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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: glögg

Here's the next word in The Local's Christmas-themed word of the day series, running from December 1st to Christmas Eve.

the word glögg on a black background next to a Swedish flag
Have you had your first glögg of the season yet? Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

It’s fun to say, and more fun to drink. Today’s Swedish word of the day describes a favourite festive treat: glögg.

Glögg is Swedish mulled wine: heated wine, usually red – although white varieties are available too – with spices, almonds and raisins added in. You’ll also see alcohol-free versions, made with juice or simply non-alcoholic wine.

It’s exceptionally popular, almost exclusively drunk around the Christmas season, and glöggfester (glögg parties) are common.

The pronunciation of glögg sounds ever so slightly like the noise you make while gulping down a mug of the stuff at a cold Christmas market, but the origin of the word is not onomatopoeic. It actually comes from the Old Swedish word glödg, a noun made from the verb glödga.

RECIPE: How to make your own Swedish glögg

Delving back even further, glödga has its origins in the verb glöder (to glow), and literally meant something like ‘to heat up until it glows’. Heated wine was popular even among the ancient Greeks and Romans, who also added spice to the concoction, very likely to counter impurities in the wine. These days, glödga has a narrower meaning, ‘to mull’, and like the English verb this can refer to warming drinks or to considering something and ‘mulling it over’ in one’s mind.

The oldest written record of the word glögg is from the early 19th century, even though Swedes have been warming up their wine in winter for centuries before that. Records of glödgat vin date back to the 1600s, and we know that Gustav Vasa, one of Sweden’s most famous rulers in the early 1500s, drank wine heated up with honey, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger.

Swedish mulled wine, and with it the word glögg, has been exported to neighbouring countries, giving rise to the word gløgg in Denmark and glögi in Finland.

Example sentences:

Glögg är en väldigt viktig dryck runt jul

Glögg is a very important drink around Christmas

Glögg dricks ur små koppar och serveras med mandel och russin eller pepparkakor

Glögg is drunk from small cups and served with almonds and raisins or gingerbread

Need a good Christmas gift idea?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it – or join The Local as a member and get your copy for free.

It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

You don't have to spend long in Sweden to hear the word skärgård, especially if you live in cities like Stockholm or Gothenburg where the population relocate to the nearby skärgård every summer. Where does the word come from?

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

Skärgård is, like many Swedish words, a compound word made up of the word skär, describing a small rocky outcrop and gård, which has a number of meanings such as “courtyard”, “farm” or “garden”.

Although skärgård is often translated to English as “archipelago” – a group of islands – the word officially refers to an archipelago made up primarily of small islands, close to the coast of a larger island or landmass, such as the rocky archipelagos near Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Other kinds of archipelago – such as those which are not close to other landmasses, or those made up of larger islands – can be referred to as an arkipelag or ögrupp. However, many Swedes will just use skärgård for any kind of archipelago.

Although the word skärgård doesn’t exist in English, a variant of skär has made its way into the language. The English term for this type of small rocky outcrop is “skerry”.

Skerry has an interesting etymology in English – it comes from the Old Norse term sker, which refers to a rock in the sea. This is related to the Swedish word skära, meaning “cut” – a skerry is a rock cut off from land.

Sker came into English via Scots, where it is spelled skerry or skerrie. Other languages also have this word, such as Norwegian skjær/skjer, Estonian skäär, Finnish kari and Russian шхеры (shkhery). It can also be found in Scottish Gaelic sgeir, Irish sceir and Welsh sgeri.

This also reflects the geographic area where skerries are found – there are skerries or skärgårdar along the northernmost part of the Swedish west coast near Bohuslän and Gothenburg, as well as on the east coast near Stockholm. The Norwegian coast also has a large number of skerries, and Skärgårdshavet or “the Archipelago Sea” lies off the southwestern coast of Finland.

In Russia, the Minina Skerries (Shkhery Minina) are one example of a skärgård, and in Scotland, Skerryvore and Dubh Artach in the Hebrides are also made up of skerries. Northern Ireland is home to The Skerries, off the Antrim coast, and Skerries is also the name of a coastal area of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland.

You may be wondering if the surname of the famous Swedish Skarsgård family of actors – Stellan, Gustaf, Bill, Valter and Alexander Skarsgård, among others – comes from the word skärgård. Although the spelling is similar, this name actually comes from the town of Skärlöv on the island of Öland, and means “Skar’s farm” (Skares gård, in Swedish).

Example sentences

Jag ser redan fram emot sommarsemestern – vi har hyrt en stuga ute i Stockholms skärgård.

I’m already looking forwards to summer – we’ve rented a cottage out in the Stockholm archipelago.

Sverige har många skärgårdar, fast Skärgårdshavet vid Finlands västkust är störst i världen med över 50 000 öar och skär.

Sweden has a lot of archipelagos, but the Archipelago Sea off Finland’s west coast is the biggest in the world has over 50,000 islands and skerries.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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