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Six useful Norwegian words and expressions which are hard to translate

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Six useful Norwegian words and expressions which are hard to translate
Utepils, a cherished Norwegian tradition, signifies the eagerly awaited first opportunity of the year to relish an outdoor beer in the spring sunshine. Photo by Giovanna Gomes on Unsplash

The Norwegian language is rich with unique expressions and terms that defy direct translation into English. Many of them are incredibly useful, despite not translating well.


Each language offers a captivating glimpse into a country's culture, values, and way of life – and Norwegian is no different.

Therefore, you shouldn't be surprised when you start encountering words and expressions that are somewhat challenging to translate into English (which is bound to happen soon after you move to the country).

READ MORE: Ten Norwegian words you need to learn to understand Norway

Investing some time into learning these phrases will allow you to gain insights into how Norwegians view the world, their relationships, and their interaction with the environment surrounding them.

So, whether you're a language enthusiast or just someone trying to make sense of what you need to do when your neighbourhood announces a dugnad for the weekend, join us as we explore some of our favourite uniquely Norwegian words and phrases.

Seeing someone for the first time after they invited you to their house party?

Phrase: Takk for sist

Literally translated, takk for sist means "thanks for last time". It's a phrase Norwegians use to thank someone the next time they meet them after they have hosted them or done something nice for them.

READ MORE: Norwegian expression of the day: Takk for sist

So, if a Norwegian friend invites you to a house party or a lovely get-together on Saturday, and you happen to meet them on Monday while you're shopping in the city centre, the polite way to start the conversation is to thank them for the effort they put into hosting and inviting you the last time you saw them, by saying takk for sist.


Enjoying yourself in front of a fireplace with a warm cup of cocoa?

Word: Koselig

At its core, the concept of koselig reflects an atmosphere or experience steeped in well-being and satisfaction. It's the warmth you feel in a candlelit room on a cold, snowy evening or the cheerful mood shared by friends in a cosy mountain cabin.

It's often used to describe life's small, simple pleasures – a hot cup of coffee on a brisk morning, a soft, hand-knitted sweater, or the gentle flicker of a fireplace in a quiet room.

And yes, it's similar to the Danish word hygge but has its own unique Norwegian context, as many Norwegians treat it as a part of their lifestyle and actively work on achieving the koselig state of mind.



The phrase gøy på landet encapsulates Norway's love for the countryside, representing both fun countryside activities and a deeper appreciation for the tranquility and beauty of rural life. Photo by Zach Betten on Unsplash

Aching to escape the city and have some outdoor fun?

Phrase: Gøy på landet

Literally translated, gøy på landet means to have "fun in the countryside". It refers to the nice time you have in rural, non-urban settings, and it captures a distinct aspect of Norway's deep-rooted connection with its countryside.

This phrase goes beyond the literal enjoyment of non-urban locations; it embodies an appreciation for the simplicity, beauty, and tranquillity found in the countryside – and it has been showcased and romanticised in Norwegian culture (multiple songs and TV shows) over the decades.

The Norwegian countryside offers many outdoor adventures, from hiking and skiing to fishing. However, this expression is about more than just the activities one can engage in in rural areas.

Gøy på landet also alludes to a more profound sense of contentment. It's about escaping the hustle and bustle of city life, finding peace in the quiet of a mountain cabin, or the joy of picking wild berries in the forest.

The phrase also touches on the social aspects of rural life in Norway, encompassing the community spirit in smaller villages and the traditions that bind these communities together.


The weather finally improves, spring arrives, and you want to grab a beer outdoors?

Word: Utepils

Ah, the Norwegian institution of utepils. Literally translated to "outdoor beer," it's usually used when the weather starts to warm up in the late spring or early summer, allowing people to sit outside and enjoy a beer in the sun.

READ MORE: Norwegian word of the day: Utepils

As the first rays of the spring sun warm the air, Norwegians flock to outdoor cafes and terraces, eager to soak up the sunshine and the lively atmosphere. Basking in the sun, people of all ages come together to enjoy their first outdoor beer of the year.

This moment is eagerly expected and is seen as a rite of passage into the warmer months.

After the first utepils of the season, many Norwegians will use every chance they get to enjoy an utepils in a beer garden or outdoor seating area of a bar, restaurant, or café.



Fjellvant is a term of high respect in Norway. Use it if you want to compliment someone's competence in navigating the nation's mountain terrain. Photo by Edoardo Bortoli on Unsplash

Impressed by the mountaineering skills displayed by your Norwegian friend?

Word: Fjellvant

If you're looking for a word to compliment someone who is very comfortable and skilled in navigating mountain terrain, look no further than fjellvant. By calling a person fjellvant, you'll display your admiration for the way they know their way around the mountains.

This word is not simply a description of someone familiar with mountains; it also conveys a profound sense of competence and comfort when navigating the often challenging and rugged highland terrain.

In a country where the mountains play such a central role in the national psyche and landscape, and people seem to want to head hiking as soon as their workday ends, being fjellvant is highly respected.


Community-building and volunteering

Word: Dugnad

The Norwegian concept of dugnad is a key part of the nation's social fabric, representing a tradition of communal cooperation and volunteerism deeply embedded in its culture.

This term refers to an organised effort where members of a community (often a neighbourhood, school, or club) come together voluntarily to achieve a common goal.

READ MORE: Norwegian expression of the day: Dugnad

Whether sprucing up a local neighbourhood, preparing for a community event, or even helping someone move house, dugnad is a powerful expression of solidarity and shared responsibility.

It goes beyond the mere act of volunteering; it is a societal norm and expectation that each individual contributes to the welfare of the community.

Dugnad fosters a sense of belonging, strengthens social ties, and builds a foundation of mutual support and cooperation - so take our advice, and join in if you're invited.


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