Top 7 Swedish Words that Do Not Translate Literally

I’m starting a new series called the Top 5. Top 5 things about anything. Fun, easy to read and perhaps educational, but that’s a bonus.

My first ode to Top Fives is about Swedish words. This list is of seven Swedish words do not mean the same thing in the English language, known as “false friends”. If you translate the word as what you hear, you’d be in for a treat.

And since this is the first post in the series, I say screw it, let’s do sju instead of fem. Because sju is that much cooler to say.

1.  Bra
Meaning “good” not the bra you put on to hold your boobs up.

2.  Kiss
Pee. To pee is kissa.

3.  Puss
Kiss. Don’t confuse kiss with kiss.

Left – cc licensed flickr photo by Blue Barnacle
Right – Manneken Pis, Bruxelles. Photograph by Ed Holden

4.  Gift
Ask a man, it means poison.
Ask a women, it means marriage.

5.  Sex
Translates both ways but mostly used as the number six.

6.  Fan
Because you’re hot, need a fan, you scream FANNNN! (FUCKKK!). Fan is interjected at all levels of conversations in Swedish society, unlike f’uck which is used by bad mouth people.
swedish word translate fail - fan

7.  Slut
Meaning “stop” or in presentations, “the end.” Could you tell a slut to sluta though?

13 thoughts on “Top 7 Swedish Words that Do Not Translate Literally”

  1. I like this! However, if you write fannnn! it looks like you’re saying fann, found. To emphasis fan you write faaaan! (And it means “devil”, although I guess fuck is a better translation anyway of how the word is used.)

  2. And FACK! Another classic! I have read thru your blog and I really like it. I am a Swede from Stockholm now living in the DC area with my american hubby and bi-lingual daughter. It is so interesting to get an American woman’s view of living in Stockholm. I can only imagine how hard and weird it has got to be for you at times.
    I love fall in the US. It is the best time of the year, halloween, apple orchards, the colors, the mild weather and Thanksgiving.
    I will come back and read more!
    Take care,
    Annika in Reston, VA.

  3. Hi Annika – Thank you! I’m glad you enjoy reading the blog. It should give you a good laugh and don’t take any insults about Sweden personally :)

    Fall in America is the best. I miss cider mills and pumpkin patches so much!

    How do you enjoy living in the US? I don’t read/find much about Swedish women in America with a family (mixed family that is) so I’d love to hear your thoughts…

    To all – D’oh!!! I forgot fart, fack, and kaka! I’ll put it in the funny swedish words to pronounce. Hehehe, kaka.

  4. Sweden is the only place a guy can be called a kille, sounds like killer and not get prosecuted.

    In past, farm girls were called piggor, and pigg means frisky and has nuthin’ to with pigs, unless its a healthy lil’ hog.

    Another name for the guys in pog, which sounds like Irish pogue..but the expression pogue mahon(kiss my butt) in Ireland is meaningless in Sweden.

  5. The swedish word for a law, is lag, pronounced like log in anglo. Items made of wood, coming from logs, are called trä, which sounds like anglo tray.

    If an amareekin visits south sweden called Skåne, whatever Swedish you may have learned goes right out the window ‘cuz the local dialect down there is actually Danish, modified to resemble Swedish.

    Folks in Skåne consider themself the real ‘thang’, when it comes to all things Swedish. They say, we have our own national language, called Skånsk. our own national beverage called Skäne rost coffee, our own national flag, our own music called Skåntry, ‘cuz it resembles hybrid dansband C+W. Folks there are the closest thing a swede can get to being called a redneck…swedish style.

    Folks in Stockholm always sound like they have a serious life long sinus plugged head cold, AND are recovering from a nasty drinking binge hangover, due to the way they slur their words and add a -sch sound all over the place They are called null-attor ‘cuz of the local phone dial code-08. The common saying goes…ya can always tell a 08’or ‘cuz ya can’t tell them anything …hehehe

  6. @The Swede: The common version is “It’s not the FART that kills, it’s the SMELL!” Its not the speed that kills, its the bang!”

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