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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: Sverige

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

Swedish word of the day: Sverige
You can learn a lot about a country from what they call themselves. Image: nito103/Depositphotos

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). 

Examples

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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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: foppatofflor

Love them or hate them, foppatofflor are unexpectedly coming back in to fashion. But what are they, and how did they get their Swedish name?

Swedish word of the day: foppatofflor

Foppatoffla – foppatofflor in plural – is the Swedish term for Crocs – plastic sandals or clogs which first became popular in the early 2000s.

The word foppatoffla is made up of two words. The first is foppa, which is the nickname of one of Sweden’s most successful ice hockey players, Peter Forsberg. The second half of the word is toffla, the Swedish word for “sandal”.

Foppatofflor, the Swedish term for Crocs. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix/TT

So, what does a famous Swedish ice hockey player have to do with plastic clogs?

The story begins in the early 2000s, when Forsberg was recovering from a foot injury sustained playing professional ice hockey. When looking for a shoe comfortable enough for him to wear without exacerbating his injury, he came across Crocs, which were designed to be comfortable and ergonomic.

Recognising the shoes’ potential, Forsberg became an early investor, securing the sole rights to distribute Crocs in Sweden through his company Forspro. But Forsberg didn’t just invest in the shoes, he also appeared in adverts for them, leading Swedes to start referring to the shoes as foppatofflor.

By 2010, sales of foppatofflor were dwindling, so Forsberg shut down Forspro to focus on other investments – but not before the name had stuck.

Peter “Foppa” Forsberg. The man you can thank (or despise) for introducing Crocs to Sweden. Photo: Erik Simander/TT

The shoes are still popular as ergonomic and hygienic work shoes, particularly in the healthcare sector, although they were briefly banned in some Swedish hospitals on suspicion of causing a build-up of static electricity which disrupted hospital machinery.

They may also be coming back into fashion, gracing the Oscars red carpet and the Instagram feeds of musicians such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Pharell Williams in the last few years.

So, love them or hate them, foppatofflor seem to be here to stay. Now you know what word to use if you decide to pick up a pair for yourself this summer.

Example sentences:

Jag har precis köpt nya foppatofflor till barnen – de är ju så praktiska!

I’ve just bought new Crocs for the kids – they’re so practical!

Gud, är foppatofflor verkligen trendiga nu? Bra att jag har kvar mina från 00-talet!

God, are Crocs really trendy now? Good job I kept mine from the noughties!

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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