Swedish word of the day: örfil

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

Swedish word of the day: örfil
You can also use this word metaphorically. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

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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​​Swedish word of the day: pyttipanna

This word of the day is a lot of bits of leftovers.

​​Swedish word of the day: pyttipanna

Pyttipanna or pytt i panna is a Swedish dish, but really a Nordic dish, as it exists in Norway (pytt i panne), Denmark (biksemad), and Finland (pyttipannu). The word or words supposedly mean ‘little bits in a pan’. Panna of course is simply ‘pan’ as in ‘frying pan’. But pytt, it seems, is an interesting little word. 

Taken as is, pytt has several meanings: a penis (see pitt), a small person (as in liliputian, lilleputt), a local name for the ‘marsh tit’, which is a little bird, or simply small. But all of those might be wrong. The Swedish Academy actually proposes that the pytt in pyttipanna did not originally mean ‘small’, but that it instead might come from putta, a word that today only means ‘push’, but which has the same root as the English ‘put’ and once also had that meaning. 

This would of course mean that the correct translation into English of pyttipanna is ‘Put in a Pan’! While many refer to it as ‘Swedish Hash’ or ‘Swedish Fry Up, and one could imagine it as ‘Pieces in a Pan’, Jamie Oliver sticks to the actual name pyttipanna when he makes it, and that is the recommended way.

The dish itself is a dish worth tasting for reference, as nearly every Swedish school child will have eaten it, sometimes several times a month, during their entire schooling. The dish is as Swedish as any. And there are fancier variations if you wanna go that way – look for krögarpytt. 

As is often the way with words, people constantly find new and at times even funny uses for them. Pyttipanna is no exception. 

Here you can see Swedish journalist Sara Mitchell-Malm making great use of pyttipanna in the sense of someone being ‘pyttipanna-ed’ or in other word proverbially cut to pieces. The target is British prime minister Liz Truss, and Mitchell-Mann also grabs the opportunity to get a jibe in at the Swedish minister for foreign affairs, Ann Linde.

Translation: ‘Aaah, a whole hour of British local radio journalists making pyttipanna of Liz Truss – the evening shift couldn’t start better. You have to listen, I beg you, she makes Ann Linde on German television seem like a professor of rhetoric.’

What Sara Mitchell-Mann is doing here is replacing the standard slarvsylta, another dish used to say that someone is being shredded by critics or opponents, with pyttipanna. An English language equivalent would be the American ‘making chop suey of someone’. 

Before you ascend to Mitchell-Mann’s Jedi level of pyttipanna use, start by making the dish for your friends. There are many great recipes online. Good luck!

Example sentences:

Gillar ni inte pyttipannan så kommer jag göra pyttipanna av er nästa gång! 

If you don’t like the pyttipanna, I’ll make pyttipanna of you next time!

Pyttipanna eller krögarpytt? Vad är skillnaden?

Pyttipanna or krögarpytt? What’s the difference?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.