Swedish word of the day: sommarlov

Swedish word of the day: sommarlov
Image: nito103/Depositphotos
Here's a word that brings joy to the hearts of anyone living in Sweden: sommarlov.

Sommarlov means 'summer break', usually used in reference to school holidays. In Sweden and many other countries, this is the longest vacation period of the year: around ten weeks in total, which puts it among the most generous countries worldwide. The timing depends a bit on where you are in the country, and this year it's an especially long lov in parts of Värmland, stretching out to 11 weeks.

These days many children spend the time off at activity camps, on holiday overseas, or otherwise relaxing. There are plenty of sommarlov activity programmes put on across the country, and for rainy days, it's also the name of a summertime TV programme on national broadcaster SVT.

But when the break was first introduced back in the 19th century, it was with the aim that youngsters spend the break helping their parents with work. At this time, Sweden was an agricultural economy and summer was the busiest time on farms, so children were needed to help out.

Lov is related to the English noun 'leave', and the link to vacation is clear if you think about 'leaving a place' or the noun 'a leave of absence'. In Swedish, lov has two main other meanings: praise and permission.

It has been used to mean 'permission to be absent from school' or 'school break' for at least 400 years, and you'll also see it in reference to the other main school holidays: påsklov (Easter break), jullov (Christmas break), sportlov (sports break, used to refer to the late winter holiday) and läslov or höstlov (reading break or autumn break). 


Vi ska åka till Småland under sommarlovet

We will go to Småland during the summer break

Sommarlovet är äntligen här!

The summer break is here at last!

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.

Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.