15 Norwegian words we've learned during the coronavirus outbreak

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15 Norwegian words we've learned during the coronavirus outbreak
A sign at a kindergarten in Norway asking people to keep 1m distance from each other. Photo: Pierre-Henry Deshayes/AFP

For beginners in Norwegian, the coronavirus crisis has been a crash-course in bureaucratic and scientific language as well as jokey new phrases. Here are some words we've picked up.



Over the past two months, Norwegian learners have been bombarded with a near endless variety compound words involving the word smitte, meaning infection. 
There's been smittespredning (the spread of infection), and smitteopsporing (contact tracing), smitterate (the reproduction rate), smittetallet (the total number of recorded cases), smittekurve (the curve of the pandemic), and smitteverntiltak (measures to protect against infection). 
As the Norwegian learners among you will already have realised, compound words like this are extremely common in Danish, particularly for scientific terms where some other languages would use a Latin term. 
Karanene, which fairly obviously means ‘quarantine', is what Norway has imposed on almost everyone arriving from overseas. 
But it's also been used in compound words, like søringkarantene, or 'southerner quarantine', which is what several municipalities in northern Norway have tried to impose on people from Oslo and its surroundings, reflecting a broader suspicion of 'søringer' or 'southerners'. 
You can also see it in compound word like karantenetider, or quarantine times, and karantenekonsert, a quarantine concert normally played online or over Facebook. 


‘Nedlukning' reverses the English lockdown, and means literally 'downlocking'. It perhaps hasn't been as omnipresent in Norwegian as its English counterpart has been, but it remains a word you will probably never forget. 
In daily reports, the Norwegian Institute of Public health continually refers to the number of patients innlagt, meaning 'admitted' to hospital. You might also read inneliggende patient, 'patients admitted', or sykehusinnleggelser, 'hospital admissions'. 
When Norway announced its first lockdown measures, Norwegians stocked up on extra toilet paper, crispbread, flour and yeast. It was, of course, nothing on the scale of what was seen in countries like the UK (This is Norway, after all). But for language lovers, it was an introduction to the wonderful verb at hamstre
Literally this means 'to hamster', or to stockpile food in a way similar to that with which a hamster crams its cheeks with seeds. The word is also common in the form of a gerund or verbal noun, hamstring, meaning 'stockpiling', or 'hoarding'. 
If you go to the supermarket, want to order in a restaurant, or even when out hiking, you often end up in a queue, so much so in fact that Norwegians have coined a new compound word, koronakø, to describe it. 
Koronakø is far from the only Korona compound word out there. There's koronakroppen, the flabby body you get after being stuck inside for four weeks. There's koronafrisyre, the way your hair looks after a few weeks without a visit to the salon. 
And of course there's Koronapandemien, the coronavirus pandemic. 


If you tap dugnad into Google Translate, it suggests ‘voluntary work', but as Ingri Bergo explains in our expression of the day slot, this translation, while certainly is not incorrect, does not quite grasp the essence of this - admittedly very Norwegian - concept. 
Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg has tapped this concept denoting group effort in almost every one of her speeches during the pandemic. 
You will also see the compound words koronadugnad, 'collective effort against coronavirus' and Nasjonal dugnadsånd, the 'national spirit of collective voluntary effort'. 
A bureaucratic word meaning 'measures'. This word has been used all the time over the past month to describe the various restrictions put in place to fight the coronavirus. 
Risiko, meaning ‘risk’, 'hazard’ or ‘peril’, has come up frequently in discussions of reopening. It has also been used in compound words like risikogrupper, ‘risk groups’, risiko-pasienter, 'patients at risk', and risikovurdering, 'risk assessment'. 
Undertrykkingsmodellen, literally the under-pushing-model, is the phrase used to describe the strategy Norway's government has adopted to cope with the pandemic. The strategy, also known as the slå-ned-strategien, 'knock-down strategy', aims to institute a hard lockdown and so suppress transmission of the virus almost completely. 
Bremsemodellen or 'the brake strategy', is the approach that has been largely adopted across the border in Sweden, where the aim is more to reduce the number of coronavirus cases to a level where hospitals can handle patient numbers, but still allow it to spread through society so that people become immune. 
Balkongklapping, means literally 'balcony clapping'In the early stages of the lockdown, Norwegians came out simultaneously onto their balconies to applaud the health services and others battling to bring the pandemic under control. It was also a way to keep up the national spirit. 
Norway's version of the virtual drinks parties held uncomfortably over Zoom or Google Hangouts worldwide. Vinchat, means literally 'wine chat', and basically describes a combination of alcohol and video chat. 
Following on from last year's big word flygskam, flight shame, coronavirus came with hytteskam, the shame felt by those who left Norway's big cities for their country cabins despite government advice not to, and then had to return with their tails between their legs when the advice turned into a hard ban. 
Brakkesyke, a compound word combining the world Brakke, meaning 'barracks', and syke, meaning 'sick', is Norway's answer to 'cabin fever', the feeling you get when you've been shut up in the same place for too long. Perhaps Norwegians love their cabins too much to call it hyttesyke. 


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