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Swedish word of the day: kran

What big noses, drug dealers, taps and builders have in common.

Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Kran has at least 4 possible meanings in Swedish. The word itself originates from the Middle Low German kran, taken from krane which means “crane”, as in the bird. But in Swedish a kran is never a “crane”, that beautiful bird is called a trana in Swedish.

The first meaning of kran is the lifting device used by builders, dockworkers and others. This can also be called a lyftkran, literally a “lifting crane”. Famous Swedish examples of these are the iconic red cranes of Hisingen island in Gothenburg, left there as a reminder of the large shipyards that used to be one of the big industries of the city. 

The second meaning of kran is a “tap” or a “faucet”. You can also say vattenkran, but kran is usually enough. Kranar, that is the plural, can be used for more than water, as you well know, so vattenkran is not the only compound word with kran in it. And since Swedish is a language where you are free to create compound words without anyone batting an eyelid, here are a few possible ones: gaskran, soppkran, saftkran, and so on and so forth.

The third meaning of kran is “nose”. Not just any nose, this word is often used in reference to a particularly big nose. Nothing wrong with that. Famous Swedish examples include Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as actor Fares Fares. Do keep in mind that people can be sensitive around the subject of their abnormally large noses, so use kran with discretion, as it is most likely to be interpreted as offensive unless you are close friends with the person with the kran.

The fourth meaning of kran is “drug dealer”. It is a slang word, of course, kind of like “pusher” or “candy man”. The idea is more along the lines of “supplier”, and it is sometimes used to denote suppliers of other, not illicit, products, although we do recommend to instead use the word leverantör for that.

A bit of trivia: “geranium”, also called cranesbill, shares its etymological origin with “crane” in the greek word γέρανος (géranos) which means crane. The reason the plant is called this, as well as its English name “cranesbill” is due to the resemblance, in some of the species, between the fruit capsule and a crane’s head and bill.

Example sentences

Luktat dig till ett bra pris på den här kranen med din kran eller?

Smelled your way to a good offer on this crane with your snout, did you?”

Har du sett de vackra gamla kranarna i Göteborg?

Have you seen the beautiful old cranes in Gothenburg?

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: Sverigebilden

A word by the social media influencer of nations?

Swedish word of the day: Sverigebilden

Sverigebilden simply translates to the ’image of Sweden’. A bild is an ’image’ or a ’picture’, and Sverige, of course, is Sweden. 

But why does Sweden have a word for its image? You could just as well say bilden av Sverige, but Swedish as a language has a tendency to create new words in order to be specific, very much like its Germanic siblings and cousins. 

Sweden is also obsessed with its image, an image that is overwhelmingly positive. Articles with headlines like “Why Sweden beats other countries at just about everything” are not hard to find, and you will consistently find Sweden in the top of rankings related to all matter of positive measures for a country, many of which you will find in the above linked article. 

Beyond the current ranking of the country there is a persistent image of Sweden going back to the glory days of the Swedish Social Democratic wonder when Sweden was the envy of the world, and was often described as a welfare paradise.

But this image has not managed to persist purely on its own, like many might believe. The truth is that it has had some help along the way, primarily from an institute dedicated to cultivating the image or brand of Sweden. Meet Svenska Institutet, the Swedish Institute.

Svenska Institutet describes its work as informing about and analyzing the image of Sweden abroad, as well as facilitating international exchange and cooperation. This is all done with the goal of putting Sweden “on the map” and building good relations with individuals, organizations and other countries. The idea being that if these have a high confidence in Sweden then that increases trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchange, as well as helping with the recruitment of international talent to the many successful companies in the country..

As for their specific work with Sverigebilden, Svenska Institutet writes the following:

Vi analyserar Sverigebilden [We analyse the image of Sweden]

SI is the expert on how Sweden is perceived on various issues globally and continuously studies and analyzes the image of Sweden. We follow and measure the perception of Sweden in other countries and analyze how Sweden is relevant to international target groups. Through our own studies, external monitoring and analysis, the authority builds knowledge on specific issues and events that can affect the image of Sweden.”

Discuss Sverigebilden amongst yourselves. Has it changed over time? And if so, what has driven that change?

Also, if you have a project abroad that could somehow be a positive for Sverigebilden you should definitely get in touch with the Swedish Institute. Follow them on their socials for all the latest updates.

Example sentences

Vet ni vad ni gör med Sverigebilden?

Do you know what you’re doing with the image of Sweden?

Är Sverigebilden positiv? 

Is the image of Sweden good?