Swedish word of the day: hemester

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: hemester
Image: nito103/Depositphotos"

Here's a word that's sure to spark some debate around the fika table this month.


Hemester is a portmanteau (the linguistic term for two words smashed together to combine their meanings) made up of hem (home) and semester (holiday -- we've looked into the origin of the Swedish term here). So it literally means 'holiday at home', but the English equivalent would be 'staycation', also a portmanteau.

Fun language fact: in Swedish, the word for portmanteau is teleskopord (literally 'telescope word'), probably because the parts of words are combined just like lenses in a telescope.

A hemester can mean you literally stay at home and simply explore your own neighbourhood like a tourist, perhaps attending local events or going to that museum you've always walked past but never set foot in. But it can also be used to talk about any vacation spent in the same country you live in. 

Like semester, you can turn hemester into a verb, for example vi har vält att hemestra i år (we've decided to take a staycation this year).

An alternative word is svemester, from Sverige (Sweden) + semester (holiday).

Hemester is a concept that's been around for a while, and was named one of the New Swedish Words of the Year back in 2009, but it's seeing a boost in popularity this summer thanks to a recent trend towards sustainable travel. Climate activist Greta Thunberg has urged Swedes to ditch international flights, and the hashtag '#hemester' has thousands of posts on Instagram. 

But how popular is the concept really? After a heatwave that brought record warm summer weather to Sweden in 2018, many people apparently planned to stay at home this summer, but a cooler than usual start to July saw rocketing numbers of families book last minute package holidays further south.

READ ALSO: Seven must-do activities to add to your Swedish summer bucket list


I stället för att resa utomlands, varför inte ta en hemester? 

Instead of travelling overseas, why not take a staycation?

Jag hade planerat att hemestra, sen blev juli mycket kallare än vanligt

I had planned to staycation, but then July was much colder than usual

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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