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Gnägg! 10 animal noises that sound very different in Swedish

The Local Sweden
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Gnägg! 10 animal noises that sound very different in Swedish
Gnägg, my friend, gnägg. Photo: AP Photo/Michael Probst

What noise does a horse make? "Neigh" of course, but not in Sweden. Instead, Swedes think horses are more likely to "gnägg", one of many differences in opinion over animal onomatopoeia.


1. Pigs

In the English language it's universally accepted that pigs say "oink, oink", but let's be honest, that's a bit of a stretch. The Swedish representation of the animal's sound, "nöff nöff", probably comes closer to capturing their snuffling – to these ears at least.

2. Horses

Horses "neigh" in English, but in Sweden they're seemingly much better with their lips, as they say "gnägg". Not convinced.

3. Dogs…

In English, dogs "woof". In Swedish, they "voff" or "vov", so we can more or less agree on this one. Except when it comes to smaller dogs...

4. ... particularly yappy dogs

Because apparently, high-pitched, yappy dogs in Sweden "bjäbb". Yes, that's right, "bjäbb". We're not making this up. 


5. Frogs

Frogs "croak" in English, and if we're being fair that doesn't sound entirely accurate, but they most certainly do not say "kväk" or "kvack", which apparently the Swedes have convinced themselves into believing.

6. Cats

In English, cats "meow". In Swedish, they "mjau". It's definitely closer than the Japanese description of a cat's noise – "nyaa, nyaa".

7. Mice

Real mice "squeak". Swedish mice "pip". So close, yet so far...

8. Bears

In Sweden the bears "brum". Confusingly, this is also the sound a car makes in Swedish.

9. Ducks

In English, ducks "quack". In Swedish, they "kvack", which seems reasonable enough, at least compared to some of the previous examples (horses, I'm looking at you).

10. Humans

What isn't reasonable enough is this noise made exclusively by Sweden's humans – by far the oddest species – seemingly in order to keep conversations as short as possible. This will never become normal to these international ears:

Article written by Lee Roden in 2017 and updated by The Local's editorial team in 2023.


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