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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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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. 


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.


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: själv

Today's Swedish word can help you talk about independence, solitude... and swearwords.

Swedish word of the day: själv

The word själv means “self”, as in han gjorde det själv (he did it himself), jag tycker själv bäst om våren (I personally prefer spring), vad tycker du själv (what do you yourself think?) or as parents of Swedish-speaking two-year-olds will know too well, kan själv (“can self!” or “I can do it myself!”).

Själv can also mean “alone” – not necessarily implying that the speaker is feeling lonely – such as jag var hemma själv (“I was home alone”) or jag gick på bio själv (“I went to the cinema on my own”). If you’re feeling lonely, you should instead say jag känner mig ensam.

It appears in several compound words, such as självisk (selfish) or osjälvisk (unselfish/selfless), självbehärskad (restrained, or more literally in control of oneself) or självförtroende (confidence).

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A trickier word to explain is självaste.

Självaste can also mean him or herself, but think of it as a more extreme version, implying that the speaker has some sort of reaction to the person in question, perhaps they’re impressed or shocked. Other translations can be “in the flesh” or “none other than”.

For example: jag vände mig om och då stod självaste drottningen där (“I turned around and the Queen herself was standing there”) or de vann mot självaste Barcelona (“They won against none other than Barcelona”).

You also often hear it when Swedes swear. Det var då självaste fan (“It was the devil… in the flesh”) may be said by someone who is annoyed that something went wrong or isn’t working, although more often than not they’ll leave the last word unspoken: det var då självaste… (similarly to how an English-speaker may say “what the…” leaving out the cruder word “hell”).


Själv är bästa dräng

If you want to get something done you’d best do it yourself

I själva verket

In actual fact (in fact, actually)

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