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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Kiva! Seven unique Finland Swedish words the world needs to know

Sweden is not the only country where Swedish is spoken as a first language. Here are some words that are unique to the Swedish that's spoken in Finland.

Kiva! Seven unique Finland Swedish words the world needs to know
The border between Sweden and Finland. Photo: Erik Simander/TT

Across the Baltic sea in neighboring Finland nearly 300,000 people speak Swedish as their first language.

Having been part of the Swedish empire from 1249 until 1809, this led to a large group of the population along the coast speaking Swedish as their first language. Nowadays Finland has two official languages, although the usage of Swedish varies across the country. A person who speaks Swedish as their first language is called a Swedish-speaking Finn.

Although the Swedish spoken in Finland is similar to the one spoken in Sweden, Finnish has sneaked its way into the language. As a result there are several unique words that only Swedish-speaking Finns use. Sometimes, it may even feel like you’re speaking another language. These words are called finlandismer.

Below are a few Finland Swedish words that you may find useful, although keep in mind that there are several dialects across the country that may use the words differently.

Roskis

Sweden Swedish equivalent: papperskorg/soptunna

English meaning: trash/bin

One of the most famous Finnish Swedish words. Originating from the Finnish word for trash, it’s pronounced rÅskis, as the o is pronounced the Finnish way.

Juttu

Sweden Swedish equivalent: grej/historia/inslag

English meaning: thing

A very flexible word that can be used to mean pretty much anything. A useful word to have on hand. You don’t know how to describe something? Just call it a juttu and that’ll keep the conversation flowing. Also originally a Finnish word, but very common among young Swedish-speaking Finns.

Råddigt

Sweden Swedish equivalent: stökigt

English meaning: messy

Although the origins of the word are unclear, this is a word that most likely originated from various Finnish Swedish dialects. Råddigt is used to describe something that is messy, like a room or a car.

Krabbis

Sweden Swedish equivalent: baksmälla

English meaning: hangover

If you’ve had a few too many drinks, you may experience some krabbis the following day. You can also use the word krapula to describe the banging headache you experience, although this is a word mainly used in the Helsinki region.

Did you have one too many last night? You may be feeling a bit krabbis today. Photo: Fotograferna Holmberg/TT

Håsa

Sweden Swedish equivalent: jäkta

English meaning: rush

You’re running around, trying to find everything you need, struggling to take a break? A Swedish-speaking Finn may ask you to sluta håsa (stop rushing) and calm down. Another Finnish word that has managed to sneak its way into the Swedish language. 

Nakupelle

Sweden Swedish equivalent: naken/näck

English meaning: naked

The Emperor has no clothes, he is nakupelle. When a person isn’t wearing any clothes, they are nakupelle. Has several times been voted the best finlandism in existence by Swedish-speaking Finns.

Kiva

Sweden Swedish equivalent: kul/trevlig

English meaning: nice/fun/exciting

Similar to juttu this word is very useful in everyday language. Also originally a Finnish word from the Northern parts of the country, kiva has managed to establish itself as one of the most common words in the Swedish language among young people in Finland. You will rarely hear older Swedish-speaking Finns use this word.

Useful in situations to keep the conversation going. Don’t know how to respond to someone? Just say kiva and that will be enough. Your intonation will show just how nice you think something is. Kiva!

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

You don't have to spend long in Sweden to hear the word skärgård, especially if you live in cities like Stockholm or Gothenburg where the population relocate to the nearby skärgård every summer. Where does the word come from?

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

Skärgård is, like many Swedish words, a compound word made up of the word skär, describing a small rocky outcrop and gård, which has a number of meanings such as “courtyard”, “farm” or “garden”.

Although skärgård is often translated to English as “archipelago” – a group of islands – the word officially refers to an archipelago made up primarily of small islands, close to the coast of a larger island or landmass, such as the rocky archipelagos near Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Other kinds of archipelago – such as those which are not close to other landmasses, or those made up of larger islands – can be referred to as an arkipelag or ögrupp. However, many Swedes will just use skärgård for any kind of archipelago.

Although the word skärgård doesn’t exist in English, a variant of skär has made its way into the language. The English term for this type of small rocky outcrop is “skerry”.

Skerry has an interesting etymology in English – it comes from the Old Norse term sker, which refers to a rock in the sea. This is related to the Swedish word skära, meaning “cut” – a skerry is a rock cut off from land.

Sker came into English via Scots, where it is spelled skerry or skerrie. Other languages also have this word, such as Norwegian skjær/skjer, Estonian skäär, Finnish kari and Russian шхеры (shkhery). It can also be found in Scottish Gaelic sgeir, Irish sceir and Welsh sgeri.

This also reflects the geographic area where skerries are found – there are skerries or skärgårdar along the northernmost part of the Swedish west coast near Bohuslän and Gothenburg, as well as on the east coast near Stockholm. The Norwegian coast also has a large number of skerries, and Skärgårdshavet or “the Archipelago Sea” lies off the southwestern coast of Finland.

In Russia, the Minina Skerries (Shkhery Minina) are one example of a skärgård, and in Scotland, Skerryvore and Dubh Artach in the Hebrides are also made up of skerries. Northern Ireland is home to The Skerries, off the Antrim coast, and Skerries is also the name of a coastal area of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland.

You may be wondering if the surname of the famous Swedish Skarsgård family of actors – Stellan, Gustaf, Bill, Valter and Alexander Skarsgård, among others – comes from the word skärgård. Although the spelling is similar, this name actually comes from the town of Skärlöv on the island of Öland, and means “Skar’s farm” (Skares gård, in Swedish).

Example sentences

Jag ser redan fram emot sommarsemestern – vi har hyrt en stuga ute i Stockholms skärgård.

I’m already looking forwards to summer – we’ve rented a cottage out in the Stockholm archipelago.

Sverige har många skärgårdar, fast Skärgårdshavet vid Finlands västkust är störst i världen med över 50 000 öar och skär.

Sweden has a lot of archipelagos, but the Archipelago Sea off Finland’s west coast is the biggest in the world has over 50,000 islands and skerries.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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