Swedish word of the day: dramaten

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: dramaten
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Those of you who have spent time in Stockholm may recognise this word as the name of Sweden's national theatre, but did you know it has another meaning?


The official name of Sweden's national theatre is Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern (Royal Dramatic Theatre), although you're more likely to hear Swedes use its colloquial name, Dramaten, when discussing it.

Dramaten comes from the Swedish word drama, which has the same meaning in English. This has its roots in Late Latin drāma, from Ancient Greek δρᾶμα (drâma, meaning “an act, a theatrical act, or a play”), from δράω (dráō, “to act, to take action, to achieve”).

It can be used in the sense of a theatrical drama, but also in the sense of a shocking event, for example: man anhållen efter knivdrama (man held after knife drama), or the Norrmalmtorgsdramat, a bank robbery which took place in 1973, where four employees were taken hostage for six days (as an aside, this particular drama gave rise to the term Stockholm syndrome, which you can read more about in this article).

Drama in Swedish is a neutral word, meaning that the indefinite article is ett. 'A drama' would be ett drama, and "the drama" would be dramat.Dramaten, however, adds a further -en ending on to dramat, meaning it technically translates as 'the the drama'.


There's another meaning for dramaten, and that's a wheelable shopping trolley made of fabric, popular in particular with older women.

They're also known as granny trolleys or granny carts in English, and indeed an alternative name in Swedish is kärringsläp. Kärring is a derogatory term for a woman, in particular an old woman, and a släp is a trailer (related to the English term schlep, to drag or lug something, which originally comes from Yiddish shlepn, “to drag”).

So, what do shopping trolleys popular with old ladies have to do with Sweden's Royal Dramatic Theatre? Nothing, really. But they're used to pull food. And how do you say "pull food" in Swedish? Dra mat.

Swedish vocabulary:

Hon är aktuell med en ny pjäs på Dramaten.

She's currently working on a new play at Dramaten.

Ska vi ta dramaten när vi handlar till kalaset? Det blir lite väl tungt att bära allt.

Should we take the trolley when we do the party shopping? It would be quite heavy for us to carry everything.

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