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​​Swedish word of the day: snut

Today’s Swedish word is for the official who sniffs out crime.

Composite image for Swedish word of the day 'snut'. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Perhaps the official with the greatest number of nicknames, the snut is seldom thought of in neutral terms, whether he is loved or hated. Snut is a Swedish slang term for ‘a police officer’. 

Snuten is the definite, as in den snuten, meaning ‘that cop’, but it is also used to denote ‘the cops’ in general, that is the plural, as in snuten kommer, meaning  ‘the cops are coming’.

So where does the word come from? 

Well, it has the same origin as the English word ‘snout’, ‘the nose and mouth that stick out from the face of some animals’, such as that of a pig, which some people use as a derogatory term for the police. It might be related to the idea that the cops lägger näsan i blöt ‘put their nose in the wet’, or in other words ‘stick their nose where it doesn’t belong’. Whatever the origin, not many Swedes today will know that snut comes from a word for ‘nose’ or ‘mouth’, and the reason for that is that no one uses it anymore in its original sense.

There are however a number of related terms that are used in relation to the nose and mouth. Att snyta sig is to ‘blow one’s nose’. The word snyting is an older word for a punch to the face. Snyte has the same meaning as ‘snout’, and is used for the snouts of animals, although the word generally used for the pig’s snyte is tryne

As for the different epithets used for the police, there is never a shortage of those. Many today originate in the neighbourhoods primarily inhabited by people of immigrant background, förorten, a word which we have previously covered.

Here are a few selections.

Aina, is from the Turkish aynasiz meaning ‘mirrorless’ which some say is meant to signal that the police have no shame, but more likely has the original meaning of ‘ugly’ since there is an antonym in aynali which means ‘mirrorfull’ or in other words ‘beautiful’.

Bengen/bängen, is most likely from the Romani word for ‘the devil’. Khanzir from the Arabic word for ‘pig’. Civare for plain clothes police, civilklädd polis.

Diskotaxi, literally ‘disco-taxi’ is a term for a police car, a reference to the flashing blue light. Farbror blå, means ‘uncle blue’. Gris, is Swedish for ‘pig’. And shorre/shorri, is from the Arabic word shurṭa, originally a police force established in the early days of the succession of Muslim empires commonly known as The Caliphate.

Snuten is not a neutral word, it can be considered offensive, so best not to use around the police – polisen is the correct term. In decades past you could still hear konstapeln a cognate of the English ‘constable’, but it is now to be considered all but archaic. There is no official title to address a police officer with, but a bit of politeness goes a long way.

Example sentences:

Visste du att Olle är snut?

Did you know Olle’s a cop?

Har du sett vad mycket snutar det är ute idag?

Have you seen the number of cops that are out today?

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.