Make a New Word in the Swedish! Translate “Ice Cube Tray”

UPDATE, June 5th, 2012: Here’s the poll to vote on your favorite translation of “ice tray.”

The thing that makes small blocks of frozen water to put in a beverage to bring the temperature down is:

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With the temperature finally heating up, I stopped by my local Hemköp to pick up a couple ice cube trays. This way, we could have; ice.

Simple enough.

While in the tiny kitchen section, I spotted the trays and didn’t twice about calling them islåda in Swedish. Islåda, literally meaning “ice box” isn’t a perfect translation but it gets the point across.

I told my husband I picked groceries, including an islåda. He looked at me like I was from Norway.

“What islåda?” he said.

“The islåda! You know the ice cube tray.”

“That?! That’s not an islåda.”

“Umm, my receipt tells me it is! What would you call it?” Now I was confused.


“I have no idea what you call an ice cube tray in Swedish but I guess English to Swedish can be weird sometimes.”

“Duh, how did you guys come with tvättbjörn as a translation for raccoon?”

“Fair enough,” he replied.

I felt vindicated, I taught my husband a new Swedish word!

Unfortunately the next day my pride deflated as I asked another friend about translating ice cube tray to Swedish.

“I would call it an iskubsbricka. But an islåda it is not,” my friend D said.

“But Hemköp told me so!”

“Hemköp obviously has Swedish issues. Haha.”

Not convinced, we asked the barista at the coffee shop we were at. After several minutes of discussion, she too, had no idea what to call an ice cube tray in Swedish.

I asked yet another friend and they didn’t believe islåda was the proper word.

Thus far, four people agree islåda is a failed translation. The Swedish language authority, Svenska Akademin, agrees too. Islåda does not exist in the dictionary as a real, Swedish word., on the other hand, translates ice tray to islåda but they do not always use acceptable translations, or real words.

Major mystery. What do I call the ice tray?

How about we come up with a new name and make it new, official word! Let me know your ideal translation. I will create a poll in a couple weeks for all to vote.

Vote at the top of the post!

Peeps, we could be making history – the ice tray may finally have a name!

22 thoughts on “Make a New Word in the Swedish! Translate “Ice Cube Tray””

  1. Isform. Google hits for islåda = 32 500, isform = 2 160 000.

    But isbitsform and iskubsform is understandable as well. Islåda sounds like something different, my mind goes to a box to keep icecubes in (which is very good idea if you’re having a party, make icecubes and put them in a box in the freezer for easy picking). The word låda doesn’t really fit this purpose.

    Istärningsfack is easy to understand but I doubt anyone wuld say that. Who says “istärning” at all?

  2. “Isfack” (lit. “ice tray” or “ice box”) is the term I grew up with, and it’s also the one I’ve most often heard others use, both in speech and writing. Occasionally people call it “isbitsfack” (“Ice cube tray”), but that’s very rare.

    So yeah, to the best of my knowledge, “isfack” is the most common Swedish term for it. Transliterated for English readers to pronounce, I guess the closest would be “ease-fuck”.

    There, one translation, along with an English pun free of charge :P

  3. I asked my husband and he didn’t know either- “you just tell someone to get or make the ice” I went through the list of words suggested by you and the comments above and after much hesitation he agreed with iskubslåda.

  4. Hi all! Haven’t checked in on all your comments until now. Wow, you are all awesome and hilarious!

    @Heider – Is Isfack really a fuck?? LOL

    @Annica – I LOVE SlayRadio’s Mastering Swedish! It is so hilarious!

    @Megalagom – That is what my husband, friend, and waitress said about the ice tray! “Can you make the little ice for my drink?”

    @Andrew – Tvättbjörn FTW.

    @All – Making the poll with all your recommendations. Time to vote!

  5. Er… Is anyone else seeing five different choices, each with 1 vote and 25% on it? And with only 4 listed voters at the bottom… I think somehow, somewhere the math in here got really screwed up XD

  6. @Heidar – I noticed that too…the calculator for the poll has gone wonky wonky!

  7. Huh…I actually just checked Svenska Akademiens Ordlista, and there isn’t actually any Swedish word in there for ice cube tray. That would go a long way in explaining the confusion, methinks…

  8. I am a professional English-Swedish translator. I work mainly with technical literature and have done so for about two decades now. I found this thread by chance and perhaps I can be of some use in defining this word.

    In cases like this, there are as many opinions as there are people. Personal preferences are very different. The task here, is to define a word which is correct and useful. I will attempt to do so.

    What we need to do here is

    (1) see what the English word contains
    (2) look at what the product does
    (3) attempt to find a Swedish term which gives the Swedish reader the same information as the English original term

    Question 1: What does the English word contain?
    Answer: The English source term contains the following three parts:

    1) ice
    2) cube
    3) tray

    In Swedish, these three parts would be combined into one. Some have suggested “islåda” or “isfack”, but those words only contain two of the three English parts. The translations “islåda” and “isfack” are therefore incomplete. They do not contain all the information.

    If the English source word had been “ice box” then you could translate the Swedish word as “islåda”. The English word “ice tray” could be translated as “isfack”.

    But we are not translating the terms “ice box” or “ice tray” here. We are translating “ice cube tray”. The “cube” should not be discriminated against! :-)

    Question 2) What does the product do?
    Answer: It is a tray which keeps ice cubes in one place in the freezer.

    Now we have the necessary background info. We will need a Swedish word which has three (3) parts and the word should describe something that keeps ice cubes in one place in a freezer. Isfack, islåda, isbox all have to go. These words won’t do since they all discriminate against the cube. And we can’t have that.

