25 More Swedish Words (and Phrases) That Make Me Giggle

My last post on Swedish words that make me giggle was such a hit that I thought I’d share some more. Thanks already to all the readers who shared some of their favorite Swedish words as well as to those who offered feedback and criticism of my interpretations. If you haven’t read my last post, check it out here, and make sure to read the comments as well! Lots of people chimed in with further suggestions.

My Swedish… *sigh*. It’s a work in progress.

Without further ado, 25 more Swedish words and phrases that give me the LOLZ.

Bakfylla/bakis: Slang for hungover. The first time I heard this, I thought people were talking about baked goods (like bakelse), which I really wanted because, well, you know. I was very disappointed to find out that it was just referring to the drunkenness coming “back.”

Grönsaker, jordgubbar: Vegetables, or “grönsaker,” are nothing but “green things,” if you translate it literally. Similarly, the word “jordgubbar,” or strawberries, comes from the word “jord,” which means dirt/earth/ground, and “gubben,” which is an affectionate name that means old man. Taken together, it’s like “little old earth men.” Love it!

Just some little old earth men chilling out… Photo: Kate Wiseman

Snuvig: You have a cold and you’re all snuffly. Sniff. Sniffff. Sniffffffff. You can tell already that the old man sitting across from you on the train wants to murder you because you don’t have a tissue. Sorry, old man, can’t help it, I’m snoooo-vig. Might I add that snuvig is way cuter than “congested.”

Bajskorv: “Poop sausage.” It’s perfection. I was home in the United States for five weeks last summer, and I tried so hard to teach my dad this one word. Now Dad, say with me: bajskorv! It didn’t stick. Sadness.

Sitta i knäet: We say, “You can sit on my lap” if there aren’t enough chairs to go around. Swedes say, “You can sit in my knee.” Of course, darling. Of course.

Sambovikt: Ugh. This word describes the weight you gain when you’re in one of those comfortable, long-term relationships (specifically, when you live with your significant other). Enough said.

Skvallercentral: There’s always that one person whose full time job seems to be acting as a gossipmonger. That person is, no bones about it, the skvallercentral, or gossip central!

Öronsnibb: I love this word both because of what it is and how it sounds. Your öronsnibb is your ear lobe. You know, the part of the ear you might just want to nibble on every now and then. Mmm. The sensual öronsnibb. Nibble, nibble.

För allt smör i Småland: There are things I would never do, ever, not in a million years, not even for all the butter in Småland. Uhh… did I just say that? Why would I want all the butter in Småland anyway? In any case, when you really wouldn’t do something even for a substantial and desirable reward, you can use the expression, “I wouldn’t do it for all the butter in Småland.”

Candles… They’re ALIVE!!! Photo: Kate Wiseman

Levande ljus: I get a kick out of this just because it’s so literal. By itself, ljus is the word for “light.” Levande ljus is, however, “living light.” A living light is, of course, a candle.

Is i magen: To me, someone who has ice in the stomach sounds like they’re nervous or sick, but to a Swede, someone who has ice in the stomach is a cool customer. This person is a good investor, a good getaway driver, a good poker player: someone who doesn’t panic when the you-know-what hits the fan.

Smaken är som baken—delad: The first time I heard this, I nearly died laughing. You know when people say things like, “Oh, it’s a matter of taste…” or “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…”? Well, in Sweden, you can say that, or you can say, “Taste is like a butt—divided.” I kid you not.

Att köpa grisen i sacken: To buy the pig in the sack is to buy something sight unseen—never a good idea. Strangely enough, I first learned this phrase when discussing attitudes towards a couple living together before marriage. My Swedish counterpart would never get married before living together with the woman in question first—otherwise, you would have no idea what you’re getting into! Much better than the rather crude English expression for the opposite point of view—“Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

Tvättbjörn: Att tvätta means “to clean” and a björn is a bear. Put them together and what do you get? A raccoon, of course. Tvättbjörn (“clean bear”? “cleaning bear”?) is a raccoon.

Färgglad: The Swedish aesthetic tends to favor neutral colors like black, grey, and white, so after awhile, you get the feeling that wearing too much color or decorating your house with bold accents is rather loud and showy. That’s when the word färgglad comes to the rescue! It literally means color-happy, and you can use it to describe the use of exciting colors to make your outfit more fun or to liven up an otherwise-staid living room.

