7 Swedish words that English speakers shouldn’t be confused about

As an expat in Sweden (although I do speak Swedish), I sometimes find it difficult not to laugh at some of the Swedish words that have the exact same spelling of English words, but mean something extremely different.

Amazingly enough, some of these words are so commonly used that you can almost hear or read them many times a day.

Here’s a list of 7 words that I think English speaking people shouldn’t be confused about when they come to Sweden. *

1. Bad:

Bad

The “A” in Swedish is pronounced like “Ah” which means that this word  “bad” is not the one that you’re familiar with, but is pronounced “b(ah)d”.

Apart from how it’s pronounced,

Bad (n) = Bathroom (or pool sometimes as you can see in the pic)

Bad (v) = Past tense of the verb “Ber” which means “Ask for/Pray”

 

 

2. Barn:Swedish Barn

Although it sounds almost the same in English and Swedish, the Swedish “barn” means “children”…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Gift:Gift Swedish

First things first. This one is pronounced as “Yeft” (the G sounds much like the Y in many Swedish words particularly when followed by a vowel).

Gift (or Yeft) interestingly has 2 meanings in Swedish which you can use your imagination to correlate.

Gift (adj) = Married

Gift (n) = Poison

Crazy, huh?

 

 

 

 

4. Bra:bra

Bra is one of the most commonly used words. You’ll hear it very often on daily basis and knowing what it means, you’re going to end up using it as well 🙂

Bra means “good”

Bra, eh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Puss:Puss-vert

It sounds almost the same and it refers to something that you can consider “nice”

Puss (n) = Kiss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Kiss:Urine Sample

Although replaced by “Puss”, “Kiss” still exists as a word in Swedish and has the exact same pronunciation as its English counterpart.

Sorry to disgust you, but…

Kiss (n) = Urine

So, yes… Be careful when you’re publicly repeating the word “Kiss”

 

 

 

7. Fart:Fart-vert

To make things short,

Fart  (n) = Speed

Add (In) before it “Infart” and you get the word “Entrance”

Add (ut) before it “Utfart” and you get the word “Exit”

 

 

 

 

 

And finally,

Slut:Slutvert

The “u” is pronounced more or less like “ew”, so it doesn’t sound like the English word and it means something extremely different.

Slut (n) = End

One of the funniest situations is when you take the bus or train for the first time in Sweden and see this word “Slutstation” which means “Last station” 🙂

 

 

 

* There are many more words that I didn’t include because I thought it is inappropriate to include them here, but if you’re curious, you can Google “English words that mean something else in Swedish” and you’ll find more!

62 thoughts on “7 Swedish words that English speakers shouldn’t be confused about

    1. I actually remembered that story when I was writing the post. I know that it happened to many people (including myself :D)

    1. the word ‘barn’ is also used for ‘child’ in Scotland and also in northern England, I think. The anglo-saxon word is bearn. The word ‘gift’ in the meaning ‘married’ is related to the english word ‘gift’. It has to do with something that is ‘given’, with the meaning ‘dowry’ in modern english.

      1. Interesting! But what about its other meaning “poison”, where did it come from?

      2. the word ‘barn’ is also used for ‘child’ in Scotland and also in northern England, I think. The anglo-saxon word is bearn. The word ‘gift’ in the meaning ‘married’ is related to the english word ‘gift’. It has to do with something that is ‘given’, with the meaning ‘dowry’ in modern english.
        Gift in the meaning ‘poison’ is more complicated. It has in some way to do with something that you drink, probably medicine. The meaning is maybe “what you give in”. “Dosis” comes from the latin verb ‘do’ which means ‘give’. The latin noun ‘potio’ with the meaning ‘drink’ or ‘draft’ is in french and english ‘poison’

      3. Mina, I can’t reply to your reply so I’ll continue the thread here.

        According to German Wiktionary (https://de.wiktionary.org/wiki/Gift) the German word “Gift” for poison (which is where we took it from) also comes from the meaning “to give” or “gift” (something which has been given) and has had the poisonous meaning since the 11ᵗʰ century.

