For members


Danish word of the day: Tør

Have a look at the word of the day if you dare.

Danish word of the day: Tør

What is tør?

Several things, including both verbs and adjectives.

Starting with the verbs, tør is a conjugation of two different Danish verbs, at turde (“to dare”) and at tørre (“to dry” or “to wipe”).

In the first case, it is the present tense form: jeg tør ikke sige, om planen kommer til at virke (“I dare not say whether the plan will work”).

In the second, it is the imperative form. Tør bordet af tak! means “wipe the table please!”. The present tense of at tørre is tørrer, as in Christian tørrer bordet af (“Christian is wiping the table (clean)”).

In its adjective guise, tør means “dry”. You can have tørvejr, “dry weather”, tør humor, a dry sense of humour, tør vin, “dry wine”, or a tørt emne, a dry or boring subject or topic. It can also mean dry as in without moisture, just like the English equivalent.

A tumble dryer is not a tørtumbler, however, but rather a tørretumbler.

Why do I need to know tør?

As well as being another example of a Danish homonym, like bakke, tør is interesting both because it has several meanings, can be two different verbs in different combinations, and because two of its meanings come close to being antonyms.

At tørre af, to wipe clean, technically means making something wet (at least briefly and on the surface), because you’ll be using a damp cloth to do so. Whereas if it is tør, it is completely dry.

Tør is also used in a lot of idioms and experessions — too many to list here in fact. At løbe tør (literally “to run dry”) means to run out of something, while to be tør bag ørerne (“dry behind the ears”) means the opposite to the English “wet behind the ears”. Someone who is tør bag ørerne is older, wiser and experienced.

My favourite tør expression, though, is at falde på et tørt sted (“to fall on a dry place”), meaning to receive something that was sorely needed.


Jeg tør slet ikke tro på, at Danmark vinder VM.

I dare not believe that Denmark will win the World Cup.

Du får den her chance kun én gang. Tør du tage den?

You’ll only get this chance once. Do you dare to take it?

Min jakke har hængt ude på altanen siden i går, men den er slet ikke tør endnu.

My jacket has been hanging outside on the balcony since yesterday, but it’s nowhere near dry yet.

Tak for kaffen. Den faldt på et tørt sted!

Thanks for the coffee. It was badly needed!

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Danish word of the day: Skadefryd

Today's word of the day might be recognisable as a close relative of a popular German loan word.

Danish word of the day: Skadefryd

What is skadefryd?

Skadefryd can be trace to the German word Schadenfreude. The term originated in the 18th century and has no direct English translation or equivalent — although it is commonly used in modern English as a loan word, so its meaning may not be too surprising.

The German word is a compound of Schaden, meaning (damage/harm) and Freude (joy). The Danish word is exactly the same: skade means harm or injury while fryd is an archaic which means great joy or a feeling of contentment.

While skade is common in modern Danish, fryd has gone out of use — although you might have come across it in the phrase fryd og gammen, roughly “joy and happiness”, which can be found in texts like old-fashioned literature and hymns.

Skadefryd — like Schadenfreude — is when you feel joy or satisfaction at somebody else’s misfortunate.

Why do I need to know skadefryd?

It’s probably worth knowing that Danish has it’s own version of skadefryd, so you don’t drop the German version into a conversation like you might in English.

I’m not to sure how often you might be use it though, as it seems a fairly alien in Danish society to take joy from someone else’s failures.

For example, feeling glad to find out a colleague you didn’t like has been fired is a good example of skadefryd — but I’ve never heard someone openly admitting feeling this way.

Feeling pleasure in smaller misfortunes — such as laughing at other people falling over — is perhaps a slightly more likely, if puerile, scenario.

Philosopher Theodor Adorno has defined skadefryd as “mainly unexpected joy at another’s suffering that is noted as everyday and/or appropriate”.