For members


​​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: nämndeman

If you are not a judge, but doing a judge’s job.

​​Swedish word of the day: nämndeman

A nämndeman is a layman who together with a professional judge passes judgements in court. The noun ​​nämnd is a committee of appointed people, a board, or a jury. The adjective nämnd, which means ‘named’ or ‘mentioned’, is also used in the sense of ‘appointed’. So a nämndeman is an ‘appointed man’. In English, you would call this person a ‘lay judge’.  

So, what is a lay judge? Sometimes called a lay assessor, a lay judge is a person assisting a judge in a trial. Not used in all legal jurisdictions, lay judges are appointed (and in the Swedish case politically appointed) and often require some legal instruction. The position is not permanent. 

In Sweden, nämndemän serve next to professional judges in district and appellate general and administrative courts, such as tingsrätt, hovrätt, förvaltningsrätt, kammarrätt, though not in the higher courts, such as Högsta domstolen and Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen. In district court trials lay judges always outnumber professional judges, a situation which is reversed in the appellate courts. 

It is the municipal assemblies that appoint lay judges to the district courts, whereas county councils appoint them to the appellate and county administrative courts. Nämndemän serve for four years, typically a bit more than a day a month. 

Would you like to become a nämndeman?

Then you should know that the position is open to all Swedish citizens over 18 and under 70 years of age, who are law-abiding, not in bankruptcy, and can pass a lämplighetsprövning – a test to see if you are suitable. There are also certain professions that are prohibited from serving, such as judges, court officers, prosecutors, police, attorneys, and other legal professionals.

People working at the following authorities are also prohibited from serving: Skatteverket, Försäkringskassan, Migrationsverket, Transportstyrelsen, and Länsstyrelsen.

An important takeaway here is that you need no legal training to become a nämndeman

You should also know that nämndemän are usually local politicians working at the assembly from which they were appointed, and they are appointed in proportion to political party representation at the last local elections. So if you want to serve you should approach your local party of choice. 

As many of you might imagine, this system of using non-professionals in the legal system is not without its controversies. 

In a famous example from 2018, The Local revealed that two lay judges at Solna District Court appointed by the Centre Party had swung a court ruling based on what party leader Annie Lööf described as “Islamist” values, and in doing so acquitted a man of an alleged assault against his wife. 

In the year that followed that scandal a member of Annie Lööf’s party motioned to abolish the system, a move many would support. But the system has a long tradition, the use of nämndemän in Sweden goes back about 800 years, and such traditions are not easily changed. 

Practice using nämndeman by asking your favourite Swedes what they know about the system and whether they think it is a good system. 

Here are some useful questions. Good luck!

Example sentences:

Bettan, vet du hur nämndemannasystemet fungerar?

Bettan, do you know how the nämndeman system works?

Tycker du att det är bra för rättvisan med nämndemän?

Do you think nämndemän are good for justice?.

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.