Happy shining people

Smiley face

One of the Swedish lessons I did today was about words for emotions and related words. So I thought I’d find out more about some of them.

There are several words for happy in Swedish:

glad [ɡlɑːd] = delighted, glad, happy, pleased, jolly, lively, bright, bubbly, cheerful, elated, merry, pleasant, sprightly, vivid, gleeful, joyful, joyous, jubilant.

It comes from the Old Swedish glaþer (glad, cheerful), from Old Norse glaðr (glad), from Proto-Germanic *gladaz (shiny, gleaming, radiant, happy, glossy, smooth, flat), from Proto-Indo-European *gʰladʰ-, derivation of *gʰel- (to shine). The English word glad comes from the same root, though via Old English.

nöjd [nøjd] = content, happy, pleased, satisfied, contented, sated.

lycklig [lʏkːlɪɡ] = happy, fortunate, lucky, blessed, bright, upbeat, blissful.

This word comes from lycka (joy, happiness, luck, fortune, fate), which is related to the English word luck. These words are thought to come from the Middle High German lücke, gelücke, possibly from the Frankish *galukki [source].

belåten = content, contented, happy, satisfied

Some words for fun include:

kul [kʉːl] = fun, nice, enjoyable, amusing
roligt = fun
rolig = fun, amusing, diverting, droll, witty, hilarious

One ‘useful’ phrase that came up today was tjejer vill bara ha kul or girls just want to have fun.

In Norwegian rolig means calm, quiet, peaceful or leisurely, and in Danish it means calm or quiet [source]. It comes from the Old Swedish roliker (calm, quiet), from Old Norse róligr.

Other emotional words include:

le [leː] = to smile (related to the English word laugh)
småle = to smile
skratta = to laugh
entusiastisk = enthusiastic, cheerful
hoppingivande = hopeful
ledsen = sad
olycklig = unhappy
arg = angry
rädd = afraid
orolig = worried

Sources: bab.la, Wiktionary

Goat trousers and hand shoes

Goat in trousers

The Swedish lessons I’ve been working through recently include clothing vocabulary, such as byxor (trousers), halsduk (scarf) handskar (gloves), vantar (mittens) and stövlar (boots).

I thought I’d look into the origins of these words to help me remember them.

Byxor (trousers (UK) pants (US)) is the plural of byxa, which comes from the Middle Low German buxe, from buck (buck, male goat) & hose (trousers), originally referring to goatskin trousers. It is related to the Icelandic buxur (trousers) [source].

Halsduk (scarf, muffler, shawl) comes from hals (neck) and duk (tablecloth) [source].

Handskar (gloves) is the plural of handske, which comes from the Old Norse hanzki (glove), from Middle Low German hantsche, a colloquial form of hantscho (glove, gauntlet) from Old Saxon handsko (gauntlet, glove), from hand (hand) and sko (shoe) [source].

Related expressions include:

– handskmakare = glove maker
– handskas med = to treat, deal with, handle

Vantar (mittens) is the plural of vante (mitten, glove), which comes from the Old Swedish wante, from Old Norse vǫttr (glove, mitten), from Proto-Germanic *wantuz (glove, mitten), from Proto-Indo-European *wondʰnú- (glove), from Proto-Indo-European *wendʰ- (to wind, wrap). [source].

The PIE *wendʰ- is also the root of the English words to wander, to wend, went and wand.

Stövlar (boots) is the plural of stövel, which comes from the Old Swedish støvel (boot), from the Old Norse styfill, from Middle Low German stevele / stovele, from Italian stivale (boot), from Medieval Latin aestivale (summerly), from the Latin aestās (summer) [source].

Another word for boot is känga, which can also refer to a heavy shoe or kick, and comes from the Finnish kenkä (boot, shoe), from Proto-Finnic *kenkä (shoe) [source].

You can see more Swedish words for clothes on IE Languages.

Photo from Flickr (with added trousers).

Fair friends

Bra vänner är som stjärnor. Du ser dem inte alltid, men du vet att de alltid finns där.

