Swedish word of the day: ombud

the word ombud on a black background beside a swedish flag
An ombud can mean anything from a place where you can pick up alcohol to a lawyer representing you in court. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Today's word of the day can be surprisingly useful if you live in a rural area.

Ombud in its most simple meaning can be translated to English as “representative” or “delegate”. Essentially, an ombud is an individual or company, acting on behalf of another individual or company.

You may have come across the word ombud when visiting your local supermarket. Your supermarket may be a postombud (post representative), meaning you can collect parcels there, or an apoteksombud (pharmacy representative), a place where you can collect prescriptions.

If you live in a rural area, your supermarket could be a Systembolagetombud (Systembolaget representative), meaning you can order alcohol from Swedish state-owned alcohol monopoly Systembolaget for pick-up there, rather than having to travel to the nearest Systembolaget, which could be over an hour’s drive away.

Are there betting or gambling stations at your local supermarket where you can buy lottery tickets or place bets? Then your supermarket is also a spelombud (gambling representative).

The ombud service means that even small local shops can provide for example a pharmacy or post office service, saving rural residents the long journey to their nearest town.

Finally, you may also have come across a juridiskt ombud – usually referring to a lawyer or legal professional acting on behalf of their client – be it an individual or a company. A person charged of a major crime may also be assigned a rättegångsombud or public defence lawyer, tasked with representing their interests in court.

Ombud also features in one of the few Swedish loan words to English – ombudsman – usually referring to a government-appointed official in charge of investigating and resolving public complaints.

Some official ombudsmen (or ombudsmän if we’re speaking Swedish) in Sweden include Justitieombudsmannen or JO (the Parliamentary Ombudsmen – literally “justice ombudsman”), in charge of making sure that Swedish public authorities are following the law, Diskrimineringsombudsmannen or DO (The Equality Ombudsman – literally “discrimination ombudsman”), a government agency in charge of promoting equal rights and opportunities and to combat discrimination, and Barnombudsmannen or BO (the Ombudsman for Children), tasked with representing children’s rights and interests.


Har ni Systemet där ni bor? Nej, men vi har ett systemombud.

Do you have a Systembolaget where you live? No, but we can order for pick-up at the supermarket.

“Min klient är ledsen över det som har hänt,” berättade mannens ombud i går.

“My client is sorry about what happened,” the man’s representative said yesterday.

Här kan du skicka in en anmälan till Justitieombudsmannen.

You can send in a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsmen here.

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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