Norwegian word of the day: Mørketid

Frazer Norwell
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Norwegian word of the day: Mørketid
Today's Norwegian word of the day is all about the polar night.

Mørketid is a word associated with winter in northern Norway, and you'll also hear mørk feature heavily in the south during the colder months of the year.


What does mørketid mean? 

Mørk means "dark"; it's the opposite of lys (light/pale).

You can use mørk to describe a noun, whether a tangible object or something more abstract, for example, et mørkt rom (a dark room) or en mørk natt (a dark night).

Mørketid is a compound of the word "dark" with tid, which means time. Mørektid, means dark time. You can also call such a period mørketiden, meaning the dark time. 

Dark time doesn't refer to the dark ages. Instead, it refers to the phenomenon of the polar night. The polar night is when the sun sets and doesn't rise again for several weeks above the Arctic Circle. 

This occurs above the Arctic Circle as the earth spins on an axis, meaning that there are times of year when the sun doesn't rise and doesn't set. The further north you are, the more extreme these light and dark periods are. 

The opposite of the polar night is the midnight sun, which in Norwegian is called the midnattsol (literally midnight sun). 

The further north you are, the further below the earth's horizon the sun is. The further below the horizon the sun is, the darker it is. 

For most inhabited parts of northern Norway, some light is still visible from midday, and the landscape takes on a blue hue. However, on the Svalbard Archipelago, there is a period in December when the light generated is from the stars rather than the sun. 

During this period, you can expect it to be belgmørk, or pitch black. 


Why do I need to know this?

The mørk from mørktid, can be used to modify a colour adjective such as blå or grønn. In this instance, blue would become mørk blå (like dark blue). 

Like in English, mørk can also be used metaphorically to talk about something sinister. One example would be det mørke nettet (the dark web). 

Something can also paint a dark picture (det tegner et mørkt bilde). 

A good way for English speakers to remember this word is to consider the similarity to "murky", which means "obscured/difficult to see".

Both words have a shared origin, and until around 200-300 years ago, "murk" was used as an adjective in English, including by William Shakespeare.

Both words come from the Old Norse word myrkr (darkness), and if you look even further back in linguistic history, there was an even older Germanic word merkwjo. Several other Scandinavian languages have related words: mörk in Swedish and the Icelandic myrkur


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