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Swedish word of the day: bärsärkagång

Today’s word is the battle style of a legendary Viking warrior.

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

Bärsärkagång originally meant ‘the walk of a berserker’ or in other words the violent rampage of a berserker during combat. Today it means ‘a violent rampage during a fit of rage’, but it is mostly used to describe a rowdy night on the town or even any loud and disorderly behaviour (not necessarily violent) by anyone at all.

Imagine, for instance, someone that barges into the office and starts moving around furniture without any concern for whoever is working there at the moment. You might accuse them of enacting a bärsärkagång. 

There is much myth surrounding the actual berserkers of the Viking age, and their origin is even older.

Rooted in the old Germanic mythology that predated the Vikings, the bärsärkare was a warrior devoted to Odin/Wotan, the king of gods. A warrior who, according to legend would attack the enemy during battles while roaring in a fit of ecstatic rage, and who was supposedly impervious to enemy attacks.

The interpretation of the Old Norse word berserkr is either ‘bear shirt’ or ‘bare of shirt’, that is, wearing no shirt. There are depictions of berserkers both naked and with bear pelts and chain mail. 

Whatever they actually wore in battle, they are often described as large men wearing a bear’s pelt or even as actual bears in some instances – berserkers were also thought to be shapeshifters. And then there were the ulfheðnar, the wolf’s coats, who, you guessed it, wore wolf pelts. 

The stories surrounding berserkers are many. It is said they induced their state with fly agaric mushrooms or alcohol, but the symptoms of frothing at the mouth, biting one’s shield, and flying into a fit or rage are more consistent with the use of henbane, another poisonous plant.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or even epilepsy and other mental illnesses have also been put forward as potential explanations for the legendary warlike state of the berserkers.

There are also many tales of them plaguing the population, but fortunately for those living in Scandinavia today these warriors are no longer around. Now we can have a laugh at what used to be something incredibly violent and bloody.

If you are ever out on the town with your friends and you have caused a bit of a mayhem, preferably without injuring anyone or destroying public or private property, but perhaps being rowdy and too loud, partaking of a bit too much of the sacrament – then you can say that you gick bärsärkagång (‘went berserking’) on the town.

Best of luck, and stay safe!

Example sentences:

Vi var ute på stan igår och gick bärsärkagång.

We had a hell of a night out on the town yesterday.

Visste du att bärsärkargång finns på engelska? Berserk.

Did you know that ‘bärsärkargång’ exists in English? Berserk. 

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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For members


​​Swedish word of the day: möte

The word of the day is perhaps Sweden’s second favourite pastime, after 'fika', and they often go hand in hand.

​​Swedish word of the day: möte

In 2017 Swedish television published an article with the headline, Möteskulturen frodas i Sverige, “The Meeting Culture is Thriving in Sweden”. For a non-Swede that might seem like an interesting and perhaps bizarre headline, but to the initiated it is all too familiar. 

A möte is simply a meeting, but for Swedes möten are something you do at every opportunity. Need to decide anything at all? Let’s have a möte. This can seem like an awful waste of time to a non-Swede, but Swedes are all about consensus. The idea is that after you have consensus you can move forward more efficiently. And Swedish society seems to do that really well. And it does not hurt that a möte is the perfect time for fika, or more precisely mötesfika.

As a bit of history, the English ‘meeting’ and Swedish möte are related, and they are also related to ‘moot’ as in ‘moot court’ or a ‘moot point’, “an issue that is subject to, or open for discussion or debate; originally, one to be definitively determined by an assembly of the people.” That assembly of people was originally an old Germanic type of town hall, a ting, where people met to discuss communal matters and settle disputes.

Today we can find the word ting in the names of the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, the Danish parliament, the Folketing, and the Norwegian parliament, the Storting. In Sweden you still find it in the name of the lower courts, Tingsrätten

The point is, there is a very old tradition of möten in Scandinavian culture. The Icelandic parliament, for instance, claims to be the oldest in the world. Whether the Icelanders can beat the Swedes at the time spent in möten at work is unsure, no statistics seem to be readily available for a comparison. 

Malin Åkerström, the researcher who was interviewed in the piece by Swedish television, claims that the public sector are the primary champions of möten, but it is also very common in the private sector. And möten are on the rise in many workplaces. 

Here it might help to know that in Sweden a möte can also be between you and just one other co-worker to discuss almost anything, so the term is quite broad. Then there are so called arbetsplatsträffar, more commonly referred to as APT, a type of longer, more serious möte that many workplaces hold regularly (there you can almost always count on fika). 

As you can see, Swedes love their möten – so why not find an excuse to stämma tid för ett möte with one of your Swedish friends or maybe a coworker? You might just make their day.

Example sentences:

Bettan, kan vi stämma tid för ett möte?

Bettan, can we decide on a time for a meeting?

Jag blir galen med alla dessa konstanta möten, va fan är det för fel på svenskar?

I’m going insane with all these constant meetings, what the hell is wrong with these Swedes?

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.