13 Hilarious & Weird Swedish Idioms

This was sent over to me from some friends reading The Local; an article about funny Swedish idioms.

I put them all together in one page with some extra idioms and our own interpretations.

Are there any other idioms to add?

Nära skjuter ingen hare – A close shot will never get you the rabbit
What it really means:
I was so close to winning!
Yea, “it was close but no cigar.”

Skägget i brevlådan – Caught with your beard in the mailbox
An English idiom to translate: “To be caught with your pants down.”

skaggen i brevladen gandalf

Det ligger en hund begraven – There’s a dog buried here
“There’s something more to it”
As in, someone is not telling the complete truth.

Att ana ugglor i mossen – Suspecting owls in the bog
This is pretty much as close as a WTF does this mean as you can get.

You can translate it as, “you can suspect that something is wrong.”

Smaken är som baken, delad – The preference is like a butt, split
Don’t translate smaken as, “taste”, like eating taste. Translate it as a “preference.”
I would translate this as, people can have different preferences, like a butt with two cheeks.

Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum – If there’s room in the heart there’s room for the ass.
“Everybody can fit in here” – think of a crowded room.

Gå som katten kring het gröt – To walk like a cat around hot porridge
The Swede has never heard it, so we have no idea what this is talking about.

Göra en höna av en fjäder – To make a hen out of a feather
The English idiom we all know: “To make a mountain out of a molehill.”

Köp inte grisen i säcken – Don’t buy the pig while it’s still in the bag
In English, “to buy a pig in the poke.”
I wasn’t quite sure what this even meant, so I headed over to Wikipedia for their explanation:
The idioms pig in a poke and sell a pup (or buy a pup) refer to a confidence trick originating in the Late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce, but cats and dogs (puppies) were not. The idiom pig in a poke can also simply refer to someone buying a low-quality pig in a bag because he or she did not carefully check what was in the bag.

Ta sig vatten över huvudet – Take water over your head
“To bite off more than you can chew.”

Inte döma hunden efter håren – Don’t judge the dog by the hare hair
Another bunny phrase that means, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Inte för allt smör i hela Småland – Not for all the butter in Småland
Because America is the land of plenty of butter, we say, “I won’t do it for all the tea in China.”

Inte sälja skinnet förrän björnen är skjuten – Don’t sell the skin before the bear is shot
Meaning, “don’t count your chickens until they hatch.”

And that’s that, don’t throw water over your head if you can’t do it!

9 thoughts on “13 Hilarious & Weird Swedish Idioms”

  1. “Inte döma hunden efter håren” means literally “Don’t judge the dog by it’s hair/fur”. Håren=the hair(s). Haren=the hare. So no bunny.

  2. “Att gå som en katt kring het gröt” means to be overly cautious as far as I know. Or perhaps cautious but at the same time curious. I think this idiom belongs to my grandmothers generation.

  3. Gå som katten kring het gröt – to not cut to the chase, avoiding talking about the issue by using delaying tactics like unneccessary complicating things.

  4. Pingback: Swedish Idioms
  5. Here are some contributions (especially the last one sounds funny in English :) ):

    Tar man fan i båten får man ro honom iland!

    När katten är borta dansar råttorna på bordet

    Ropa inte hej förrän du är över bäcken.

    Även små grytor har öron

    Den gubben går inte!

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