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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: skål

A word that will help you socialise in Sweden? We'll drink to that.

Swedish word of the day: skål
Cheers to learning Swedish! Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Skål means two different things in Swedish, and they're both quite common words. Firstly, en skål is 'a bowl'. Hear how to pronounce it in the clip below:

More excitingly, skål is how you say 'cheers!' – the exclamation when you clink glasses with friends and drink, often in celebration of something. Except in Sweden, you shouldn't actually let your glasses touch. 

Sweden has some fairly complex etiquette when it comes to toasting. At formal occasions, there's a set order in which you should toast the people you're with, and you should raise your glass to the third button on your shirt.

But in general, unless you're keeping very fancy company, all you need to remember to avoid offence is to make eye contact and nod at your cheers-ing partner.

The usual preposition you use with skål is för, for example skål för vänskap (cheers to friendship) or skål för Mathias (cheers to Mathias), but you can also say skål på dig (cheers to you).

Swedish doesn't have a separate word for 'toast' like English does, so skål! means 'cheers!' and en skål is 'a toast'.

You can turn skål into a verb too, skåla (to toast, or to drink to), as in: ska vi skåla för det? (Shall we drink to that?)

As for where the word comes from, it's slightly related to skål's other meaning of 'bowl'. Skål meaning 'cheers' comes from the word skal meaning 'shell' or 'outer covering'. In older forms of Swedish, this word was used to refer to drinking vessels.

Examples

Jag vill utbringa en skål för det lyckliga paret

I'd like to propose a toast to the happy couple

Skål för det!

Cheers to that!

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

You don't have to spend long in Sweden to hear the word skärgård, especially if you live in cities like Stockholm or Gothenburg where the population relocate to the nearby skärgård every summer. Where does the word come from?

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

Skärgård is, like many Swedish words, a compound word made up of the word skär, describing a small rocky outcrop and gård, which has a number of meanings such as “courtyard”, “farm” or “garden”.

Although skärgård is often translated to English as “archipelago” – a group of islands – the word officially refers to an archipelago made up primarily of small islands, close to the coast of a larger island or landmass, such as the rocky archipelagos near Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Other kinds of archipelago – such as those which are not close to other landmasses, or those made up of larger islands – can be referred to as an arkipelag or ögrupp. However, many Swedes will just use skärgård for any kind of archipelago.

Although the word skärgård doesn’t exist in English, a variant of skär has made its way into the language. The English term for this type of small rocky outcrop is “skerry”.

Skerry has an interesting etymology in English – it comes from the Old Norse term sker, which refers to a rock in the sea. This is related to the Swedish word skära, meaning “cut” – a skerry is a rock cut off from land.

Sker came into English via Scots, where it is spelled skerry or skerrie. Other languages also have this word, such as Norwegian skjær/skjer, Estonian skäär, Finnish kari and Russian шхеры (shkhery). It can also be found in Scottish Gaelic sgeir, Irish sceir and Welsh sgeri.

This also reflects the geographic area where skerries are found – there are skerries or skärgårdar along the northernmost part of the Swedish west coast near Bohuslän and Gothenburg, as well as on the east coast near Stockholm. The Norwegian coast also has a large number of skerries, and Skärgårdshavet or “the Archipelago Sea” lies off the southwestern coast of Finland.

In Russia, the Minina Skerries (Shkhery Minina) are one example of a skärgård, and in Scotland, Skerryvore and Dubh Artach in the Hebrides are also made up of skerries. Northern Ireland is home to The Skerries, off the Antrim coast, and Skerries is also the name of a coastal area of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland.

You may be wondering if the surname of the famous Swedish Skarsgård family of actors – Stellan, Gustaf, Bill, Valter and Alexander Skarsgård, among others – comes from the word skärgård. Although the spelling is similar, this name actually comes from the town of Skärlöv on the island of Öland, and means “Skar’s farm” (Skares gård, in Swedish).

Example sentences

Jag ser redan fram emot sommarsemestern – vi har hyrt en stuga ute i Stockholms skärgård.

I’m already looking forwards to summer – we’ve rented a cottage out in the Stockholm archipelago.

Sverige har många skärgårdar, fast Skärgårdshavet vid Finlands västkust är störst i världen med över 50 000 öar och skär.

Sweden has a lot of archipelagos, but the Archipelago Sea off Finland’s west coast is the biggest in the world has over 50,000 islands and skerries.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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