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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Kiva! Seven unique Finland Swedish words the world needs to know

Sweden is not the only country where Swedish is spoken as a first language. Here are some words that are unique to the Swedish that's spoken in Finland.

Kiva! Seven unique Finland Swedish words the world needs to know
The border between Sweden and Finland. Photo: Erik Simander/TT

Across the Baltic sea in neighboring Finland nearly 300,000 people speak Swedish as their first language.

Having been part of the Swedish empire from 1249 until 1809, this led to a large group of the population along the coast speaking Swedish as their first language. Nowadays Finland has two official languages, although the usage of Swedish varies across the country. A person who speaks Swedish as their first language is called a Swedish-speaking Finn.

Although the Swedish spoken in Finland is similar to the one spoken in Sweden, Finnish has sneaked its way into the language. As a result there are several unique words that only Swedish-speaking Finns use. Sometimes, it may even feel like you’re speaking another language. These words are called finlandismer.

Below are a few Finland Swedish words that you may find useful, although keep in mind that there are several dialects across the country that may use the words differently.

Roskis

Sweden Swedish equivalent: papperskorg/soptunna

English meaning: trash/bin

One of the most famous Finnish Swedish words. Originating from the Finnish word for trash, it’s pronounced rÅskis, as the o is pronounced the Finnish way.

Juttu

Sweden Swedish equivalent: grej/historia/inslag

English meaning: thing

A very flexible word that can be used to mean pretty much anything. A useful word to have on hand. You don’t know how to describe something? Just call it a juttu and that’ll keep the conversation flowing. Also originally a Finnish word, but very common among young Swedish-speaking Finns.

Råddigt

Sweden Swedish equivalent: stökigt

English meaning: messy

Although the origins of the word are unclear, this is a word that most likely originated from various Finnish Swedish dialects. Råddigt is used to describe something that is messy, like a room or a car.

Krabbis

Sweden Swedish equivalent: baksmälla

English meaning: hangover

If you’ve had a few too many drinks, you may experience some krabbis the following day. You can also use the word krapula to describe the banging headache you experience, although this is a word mainly used in the Helsinki region.

Did you have one too many last night? You may be feeling a bit krabbis today. Photo: Fotograferna Holmberg/TT

Håsa

Sweden Swedish equivalent: jäkta

English meaning: rush

You’re running around, trying to find everything you need, struggling to take a break? A Swedish-speaking Finn may ask you to sluta håsa (stop rushing) and calm down. Another Finnish word that has managed to sneak its way into the Swedish language. 

Nakupelle

Sweden Swedish equivalent: naken/näck

English meaning: naked

The Emperor has no clothes, he is nakupelle. When a person isn’t wearing any clothes, they are nakupelle. Has several times been voted the best finlandism in existence by Swedish-speaking Finns.

Kiva

Sweden Swedish equivalent: kul/trevlig

English meaning: nice/fun/exciting

Similar to juttu this word is very useful in everyday language. Also originally a Finnish word from the Northern parts of the country, kiva has managed to establish itself as one of the most common words in the Swedish language among young people in Finland. You will rarely hear older Swedish-speaking Finns use this word.

Useful in situations to keep the conversation going. Don’t know how to respond to someone? Just say kiva and that will be enough. Your intonation will show just how nice you think something is. Kiva!

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: dryg

The story of long-lasting dishwashing liquid via a 14th century manuscript, the Swedish word for 'queen', and someone acting a little bit cocky.

Swedish word of the day: dryg

Dryg has two meanings in Swedish, perhaps three:

1. Something that lasts, like concentrated dish soap.

2. To be cocky or haughty.

3. Just about or a little more than – as in drygt en halvtimma, “just about half an hour”. 

The relation of the two first meanings is actually interesting, and connected to the Swedish for queen. Dryg in the sense “something that lasts” is the oldest. Svensk ordbok, the dictionary of the Swedish Academy, traces it back to the latter half of the 14th century and the Old Swedish parchment hagiography, the Codex Bureanus, one of the oldest manuscripts in Swedish.

You might ask, what in the name of the Lord is a hagiography? Well, the name of the Lord would be proper here, as a hagiography is a text about the lives of saints. You could call it a sort of legend of the saints, which is what it is called in Swedish, a legendarium. The text is called Bureanus simply because it was gifted to a certain Johannes Bureus in 1634. Bureus later donated it to the National Archives, but today it resides at the Royal Library. 

In the Codex Bureanus, dryg appears as drygher ‘durable, who is enough’. This word is itself related to drott, which is even older, dating to at least the 11th century. A drott was an Old Norse lord with his own court. It is not hard to see the reasoning behind linking the meaning ‘durable’ or ‘lasting’ with the title of a lord. 

Drott is found on rune stones in the runic form trutin, it morphs to Old Swedish drotin, and here, the Swedes among you might immediately see where this is going. Have you ever wondered why ‘queen’ is drottning in Swedish, whereas ‘king’ and kung are nearly identical? This is why. 

This could perhaps also be why dryg in the second sense exists. Who better than a queen to think herself better than others?

But there is yet another possibility. Moving backwards in time the word drótt means ‘(the king’s) warrior retinue’. Perhaps the attitude of the king’s warrior retinue was drygt? In the Gothic that predates it the word driugan meant to ‘do military service’. 

Think of that the next time you use your dryga diskmedel – that is concentrated washing-up liquid. And be advised that the primary meaning of dryg is for a person who is acting arrogantly.

Example sentences:

Hur kan man vara så dryg?

How can one be so haughty?

Jag älskar det här diskmedlet, det är sååå drygt!

I love this washing-up liquid, it’s sooo concentrated!

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 US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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