Swedish word of the day: kompis

Swedish word of the day: kompis
Do you have a good kompis in Sweden? Image: nito103/Depositphotos
Knowing this crucial word is sure to help you make Swedish friends.

Kompis is one way to say 'friend' in Swedish, as a (slightly more casual) alternative to vän. Hear how to pronounce it in the clip below:

The plural is kompisar, and you can have a lot of different types of kompis: an arbetskompis who you know from work, a skolkompis you know from childhood, and a rumskompis who you live with.

En kompis can be male or female, but you can make the gender clear by saying tjejkompis (girlfriend in a non-romantic sense; a girlfriend in a romantic sense would be flickvän) or killkompis (guy friend). 

As we mentioned, kompis has quite casual connotations, and you can often best translate it to English as 'mate', 'buddy' or 'pal'. For example, Sätt dig ner, kompis ('Have a seat, pal') or Tjena kompis! (Hello mate!).

It's a word that's often used by initiatives aiming to promote integration by encouraging Swedes and newcomers to mingle, for example the initiatives Kompis Sverige and Kompisbyrån which both organize social activities and match up new arrivals with locals.

You'll also, a bit more rarely, see kompis used in the set phrase i kompis med, which translates as 'together with/in the company of'. For example: ska vi gå dit i kompis? (Shall we go there together) or han jobbade i kompis med Lars (he worked together with Lars). However, tillsammans (med) (together) is a much more common way of expressing this: ska vi gå dit tillsammans?/Han jobbade tillsammans med Lars.

Anyone even slightly familiar with spoken Swedish will recognize -is as a common colloquial Swedish suffix, which is added to shortened forms of long words, and kompis is one of the oldest -is words. When you're talking about your best friend or bästa kompis, you can give the entire phrase the -is treatment and shorten it to bästis ('bestie').

Kompis originally comes from the word kompanjon (literally 'companion') which now has much more formal connotations when used in its full form, translating as 'associate' or '(business) partner'. Because this word has Latin origins, you'll see similarities with many words for 'friend' across Europe: compa in Spanish, copain in French, and Kumpel in German.

And 'companion' itself has a nice origin story, as it comes from the Latin com (with) and panis (bread), literally meaning 'someone who breaks bread with you'.


Du är min bästa kompis, vet du det?

You're my best friend, you know?

Att vara en bra kompis betyder att kunna lyssna

Being a good friend means being able to listen

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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