Swedish word of the day: slarva

the word slarv on a black background by a Swedish flag
Probably best not to go around calling people a slarv/slarva unless you know them well. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Here's how to tell your partner they've done a bad job of the washing up.

The Swedish verb slarva can be roughly translated as “to be careless”.

When used with the preposition bort (“away”), in the phrase att slarva bort, it can mean “to lose something out of carelessness”. Incompetent police can, for example, slarva bort important evidence, or a person can be accused of att slarva bort sitt liv (“wasting their life”).

A football team might slarva bort en poäng (“throw away a point”) to another team in an important match, or someone may slarva bort pengar (“throw away their money”) if they do not have control of their spending.

A person can also slarva sig igenom something – att slarva sig igenom en kurs, for example, would describe someone managing to complete a course despite acting carelessly, messily or generally not really trying. Similarly, att slarva ihop something, would describe putting something together or achieving something despite being incompetent or not trying.

Slarva can also be used to describe carelessness in a moral sense, not just an untidy or unhygienic sense. You could be accused of att slarva med sprit (“being careless with alcohol”) if you spend too much time drinking, or if you stay out partying for too long.

Similarly, in times where it was looked down upon to have too many sexual relationships – particularly for women – a woman seen as being ‘loose’ or ‘easy’ could be referred to as a slarva – roughly translated as “slut”.

Nowadays, women can still be referred to as a slarva or slarvmaja (“messy Maja” – Maja being a common Swedish female first name), although this usually refers to them acting carelessly, or being messy or unhygienic, rather than who they sleep with. The male version of this is slarver.

Att slarva med kvinnorna (“being careless with women”) was used in the past to describe a man who had sex with lots of women (in a time where monogamy was the norm), or, nowadays, may describe a man having an affair with someone else despite being in a relationship.

slarva can also be used to mean a cloth or rag, usually one which is a bit tired and worn out.

The adjective form of slarva is slarvigt, which may be used disparagingly to describe something, often a job, which has been done badly – a good English translation is “botched”.

Example sentences:

Jag har sagt åt dig fyra gångar att städa ditt rum, din slarvmaja!

I’ve told you four times to clean your room, you messy Maja!

Vi beställde ett nytt kök men det var så slarvigt gjort att de ska riva ut och göra om det.

We ordered a new kitchen but it was such a botched job that they’re going to tear it out and do it again.

Hoppas inte jag har slarvat med den här artikeln.

I hope I haven’t done a bad job of this article.

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.

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