Swedish word of the day: koja

the word koja on a black background beside a swedish flag
Want to know how to tell your Swedish friends about that great den you built? Read on. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Today's word of the day is the kind of place you want to curl up and hide in on a cold January morning.

Our word of the day today is koja, the Swedish word for a small hut or den. The plural of koja is kojor.

Nowadays, the word koja is perhaps most spoken when talking about children, who may enjoy building a koja or playing in a trädkoja – a treehouse. A doghouse is also a form of koja in Sweden, where it is referred to as a hundkoja. Small cars such as Mini Coopers are also sometimes referred to as hundkojor.

In Swedish history, timber workers tasked with log driving – following felled timber as it floated down rivers (known as flottare or “floaters” in Swedish) – would sleep in a flottarkoja, and kolare (charcoal burners) stayed in kolarkojor near charcoal piles, as they required constant maintenance for charcoal production to succeed.

Here’s a song about flottare – listen out for our word of the day in the lyrics:

Koja as a verb can also be used to describe going to bed in Swedish, although this use is slightly outdated. The phrase att krypa till kojs is sometimes used to describe crawling into bed. The “s” at the end of “kojs” here is left over from when Swedish had a genitive case, still seen in certain phrases such as till havs or till sjöss (which can both mean “to sea” or “at sea”) and till sängs (to bed). Swedish no longer has a genitive case – Icelandic is the only Nordic language which has retained this.

The English phrase “from rags to riches” can be translated into Swedish as från koja till slott or “from hut to castle” – which is also the name of an early-2000s TV programme about home makeovers.

The word koja is also seen in other languages with a similar meaning. In many languages, a koja is the term for a cabin, berth or bunk on a ship: German has Koje, Dutch kooi (which can also mean cage) and Russian койка or kójka (also the name for a hospital bed).

Koja in Icelandic is the term for bunk-bed, koda in Estonian is the name for an entrance hallway where shoes and outdoor clothing are removed, and Japanese こや (koya) has almost the same meaning as in Swedish – a small hut or playhouse.

Example sentences:

Oj, vilken fin koja du har byggt!

Wow, what a nice den you’ve built!

Det är alltid trevligt att krypa till kojs efter en lång dag.

It’s always nice to crawl into bed after a long day.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it – or join The Local as a member and get your copy for free.

It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.


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