Swedish word of the day: glänta

Swedish word of the day: glänta
An often-used words by artists and poets. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Today's Swedish word is an evocative one that tells us something about the country.

The noun glänta means 'clearing in the forest', or 'glade', but it's more specific than that, used about clearings where a beam of sunlight is able to reach through the trees.

It's linked to the verb glänta meaning' to open slightly'. Imagine the trees choosing to part to let in that ray of light. And it probably originates from the Norwegian or Icelandic gletta, meaning 'gliding', or 'sliding'.

The word calls to mind a fairytale-like Nordic landscape, complete with elves and trolls. It recalls for example, Astrid Lindgren's Ronja Rövardotter, Ronia the Robber's daughter, in which the protagonist Ronja goes to live in the forest, surrounded by a wilderness full of legendary creatures.

In my native Dutch, there's no direct translation of glänta.

The fact that the Swedish language has a lot of words, expressions and literature centered around trees and forests isn't much of a shocker, given that over half of Sweden's surface is covered with forest.

And, unsurprisingly, glänta is a much-loved and often-used word by artists and writers alike, even being the title of a three-monthly, Swedish cultural magazine.

The poet Tomas Tranströmer dedicated a poem to the word, or rather, the experience of glänta, writing:

Det finns mitt i skogen en oväntat glänta som bara kan hittas av den som gått vilse.

Gläntan är omsluten av en skog som kväver sig själv.

“There is, in the middle of the forest, an unexpected glade that can only be found by those who got lost.

The glade is encircled by a forest suffocating itself.”


De kommer fram till en glänta

They reached a clearing

Vi hittade en fin glänta där vi åt lunch

We found a beautiful clearing where we ate lunch

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