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Your favourite Norwegian words

A Norwegian newspaper

Life in Norway's readers have spoken! Here are your favourite words in the Norwegian language.

Working in an office full of Brits one day a week, we talk a lot about life in Norway. The quirks, the humour, the ups, the downs, and everything in between. I get a lot of inspiration for blog posts from these conversations, and today's a perfect example!

Conjugating verbs, compounding words, perfecting the imperfective, knowing your Bokmål from your Nynorsk: learning Norwegian is a tough task for anyone. But every so often, a word comes along that for whatever reason just makes me smile.

I know it's the same for you too, as I discovered through a bit of crowdsourcing of the Life in Norway community over on Twitter:

I then did the same thing on Facebook and the conversation really got going!

 

Kjaerlighet Norwegian word

Snikskytter

Rumpetroll fartsdump

Fisk Norwegian word

Dugnad Norway

Prøvde

A brilliant selection – a big tusen takk to you all! Now I'd like to take a moment to talk you through my own personal favourites.

Koselig

Probably because it's one of the most common Norwegian words that doesn't directly translate into English, but also I love the way it's pronounced. In fact, koselig teaches you a lot about Norwegian pronunciation, specifically the s and -lig ending.

In a very similar way to the much more famous word higgle, koselig describes a feeling of coziness or comfort, topically someplace warm and with good company. I've done my best to give a visual outline of koselig here.

Selvfølgelig

Of course! Sure! Another tongue-twister that teaches you a lot about pronunciation.

Kjærlighet

A third word that's difficult to get your head around as a beginner, but a wonderful word to say when you get the hang of it. It means, quite simply, love.

Tusen takk

Finally, not a word but a phrase, tusen takk directly translates to a thousand thanks, closely resembling the English term thanks a million, or just thank you very much. It's one of the first phrases I learned three years ago, so has a special place in my heart!

What is your favourite Norwegian word, and why?

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

11 Comments

    1. I agree, the sound is great (and has so many variations). There’s a wonderful phrase from a Linguaphone language course which I took 35 years ago that just rolls off your tongue … “som vi ikke bruker for øyeblikket”!

  1. Stovsuger (dust-sucker), and håndske (gloves) which for years I mispronounced as ‘hånadsko’ (hand shoes), because that made sense to me. Friends and family never corrected me because they thought it was ‘so søt’ (so cute) 🙂 I am still convinced ‘håndske’ was originally ‘hånd sko’ somewhere back in the day. Has anyone seen my hand shoes? It’s bloody freezing out there! (Great newsletter David, thanks 🙂

  2. Dagligvarerforretningen. Is a shop when I learned how to write it I figured out nobody is using it, they say say simply butik……..

  3. Thanks for an interesting post! Your blog strikes a chord with me as well, a Norwegian expat in the US.
    I have many favourites (or favorites, as my neighbors (sorry, neighbours!) would spell it). Especially the ones that sound funny or awkward when translated literally.

    Take lollipop, for instance, “kjærlighet på pinne” (love on a stick). Normally just called “kjærlighet”. The older version, borrowed from Danish, “slikkepinne” (licking stick) is so straight to the point. There is also a Christmas confectionary from Nidar called “Kolibripølser”. It is a marzipan bar covered in chocolate and sprinkles. I think the English version sounds much more scrumptious: Hummingbird Sausages.

    My favourite by far, though, is “ja på innpust” (saying yes while drawing your breath). If I remember correctly, it was once voted Norway’s National Word in the TV show Typisk Norsk.

  4. Several of my favorites are listed — ikke (but *not* with the Bergen-area pronunciation), hyggelig, and tusen takk (my first phrase too) — but “elsker” and “jeg elsker deg” is my favorite word/phrase as it’s the first one I figured out how to put together on my own, after a few norwegian classes. As an American who struggles with languages, the look on my Norwegian husband’s face sealed that one as my all-time favorite!

  5. I’m new to the language and have little vocabulary to speak of yet, but I like “like ikke”. My wife cracks up when inject this phrase during mealtime. Selvfølgelig is another one I like as it translates in my head as being pronounced “Self-ugly”. No where near the meaning but fun to say as well. I also find verdensrommet to be a fun one only because of how it translates over to english.

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