Swedish word of the day: trygghet

Swedish word of the day: trygghet
A word at the heart of the Swedish psyche. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Here's a quintessentially Swedish word which is used very often.

Trygg translates as “safe” or “secure”, and there’s a noun to match: trygghet (“safety” or “security”). You’ll hear both words a lot in Swedish.

There’s a difference between trygghet and säkerhet, which also means “security”.

Säkerhet is about security in the sense of protection from an external threat such as burglaries and crime, so you might invest in hemsäkerhet (home security) such as cameras or alarms.

Trygghet, meanwhile, is harder to put your finger on. 

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If someone says they feel trygg, it doesn’t just mean they feel protected from immediate visible threats, but usually refers to a more long-term sense of security rooted in stability. For example, finansiell trygghet means “financial security” in the sense that you’re shielded from a wide variety of potential negative outcomes.

If someone doesn’t feel säker in a certain neighbourhood, that usually means they feel there is a real risk of facing danger, whereas someone who doesn’t feel trygg might just have an uneasy feeling. Surveys that measure how comfortable people feel going out alone after dark might question people about their trygghetskänsla (“feeling of security”), which would probably be translated into English as “perceived safety”.

Trygghet often goes beyond the absence of fear or risk, and evokes a sense of personal comfort too. You probably feel säker when you’re in a high security environment, but feel more trygg or tryggare when surrounded by friends in a cosy environment. In political discussions, säkerhet relates mostly to defence but trygghet includes both crime prevention and policies like unemployment insurance and sickness benefits. 

In fact, you could say that a yearning for trygghet is at the heart of the Swedish psyche. It could go some way to explain the country’s long history of neutrality, the social welfare systems, and even the Swedish reputation for a tendency towards conformity: there’s a trygghet to being able to blend into a crowd and feel like you belong.

Examples

Ett lugnt och tryggt område

A calm/peaceful and safe area

Jag är trygg i mig själv

I feel secure about who I am

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


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