Origin words are a lot of fun! We’ve talked about words from Yiddish, Latin, French, German, and Spanish here on the Bespeaking blog. Now is a good time to write about words that come from Scandinavia, or Scandinavian loanwords.

Scandinavia didn’t just give us the Vikings. It gave us all sorts of (many different) common words, as well! Here are just a few:


  • From the word: kugge (Swedish)

Have you ever looked at a clock or wristwatch where you could see the gears (moving parts) inside? Those little toothed wheels are called cogs, and we get the word from Swedish.

Cogs don’t just have to be in watches. If you’re a hard worker at your company, you’re an important “cog in the machine! (part of the team)”


  • From the word: koselig (Norwegian)

It’s always nice to curl up by a fire with a good book when it’s rainy or cold outside. Why not wrap a blanket around yourself and get all cozy? We have Norwegian to thank for that word!

We’re sure that with how cold it can be in Norway, the Norwegians are very good at getting cozy. This is one of my favorite Scandinavian loanwords! Just thinking about getting cozy


  • From the word: hugga (Old Norse)

A good hug can do wonders (be magical, work really well) if you’re sad. Asking someone to embrace (hug) you when you’re feeling down, or getting a hug in celebration, is amazing. It shows that someone is there for you and supports you.

The next time someone gives you a hug, you have the Vikings to thank for the word!


  • From the words: lugga (Swedish) and lugge (Old Norse)

Many people don’t like helping friends move because they have to lug things up the stairs. To lug something is to carry something very heavy. You can lug groceries into the house or an old dresser (the place you put / hang your clothes) into a new apartment.

Maybe the Vikings used the word lug when carrying wood to build their ships?


  • From the word: nugga (Icelandic)

This is another great one of those Scandinavian loanwords that is good to have in your pocket. Have you ever had to give someone a little nudge? If you have to give a little push in the right direction (physically or not), you’re giving them a nudge.

Maybe a friend needs a new direction in their career? Or maybe your child is afraid of the dark, and you need to show them it’s ok. You can give them both a little nudge!


  • From the words: snöggur (Icelandic), snög (Old Danish), and snygg (Swedish)

When it’s snowing, are you as “snug as a bug in a rug” (Check out these English idioms, and these, too!)? In other words, are you extremely warm and comfortable? Much like cozy, it’s one of those Scandinavian loanwords we love! We think they have so many words like this because they’re very good at keeping warm when it’s cold.


  • From the words: sprygg (Swedish), sprækur (Icelandic), and sprækr (Old Norse)

Are you very lively? Are you constantly on the move and doing something new? Then you’re spry!

We’re sure you’d fit right in using this unique word (and all the other Scandinavian loanwords on our list). Why not plan your next outdoorsy vacation there?

Do you know any other Scandinavian loanwords? Share them with us in the comments below!

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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher,  yoga instructor, and can think of fewer nicer activities than curling up with a good book on a rainy day and being cozy!  

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