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: sommartid

The clocks are springing ahead this weekend, marking the beginning of daylight saving time and the end of Sweden's dark winter period. Aptly described in Swedish as 'sommartid', here is the history of how the practice came about.

Swedish word of the day: sommartid

The phrase will come in handy this weekend if you want to lament a lost hour of sleep in the morning or celebrate the extra hour of daylight in the evening. 

Sommartid translates literally to “summertime” and refers to daylight saving time, which begins this weekend in many European countries, including Sweden. At 2:00 am on Sunday, the clocks will spring one hour ahead.

In the UK, this period is known as “British Summer Time” – one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time – while in North America, daylight saving time is used more commonly.

The first time sommartid was officially trialled on a national basis was in 1916, when the German Empire along with other countries such as Austria-Hungary, the UK and Sweden introduced the practice in order to conserve fuel during World War I, with the idea being that the extra daylight would reduce the use of artificial lighting, allowing the surplus fuel to be put towards the war efforts.

In the following years, the practice spread to Australia, Russia, and the US, too.

After the war, daylight saving grew unpopular in Europe, especially among farmers, whose schedules were – and still are – dictated by nature and sunlight rather than the clock.

It wasn’t used on a large scale again until World War II, when Germany again popularised the practice. But a few years after the war ended, it fell out of favour for the second time. It only picked up again when France reintroduced it in 1976, in response to an energy crisis sparked by the oil embargo in 1973.

By 1996, the EU standardised daylight savings, which now runs from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. 

But the future of daylight saving time looks uncertain once again. In 2019, the European Parliament voted to abolish the practice, however efforts to actually implement this measure have stalled. So at least for this year, sommartid will continue.  

Example sentences: 

När börjar sommartid? 

When does daylight saving time start?

Kom ihåg att sommartid börjar på söndag, så man behöver stå upp en timme tidigare.

Remember that summer time starts on Sunday, so you need to get up an hour earlier.

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