The Swedish word sönder means broken or asunder. It comes from the Old Swedish sundr (apart), from the Proto-Germanic *sundraz (separate, isolated, alone), from Proto-Indo-European *sn̥Hter-, from *senH- (apart, without, for oneself) [source].

Split Asunder

Related words and expressions include:

  • vara sönder = to be broken
  • gör sönder = breaking
  • mala sönder = to atomise
  • falla sönder = to fall apart, disintegrate
  • slå sönder = to tear apart
  • sönderbruten = broken
  • sönderbrytande = rupture
  • sönderbrytning = breakage
  • sönderdela = to chop, decompose, dissolve, split
  • sönderdelnig = disintegration, fragmentation, resolution
  • sönder fall = to divide


The English words sunder (to break into pieces) and asunder (into separate parts or pieces, broken) comes from the same root, via the Old English sunder (apart, separate, private, aloof, by one’s self). Asunder is usually used with verbs like tear, break, split or rip [source].

Other words from the same root include:

  • Dutch: zonder = without; zonderling = eccentric, strange, weird; weirdo, eccentric; uitzondereren = to exclude, except; afzondereren = to isolate
  • German: sondern = to separate, sunder; sondbar = strange, odd; Sonderling = eccentric, nerd, solitary person
  • Icelandic / Faroese: sundur = apart

6 thoughts on “Sundering

  1. I’m not a German speaker, but it seems like in German the adjective ‘sonder’ is used frequently, with the meaning of “special” — I’ve seen it a lot in commercial advertisements and in the phrase “Sonder Ausgabe” = “Special Edition” for cars.

    The Swedish words you give make me think that the word has an overall negative feel, used for broken things. I’d love it if a native German speaker would tell if ‘sonder’ in German has the feel I’ve been giving it, as “distinguished as good”.

  2. That’s all assuming that it comes from the same root, and isn’t just a different root that has evolved to sound similar.

  3. Jonathan: In German the positive, neutral or negative “feel” is carried by the various affixes or other elements (such as nouns) that are attached to ‘sonder’. E.g. sonder-bar (weird, strange, peculiar), ab-sonder-n (to segregate, to excrete), be-sonder-s (especially), Sonder-ling (eccentric person, nerd), Sonderausgabe (special edition), sonder-n (but; a conjunction) etc. In contemporary German ‘sonder’ rarely occurs on its own and I don’t think that it still has much connotation without context or morphologic additions.

  4. That’s a fantastic answer, Emanuel – just the kind of insight that really helps me understand deeper patterns in a language. My “deduction”, from the word Sonderausgabe to the existence of ‘sonder’ as a stand alone adjective was clearly wrong. It seems like the kind of mistake one just knows is incorrect in their native tongue, but second (or third, or fourth) language learners make.

  5. And of course in the UK there’s the city of Sunderland – the separated land. (Possibly named because it was across the river i.e. separated from the monastic community at Bishopwearmouth.) Also several smaller places named Sunderland.

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