Swedish word of the day: pumla

Swedish word of the day: pumla
What do you call the decorations on your Christmas tree? Image: nito103/Depositphotos
Today we're looking into a festive Swedish word that might just spark a lively debate around the julbord.

That word is pumla, a dialect term for a Christmas bauble, which becomes pumlor in the plural.

In standard Swedish, the compound noun julgranskula (literally 'Christmas tree ball') is used to describe the ornaments.

But in the snowy north of Sweden, in Norrbotten and nearby areas, pumla is the more popular term. Around Piteå, many people use the alternative word polla, while pommel and póoll are also used in some specific areas.

These words have German roots and are related to German pummelig, meaning 'plump' or 'dumpy', and pummelchen, meaning 'chubby'. When pumla was first used in northern Swedish dialects, it meant 'round thing' or 'ball' generally but is now more commonly heard in the specifically Christmassy sense.

Pumla was added into the official dictionary by the Swedish Academy just four years ago after lively campaigning from speakers of these variants of Swedish.

In fact, an organization called Pumlans vänner (friends of Pumla) was set up back in 1988 to advocate for pumla's entry into the dictionary. The founder, Ove Friman from Luleå, said he was inspired to start the organization when he asked his partner to get pumlor, and they didn't understand him.


Vi har många pumlor i granen

We have lots of baubles on the Christmas tree

De här pumlorna ser mycket fina ut

These baubles look really pretty

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.

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