Wise Clocks

city hall from Hantverkargatan Stockholm

The Swedish word klok [kluːk] means wise, sensible or intelligent. It doesn’t sound quite like the English word clock, but looks like it should. In fact it sounds more like cluck.

Some examples of how it’s used, and of related words:

  • klok gubbe = wise old man
  • klok gumma = wise woman
  • klok som en bok/pudel/uggla = as wise as a book/poodle/owl
  • En sådan politik skulle inte vara klok = Such a policy would be ill-advised
  • Detta är en klok rekommendation = This is a sensible recommendation
  • det verkar klokt = that seems wise
  • Är du inte klok? = Are you out of your mind?
  • Är du inte riktigt klok? = Are you crazy? Are you completely out of your mind?
  • Jag blev inte klok på det = I cannot make it out, It didn’t make sense to me
  • klokhet = wisdom, prudence, sense, wit
  • klokskap = cleverness
  • klokt = wisely, judiciously, sagely

Owls are also seen as wise in English, and although we don’t say ‘as wise as a book’, reading books can help on the road to wisdom. Poodles are not usually associated with wisdom in English, as far as I know, but it seems they are in Swedish.

In other languages, what is the equivalent of the phrase ‘as wise as an owl’?

Klok comes from the Old Norse klókr (arch, cunning, clever), from Middle Low German klôk.

The Swedish word for clock is klocka [klɔkːa], which comes from the Old Swedish klockæ, from Old Norse klokka (bell, clock), from Late Latin clocca (o’clock), probably from the Proto-Celtic *klokkos (bell), from the Proto-Indo-European *klēg-/*klōg- (onomatopoeia).

Sources: bab.la, Linguee, Ord.se, Svenska Akademiens Ordböcker, DinOrdbok, Wiktionary

One thought on “Wise Clocks

  1. In Plautdietsch, we don’t have a saying involving wise animals (as far as I know), but our word for “clever” is very similar to “klok”, with “Klyk oß în fôß” (/klĭuk ɔs ɪn fʌs/), “Clever as a fox”, being a phrase.

    Our word for “Clock” is “Klôk” (klʌk)

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