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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: liksom

Here's a word that's going to make you sound much more like a native Swede, as long as you use it correctly.

Swedish word of the day: liksom
Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Liksom means 'like', but it can't be used in all the same contexts as the English word.

There are two main situations in which you can use liksom. The first is if you're making a comparison, in which case liksom means 'in the same way as', 'just as', 'similar to'.

The other time you'll hear liksom is when it's being used as a so-called filler word or discourse marker; those small words that plug gaps in sentences when you're not sure what to say next. There are plenty of these in Swedish, with other examples being typ and alltså, and they correspond to English filler words such as 'like' and 'um'.

You'll often use it when searching for the correct phrase to follow it, for example 'hon var liksom… trevlig' (she was, like… nice). In this sense, you could translate liksom as 'sort of' or 'kind of'.

As a filler word, liksom's position in a sentence is fairly flexible; you can use it in the middle of a sentence or at the start or end: hon var trevlig, liksom (she was nice, basically) or liksom, hon var trevlig (like, she was nice).

As is the case with filler words in most languages, you'll occasionally hear some people grumble about the overuse of liksom, but these particles serve a purpose by showing that the speaker hasn't finished talking yet.

They can also be used to soften a sentence, but just be aware that if you use them a lot, you might end up sounding unsure of what you're saying. And while it's a very common word in spoken, colloquial Swedish, especially among younger Swedes, you should err on the side of avoiding it in written language.

Examples

För mig är det svårt att förstå, liksom för många andra utlänningar

It's hard for me to understand, just as it is for many other foreigners

Det där var inte kul liksom

That wasn't, like, cool

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: liga

You may have this word in your native language or recognise it from football leagues such as the German Bundesliga or Spain's La Liga. Liga has a similar meaning in Swedish, too, with one crucial difference.

Swedish word of the day: liga

Liga originally comes from Latin ligāre (“to bind”). In most languages, liga means “league”, a group of individuals, organisations or nations who are united in some way.

Similar words exist in many European languages, such as Dutch, Spanish, Czech and Polish liga, Italian lega, French ligue and Romanian ligă.

A league is almost always something positive or neutral in other languages, but in Swedish a liga is something negative – a criminal gang, with the word ligist referring to a (usually young, male) gang member, thug or hooligan.

Political or diplomatic leagues are usually translated into Swedish as förbund (“union” or “association”) rather than liga: one example is the Swedish term for the League of Nations, Nationernas förbund.

The only exception to this rule is sport, where the popularity of international football leagues such as the Bundesliga and the Premier League has lessened the negative meaning somewhat in this context. Fans of hockey will be familiar with SHL, Svenska hockeyligan, and Sweden’s handball league is referred to as handbollsligan.

The history behind liga’negative meaning in Swedish can be traced back to the Thirty Years’ War, which took place largely within the Holy Roman Empire between 1618 and 1648.

Essentially, the Thirty Years’ War began as a fight between Protestant and Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire, with Catholic states forming the Catholic League and Protestant states forming the Protestant Union.

Sweden was – and still is – Lutheran, meaning that, when they got involved in the war in 1630, their enemies were the Catholic League – or the katolska ligan in Swedish, with its members being referred to as ligister or “league-ists”.

King Gustav II Adolf eventually beat the Catholic League in 1631 at the Battle of Breitenfeld, ultimately leading to the formal dissolution of the league in 1635 in the Peace of Prague, which forbade alliances from forming within the Holy Roman Empire.

Although this may seem like ancient history, Swedes still don’t trust a liga – the word’s negative connotations have survived for almost 400 years.

Swedish vocabulary:

Jag är lite orolig för honom, han har börjat hänga med ett gäng ligister.

I’m a bit worried about him, he’s started hanging out with a group of thugs.

Manchester United har vunnit den engelska ligan flest gånger, men City är mästare just nu.

Manchester United have won the Premier League the most times, but City are the current champions.

De säger att det står en liga bakom det senaste inbrottsvågen.

They’re saying there’s a gang behind the recent spate of break-ins.

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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