Swedish word of the day: skyfall

Swedish word of the day: skyfall
Image: nito103/Depositphotos
Not just the title of a James Bond movie, today's word describes a kind of weather that most people try to avoid.

That said, skyfall isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds. It's the Swedish term for 'extremely heavy rain', specifically when there's a lot of precipitation over a short period, so in English you could translate it as 'downpour' or 'cloudburst'.

The official definition of skyfall is either at least 50 millimetres within an hour, which is quite rare, or at least 1 millimetre within a minute. But the term is often used even when these amounts haven't been officially measured.

After skyfall, there's often flooding due to the lack of time for water to drain away, and it can lead to serious damage.

It might come as a surprise that skyfall is most common during Sweden's summer season, often in connection with thunderstorms, and it's a phenomenon expected to become more common due to climate change as average temperatures rise.

The word's origins are relatively clear. Sky comes from the Old Norse word ský, also the origin of English 'sky', while fall is a noun meaning 'fall/decline', from the verb falla (to fall). But be aware that the usual word for 'sky' in Swedish is himmel, which has Old Saxon origins. Sky is still used in some compound words such as skyfall, skyskrapa (skyscraper) and skybar (rooftop bar).

The record skyfall seen in Sweden was when 40 millimetres of rain fell in just 15 minutes in Daglösen, Värmland, in 1995.


Trafikstörningar väntas efter skyfall

Traffic disruption expected after heavy rain

Vi måste bereda oss för skyfall

We need to prepare for heavy rain

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