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Swedish word of the day: svensexa

A few days ago we chose the Swedish word for a hen do as our word of the day. Today, it's the men's turn: here's the Swedish word for a stag do: the party held for a groom by his friends before the big day.

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

The word for a stag do in Swedish is svensexa, which has a similar etymology to the female equivalent, möhippa.

The first part of the word, sven, is a common male name which was used archaically to describe a young unmarried man or a bachelor. Nowadays, you are more likely to hear the word ungkarl to describe an unmarried man, seen in the term ungkarlslya (“bachelor pad”).

You may be thinking that the second half of the word, sexa, has something to do with sexual intercourse. However, the real meaning behind the word is much more innocent.

A sexa is a slightly outdated term for a party. A sexa was traditionally a light celebratory dinner which started at 6pm or klockan sex – hence the name. An event starting later than 6pm could confusingly be referred to as a nattsexa (“night sixer”).

One place – besides in the term svensexa – where the word sexa is still used is at Swedish universities, where it can mean an informal meal or a quick meal eaten by staff after event guests have gone home. Often, this kind of sexa takes place closer to 6am.

Unlike hen nights or möhippor, which started as a tradition in the Swedish farming community in the 1500s, svensexor are a more middle-class tradition which originated in cities in the 1600s. In svensexor during the 1800s, men dressed up in white tie – the most formal type of suit – and went out to bars and restaurants in order to consume a large amount of alcohol.

During the 1900s, middle-class women planning möhippor became jealous of the svensexa tradition, and began to incorporate some aspects of it into their hen party celebrations.

“At the beginning of the 1900s, women dressed up as men in black tie at möhippor,” Eva Knuts told newspaper Expressen. “They drank coffee, ate cake and maybe drank a glass of sherry.”

“It was highly-educated women and artists who thought it was unfair that the phenomenon was for men only. It was about getting dressed up and kidnapping the bride,” Knuts explained.

Around the 1960s and 70s, svensexor began to include party games for the groom: at King Carl XVI Gustaf’s svensexa in 1976, guests dressed up as vikings and competed against each other – although the party games at his stag do were relatively tame, according to Expressen.

Nowadays, men attending a stag do in Sweden are likely to “drink whiskey, play golf, and maybe go out in the evening,” wedding planner Katarina Krzyzinksa told Expressen. 

One thing has remained constant since the 1500s: both svensexor and möhippor are still a way for a bride or groom to celebrate their upcoming rituals and bid farewell to unmarried life alongside friends and family.

Swedish vocabulary:

Vi önskar oss en gemensam möhippa och svensexa.

We want a joint hen and stag do.

Min svensexa var fantastisk, vi åkte skidor i Italien.

My stag do was fantastic, we went skiing in Italy.

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 – 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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For members


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.