The Local List

12 Swedish words with just awesome literal translations

12 Swedish words with just awesome literal translations
A filthy-minded lobster, i.e. a snuskhummer. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT
One of our favourite things about the Swedish language is its wonderful compound words, which range from being utterly bizarre to making perfect sense.

It may be a tricky language to master, but one of the great things about Swedish is that you don't actually need a particularly large vocabulary. That's because rather than inventing new words, the Swedes are big fans of creating compound words out of existing ones.

This means that you get words like sammansatt (meaning compound, or, even better: together-put), can create random words like korvbrödsförsäljarstånd (a stand belonging to a seller of hot dog breads: sausage-bread-salesperson-stand) or watch Hollywood Swede Alexander Skarsgård read out words like the one in the video below (don't worry about memorizing it; it's not used very often, trust us).

These are some of our favourite compound words, both wonderfully simple (sick house) and some real head scratchers (you dirty lobster, you!). Can you think of any other ones?


Word for word: Thief listen

English equivalent: Eavesdrop


Word for word: Tooth meat

English equivalent: Gums


Word for word: Sick house

English equivalent: Hospital


Word for word: Shit boot

English equivalent: Douchebag

What a shit boot. Photo: AP Photo/Eric Gay


Word for word: Writing table

English equivalent: Desk


Word for word: Mother mother/father mother

English equivalent: Grandmother

A Swedish grandfather is either farfar (father father) or morfar (mother father). Brilliantly, it can be used for your great-grandparents too (mormorsmor – mother mother's mother) or your entire extended family (morbror – mother brother, or uncle; barnbarn child child, or grandchild).


Word for word: Breast wart

English equivalent: Nipple


Word for word: Shield toad

English equivalent: Turtle/tortoise

Look, a toad with a shield. Photo: Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News/AP


Word for word: Poop sausage

English equivalent: Poop


Word for word: Cow catcher

English equivalent: Bumper


Word for word: Dirty lobster

English equivalent: A pervert


Word for word: Green thing

English equivalent: Vegetable