Norwegian word of the day: Inhabil

Frazer Norwell
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Norwegian word of the day: Inhabil
Caption photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash / Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

The latest Norwegian word of the day, inhabil, has recently been featured in the news and public discourse in Norway. 


What does inhabil mean? 

Inhabil draws its meaning from habil. The word can mean skilled, accomplished or competent. You could describe someone as saying han er en habil pianist (She is are a skilled pianist). Although this way of describing someone would come off more formal and technical than it would as a compliment. 

However, habil also has a second, more technical meaning. It refers to one’s decision-making ability. If someone can make a merit-based decision without personal interests, they are considered habil

This other meaning for the word habil, can best be translated to impartial. Inhabil, therefore, becomes the opposite of partial. 


Inhabil is the word used to describe when someone is partial towards someone or something else and thus cannot objectively make merit-based decisions. 

Several roles in Norway come with partiality responsibilities or rules. These are referred to as habilitetskrav. Judges, public officials and municipal and county officials are all required to act impartially. Habilitetskrav also applies to the business world in Norway. 

A person found to be inhabil means they have usually breached guidelines on impartiality in their industry. Typically, they are required to flag up their partiality and resign.  

In certain cases, conflict of interest can be used interchangeably with partial.

There are laws in place, such as through the Public Administration Act and the Courts Act, to ensure partiality in the areas of public life that require it most. 

The word has seen a recent surge in popularity. This is because there have been several high-profile cases involving Norwegian government ministers and breaches of ministerial guidelines. 

One cannot use inhabil to describe someone as unskilled in the same way as the example given with the piano. 

Han var inhabil fordi han ga styresverv til venner

He was partial/ not able to make that decision/ when he gave friends important board positions.

Jeg er inhabil, så det er ikke et beslutning jeg kan ta

I am partial, so that is not a decision I can make.


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