Health For Members

The vocabulary you need to understand the health system in Norway

Agnes Erickson
Agnes Erickson - [email protected]
The vocabulary you need to understand the health system in Norway
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash "

Norway's health system is an excellent one to be a part of, and foreigners should be aware of its full benefits whether they are in optimal shape or in need of help.


Navigating the health system in a new country can be intimidating, especially if it is administered in a different language.

READ ALSO: Do you really need to speak Norwegian to work in Norway?

Here are a few useful Norwegian vocabulary words to know when trying to get a grasp on Norway’s health system. 


Starting with one of the more general words. Helse, or health, is a word found in almost all news articles and descriptions pertaining to Norway’s health system. Helse is a prefix to many other important health related Norwegian words. Being able to understand Helse can also help you translate other compound words such as:

Helsesjekk - health check

Helsestasjon- health clinicAn institution where children aged 0-5 years are offered health consultations, vaccinations and doctors’ visits. 

Helsemessig - health-related


Due to the ongoing pandemic, smitte, meaning infection,is a word that has become increasingly popular in use. There are a number of compound words involving the word smitte that would be useful to know in these modern times. Such words include:


Smittetilfeller – (number of) cases of infection. 

Smitteverntiltak - measures taken to protect against infection spread.

Smitterate - reproduction rate, also known as R-number, a metric for the spread of a virus. If the reproduction rate or R-number is above 1.0, the number of infected in a society will grow because each infected person will pass on the virus to an average of more than one other person. If the R-number is slightly below 1.0, the number will decline. 


When you have been automatically enrolled into the Norwegian National Health Insurance Scheme, it is up to you to find your own GP, or fastlege. You can find a list of general practitioners at


This is a Norwegian word that should be learned as soon as you arrive in the country. Legevakt means emergency room, and knowing this could be vital if you ever need to communicate with others in a critical situation. 

And speaking of critical situations, some necessary emergency assistance numbers to memorise are:

110- For fires and major accidents.

113- For ambulance and medical emergencies. 

112- For police and rescue coordination centre. 


Perhaps just as important as legevakt is the word sykehus, meaning hospital. Another vital Norwegian word to know if a critical situation should ever arise.


Sykehus is a compound of two words, syke and hus. This can be directly translated to “sick house”.


Apotek means pharmacy. Apoteker (plural) in Norway normally sell over-the-counter medicines, first-aid and medical supplies, lotions and creams. You can find an apotek in all cities and larger towns. One of the leading pharmacy chains, Apotek 1, can also be identified by the plus sign, which is an international symbol for first aid. 

Norway has restrictive hours on many businesses and this includes apoteker. Finding an apotek with longer opening hours or Sunday opening times can be difficult. So plan accordingly if you need to pick up a prescription. 


Helseforsikring means health insurance. Norway offers public health insurance to those who either work or live here legally. You can also choose to purchase private helseforsikring, or check if it is offered through your company. When you visit your GP in Norway you will not be asked for your health insurance information but your personnummer.  This is the social security number you are given after being registered in the Norwegian Welfare System.  

READ ALSO: Seven things foreigners in Norway should know about the health system 


Risikomeans risk. The word is practical to know as it has also increased in usage during modern pandemic times. Understandingrisiko can help decipher other important health related words such as:

Risikogruppe - risk group. Those who are more likely to experience more severe symptoms of a sickness. 

Risikovurdering - risk assessment. Residents in Norway are currently being asked to do constant risikovurdering in matters concerning travel, transportation, and who we interact with. 



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also