        In the 16ᵗʰ century the German word with meaning “poison” changed into neuter (das Gift), whereas the word with meaing “gift” remained feminine (die Gift). The latter word has since been replaced with “Gabe” (same meaning).

        A compact etymology of the Swedish word can be found in Hellquist’s “Svensk etymologisk ordbok”: http://runeberg.org/svetym/0273.html (see 2ⁿᵈ meaning).

        Hellquist also indicates that the meaning “married” originally comes from giving away the woman (for marriage) and that the “dowry” meaning was derived from that (and in modern Swedish “dowry” is called “hemgift”, i.e. “gift for the home”).

  1. Nice post. I really enjoy your writing Mina. Guess who I am?

    You know what, guessing is for “kiss”ies. It’s me, Youssef. Goodluck with your thesis.

    1. What a surprise! Thanks for the positive comments! We should have a long talk some time soon. Let me know if you’re coming here as well;-)

  2. This is a small little verse that you learn as a child in sweden (or?): I (aj=ouch) buy (baj=shit) pink (pink=pee) sheet (skit=shit) for (får=sheep) kiss (kiss=urin)

      1. …which is similar to how “c” is pronounced in English – “s” when followed by e, i, y (you don’t have ä and ö so we’ll have to leave them out) and “k” when followed by a, o, u (and probably after å, if you had that letter 😉 ).

        “g” is also pronounced like y if it ends a word.

      2. “g” is also pronounced like y if it ends a word.

        –> Actually only if it ends in “rg” (like “arg”) or “lg” (like “helg”).

      3. “g” is also pronounced like y if it ends a word.

        –> Actually only if it ends in “rg” (like “arg”) or “lg” (like “helg”).

        Ah, thanks for that, Charlotta, I had never thought about it being only in certain combinations.

        It certainly is pronounced as in “go” in both “tagg” (thorn), “hög” (high), with “gg” and “g” being the only legitimate combinations of “g” at the end I can think of (except for “ng”, which is a special combination with a sound of its own (and it’s pronounced just like it’s English counterpart, as in “thing”)).

  3. How about Plopp, the candy from Cloetta? Isn’t that what you call it when small children do number 2 in their daipers? 🙂

    1. LOL, I think I didn’t include product names because they aren’t in some cases part of the language. Good one anyways 🙂

  4. I hope you have seen the safety ad from the Swedish Road Administration – ” it’s not the fart that kills, it’s the smell”

  5. Your list makes me think about two signs placed at the entrance of the Marabou factory, located in central Sundbyberg untill a few years ago. One of the signs was ”.

  6. And you didn’t even mention the swedish word for “union”. 🙂 Or the classic mistranslation “I knocked my head against the wall, and there was an awful smell”. (Smäll = thump.)

    1. I tried to avoid the “bad” words due to the nature of the whole blog, but of course the one you mentioned is a big confusing one especially with the addition of “et” 😉

  7. There used to be a UK site called getfitta.co.uk which sold fitness products. They received a fair amount of e-mails from Sweden informing them that getfitta means “goat vagina” (although vagina should be replaced by a less decent word). Apparently, getfitta.co.uk got tired of the flak and changed names.

  8. Came to think about a misstake my boss made at a conference with other CEO:s. He started the meeting by saying: “Welcome all VD:s”

    …..followed by a long and painfull silence

  9. “Gif” (sounds just like it looks, hard G) is the Dutch word for poison so I assume that and the Swedish use of “gift” to mean “poison” have the same roots, which may be totally different roots from the use of “gift” to mean “married.” Languages are so interesting.

    1. Unfortunately, I do! This is planned for another post. I have more stories to tell particularly about the name thing.

  10. Something I’ve wondered about since 1968 is: Why do the Beatles sing “Obladi Oblada life goes on BRA”? Does that have anything to do with the Swedish meaning of that word? I mean, then the line world make sence.

  11. “Mina Makar” in Swedish = “My Husbands” :-). “Husband” means “the restaurants/establishments orchestra”. Stock=Log (of wood). Log=Smiled 🙂

  12. As you say, the Swedish word “barn” means child(ren). It much resembles the Scottish word “bairn”, which also means child.

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