Swedish word of the day: alltså

One of the best shortcuts for sounding like a local, this is a very useful word to perfect.

Swedish word of the day: alltså
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Alltså can be hard for non native speakers to pronounce, but you can listen to this clip to hear how it’s said:


Alltså means “so” or “therefore”, as well as “in other words” or “that is to say” when you are clarifying something or saying that it happened as a result of something else. For example:

Problemet är alltså ingen nyhet (“The problem is, in other words, nothing new”)

Jag föreslår alltså att regleringen ändras (“Therefore, I propose that the regulation is changed”) 

Hans barn är sjuk, han kommer alltså inte idag (“His child is sick, so he’s not coming today”)

That’s the first meaning of alltså, but there are two other ways to use it which you should master if you want to fit in.

First is as a filler word, especially at the start of sentences when you’re not quite sure yet what to say:

Alltså, det är svårt att säga (“Well, it’s hard to say”)

Alltså, ja (“Um, yes”)

Alltså, ja ba’, va? (“So I was like, ‘what?'”)

And secondly, it’s used as an interjection or exclamation. For example:

Alltså! Kommer hon inte? (“For God’s sake! Isn’t she coming?”)

Vilken idiot, alltså! (“Ugh, what an idiot!”)

These second two meanings are more informal, and if alltså is used this way in writing, it is often written more phonetically (close to the way it is pronounced): asså.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to pre-order. Head to to read more about it, and use the discount code VOVVELOVE (valid until October 27th) to get a 10% discount on all pre-orders.

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Swedish word of the day: skitkul

Today’s Swedish word of the day is a word you use to affirm how fun something was, or with an ironic tone, how boring something is or was.

Swedish word of the day: skitkul

And it’s got the word for “shit” in too, which always makes for a great word in Swedish.

Swedish is a language that lends itself well to building new words, and often some colourful prefixes can be found appended to many different nouns. One of those prefixes is skit-, which, you guessed it, means ‘shit’. Skit- is used both negatively and positively, and should be seen as emphasizing whatever the word it is attached to is trying to convey. It is less offensive than “shit” would be in English. You can happily use skitkul in conversation with your mother-in-law (or in a headline on a news website).  

Skit- should also not be pronounced as the English ‘skit’, but sounds more like a boiling kettle trying to say ‘shit’. If you can imagine that. Here’s the phonetic spelling /ˈɧiːt/ in case anyone knows how to read it. 

Another lovely example of the ever-present skit- prefix is skitfet. It literally means ‘shit-fat’, but is used in somewhat the same sense as ‘phat’, which as most of you know means ‘cool’, but naturally in a cooler way.

As previously mentioned, skit- can be found in many words, like, skitnära (shit-near), skitful (shit-ugly), skitäckligt (shit-disgusting), skitunge (shit-kid), skitbra (shit-good), skitrolig (shit-funny), skitstor (shit-big), skitball (a shit-good time), and so on and so forth. In fact, a good way of becoming more integrated into Swedish society might be trying to build new words with the prefix skit-. Many Swedes, I am sure, will be more than happy to assist. 

Then there is the second part of our beloved word skitkul, which is -kul. And kul is kul, and generally understood to mean ‘fun’, as in something being fun.

The origin of this word, however, is a bit murky. Some say it originates in the Finnish word kyllä, meaning ‘yes’ or ‘sure’, but another possible origin can be found in the Romani word ‘kul’ which means ‘completely’. That is then supposed to have merged with a Swedish word for something being ‘successful and excellent’, kulan, which can be seen in the expression ‘kulan i luften’, meaning either ‘the ball’ or ‘the bullet in the air’. 

We can only guess where that phrase originates. Perhaps a reference to gambling, as in the ball is flying into the roulette wheel, or maybe to war in the case of it meaning bullet. But that might be the stuff of another article. 

It’s been skitkul to examine this wonderful word with you. Best of luck putting it to use!

By Alex Rodallec

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