Swedish word of the day: örfil

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected] • 15 Jul, 2020 Updated Wed 15 Jul 2020 15:02 CEST
Swedish word of the day: örfil

Watch out for this one: it means something very different in Sweden and Finland.


The word örfil means a slap or hit, especially with a bare hand to the face.

It comes from öra (ear) and fil which means 'file', as in the tool used to blunt something. It could be translated as the English term 'a box around the ears', but that phrase is more old-fashioned than Swedish örfil.

German speakers will spot an analogy with the Germany word Ohrfeige, and Dutch speakers with oorvijg, which both have the same meaning.

So how do you use the word? You can (but please don't) ge någon en örfil (give someone a slap) or få en örfil (get slapped). 

You can also use örfil metaphorically to talk about someone receiving disappointing news or a bad outcome, like the English terms 'a blow' or 'a slap in the face'. For example, the phrase han fick en rejäl örfil ('he got a real slap to the face') could refer to a physical hit or a nasty surprise.

You also have to be careful with it because on the other side of the Baltic, örfil means something different.

In Finland Swedish, en örfil is... a cinnamon bun (kanelbulle in Swedish). So be careful with your bakery order.



Hennes ord kändes som en örfil

Her words were like a slap in the face

Hon gav honom en örfil

She slapped him


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