If I asked you, “Where are you overnighting?”, you might think it a bit strange, except in certain circumstances, but you’d probably guess that I meant “Where are you staying (overnight)?”.

In Swedish, I discovered this week, this wouldn’t sound strange – Var övernattar du? is one way to say “Where are you staying?”.

The verb övernatta (“to overnight”), means to stay overnight or to stay the night. Övernattning means a sleepover, overnight or accommodation, and övernattningsstuga means a refuge.

Apparently övernatta is usually used to refer to staying for one night, but sometimes for two of three nights as well.

Other ways to say to stay in Swedish include:

  • sova över = to stay the night (“to sleep over”)
  • stanna (över natten) = to stay (overnight)
  • sitta inne = to be / stay indoors

In Scotland if someone asks you “Where do you stay?”, or in Scots “Whaur dae ye stey?”, they usually mean “Where do you live (permanently)?” and not “Where are you staying (temporarily)?” When I first heard this, it confused me a bit, but I’m used to it now. Another way to say this in Scots is “Whaur dae ye bide?”.

In Scots to stey means to stay, stop, dwell, reside, make one’s home. So it seems that it can mean both to stay somewhere temporarily, and to live somewhere permanently.

AirBnB in Petržalka

Sources: bab.la, Ord.se, Dictionar o the Scots Leid

9 thoughts on “Overnighting

  1. According to the Oxford English dictionary “overnight” meaning “to pass the night (at or in); to lodge for the night” is an intransitive verb that is neither rare nor obsolete, and so is the verbal noun “overnighting”.

    The German “übernachten” and the Dutch “overnachten” are verbs that everybody knows and uses. The nouns “Übernachtung” and “overnachting” are also quite frequent, esp. in tourism.

  2. Have you actually used the word overnight in English, or heard/seen others using it?

    To me it’s seems like a word you might use when talk about an expedition to some remote corner of the world – we overnighted in São Paulo on our way to the jungle. I don’t think I’ve heard it used in other contexts.

  3. I think “stay overight” and “stay the night” are more common, but I’ve definitely heard it (American English).

    Indonesian: bermalam, intransitive verb from “malam,” night.

  4. Even to my non-native ears, and knowing övernatta from Swedish, overnight sounds strange.

    In Finnish, we say yöpyä (from ‘night’), olla yötä (‘to stay the night’) or viettää yö (‘to spend the night’).

  5. Yes, “overnight”as a verb definitely sounds strange, and less comprehensive dictionaries don’t mention it.

    John Wells’s Longman Pronunciation Dictionary with as many as “135,000 pronunciations” labels its one and only “overnight” entry “adjective, adverb” even though the book does not indicate part of speech unless absolutely necessary for correct pronunciation. So that means: “This is how the word is pronounced as an adj./adv., but be prepared: That’s not the whole story, an expanded vocabulary will contain the word used as another part of speech with a different pronunciation.” (What’s different is the stress pattern: the adj./adv. has primary stress on the final syllable which can shift to the inital syllable in attributive usage, as in “OVernight BAG”; while the verb has fixed primary stressed on the final syllable.)

    All in all the verb sounds strange and is extremely rare. I think the OED should alter its entry for the verb.

  6. I have often heard the word “overnight” used as a verb to describe shipping a package. In the days when getting some package within one day wasn’t typically available, suddenly being able to do that was a novelty. So, when companies like Federal Express (FedEx) offered this service, people would say things like, “Let’s overnight this package to our branch office”. So, as a verb, “overnight” meant to ship (something) so that it arrives at its destination the next day. I don’t believe that “overnighting” gets used in that way for shipping things, but “overnight” does.

    Of course, as English speakers are inclined to do, even “overnight” got shortened, so that people then said, “Let’s FedEx it to our branch office”.

  7. Having grown up in Alabama I am used to African Americans using the verb “stay” to mean “live” or “dwell”. It was a bit strange, therefore, when I moved to Canada and to find Francophones here in New Brunswick also using the term “stay” as “live” when speaking English. However, I wonder if this isn’t because in French one of the verbs they might use is “rester” which also translates as “stay”.

  8. @Hank
    That’s interesting. Here in Belgium the French-speaking frequently say “demeurer” (“stay; remain”) when they mean “live (somewhere)”, but the French don’t and use “habiter” instead, as far as I know. I even think that most Walloons consider this standard French. I always thought this was a typically Belgian thing, but could it be that an ancient feature of French survived in Canada and Belgium (and maybe elswhere, too), though not in France?

  9. For those interested in French there is the single word meaning an overnight stay (in a hotel) : une nuitee (acute accent on first e- can’t do accents on my keyboard). I think the word is a bit quaint and have rarely heard it as the simple “nuit” covers the same meaning.

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