    “Ice” and “cube” are the easy parts. But the third part of the English word (“tray”) is slightly more difficult to get right. “Tray” has several different translations into Swedish, all depending on context.

    Looking at OTHER parts of fridges and freezers, I find that the word “fack” is often used – for example in words such as “frysfack”. I decide that the third part (“fack”) is sufficient.

    Excellent – now all that’s left is to put the three word parts together into a Swedish compound noun, which becomes:


    This, in my opinion, is a correct and complete translation, and “iskubsfack” is the word I would have used if this term had turned up in any of my translations.

    Thank you for an interesting thread. I hope the ramblings above have been of some use.

  9. After my extremely long-winded term definition above I searched for “iskubsfack” on Google Sweden.

    It resulted in 592 hits.

    cheers :-)

  10. Hi Pro translator – That’s a great way of describing how to translate words. I suppose the issue is, if iskubsfack is the best translation, why are there so little search results? Swedes must be using a different word to search which would mean, they use one of the ‘incomplete’ compounded words. Ideas on why they do that?

  11. In this case we started out with an already defined English term (“ice cube tray”) and those who have read this particular thread will therefore be biased and perhaps base their searches on this existing English term. Thereby the readers of this thread have already put a limit on the search results ourselves.

    Your regular Swede who searches for this particular product online would NOT be limited by the English term that we have discussed here. He/she would just search for something that is close, perhaps “isfack”, “isbox”, “islåda”, “iskuber”, “kylskåp iskuber”, “frysbox is kub” or something similar, and then the search engine would show something close. The permutations are endless.

    592 results from a relatively specific English source term is still relatively good.

    Several of these 592 hits appear to come from companies who sell fridges/freezers or reviews of fridges/freezers. This suggests to me that we’re at least very close to the core.

    As a translator I will always be under obligation to follow the source text, so I can’t stray too far away from “ice cube tray” for that reason.

    Since I can prove that “iskubsfack” does follow the source AND that there are 592 hits on Google, this term would very likely be approved by the end client., The freezer manufacturer’s Swedish representative usually has the last word, but I am fairly certain that any Swedish representative for any freezer manufacturer would go along with “iskubsfack”.

    The freezer manufacturer may of course have their own unique term definitions and this part may already have been called something else by that specific company – but then we are straying away from strict “translation” and taken a step into the world of “copywriting”.

    We sometimes have to deal with restrictions on string lengths. In this case, the “islåda” came from a receipt. A receipt will only have a space for a limited number of characters, and that may be the reason why Hemköp used a shorter name.

    Iskubsfack = 10 characters

    If the receipt itself only allows space for 6 characters, then it becomes impossible to use a long 10-character word. My personal guess is that Hemköp had 6 or 8 characters to play with in the software that is used to create the actual receipts.

    “Islåda” = 6 characters. Which fits. Just a qualified guess.

    We see these limitations all the time – I translate software strings frequently. One of the most annoying things I have come across was when an international company had used the words Yes/No somewhere in a computer program – and provided exactly 3 characters for the translation of the word Yes – and 2 (two!) characters for the translation of the word “No” (which happens to have 2 characters in English).

    How do you translate “No” into the Swedish “Nej” using just two characters…?

    Don’t ask how I sorted that one out… ;-) /cheers

  12. Thanks Pro translator for the explanation.

    I would disagree and say 592 results is very poor (especially when searching in In the search traffic world, anything under 1000 searches is dead. Even though I like the word, iskubsfack, I would not use it since the search traffic to it is terrible.

    Islåda yields 31,000 results. The top three are products for islåda:,-Dalo-plast/Pr346735000 <– an actual Swedish company that makes freezers and everything home related.

    Isform yields 48,000 but most are completely unrelated keywords, namely a coding term. Image search for isform and you actually get a ice tray.

    Iskubslåda which was the #1 pick by readers has 5,35o search results. Small, but dominated by Ikea since it's the word they use. Several companies also use iskubslåda.

    If you want to get really picky, you can run all the words in Google Keyword Tool. This gives a representation of search volume across markets.

    I ran the searches against global traffic, and all languages since these words are not large volume searches at all.

    Here’s what we get:

    It ends up that isform is the only word that gets any search traffic with islåda and iskubslåda in a distant second. The rest of the words are thrown out entirely. Iskubsfack is not even listing for volume and would be a poor choice for any company naming their product as such.

  13. @Pro translator: There is one very obvious interjection to be made regarding “iskubslåda” and that lies in its shape. These days, at least in Sweden, it is extremely rare for an ice tray to actually possess a shape that creates geometrical cubes. Hence, both the English “ice cube tray” and the direct-to-Swedish translation of “iskubslåda” are by definition linguistically, mathematically/geometrically and logically incorrect.

    Definition of a cube: “A solid with six congruent square faces. A regular hexahedron.”

    I can’t for the life of me even remember seeing “ice cubes” like that in my life. Perhaps those are more common in the U.S. or the U.K.?

    “Ice tray” and “isfack” (or possibly “isform” or “isbitsform”; I hesitate to use “islåda” as the term implies something much, much bigger than the tiny little tray you put in the freezer) for the win :)

  14. Ooops, I meant of course “iskubsfack” in the first section, not “iskubslåda”! My bad :p

  15. I have always called it “isbricka” which directly translated is icetray, allthough in sweden you always ask for ice when at someones home and if you are all out people always tell you to refill on ice rather than refill the actual tray. Thats why older houses without proper heat insulation have it good since the moment you want ice you can just pick off a nice piece of ice from the closest icicle, granted its winter ofcourse=P.

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