I learnt two words for friend in Swedish this week – vän [vɛːn] and kompis [kɔmpɪs]. The former is translated as “buddy” in my Swedish lessons, and the latter as “friend”.

Vän can mean friend, comrade, lover, mate, pal, sympathizer, well-wisher or acquaintance, and is also an old word for fair or beautiful. It comes from the Old Norse vinr (friend), from the Proto-Germanic *winiz (friend, loved one), from the Proto-Indo-European *wenh₁- (to seek, desire, love, win).

The element -win in names such as Darwin, Edwin, Godwin, Irwin, etc comes from the same root, as does the name Venus (via Latin).

Kompis cane be translated as brother, buddy, friend, chum, comrade, crony, mate, mucker, and is a contraction of kompanjon (partner, associate) +‎ -is.

Vän appears in expressions such as:

– flickvän = girlfriend
– pojkvän = boyfriend
– hjärtevän = beloved, close friend, sweetheart
– ovän = enemy
– väninna = female friend (of a female)
– vänlig = friendly, kind, gentle, amicable, affable
– vänling = kind, nice, sweet
– vänskap = friendship
– vänskaplig = friendly, amicable
– väntjänst = a service done out of friendship
– vänkrets = circle of friends
– vänort = sister town, twin town

Other Swedish words for friend or acquaintance include:

– kamrat = friend, associate, chum, comrade, fellow, mate, partner, fellow
– bekant = friend, acquaintance
– polare = brother, buddy, mate, dawg, mucker, crony, pally
– fränder = kinsman

Which of these are most commonly used?

The words on the image mean “Good friends are like stars. You do not always see them, but you know they are always there.” This is one of the things that pops up when you search for “vänner” (friends), e.g. on this site.

Sources: Wiktionary, bab.la

Blundering about, eyes closed

Wink emoji

I learnt today that the Swedish word blunda means to shut one’s eyes, to keep one’s eyes shut, to refuse to see something; to pretend not to know about, or to ignore. It comes from the Old Norse word blunda (to shut the eyes, to doze) [source].

Related words include blund (good sleep, wink), blund for (to wink at, turn a blind eye to), and Jon/John Blund, a character from folklore who brings good sleep and dreams to children, known as the sandman in English.

In Icelandic blunda means to doze.

Wink is also linked to sleep in English – you might take forty winks, or not sleep a wink, which might make you blunder about.

The English word blunder comes from the same root, via the Middle English blunder, blonder (disturbance, strife), and blonden, blanden (to mix; mix up); and blunden (to stagger; stumble), from the Old Norse blunda [source].

Blunder is also a Swedish word meaning blooper, gaffe, trip, bloomer and blunder.

Lend me a word

English is a bit of a mongrel. It is basically a West Germanic language, but contains words from many other languages, especially French, Latin, Greek and Old Norse. In fact, only about 26% of English vocabulary is Germanic, 29% is from French, 29% from Latin, 6% from Greek, and the rest from many other languages [source].

When English borrows words from other languages, which it does all the time, most people see the process as a positive one that expands and enriches English vocabulary.

There will always be some who object to the adoption of certain words, however, within a few generations, or even a few years, those words can become fully integrated in the language, and people might not even be aware they were borrowed in the first place.

Japanese is also open and accepting of foreign words, mainly from Chinese and English. These loan words are changed to fit Japanese phonetics, and some are shortened and combined to make original new words, such as リモコン (rimokon) = remote control, and オープンカー (ōpun-kā) = convertible car.

Borrowing between languages is common around the world where languages come into contact. The borrowing often flows from large languages, like English or Spanish, into smaller languages, such as regional, minority and endangered languages.

When smaller languages borrow from bigger languages, some believe the smaller languages suffer in the process, becoming corrupted, impoverished, polluted, etc. Such sentiments are much less common when talking about borrowing from smaller languages into bigger languages.

There seems to be a double standard here.

Borrowing will happen, even though language regulators, such as the Académie française, might object and try to stop it. Languages change and influence one another. They can borrow many words from other languages without losing their identity, and without breaking down into incomprehensible grunts.

What do you think?

Do languages benefit from borrowing?

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: bab.la, 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: bab.la, 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: bab.la, 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.