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Swedish word of the day: villhöver

You won't find today's word of the day in a Swedish dictionary, but that doesn't mean you won't come across it. It is a portmanteau word, meaning it is made up of two existing words blended together.

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

Villhöver is a word with two parts, vill and höver. Vill is the present form of the verb att vilja (“to want”). Höver isn’t a word in it’s own right, but here it comes from the verb att behöva (“to need”), the present form of which is behöver.

So, what does villhöver mean, then? As you may be able to figure out from the sentence above, villhöver is a slang term meaning “to want something so much that you feel like you need it”. It’s a relatively new word which appears to have come into use within the last ten years.

It is often used about something which you know you don’t really need, but you want anyway, such as a new item of clothing or a flashy gadget, and can be used in a tongue-in-cheek way to express the fact that you know, deep down, that the item in question is really an unnecessary luxury.

A rough English translation could be the phrase “it’s a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have”.

Example sentences:

“Jag villhöver den grillen till sommaren!” “Men vi köpte ju en i fjol…”

“I need that grill for the summer!” “But we just bought one last year…”

Apple är så bra på villhöva-produkter. Jag villhöver alltid den nya iPhone fast jag har ju redan en.

Apple are so good at “nice-to-have” products. I always want the new iPhone despite the fact I already have one.

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.