Swedish word of the day: kry

This word of the day has an unusual etymology.

the word kry on a blackboard next to a Swedish flag
Don't cry, krya på dig! Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Winter has arrived, and with it come all manner of colds and illnesses – not to mention the virus we’ve been living with for the past two years.

You may have heard today’s word of the day from your boss after calling in sick, or from your child’s preschool after they’ve caught the umpteenth cold of the season, meaning you have to stay home and vab.

Today’s word is kry, translating as “well”, as in, the opposite of “ill” or “sick”. It is pronounced similarly to the English word “crew” – not like “cry”. You may have seen it in the name of healthcare app Kry, or been told to “krya på dig!” – “Get well soon!” by well-wishers. A synonym for kry is frisk, which also translates as “fresh”.

If your household is unlucky enough for multiple people to have come down with a bug at the same time, sympathetic family members may have wished you “krya på er”, the plural form of “get well soon” in Swedish.

The etymology of kry is unclear, but some etymological dictionaries suggest that it may come from krut, an old Swedish word for kryddor – herbs (like German Kraut). This may be due to the fact that, before modern medicine, herbs and plants with medicinal qualities were used to treat illnesses.

Other ways in which you can wish people a “get well soon” include var rädd om dig (look after yourself) and hoppas du blir bättre (hope you get better).

Hopefully you won’t be needing these phrases any time soon.


“Hur mår ni nu?” “Bra, vi är friska och krya!”

“How are you all feeling now?” “Good, we’re all better!”

“Vi kan tyvärr inte ses nästa vecka, hela familjen har testat positivt.” “Ojojoj, krya på er!”

“Unfortunately we can’t meet up next week, the whole family has tested positive.” “Oh no, get well soon!”

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Swedish word of the day: liga

You may have this word in your native language or recognise it from football leagues such as the German Bundesliga or Spain's La Liga. Liga has a similar meaning in Swedish, too, with one crucial difference.

Swedish word of the day: liga

Liga originally comes from Latin ligāre (“to bind”). In most languages, liga means “league”, a group of individuals, organisations or nations who are united in some way.

Similar words exist in many European languages, such as Dutch, Spanish, Czech and Polish liga, Italian lega, French ligue and Romanian ligă.

A league is almost always something positive or neutral in other languages, but in Swedish a liga is something negative – a criminal gang, with the word ligist referring to a (usually young, male) gang member, thug or hooligan.

Political or diplomatic leagues are usually translated into Swedish as förbund (“union” or “association”) rather than liga: one example is the Swedish term for the League of Nations, Nationernas förbund.

The only exception to this rule is sport, where the popularity of international football leagues such as the Bundesliga and the Premier League has lessened the negative meaning somewhat in this context. Fans of hockey will be familiar with SHL, Svenska hockeyligan, and Sweden’s handball league is referred to as handbollsligan.

The history behind liga’negative meaning in Swedish can be traced back to the Thirty Years’ War, which took place largely within the Holy Roman Empire between 1618 and 1648.

Essentially, the Thirty Years’ War began as a fight between Protestant and Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire, with Catholic states forming the Catholic League and Protestant states forming the Protestant Union.

Sweden was – and still is – Lutheran, meaning that, when they got involved in the war in 1630, their enemies were the Catholic League – or the katolska ligan in Swedish, with its members being referred to as ligister or “league-ists”.

King Gustav II Adolf eventually beat the Catholic League in 1631 at the Battle of Breitenfeld, ultimately leading to the formal dissolution of the league in 1635 in the Peace of Prague, which forbade alliances from forming within the Holy Roman Empire.

Although this may seem like ancient history, Swedes still don’t trust a liga – the word’s negative connotations have survived for almost 400 years.

Swedish vocabulary:

Jag är lite orolig för honom, han har börjat hänga med ett gäng ligister.

I’m a bit worried about him, he’s started hanging out with a group of thugs.

Manchester United har vunnit den engelska ligan flest gånger, men City är mästare just nu.

Manchester United have won the Premier League the most times, but City are the current champions.

De säger att det står en liga bakom det senaste inbrottsvågen.

They’re saying there’s a gang behind the recent spate of break-ins.

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 USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.