Swedish word of the day: statsminister

A word of the day to mark the Swedish parliament's prime ministerial vote – let's have a closer look at what it means.

Swedish word of the day: statsminister
Sweden has had 33 prime ministers (so far). Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

The word statsminister – literally “state” and “minister” – is the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian word for a prime minister.

It is primarily used for Nordic prime ministers, with prime ministers of other countries, such as the UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson and Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison, being referred to as premiärminister (plural: premiärministrar).

Sweden has had 33 different statsministrar (with the first being Louis de Geer from 1876-1880), and the most recent being Social Democrat Stefan Löfven, who became Sweden’s prime minister in 2014. 

Sweden has had universal suffrage since 1921, meaning men and women are both able to vote (although the minimum voting age at this time was 23 years of age).

Since then, the Social Democrats have been in power for the vast majority of time.

Two of Sweden’s prime ministers have died in office. The first was Social Democrat Per Albin Hansson, prime minister between 1932 and 1946 (minus June to September 1936, when the now-Centre Party were briefly in power).

The second was Social Democrat Olof Palme, who was Sweden’s prime minister between 1969 and 1976, and then again between 1982 and his assassination in 1986.

The Swedish prime minister’s official residence has been Sagerska huset, referred to as Sager House in English, since 1995.

Sagerska huset is located on Strömgatan in central Stockholm. Prior to this, prime ministers did not have an official residence – those holding the position kept their private residences while in power. 

The establishment of an official residence for prime ministers came about after a cross-party agreement on increased security for prime ministers after Palme’s assassination.

Sweden’s prime minister has been officially appointed by the speaker of parliament since 1976. Before this date, the monarch had this responsibility.

Similarly, until 1976, Sweden’s prime minister held the title of Hans Excellens Statsminister or His Excellency Prime Minister, whereas now he is referred to as Herr Statsminister, Mr Prime Minister, or Fru Statsminister for a female prime minister.


Kommer Sverige få sin första kvinnliga statsminister i dag?

Will Sweden get their first female prime minister today?

Vem är din favoritstatsminister? Jag gillar Olof Palme.

Who is your favourite prime minister? I like Olof Palme.

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