prattuz (idle or boastful talk, deceit), from the Proto-Indo-European *brodno- (to wander, rove). The English word prattle (to speak incessantly and in a childish manner; to babble) comes from the same root.

Talar is the present tense form of the verb tala (to speak; to utter words; to tell; to talk; to make a speech) from the Old Norse tala, from the Proto-Germanic *talō (calculation, number), from the Proto-Indo-European *del- (to reckon, count).

Other Swedish words related to speech and language include:

– tal = speech
– språk = language
– språka = to speak
– snacka = to talk, speak (coll.); to boast emptily (slang); to reveal secrets
– säga = to say, to tell; to utter words
– pladdra = to prattle
– skrika = to scream, to yell, to shout
– viska = to whisper