Swedish word of the day: Sverige

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: Sverige
You can learn a lot about a country from what they call themselves. Image: nito103/Depositphotos"

This Swedish word of the day is quite an important one, and gives you some interesting insight into the country's history.


Sverige is the Swedish word for 'Sweden'; the name of the Scandinavian country to the east of Norway and Denmark. Hear how it's pronounced in the clip below:

The names we use for countries tell us a lot about their history. In the case of Sweden, we can trace the name back to at least the 13th century, when it was called Swerike in Old Swedish.

Sverige can be broken down into two parts. The second part of the word Sverige comes from the noun rike ('realm' or 'kingdom'). You'll also see this word in the term riksdag, the name for the country's parliament. 

As for the Sve-, most people believe this came from the term Svear, the name of a tribe called 'the Swedes' in English, although obviously the term today usually refers generally to citizens of today's Sweden.

The Svear lived in the central part of what is now Sweden; roughly corresponding to the region now called Svealand – for reasons which are hopefully clear. Meanwhile, the tribe known as the Götar (Geats in English) inhabited the area known as Götaland today; the regions were separated by vast forest.

However, some linguists and historians have argued that the sve/svea in Sverige actually comes from an older Indo-European word meaning 'our/us', and that Sverige literally means 'our kingdom'. According to this theory, the Götar and Svear may have chosen this name together as a neutral name for their combined countries.

During the 13th century, Swerike became Svearike, and by the 16th century it became Swerighe, although there were alternative spellings including Swerghe and Swirghe.

You'll also see Sverige used in a few compound words, such as sverigebo (Swedish resident) or sverigevän (literally 'friend of Sweden', used to refer to foreign-born people with a strong interest in the country although it has recently been used with nationalistic connotations). 


Sverige är fantastiskt!

Sweden is wonderful!

Jag flyttade till Sverige för två år sedan.

I moved to Sweden two years ago.

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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