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Swedish word of the day: dryg

The story of long-lasting dishwashing liquid via a 14th century manuscript, the Swedish word for 'queen', and someone acting a little bit cocky.

Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Dryg has two meanings in Swedish, perhaps three:

1. Something that lasts, like concentrated dish soap.

2. To be cocky or haughty.

3. Just about or a little more than – as in drygt en halvtimma, “just about half an hour”. 

The relation of the two first meanings is actually interesting, and connected to the Swedish for queen. Dryg in the sense “something that lasts” is the oldest. Svensk ordbok, the dictionary of the Swedish Academy, traces it back to the latter half of the 14th century and the Old Swedish parchment hagiography, the Codex Bureanus, one of the oldest manuscripts in Swedish.

You might ask, what in the name of the Lord is a hagiography? Well, the name of the Lord would be proper here, as a hagiography is a text about the lives of saints. You could call it a sort of legend of the saints, which is what it is called in Swedish, a legendarium. The text is called Bureanus simply because it was gifted to a certain Johannes Bureus in 1634. Bureus later donated it to the National Archives, but today it resides at the Royal Library. 

In the Codex Bureanus, dryg appears as drygher ‘durable, who is enough’. This word is itself related to drott, which is even older, dating to at least the 11th century. A drott was an Old Norse lord with his own court. It is not hard to see the reasoning behind linking the meaning ‘durable’ or ‘lasting’ with the title of a lord. 

Drott is found on rune stones in the runic form trutin, it morphs to Old Swedish drotin, and here, the Swedes among you might immediately see where this is going. Have you ever wondered why ‘queen’ is drottning in Swedish, whereas ‘king’ and kung are nearly identical? This is why. 

This could perhaps also be why dryg in the second sense exists. Who better than a queen to think herself better than others?

But there is yet another possibility. Moving backwards in time the word drótt means ‘(the king’s) warrior retinue’. Perhaps the attitude of the king’s warrior retinue was drygt? In the Gothic that predates it the word driugan meant to ‘do military service’. 

Think of that the next time you use your dryga diskmedel – that is concentrated washing-up liquid. And be advised that the primary meaning of dryg is for a person who is acting arrogantly.

Example sentences:

Hur kan man vara så dryg?

How can one be so haughty?

Jag älskar det här diskmedlet, det är sååå drygt!

I love this washing-up liquid, it’s sooo concentrated!

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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For members


Swedish word of the day: sommartid

The clocks are springing ahead this weekend, marking the beginning of daylight saving time and the end of Sweden's dark winter period. Aptly described in Swedish as 'sommartid', here is the history of how the practice came about.

Swedish word of the day: sommartid

The phrase will come in handy this weekend if you want to lament a lost hour of sleep in the morning or celebrate the extra hour of daylight in the evening. 

Sommartid translates literally to “summertime” and refers to daylight saving time, which begins this weekend in many European countries, including Sweden. At 2:00 am on Sunday, the clocks will spring one hour ahead.

In the UK, this period is known as “British Summer Time” – one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time – while in North America, daylight saving time is used more commonly.

The first time sommartid was officially trialled on a national basis was in 1916, when the German Empire along with other countries such as Austria-Hungary, the UK and Sweden introduced the practice in order to conserve fuel during World War I, with the idea being that the extra daylight would reduce the use of artificial lighting, allowing the surplus fuel to be put towards the war efforts.

In the following years, the practice spread to Australia, Russia, and the US, too.

After the war, daylight saving grew unpopular in Europe, especially among farmers, whose schedules were – and still are – dictated by nature and sunlight rather than the clock.

It wasn’t used on a large scale again until World War II, when Germany again popularised the practice. But a few years after the war ended, it fell out of favour for the second time. It only picked up again when France reintroduced it in 1976, in response to an energy crisis sparked by the oil embargo in 1973.

By 1996, the EU standardised daylight savings, which now runs from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. 

But the future of daylight saving time looks uncertain once again. In 2019, the European Parliament voted to abolish the practice, however efforts to actually implement this measure have stalled. So at least for this year, sommartid will continue.  

Example sentences: 

När börjar sommartid? 

When does daylight saving time start?

Kom ihåg att sommartid börjar på söndag, så man behöver stå upp en timme tidigare.

Remember that summer time starts on Sunday, so you need to get up an hour earlier.

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.