Swedish word of the day: påtår

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: påtår
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Here's a word that will come in handy on those days when you really need a coffee.


Påtår means ‘refill’, and is almost exclusively used to refer to coffee. So when you’ve emptied your cup of bryggkaffe (filter coffee) and want another mug-full, you ask for en påtår.

You’ll often see it included on menus: påtar - 5 kronor or similar, and if you’re a big coffee-drinker, it’s well worth your while to find a cafe that offers cheap or even free påtår.

It won’t always be on the price list though. Often, if the coffeepot is accessible to customers, it's a sign that it’s OK to give yourself a refill but if you’re unsure, just ask. 'Ingår påtår?' is how you ask “are refills included?” A great sentence for practising that å sound.

You can also use påtår outside cafes, for example if your friends are visiting you at home. Once their mugs are empty, show off both your Swedish and your hosting skills by asking ‘En påtår?’

This word dates back to at least 1842, when the first recorded use of påtår is found. It’s not often used for other beverages, so if you want a refill or second cup of a non-caffeinated drink, say either ‘en påfyllning, tack’ (a refill, please) or ‘en till, tack’ ('another please' - you might need to point at your glass to be clear what you want a second serving of).

Påtår comes from the outdated word kaffetår, which in the 1800s was used to refer to the first cup of coffee. Tår means ‘tear’, as in when you cry, but it used to also have the meaning of a ‘drop’ or a ‘sip’ of a drink, and in fact it is still used in that way in Danish. So en kaffetår meant ‘a drop of coffee’. Of course, this is Sweden, so that usually meant a substantial cup-full.

is a preposition with a wide range of meanings, most often translated as ‘on’. It comes from the Old Norse word upp á, which also gave us the English word ‘upon’ (and English ‘up’ and Swedish upp). The word påfylla means ‘to refill/replenish/fill up’, and so en påtår meant ‘another kaffetår’.


The Swedes didn't stop there.

According to the Swedish Academy's dictionary, there used to be a special word for the third consecutive cup of coffee, tretår, from tre meaning 'three'. A fourth cup was en krusetår (from krusa meaning 'to sway/ripple' because of the effect of so much caffeine), and the rarely used term for the fifth cup was en pintår (from the noun pina meaning misery or torment).

Now, the word kaffetår and the other variations have almost entirely dropped out of use, so when ordering your first cup you say en kopp kaffe, tack (a cup of coffee, please), en bryggkaffe, tack (a filter coffee, please) or similar. 


Example sentences:

Vill du har påtår?

Do you want a refill?

De sitter och dricker påtår på påtår.

They sit and drink coffee after coffee.

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Anonymous 2019/01/23 22:14
Finishing the last drops from the pot may be referred to as "squeezing Peter", or "klämma Petter" in Swedish."Kaffepetter" is a name for the coffee pot, maybe somewhat dated.

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