Swedish word of the day: trygghet

Here's a quintessentially Swedish word which is used very often.

Swedish word of the day: trygghet
A word at the heart of the Swedish psyche. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Trygg translates as “safe” or “secure”, and there’s a noun to match: trygghet (“safety” or “security”). You’ll hear both words a lot in Swedish.

There’s a difference between trygghet and säkerhet, which also means “security”.

Säkerhet is about security in the sense of protection from an external threat such as burglaries and crime, so you might invest in hemsäkerhet (home security) such as cameras or alarms.

Trygghet, meanwhile, is harder to put your finger on. 

If someone says they feel trygg, it doesn’t just mean they feel protected from immediate visible threats, but usually refers to a more long-term sense of security rooted in stability. For example, finansiell trygghet means “financial security” in the sense that you’re shielded from a wide variety of potential negative outcomes.

If someone doesn’t feel säker in a certain neighbourhood, that usually means they feel there is a real risk of facing danger, whereas someone who doesn’t feel trygg might just have an uneasy feeling. Surveys that measure how comfortable people feel going out alone after dark might question people about their trygghetskänsla (“feeling of security”), which would probably be translated into English as “perceived safety”.

Trygghet often goes beyond the absence of fear or risk, and evokes a sense of personal comfort too. You probably feel säker when you’re in a high security environment, but feel more trygg or tryggare when surrounded by friends in a cosy environment. In political discussions, säkerhet relates mostly to defence but trygghet includes both crime prevention and policies like unemployment insurance and sickness benefits. 

In fact, you could say that a yearning for trygghet is at the heart of the Swedish psyche. It could go some way to explain the country’s long history of neutrality, the social welfare systems, and even the Swedish reputation for a tendency towards conformity: there’s a trygghet to being able to blend into a crowd and feel like you belong.


Ett lugnt och tryggt område

A calm/peaceful and safe area

Jag är trygg i mig själv

I feel secure about who I am

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 US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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Swedish word of the day: liga

You may have this word in your native language or recognise it from football leagues such as the German Bundesliga or Spain's La Liga. Liga has a similar meaning in Swedish, too, with one crucial difference.

Swedish word of the day: liga

Liga originally comes from Latin ligāre (“to bind”). In most languages, liga means “league”, a group of individuals, organisations or nations who are united in some way.

Similar words exist in many European languages, such as Dutch, Spanish, Czech and Polish liga, Italian lega, French ligue and Romanian ligă.

A league is almost always something positive or neutral in other languages, but in Swedish a liga is something negative – a criminal gang, with the word ligist referring to a (usually young, male) gang member, thug or hooligan.

Political or diplomatic leagues are usually translated into Swedish as förbund (“union” or “association”) rather than liga: one example is the Swedish term for the League of Nations, Nationernas förbund.

The only exception to this rule is sport, where the popularity of international football leagues such as the Bundesliga and the Premier League has lessened the negative meaning somewhat in this context. Fans of hockey will be familiar with SHL, Svenska hockeyligan, and Sweden’s handball league is referred to as handbollsligan.

The history behind liga’negative meaning in Swedish can be traced back to the Thirty Years’ War, which took place largely within the Holy Roman Empire between 1618 and 1648.

Essentially, the Thirty Years’ War began as a fight between Protestant and Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire, with Catholic states forming the Catholic League and Protestant states forming the Protestant Union.

Sweden was – and still is – Lutheran, meaning that, when they got involved in the war in 1630, their enemies were the Catholic League – or the katolska ligan in Swedish, with its members being referred to as ligister or “league-ists”.

King Gustav II Adolf eventually beat the Catholic League in 1631 at the Battle of Breitenfeld, ultimately leading to the formal dissolution of the league in 1635 in the Peace of Prague, which forbade alliances from forming within the Holy Roman Empire.

Although this may seem like ancient history, Swedes still don’t trust a liga – the word’s negative connotations have survived for almost 400 years.

Swedish vocabulary:

Jag är lite orolig för honom, han har börjat hänga med ett gäng ligister.

I’m a bit worried about him, he’s started hanging out with a group of thugs.

Manchester United har vunnit den engelska ligan flest gånger, men City är mästare just nu.

Manchester United have won the Premier League the most times, but City are the current champions.

De säger att det står en liga bakom det senaste inbrottsvågen.

They’re saying there’s a gang behind the recent spate of break-ins.

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.