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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: möhippa

Today's word of the day is the Swedish word for a hen party, a party held for a bride-to-be by her friends shortly before her wedding. So, where does the word come from?

Swedish word of the day: möhippa
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Möhippa is made up of two words. The first is , which can be translated as “maid” or “maiden” (i.e. an unmarried woman), “damsel” or “virgin”.

A similar word to is jungfru, which translates literally to “young woman”. Both and jungfru are archaic nowadays, but can still be seen in words such as fästmö (“fiancée”, literally “attached-maiden”) and sjöjungfru (“mermaid”, literally “sea virgin”).

You may also spot the word jungfru in the supermarket: extra virgin olive oil is extra jungfruolivolja in Swedish. The Virgin Mary is also a jungfru – she is referred to as jungfru Maria.

Although the words have the same meaning, they can’t necessarily be used interchangeably. Swedes would be unlikely to understand who you were talking about if you referred to the little mermaid as a sjömö instead of a sjöjungfru, for example.

is also the word for a young woman or virgin in Danish and Norwegian, which fans of the Danish musician may already be aware of.

 

As for the second part of the word, hippa, this is an outdated term for a party often involving large amounts of alcohol. The etymology of hippa is slightly less clear, but it may come from the popular chant hipp hipp hurra! which is often shouted by guests at parties and other celebrations.

Historically, a möhippa was referred to as a mökväll (“maiden evening”). Möhippor have been celebrated in Sweden since as early as the 1500s, where they were held the night before the wedding. Originally, the bride-to-be was bathed and prepared for her wedding day by other young unmarried women from her village, where they could bid farewell to her unmarried life before she joined her husband’s family the next day.

Möhippor seem to have always been a relatively alcohol-heavy event, to the extent that the Swedish church once felt the need to step in and try to ban the practice.

“The church wanted to ban mökvällar,” Eva Knuts, doctor of ethnology at Gothenburg University told the Expressen newspaper.

According to Knuts, the wedding party often arrived at the church drunk and weren’t able to behave during the ceremony as they had been partying all night. “The wedding happened just after the party, so they weren’t very happy about it,” she said.

Nowadays, möhippor in Sweden are less likely to involve the bride’s friends giving them a bath, and more likely to involve them surprising her and whisking her away for party games – which do often still involve large amounts of alcohol. Luckily, they don’t usually take place the day before the wedding anymore either, so the bridal party usually have time to sleep off their hangovers before the big day arrives.

Example sentences:

Vi ska ordna en möhippa för vår kompis som ska gifte sig i maj!

We’re organising a hen party for our friend who is getting married in May!

Jag tror bara de ska ha ett litet bröllop så jag vet inte om hon förväntar sig en möhippa.

I think they’re having a small wedding so I don’t know if she is expecting a hen do.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it – or join The Local as a member and get your copy for free.

It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

You don't have to spend long in Sweden to hear the word skärgård, especially if you live in cities like Stockholm or Gothenburg where the population relocate to the nearby skärgård every summer. Where does the word come from?

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

Skärgård is, like many Swedish words, a compound word made up of the word skär, describing a small rocky outcrop and gård, which has a number of meanings such as “courtyard”, “farm” or “garden”.

Although skärgård is often translated to English as “archipelago” – a group of islands – the word officially refers to an archipelago made up primarily of small islands, close to the coast of a larger island or landmass, such as the rocky archipelagos near Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Other kinds of archipelago – such as those which are not close to other landmasses, or those made up of larger islands – can be referred to as an arkipelag or ögrupp. However, many Swedes will just use skärgård for any kind of archipelago.

Although the word skärgård doesn’t exist in English, a variant of skär has made its way into the language. The English term for this type of small rocky outcrop is “skerry”.

Skerry has an interesting etymology in English – it comes from the Old Norse term sker, which refers to a rock in the sea. This is related to the Swedish word skära, meaning “cut” – a skerry is a rock cut off from land.

Sker came into English via Scots, where it is spelled skerry or skerrie. Other languages also have this word, such as Norwegian skjær/skjer, Estonian skäär, Finnish kari and Russian шхеры (shkhery). It can also be found in Scottish Gaelic sgeir, Irish sceir and Welsh sgeri.

This also reflects the geographic area where skerries are found – there are skerries or skärgårdar along the northernmost part of the Swedish west coast near Bohuslän and Gothenburg, as well as on the east coast near Stockholm. The Norwegian coast also has a large number of skerries, and Skärgårdshavet or “the Archipelago Sea” lies off the southwestern coast of Finland.

In Russia, the Minina Skerries (Shkhery Minina) are one example of a skärgård, and in Scotland, Skerryvore and Dubh Artach in the Hebrides are also made up of skerries. Northern Ireland is home to The Skerries, off the Antrim coast, and Skerries is also the name of a coastal area of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland.

You may be wondering if the surname of the famous Swedish Skarsgård family of actors – Stellan, Gustaf, Bill, Valter and Alexander Skarsgård, among others – comes from the word skärgård. Although the spelling is similar, this name actually comes from the town of Skärlöv on the island of Öland, and means “Skar’s farm” (Skares gård, in Swedish).

Example sentences

Jag ser redan fram emot sommarsemestern – vi har hyrt en stuga ute i Stockholms skärgård.

I’m already looking forwards to summer – we’ve rented a cottage out in the Stockholm archipelago.

Sverige har många skärgårdar, fast Skärgårdshavet vid Finlands västkust är störst i världen med över 50 000 öar och skär.

Sweden has a lot of archipelagos, but the Archipelago Sea off Finland’s west coast is the biggest in the world has over 50,000 islands and skerries.

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 USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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