These new Swedish words perfectly describe life in the time of corona

These new Swedish words perfectly describe life in the time of corona
People sit a distance from each other on a jetty in Stockholm on Tuesday. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
Extraordinary and tough circumstances often lead to innovation, and that extends to language too. These ten words might help you articulate your feelings and experiences during the coronavirus better in Swedish.

The coronavirus crisis has forced us to expand our vocabularies, not only by learning new scientific and medical words (here's a list of the words that will help you understand Swedish news coverage) but also by the need to invent new words to reflect a new reality.

Several neologisms have popped up in Swedish news and on social media to describe the ways our lives have changed.

Coronatider | The time of coronavirus

If you know any Swedish at all, you've probably figured out that the Swedes are big fans of compound words, created by combing several other words together. You can add corona as a prefix to plenty of words, from coronaskägg (coronavirus beard, or facial hair grown during self-isolation) to coronarenovering (coronavirus renovations, or the DIY work you carry out at home).

But by far the most common is coronatider, which could be translated as 'the time of coronavirus' or 'the coronavirus era'. Look out for the ubiquitous phrase i dessa coronatider (in these times of coronavirus), inserted into plenty of information leaflets and news articles.

Corontän | Coronavirus quarantine

Combining the words corona and karantän (quarantine), this can be used to talk about either obligatory quarantines due to the virus, or self-imposed isolation for those who have symptoms or suspect they have been exposed to coronavirus. 

In Sweden there is no official rule about quarantining, but anyone who develops cold- or flu-like symptoms should stay at home until they have been symptom-free for at least two days. The World Health Organisation advises a self-quarantine of 14 days if someone else in your household has symptoms, even if you are healthy.

Folkhälsonationalism | Nationalism based around the Swedish coronavirus strategy

Sweden's coronavirus strategy has been led by the Public Health Agency, and has received international attention due to the lack of any enforced lockdown. Folkhälsonationalism describes nationalistic loyalty towards the Swedish approach; an attitude where people defend the agency against any criticism. 


State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell (centre on stage) has become the figurehead for the national strategy. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

Coronanera | To masturbate during the coronavirus outbreak

This portmanteau of coronavirus and onanera (to masturbate) was coined by journalist Jenny Lindh, in her words, “for quarantine-related sexual frustration”.

Hobbyepidemiolog | Armchair epidemiologist

We all know one, or have interacted with them on social media; people who have developed strong opinions on epidemiology even if they didn't know what the word meant a few months earlier.

This word can be used pejoratively to emphasise someone's lack of expertise, but it doesn't have to be entirely negative. It's not a completely new word and was recorded in Swedish at least as early as 2017, but unsurprisingly it has recently become a lot more widely used.

Karanträna | To work out during increased time at home

A mix of karantän and träna (to work out), this verb describes any at-home exercise you might be doing, either via a gym's online session, through workout videos, or other improvised training. The idea might be to avoid karantänkilon (quarantine-kilo, or the weight you put on due to stress and increased time at home), or simply to maintain good physical and mental health.

In Sweden there is no limit on how often you can go outside for exercise however, and gyms remain open with increased hygiene routines in place. But a lot of organised sports, especially contact sports, have been cancelled for the spring and summer. 

Tvåmetersregel | Two-metre rule

The two-metre rule refers to the distance you should keep from others in public, and the noun has been used in adverts from the 1177 healthcare service among others. In Sweden, it's an unofficial rule, with the Public Health Agency simply advising that people keep a safe distance from others in public spaces, but the guideline from many international agencies and 1177 is to stick to a two-metre distance as often as possible.


People in Sweden can leave their homes, as often as they like, but should keep distance from others in public places. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Stugskam | Shame linked to travelling to a summer cabin despite recommendations to avoid travel

Yep, this one definitely sounds catchier in Swedish. Sweden has now eased its restrictions on domestic travel, but there was long repeated guidance to avoid travelling to rural areas, especially during public holidays, because of the risk of bringing the infection from hard-hit larger cities and overloading healthcare in these less densely populated areas. But without any enforcement, some people took the journey anyway.

An alternative is fjällskam, literally 'mountain shame', due to the advice to avoid travel to rural tourist locations. Both words are an adaptation of flygskam (flight shame), which officially entered the Swedish language in 2018 to describe embarrassment over frequent flying due to the climate impact.

Hostskam | Shame of coughing

Along similar lines, hostskam is the sensation you might feel when caught coughing in public. Anyone with any symptoms of cold or flu is supposed to stay at home, but if you suffer from seasonal allergies this could be a tough one to avoid.

Covidiot | People who behave recklessly and in violation of coronavirus restrictions

This word first showed up in the English language, but Swedish speakers use plenty of loan words so it didn't take long to be transferred to Swedish (with the emphasis on the final 'ot', and the Swedified plural covidioter). It refers to people who break the guidance in place to reduce spread of infection. To transform it into an adjective, it's covidiotisk. Example sentence: Vilka covidioter! (What covidiots!)


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