Swedish word of the day: teleskopord

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: teleskopord
Is this something Swedes have borrowed from English? Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Here's a Swedish word to use if you like talking about words and language.


Teleskopord (literally 'telescope word') is the Swedish word for a portmanteau – when parts of two or more different words are combined into one, creating a mash-up of their sound and meaning.

In Swedish, most teleskopord are relatively new, and they're often invented to help people describe brand new situations. For example, during the coronavirus outbreak, people have begun talking about corontän (coronavirus + karantän or 'quarantine') and karanträna (karantän + träna or 'working out').

Other examples include hemester (hem or 'home' + semester or 'holiday', in analogy with English staycation) and bankomat, meaning cash machine (from bank + automat). 

It's not very common to create new words in this way in Swedish. Why lose parts of the word when you could combine them in full to get enormous compound words

Many portmanteaus in Swedish are loan words from English, like brunch – the Swedish equivalent frunch from frukost + lunch has never quite taken off. 


Portmanteaus are very popular in English, especially among brands and for wordplay (so much so that there's even a backlash against some of the most far-fetched). It's possible that an increased exposure to English has led to a rise in popularity of teleskopord in Swedish too. 

But what's all this got to do with telescopes? The name probably comes from the way the words are combined like a telescope's lenses, to give a name to a new idea or concept.

The Local reader Martin Björnsson got in touch to point out: "The telescope here comes from the ability to slide tubes of different sizes together to minimize the leght, like certain types of tube telescopes. A telescope stool, for example, has slidable legs, and a telescope fishing rod slides together when not used. Thus, a telescope word is one that slides together and compacts in a similar manner."


Vabruari är ett teleskopord

Vabruary is a portmanteau

Teleskopord bildas när delar av två olika ord sammansätts

Portmanteaus are created when parts of two different words are put together


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