As brown as these guys! Photo: Kate Wiseman

Brun som en pepparkakaBrown as a gingerbread cookie! This phrase is definitely in the running for the “cutest expression ever.” You can use this expression to describe someone who’s tan. Just like my dad used to call me his little brownberry after a whole summer of playing outdoors, you might tell the neighbors’ kids that they’re as brown as gingerbread cookies after a holiday vacation to Thailand! Love it.

Het på gröten: I love this expression. You know when a big pan of brownies is fresh out of the oven and you know you should wait for them to cool down a little bit but you just can’t wait for them to cool down because you’re too excited and eager to get a taste of the chocolatey deliciousness?! That person might be described as het på gröten—hot on the porridge—because porridge is (obviously) so delicious that you just can’t wait to get a bite, even if it’s hot and could burn your mouth.

Klart som korvspad, lugn som en filbunke: Both of these are non-sarcastic expressions: clear as the water you cook sausage in, calm as the giant bowl you cultivate yogurt* in. Yes, I understand the instructions you gave me, clear as the water you cook sausage in. No, I’m not upset, I’m as calm as the giant bowl you cultivate yogurt in.

*For all those language pedants out there, yes, I know fil is different from yogurt—it’s a kind of sour version. The idea is the same, though.

Besserwisser: A Swedish know-it-all! I’ve never heard this word in conversation, but it exists, and that’s good enough for me, you besserwisser, you.

Blixt och dunder: “Thunder and lightning” becomes “lighting and thunder” in Swedish, with blixt sounding all fast and lightning-like and dunder sounding big, loud, and stupid, like Michael Scott at Dunder Mifflin in The Office. If you ask me,  someone should make a blixt and dunder power drink. It would be like all the speed of blixt with the power and brute force of dunder. It would definitely be a hit.

Fingertoppskänsla: I’ve heard this one quite a bit in my Business English classes to describe people who are really skilled at something. Fingertoppskänsla translates to a “fingertips feeling,” but more broadly, it refers to someone having the ability to sort of intuit what needs to be done—making decisions according to the feeling in his/her fingertips. This could be in terms of baking, people skills, investing, or really anything.

Den är paj: In my book, this is the most incomprehensible phrase so far, but here goes. Literally, den är paj means “this is pie.” Colloquially, it also means “this is broken.” I don’t know what’s broken about pie, and from my pie-eating experiences in Sweden, I would say that they’re working quite well, but there you have it. Broken computer? Pie. Broken phone? Pie. Broken door? Pie.

THIS IS PIE. Photo: Kate Wiseman

As always, leave your questions, comments, suggestions, and corrections below!

  • L Patelsmith

    Really put a smile on my face, love them all but Strawberries wins :)

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Yay! I’m so glad that these made you smile! Hope you enjoy your little earth men even more than before from now on :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=888700225 Inger Ridderstolpe

    Good job! :-D

    Filbunke is not the bowl for yoghurt, it’s yet another kind of fermented milk. Wikipedia says:

    Milk that has fermented, unstirred, in small bowls.[41] Has a pudding-like consistency. Similar to unstirred långfil. Traditionally made in small bowls from (unpasteurized and unhomogenized) raw milk, which normally contains some cream. The cream forms a yellowish layer of sour cream on top. Comes unflavoured only. Has been in the Swedish language since 1652.[41]

    The milk is very, very calm, since it doesn’t move even if you shake the jar…

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Great explanation! Thank you so much! I love the huge variety of dairy products in Sweden… future blog post? I think so. Thanks for reading :)

  • Saauerbach

    Makes you giggle in Swedish! Fniss fniss!

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Fniss fniss :)

  • http://twitter.com/perkeleeesti Emma

    “Besserwisser” is a German word. :) “Besser” means “better” and “Wisser” comes from “wissen” (“to know”). “Betterknower” literally translated.
    Oh and in German we got a “cleaner-bear” as well! :D “Waschbär”!

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Aww, sad that besserwisser comes from German, but now that you say it, it looks more German than Swedish anyway. Can’t believe that you have a cleaner-bear in German, too! Too funny! Thanks for reading :)

      • Anonymous

        But Sweden is the only country where you can call a know-it-all a “knife smith” in German! (There’s a well-known joke that goes “You’re such a messerschmitt!” “Don’t you mean ‘besserwisser’?” “See what I mean?”; nowadays, probably a majority of Swedes will understand you if you call a know-it-all a “messerschmitt”.)

