Swedish, or Svenska, is spoken by about 10 million people. The large majority of them live in Sweden, with the rest living in Finland, Norway, and Estonia. Swedish is the official language of Sweden and one of the official languages of Finland, along with Finnish. It is a Germanic language like Icelandic, Norwegian, and Danish. The Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian languages all came from Old Norse about 1,000 years ago, with some Low German thrown in.
Swedish vocabulary is mostly Germanic, with words like “gas” for goose and “kung” for king. As in German, new Swedish words are formed by putting words together, so it is very flexible. New verbs can be created by simply adding an “a” to an existing verb, like adding an “a” to disk (dish). It becomes “diska,” which means “doing the dishes.”
Like English, it is hard to figure out and count up all the different words used in the Swedish language. However, according to the SAOB, a dictionary published by the Swedish Academy, there are over 70,000 Swedish words. This figure does not include personal names, expressions, and trade terms.
Swedish had an influx of French words in the 18th century. Examples are “niva” for level and “paraply” for umbrella. Conversely, the English language has adopted many Swedish words over the years too, like:
- Gauntlet - Glove
- Moped - Small motorcycle
- Ombudsman - Intermediary
- Smorgasbord - Buffet
- Tungsten - Metal
Want to learn a few common words in Svenska? These Swedish words might be helpful if you go traveling abroad in Sweden.
- Ja - Yes
- Nej - No
- Bra - good
- God - Good
- Hej - Hello
- Morgan - Morning
- Natt - Night
- Snalla - Please
- Hej da - Goodbye
- Snalla du - Please
- Taget - Train
- Bussen - Bus
- Sparvagn - Tram
- Tagstationen - Train station
- Mitt hotell - My hotel
- Polisstation - Police station
- Toalett - Restrooms
- Herrar - Men
- Damer - Women
- Oppen - Open
- Stangd - Closed
- Skal - Cheers
New language speakers and travelers alike will find these Swedish phrases a must-have.
- Jag forstar inte - I don’t understand
- Tack - Thank you
- Vad heter du? - What is your name?
- Jag heter - My name is ...
- Det ar bra - That’s fine
- Ursakta - Excuse me
- Varsagod - You’re welcome
- Hur ar det? - How are you?
- Trevligt att traffas - Pleased to meet you
- Talar du svenska? - Do you speak Swedish?
- Jag alskar dig - I love you
- Goddag - Good day
- God morgen - Good morning
- God natt - Good night
- Jag ar ledsen - I’m sorry
- Pratar du engelska - Do you speak English?
- Hur mycket kostar…? - How much is …?
- Skulle jag kunna fa…? - May I please have…?
- Var finns…? - Where is the …?
- Lediga rum? - Rooms available?
- Nar gar neste buss? - When is the next bus departure?
- Nar oppnar de? - When do they open?
- Nar stanger de? - When do they close?
- Vad ar klockan? - What time is it?
- Hur mycket kostar den - How much is it?
- Det smakade utmarkt - It’s delicious
Just like English, Swedish has slang that might be downright funny to foreigners.
- Hon var som katten kring het got - She walks like the cat around the hot porridge (beating around the bush)
- Tagga ned - Tag down (chill)
- Rund under fotterna - To be around under his feet (drunk or wasted)
- Ge tillbaka for gammal ost - Gives back for old cheese (seeks revenge)
- Klart som korvspad - Clear as sausage stock (no doubt or really obvious)
Interested in some quick facts about Sweden? Here are a few fun things to know about the Scandinavian country in northern Europe.
- It is bordered by Finland and Norway. Sweden is a short distance by sea from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Denmark, Germany, and Russia.
- Stockholm is the largest city and capital of Sweden.
- Bodies of water that border Sweden are the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia.
- The Scandinavian mountain chain, Skanderna, makes up the border between Norway and Sweden.
- During the 17th and 18th centuries, Sweden was a strong nation and one of the great powers of Europe. The last war Sweden participated in was in 1814. Sweden has been peaceful since that time.
- Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and is governed by a parliamentary system.
- The climate is not as cold as you might think, being that part of Sweden is north of the Arctic Circle. The Gulf Stream keeps the climate temperate and the winters warmer and drier than many other countries of the same latitude.
- Because Sweden is so far north, daylight in Stockholm ranges from as little as six hours in late December to more than 18 hours in late June.
- Northern Sweden has colder temperatures and snowier winters than the rest of the country, with some parts of Sweden rarely receiving snow.