Swedish word of the day: snölykta

Swedish word of the day: snölykta
Do you want to build a snölykta? Image: nito103/Depositphotos
Today's word is just as beautiful as the object it describes. Here's the story of 'snölykta' or 'snow lantern'.

While it may be an urban myth that Eskimos have hundreds of words for 'snow', the Swedish language can also boast an extensive snowy vocabulary. 

The word snö (snow) is related to the English equivalent, as well as to Norwegian snø, Danish sne, German Schnee, Dutch sneeuw, and many more words for 'snow'. They are all wintery descendents of the word *snaiwaz in proto-Germanic, spoken around 2,500 years ago, which became snjor in Old Norse.

As well as being used as a noun on its own in Swedish (titta på snön! – look at the snow!) and as the verb snöa (titta, det snöar! – look, it's snowing!), it is also used to form dozens of compound nouns when you want to get specific about exactly what kind of the white stuff you're dealing with. For example: kramsnö (snow that can be squished together to make snowballs, formed at 0C or slightly higher temperatures), pudersnö (powdery snow) and nysnö (fresh snow).

READ MORE: How to talk about the weather in Swedish

And snö- is often used as a prefix to define snowy or snow-related objects, such as snöväder (snowy weather), snöman/snögubbe (snowman), and snökaos (snow chaos, or bad weather/traffic conditions due to heavy snow).

Snölykta is one of these compound words, and a very Swedish one too. The second part of the word, lykta, means 'lamp' or 'lantern' and is related to English 'light'.

A snölykta or Swedish snow lantern can be made when there's enough kramsnö to make several snöbollar (snowballs), but instead of using these as ammunition in a snowball fight, they are put to a more wholesome use. You can build a pyramid or tower shape out of the balls, and place a candle or tealight (or several, if your lantern is big enough) in the centre. 

This is a really popular winter activity for Swedish families so keep an eye out for snölyktor lighting the way. 


Snälla mamma, jag vill bygga en snölykta!

Please mum, I want to build a snow lantern

Jag ville bygga en snölykta men det fanns ingen kramsnö utan bara blötsnö

I wanted to build a snow lantern but there was no squeeze-snow, only wet snow

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