Swedish word of the day: fimpa

Swedish word of the day: fimpa
Image: nito103/Depositphotos
Here’s a word that’s in the news this week and has a truly unique linguistic history.

Fimpa means ‘to stub out’, and is usually used to talk about putting out a cigarette. The related word fimp or cigarettefimp means ‘cigarette stub/end/butt'.

It has a slightly odd origin, coming from fikonspråket (literally ‘fig language’), a Swedish code language. To create a word in fikonspråket, you split the word after the first vowel, reverse the order of the two parts of the word, and add the prefix fi– to the first part and the suffix -kon after the second.

Confused? Well, that’s sort of the point. But in fikonspråk, the word stump ('stub/cigarette end') would be split into stu- and -mp, and would then be transformed into fimp stukon. This got shortened to fimp, meaning ‘stub’, and then turned into the verb fimpa (to stub out).

In fact, fimp may well be the only word from fikonspråket that has become a fixed part of the standard Swedish language, or at least it's the only word recognized by the official dictionary as having such an origin, which makes it quite a special Swedish word. 

READ ALSO: 12 untranslatable Swedish words they didn't teach you at SFI

Rose's mum would like her to fimpa. via GIPHY

There are two other uses of fimpa which are handy to know.

Firstly, it can be used as a general term to mean ‘to stop/quit smoking’, for example 'politikerna vill få alla att fimpa' ('the politicians want to get everyone to stop smoking').

And secondly, it can be used as a slang term to mean ‘to dump/to break up with’, in the sense of ending a relationship with someone. It’s a transitive verb, meaning it’s used with an object and no preposition, for example jag ska fimpa honom (I will break up with him) or han ville fimpa mig (he wanted to dump me). When you're using fimpa to mean 'to stub out a cigarette', it can be used without an object (fimpa) or with an object (fimpa cigaretten/ciggen).

The reason we’ve selected fimpa today is because it’s in the news due to Sweden’s new smoking ban, which forbids smoking in outdoor public areas such as bar and restaurant terraces, football pitches, and bus or train stations.

This means that people will need to fimpa before they enter these areas, and the city of Malmö in southern Sweden has even introduced three fimpzoner (stub-out zones) to help smokers remember and adhere to the new law.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Sweden's new smoking ban


När man röka i skogen, måste man fimpa försiktigt

When you smoke in a forest, you have to stub out the cigarette carefully

I en nationell kampanj vill den finska staten få befolkningen att fimpa

In a national campaign, the Finnish state wants to get the population to quit smoking

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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