Swedish word of the day: mål

Swedish word of the day: mål
Image: nito103/Depositphotos
Today's Swedish word is one that football fans will be hoping they get the chance to use.

Mål is usually translated as 'goal' in English, but has a wide range of meanings. 

Firstly, ett mål can mean 'goal' in the sporting or general sense; both the act of scoring and the general goal area. So in football and other sports, göra ett mål (literally 'to do a goal') is how you say 'to score a goal', and you might also talk about an öppet mål (an open or unguarded goal), or hear Swedish fans singing 'in med bollen i mål' (literally 'put the ball in the goal').

Hear how to pronounce mål in the audio clip below (although at a football match, it's more commonly pronounced 'måååååål!'):

Mål is also used to talk about more general targets, goals, and objectives. For example, you could say 'mitt mål är att prata svenska' (my aim is to speak Swedish) or 'det är viktigt att hå långsiktiga mål' ('it's important to have long-term goals').

If you want to talk about achieving these non-sporting goals, you would use the verb or uppnå (to reach/achieve) instead of göra (to do), for example vi försöka att uppnå våra mål (we're trying to reach our goals). 

And one common compound word where mål pops up is resmål, which means 'travel destination' but literally translates as 'travel goal', and you can also put it in other compound words such as utbildningsmål (educational objective) or träningsmål (fitness goal). 

Mål dates back to Old Norse when the word mál meant a lot of things including 'language/speech', 'matter/case' and 'size/time/measurement'. The latter is where mål meaning goal comes from, but mål is also used today to refer to a case within the justice system, and it can also mean both 'language/dialect' and 'meal'. In these senses, it's slightly dated, but you'll hear it in the compound word modersmål (mother tongue or native language), and måltid (meal or mealtime), rather than just mål.

Examples

Wow, vilket mål av Sofia Jakobsson!

Wow, what a goal from Sofia Jakobsson!

Utbildning är inte ett mål i sig, utan ett medel för att nå ett mål

Education is not a goal in itself, but a means of achieving a goal

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