For members


Danish word of the day: Overskud

Have you completed all your tasks with time and energy to spare this Monday?

What is overskud?

Overskud is the noun form of the antiquated verb at overskyde, which literally means “to overshoot” and can be used to say that something exceeds expectations or that you have more of it than what you need. 

The noun form, overskud, is still in common use. It has two meanings: one relates to economic surplus or profit, and the second, which does not have an exact equivalent in English, can describe the energy or desire needed to take on a task.

There is a second verb related to this noun, at overskue, which you are much more likely to hear in everyday Danish. This means the act of having enough energy or desire to do something.

Why do I need to know overskud?

As noted above, it’s a very popular (and useful) term in Danish that doesn’t have an exact English equivalent (unless you’re using it in its more rigid, accountancy-related guise).

It’s a good way of telling someone politely, but firmly, you are not going to do something. That way, you can avoid half-heartedly going along with something for the sake of not appearing discourteous.

If a Dane tells you they do not have the overskud for doing something, there’s no need to be disappointed. They aren’t telling you your invitation for coffee or request for practical help is a bad idea, but being honest and telling you that they’re not up to it at the moment. You can feel free to ask them again on another occasion.

On the other hand, someone might display some real overskud by showing up when they’re not expected to or putting in some extra graft because they want to do you a favour.


Det var totalt overskudsagtigt, at han kom og hjalp med at flytte, dagen efter han løb marathon

He went above and beyond by coming to help us move house the day after he ran a marathon.

Jeg havde intet overskud tilbage efter arbejde, så jeg tog ikke til festen.

I had no energy left after work, so I didn’t go to the party.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Danish word of the day: Tør

Have a look at the word of the day if you dare.

Danish word of the day: Tør

What is tør?

Several things, including both verbs and adjectives.

Starting with the verbs, tør is a conjugation of two different Danish verbs, at turde (“to dare”) and at tørre (“to dry” or “to wipe”).

In the first case, it is the present tense form: jeg tør ikke sige, om planen kommer til at virke (“I dare not say whether the plan will work”).

In the second, it is the imperative form. Tør bordet af tak! means “wipe the table please!”. The present tense of at tørre is tørrer, as in Christian tørrer bordet af (“Christian is wiping the table (clean)”).

In its adjective guise, tør means “dry”. You can have tørvejr, “dry weather”, tør humor, a dry sense of humour, tør vin, “dry wine”, or a tørt emne, a dry or boring subject or topic. It can also mean dry as in without moisture, just like the English equivalent.

A tumble dryer is not a tørtumbler, however, but rather a tørretumbler.

Why do I need to know tør?

As well as being another example of a Danish homonym, like bakke, tør is interesting both because it has several meanings, can be two different verbs in different combinations, and because two of its meanings come close to being antonyms.

At tørre af, to wipe clean, technically means making something wet (at least briefly and on the surface), because you’ll be using a damp cloth to do so. Whereas if it is tør, it is completely dry.

Tør is also used in a lot of idioms and experessions — too many to list here in fact. At løbe tør (literally “to run dry”) means to run out of something, while to be tør bag ørerne (“dry behind the ears”) means the opposite to the English “wet behind the ears”. Someone who is tør bag ørerne is older, wiser and experienced.

My favourite tør expression, though, is at falde på et tørt sted (“to fall on a dry place”), meaning to receive something that was sorely needed.


Jeg tør slet ikke tro på, at Danmark vinder VM.

I dare not believe that Denmark will win the World Cup.

Du får den her chance kun én gang. Tør du tage den?

You’ll only get this chance once. Do you dare to take it?

Min jakke har hængt ude på altanen siden i går, men den er slet ikke tør endnu.

My jacket has been hanging outside on the balcony since yesterday, but it’s nowhere near dry yet.

Tak for kaffen. Den faldt på et tørt sted!

Thanks for the coffee. It was badly needed!