The word spöke has existed in Swedish in some shape or form for hundreds of years. English speakers may wonder if it’s related to “spook”, and yes, it is – they both come from words in old Dutch and German – but they’re used in slightly different ways.
If you want to say “you gave me a spook” you might say du skrämde mig, and “spooky” is perhaps best translated as läskig.
A Swedish spöke is the same as the English “ghost” (which is related to gast, a less common Swedish synonym for spöke).
A survey from 2015 suggested that 16 percent of Swedes believe in ghosts, and there are plenty of ghost stories associated with various buildings and places in Sweden. You can read some of the spookiest tales in this article from The Local’s archives.
You may also hear the word spöke in compound nouns such as en spökhistoria (“a ghost story”), en spökskrivare (“a ghost writer”), spöklik (“ghostlike”) or verbs such as spöka (“haunt”) and spöka ut sig (usually to dress up in an exaggerated outfit).
Du ser ut som om du sett ett spöke!
You look like you’ve seen a ghost!
Är du rädd för spöken?
Are you scared of ghosts?
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.