Sweden's official dictionary completed after 140 years

AFP/The Local
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Sweden's official dictionary completed after 140 years
Some of the Swedish dictionary's editors with a stack of all the books in the series. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The definitive record of the Swedish language has been completed after 140 years, with the dictionary's final volume sent to the printer's last week.


The Swedish Academy Dictionary (SAOB), the Swedish equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary and drawn up by the Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel Prize in Literature, counts 33,111 pages across 39 volumes.

"It was started in 1883 and now we're done. Over the years 137 full-time employees have worked on it," its editor, Christian Mattsson, told AFP.

Despite reaching the major milestone, their work is not completely done yet: the volumes A to R are now so old they need to be revised to include modern words.

"One such word is 'allergy' which came into the Swedish language around the 1920s but is not in the A volume because it was published in 1893," Mattsson said.

"Barbie doll", "app", and "computer" are among the 10,000 words that will be added to the dictionary over the next seven years.


The SAOB is a historical record of the Swedish language from 1521 to modern day. It is available online and there are only around 200 copies published, used mainly by researchers and linguists.

The Academy also publishes a regular dictionary of contemporary Swedish.

The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III to promote the country's language and literature, and work for the "purity, vigour and majesty" of the Swedish language.


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