  • Londonswede

    “Het pa groten” tends to mean that you are keen to get it on with someone off the opposite sex,not about hot cookies just out of the oven (expat Swede)

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Too funny! The only time I’ve heard this expression is when my boyfriend’s mom has said it, so it definitely wasn’t in that context. Pretty awesome that being “hot on the porridge” can be equivalent to wanting to get it on with someone.

      • Anonymous

        Londonswede is right about the most common use of it today, but you are right about the origin of it.

  • Bgholmberg

    I love the word “blunda”, in English you have to use a whole sentence = close your eyes.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Awesome!! Thank you for the addition! :)

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  • Youma

    Think bakfylla is the back (bad) side of being drunk. Also, the gingerbread cookies are upside down.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Not sure what you mean about the gingerbread cookies, but maybe you’re right with bakfylla! Very interesting.

      • Youma

        They are bottom side up, you can tell from the air bubbles, very unorthodox.

        • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

          Haha that’s funny! Maybe you’re right! I just took this graphic off the internet, so I’m not sure. Good eyes :)

  • http://dev.null.org/acb/ acb

    “den är paj” sounds analogous to the Australian term “cactus”, used to describe something that’s irredeemably broken. Also inexplicably.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Wow! I had never heard of the Australian expression, either. Too funny!

  • Monica-USA

    Thanks again for all of the giggles. Good job!!! :o )

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Thank you, Monica!! :)

  • Helenburley

    Really liked these! Will try them out on my Swedish friends in Kvinnerstaskolan, Orebro.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Yay! Thank you for reading :)

  • http://www.visitsmaland.se Camilla Lindblad

    Hilarious to read your point of view! And, as a matter of fact, the butter in Småland is soo good:)

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Haha thank you! I haven’t tried Småland butter yet, but it looks like I’ll have to make it a priority. Thanks for reading! :)

  • http://missmeadowsvintagepearls.blogspot.com/ Miss Meadows

    As a Swede I love hearing how people from other countries experience everything I’m so used to it doesn’t ever cross my mind that it might be a bit…well…weird. But when someone whose not used to our customs mentions something like certain words, foods, or holidays – like you do here on your blog – THAT’S when you actually start to think about it. Love it! “Poop sausage”…Ha, ha, haaaaaaa!!!!!

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Haha so glad you liked it! I’m so sad that bajskorv didn’t catch on with my dad. It would have been so great if he had come to visit and that was the one word he knew. :) Thanks for reading!

  • Lindaz74

    I’m a Swede living in North Carolina, this was so funny.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Yay! Thanks so much for reading. I’m glad I made you laugh!

  • Lindaz74

    How about “pimpla”? LOL… to go ice fishing.

    • Smilla1-2

      Angående pimpla..så används det uttrycket även när man “pimplar öl”. att man dricker många? öl, vet dock inte var det kommer ifrån..så någon som vet får gärna förklara :)

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Haha ewwwww. That’s a good one.

  • Lena760

    Du kan ju också strunta i att reta dig på svenska ord – glöm bort dem. Stanna där du nu bor, och åk inte till Sverige nåt mer. Vi kommer inte sakna dig!

    • Solvända

      Du är inte allvarlig, eller? Ingen har retat sig på svenska ord. Här är det ju fråga om GLÄDJEN att lära sig nya ord och uttryck. Att dela den glädjen med andra är härligt, tycker jag.

  • Anonymous

    I would pretty much do anything for all the butter in Småland. There. It’s out there. Very funny and educational as always, Kate. Bra gjört! P.S. I always liked one literal translation of “jag känna igen dig”…”I feel again you” though I know it means “I recognize you.”

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Hahaha well good thing you’re headed this way!! Seems like you’re really tackling the Swedish in advance… big time kudos for you!

  • Agata

    Haha funny…. But even funnier if Lena760 is serious… lol.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      I know. :) Thanks so much for reading!

  • Cait

    That’s so neat about the cleaning bear. In German raccoons are also washing bears (waschbär), and in Hungarian too (mosomedve). Cute :)

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      So cool! I wonder how that came about. Maybe laundry was done by masked banditos in the olden days?? Thanks for reading :)

      • David McBride

        my wife is swedish and i love the translations she comes up with. she told me that racoons are called “washing bears” in swedish which tickled me. plus, it makes more sense. racoons will douse their food before they eat it. nobody is completely sure why they do this.

        • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

          Haha that is so awesome! New fact of the day. Thanks a lot! :)

    • http://twitter.com/ChrSommer Christian Sommer

      Same in Dutch haha, we say Wasbeer. Thats probably why I never thought of it as a funny word.

  • Solvända

    Hej Kate! The word ‘paj’ in the meaning ‘broken’ is not related to ‘paj’ in the meaning ‘pie’. ‘Paj’ = ‘broken’ is a loan word, from the romani verb ‘pagra’ or ‘pasja’, which means ‘break’ or ‘destroy’. And I believe that the ‘bak-’ in ‘bakfylla’ means ‘after’. So it’s just the kind of ‘fylla’ you experience after you’ve had the real thing! :-)

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Awesome! I am so glad to know the story behind the paj! I’ve really spent the last week thinking about possible ways that the phrase could have come about. It’s great to know the real story. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  • Amy

    This was great to read. I also lured my boyfriend to Sweden almost 3 years ago now and it really makes you think when you see these words from another point of view. He and I have had many laughs because of the literal meaning of the words :D Something that is also very funny is when you see the phonetic writing for Swedish pronunciation.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Hey! Lovely to hear from you! I agree… the phonetic writing a la Hipp Hipp’s Svenska för Nybörjare is priceless! Hope you and your boyfriend are doing well… thanks for reading :)

  • Anneli Haake

    This is great! I have shared these with some of my Swedish students, and they loved it! It is funny how you don’t think about these things when it’s your native language – you just take them for granted. Although, I am having the same experience sometimes with English. Thanks / Anneli B. Haake at http://www.swedishmadeeasy.com

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Hey! Thanks so much for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed it and that your students got a kick out of it :) Looking forward to checking out your site! / Kate!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ebba-Svantesson/1750647220 Ebba Svantesson

    Instead of saying ‘smaken är som baken’, young (and crude) people sometimes say ‘Smaken är som röven – klöven. Always puts a smile on my face haha

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Hahaha why haven’t I heard that one before?!

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  • Mose – Tipsy Pilgrim

    Swedish apparently has a couple of even more wonderful words for the hangover:

    1. kopparslagare —copper beater
    2. baksmälla — smacked from behind

    The world’s words for hangovers are here in all their glory: http://www.tipsypilgrim.com/blog/how-do-the-worlds-languages-evoke-the-misery-of-the-hangover.html

    Though I have to say, Swedish has some of the best.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Wow! Thanks for directing me to your website. What a cool blog!

      • Mose – Tipsy Pilgrim

        Thanks! Keep up the good work on yours.

  • Ericsson

    paj comes from pajad (broken) it is a slang

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Laura-Kornelia-Palmer/687173129 Laura Kornelia Palmer

    I laught alot reading this at work. Hope that you enjoyed sweden. =D

  • Linnea_froberg

    As a Swedish besserwisser I have to comment on “jordgubbe”. “Gubbe” is from the dialect of Skåne and means “small blob”. Makes a bit more sense. Which is too bad, gubbe as in old man is way more cute.

  • Fredrik

    omg I just laughed so hard to the pie part. I’m swedish and obviously you don’t normally think of these things, so it’s fun to see from a foreigner’s perspective. This is well written, very fun to read :) and props for learning swedish, it’s very difficult with the only reason being that swedish people really love speaking english, and it’s hard to find people you really need to speak swedish with :)

  • Anna

    Hej! You mentioned a book where you got these all from. Can you please what book is that? Thanks!

  • OskuK

    Besserwisser is actually a german phraise

  • Sam

    I’m Swedish and I have a friend who used to say “smaken ar som baken – brun, kladdig och full av bajs”

  • Henning Karlsson

    The “paj” expression leads to one of the funniest moments ever in any swedish cartoon dub. A character has aquired a pie cannon, that is a big bazooka that shoots pies at the target. Another character is nervous about what’s going to happen, so what does she tell the character with the cannon?
    “Var försiktig, du kan paja något.”
    This has to be one of the most glorious puns in any language.

  • iwillposeastheenemy

    Hi there! Thanks for these posts, they really made me smile! Besserwisser is actually a German word, which might be why you’ve not heard it used – maybe it’s only borrowed rarely?


  • Porgeekman

    Would there be an expression in Swedish that is the equivalent of the English – ‘Faster than you can say Jack Robinson?’