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Word of the Day
Word of the Day
Word of the Day.
Photo: Trigger Oslo / Lucky View / @Loff / Visit Norway
Word of the Day.
Photo: Trigger Oslo / Lucky View / @Loff / Visit Norway
Word of the day

Untranslatable and quirky

Norwegian words

... that make you sound like a local!

Norwegians say things like, "I'm so fysen, let's go get some snacks". Eh, say what? There are many Norwegian words that are quite unique and that you won't find the exact equivalent of in other languages.

Learning some neat and witty terms that Norwegians use is both fun and useful when travelling around Norway. Plus, it helps break down barriers when you meet new people!

Impress your friends with these Norwegian expressions and enjoy the charm and creativity of the Norwegian language!

Fysen – Norwegians use this word when they have a craving for something, but are not sure exactly what. It's usually something to eat, and it's often something that's not very healthy.

Utepils – A beer that you enjoy sitting outside on a sunny day. Make no mistake: we flock to beer gardens as soon as the snow melts.

Lønningspils – The monthly pay cheque has arrived, and you know what that means! Well, at least Norwegians do. Drinking a lønningspils means gathering with your work colleagues to enjoy a pils (beer) or two on payday.

Lillelørdag – You know the rise in well-being and happiness when the weekend finally arrives? Norwegians think we should celebrate that we are halfway there, so on Wednesdays (hump day) we have a pre-weekend cheat day. It's really an excuse for throwing a little party or indulging with a treat in the middle of the week.

Døgnvill – Imagine not being able to tell whether it's day or night. It's a condition we call being døgnvill. What causes it? In northern parts of Norway, the midnight sun means that the sun never sets during the summer, while it never rises during the winter.  Day and night therefore look exactly the same during some parts of the year!

Døgne – To skip a night's sleep and thus stay awake for at least 24 hours. It will of course make you and your brain sleepy the next day, and your fatigue will be noticeable to everyone around you, but who cares... teenagers say it's really fun!

Matpakke – A Norwegian packed lunch with food brought from home. The traditional Norwegian matpakke consists of slices of freshly baked bread (often as open-faced sandwiches) with your favourite pålegg (see below).

Pålegg – Anything that you can put inside or on top of a sandwich! Popular toppings include brunost (sweet brown cheese), leverpostei (liver paté) and kaviar (caviar).

Eventyrlysten – Adventurous! Eventyrlystne people are always ready for a daring experience. But it doesn't have to involve danger and risks - it can also mean that you have a desire to try something new or travel to a unique place.

Friluftsliv – 'Outdoor life'. The concept is as Norwegian as cross-country skis and wool sweaters. Everything that involves enjoying the outdoors is considered friluftsliv.

Janteloven – Do you think you are better than others? Think again! Janteloven (Jante's law) was written by the Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose to describe a set of social codes or norms that emphasize the importance of conformity and hinder individuality.

Dugnad – Voluntary work and volunteering as both a noun and an adverb. For example: clearing rubbish from a beach or your local neighbourhood in spring or selling waffles to fund sports teams for kids. Remember, your neighbours will notice if you are an unnasluntrer (see below)!

Unnasluntrer – A person who sneaks away from tasks they have been assigned or who does not help in any way.

Russ – In spring, pupils  in their final year of upper secondary dress in red, blue, or black boiler suits, take part in lots of wild and weird challenges in the middle of the streets, and generally have fun. They are called russ and are taking part in a month-long graduation celebration and a teenage rite of passage. 

Attpåklatt – Did your siblings come into the world like pearls on a string, while you were born much later? Congratulations, we are happy to call you an attpåklatt! (the youngest sibling born long after the rest). 

Tropenatt – It can be so cold in Norway that we need a separate term for nights where the temperature rises above 20 degrees Celsius. For Norwegians who are used to chilly nights, it suddenly becomes too hot and clammy to sleep.

Svaberg – It's best described as massive, smooth rock, often sloping down into the sea. Kind of like a beach without sand! In summer, Norwegians spend whole days lounging on warm and smooth svabergs.

Fellesferie – A Norwegian term for the summer holiday month of July. For many, it means vacation and quiet days with the family. Fellesferie is important for Norwegians, and something we talk about and look forward to for a long time.

Avspasere – Taking time off in lieu of pay when one has accumulated overtime.

Kos – the instant happiness you feel when you are comfortable and warm, and having a good time together with others. Say kos, and Norwegians may picture everything from a cosy gathering around a fireplace or watching TV on the couch with your girlfriend to skiing in the mountains with your best friends.

Forelsket – Being in love. The euphoria and butterflies you feel when you're first falling in love. And of course, no one says it can't last a lifetime!

Kjæreste – Romantic partner.  A kjæreste is a person of any gender who is in a relationship with another.

Ildsjel – A passionate true believer who makes a major and selfless voluntary effort for a specific cause, like a local sports team. They spread joy and enthusiasm in the local community, and are looked up to.

Harryhandel – This term is actually a bit rude to our neighbours, the Swedes. Harry means unsophisticated or common, and handel means shopping. Harryhandel means travelling across the border to Sweden to buy things at the lowest possible prices.

Ventepølse – 'Waiting sausage'. A hot dog eaten as a quick snack to stave off hungry. For example, while waiting for the local ferry or when barbecuing. If the kids cannot wait until the food is ready, you can give them a hot (or cold) ventepølse.

Kulturminne – A physical remnant of the past; an archaeological and historical monument or site. It can be anything from houses and ships to burial mounds, as well as jewellery and cairns. A kulturminne is unique and irreplaceable and is protected by law.

Hyttekontor – Working from home, except you are at your hytte (cabin) instead. It's kind of like being on a workation - a working vacation, as most cabins in Norway are situated in tranquil, Zen places like the mountains or by the sea.

Selvplukk – Picking your own fruit and berries, etc. It's a social activity, as well as climate friendly and cheap. And you can do it while walking through the woods or by visiting a farm that has a selvplukk sign.

Folkefest – A popular celebration that is citywide or nationwide. 17. mai (Constitution Day on 17 May), the Pride festival, and the 1994 Winter Olympics are all examples of a folkefest. Everyone is happy, and it is typical for Norwegians to really kick loose and party a lot on these occasions.

Koldtbord – a buffet featuring a range of cold dishes such as meats, seafood, cheeses, salads and so on. Norwegians often have a koldtbord on special occasions like Constitution Day, weddings, or confirmations. 

Hobbymosjonist – People who engage in leisure activities for light exercise. They often do not feel the need to become stronger or fitter.

Dørstokkmil – The daunting first step. Dørstokkmil ('10 kilometres to the threshold') refers to the struggle to leave the house when motivation is lacking. Often used when one does not feel like going to the gym or being active.

Word of the day

Are you as eventyrlysten (adventurous) as Safari? Join him as he travels through the country and learns Norwegian — one word at a time.

Explore Norway

Learn by doing! Use unique words in unique places.

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What makes Norway Norway? Let's find out by exploring some very characteristic Norwegian phenomena and sampling the Norwegian lifestyle!

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