Swedish word of the day: å

Swedish word of the day: å
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Let's look at one of the Swedish language's single-letter words.

Å is the 27th letter of the Swedish alphabet, and a surprisingly versatile word. Hear how to pronounce it in the clip below:

So what does it mean? A few different things.

En å is the word for a river, stream or brook. The plural is åar

Å is also common in place names. There are a total of 12 locations in Sweden called Å, and several others that use as a suffix, such as Skogså (literally 'forest brook') in Norrbotten and Luleå, Piteå and Skellefteå in northern Sweden. The use of å in place names usually means the location is near a river.

It can also be an interjection, similar to 'oh!', and usually expresses joy or surprise, but can sound slightly affected or old-fashioned. For example: Å, vad jag är glad! (Oh, how happy I am!)

In older Swedish, å was a preposition equivalent to 'on' in English. Today it has been mostly replaced by , but you will still see å in some set phrases such as å ena sidan… å andra sidan (on the one hand… on the other hand) or å någons vägnar (on someone's behalf). In the latter phrase, you can also use .

And in dialect or informal Swedish, å can be used to replace the preposition att, especially when att is being used with a verb in the infinitive, for example jag glömde å göra det (I forgot to do it). 
Å also features in a Swedish dialectal poem, in a line made up of single letters. You can read the full poem here, and the sentence goes: d'ä e å, å i åa ä e ö. In standard Swedish, that's 'det är en å, och i ån är en ö' (there is a stream, and in the stream there is an island). If that confused you, don't worry – the whole point of the poem is about a city visitor failing to understand the dialect! 


Jag ser en å

I can see a stream

Hon var å andra sidan jätteduktig

On the other hand, she was very competent

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