Swedish word of the day: förort

Alex Rodallec
Alex Rodallec - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: förort
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

The word of the day is a suburb with a twist. 


Förort used to be the equivalent of the English 'suburb'. It is made up of the two words för and ort, which mean ‘before’ and 'locality’ respectively. Ort shows up in other words like bruksort meaning a ‘mill town’ or a locality where some form of countryside industry was or is the main employer. But beyond being an area on the outskirts of a city, förort has other connotations.


Förort, you see, generally refers to housing projects that were built as part of the Million Programme in Sweden between 1965 and 1974, and that today are primarily inhabited by people of immigrant background, many of whom are low income earners or unemployed.

Förort can be said to have clear racial and social class connotations. When someone says they are “förort”, they might mean that they come from “the hood”, for those of you who are American English speakers, “a housing estate” in British English, or “la banlieue” for French speakers. The French word banlieue is actually closest to förort – not by etymology, but by its modern meaning. Banlieue also means a suburb filled with housing projects with a population primarily consisting of people with an immigrant background with low income jobs. 

Förort also, by extension, implies areas where there are problems with crime and gang violence. And since Swedish rap is seriously dominated by gangster rap, naturally the word förort appears in a ton of rap songs. You will see it either just as "förort", or as "orten" (‘the hood’), "min ort"(‘my hood’), but sometimes also as "trakten" (‘the area’), or 'programmen"/"programmet" (from the Million Programme). 


Try going on Youtube and search för "förort" and you will get most if not all of the connotations. 

It's important to know is that förort or orten can also be used as an adjective, which would be the equivalent of saying someone is ‘ghetto’ – so you can be very "förort" or "orten". 

If you want to use the word, you might ask, kommer du från förorten?, which is roughly the same as asking, 'are you from the hood?'. Just be mindful that some might take offence at the question, whereas others might be very proud of their origin.

This is mainly because förorten is somewhat stigmatised for being at the heart of an ongoing Swedish political debate about gun violence and gang crime, a topic many have strong feelings about.

To end on a positive note. If you are looking for hard-to-find international culinary items, förorten is usually the place to go.

Example sentences:

Visste du att en del inte vågar åka ut till förorten? Galet va?

Did you know that some people are afraid to go to the suburbs? Crazy huh?

Var är du uppvuxen? I förorten.

Where did you grow up? In the suburbs/hood.  

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 US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.


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