Danish Language Blog

Greetings! Posted by on Nov 16, 2011 in Vocabulary

Pronounced almost like its American equivalent ’hi’, hej is the universal greeting in Denmark, used between young and old, men and women. It is quite informal, though, so using it to greet the Queen probably wouldn’t be a good idea! It is often combined with little tail phrases, as in

Hej, hvordan går det? ’Hi, how are you?’

Hej hej
This is a rare example of doubling in Danish. Say hej twice, and all of a sudden it means ’good-bye’! Sometimes, a single hej can also be used to take one’s leave of someone – like at the end of a telephone conversation. Be careful with your hej!

Stressed on the last syllable, hallo is hej’s retro cousin. It’s the thing to say when the phone line gets blurred – hallo? hallo? – but on the street you should use it sparingly, unless you want to give the impression you just arrived from the 1950’s. Hallo, De der!, which can be heard in older films, is a bit like ’Excuse me, Sir! (What are you doing with my briefcase?)’

Now we’re getting funky, this is the way to caption the attention of ’em kids in da street! While originally a loan from English, this small word has begun a life of its own in Denmark. The now-dead reggae star Natasja used it to make the whole country listen to hear 2007 hit ”Gi’ mig Danmark tilbage” (’Give Denmark back to me’):

Hey, Danmark! Hvad sker der for dig! ’Hey Denmark, what’s happening to you?’

Then there’s the whole range of good+’some time of the day’-greetings. Unlike English, they’re mostly written as single words in Danish:

Godmorgen! ’Good morning’
When you greet someone early in the morning.

Goddag! ’Good day’
This one covers the whole day, and doesn’t really exist in English. My dictionary translates it as both ’good morning’ and ’good afternoon’.

Godaften! ’Good evening’
When you greet someone in the evening.

Godnat! ’Good night’
If you encounter a friend during a nightly stroll, you should probably go for a godaften (or keep it at a nod). Like in English, godnat carries the implication that you’re on your way to bed…

Farvel! ’Farewell!’
When hej or hej hej feels too informal, this is the one to use. In the modern spoken language, this word for ’good-bye’ is strangely pronounced as ’forvel’. It is commonly used in combinations like

Farvel, vi ses! ’Bye, see you later!’

The video for Natasja’s ”Gi’ mig Danmark tilbage”.

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


  1. Ahmad:

    Hello sir, nice to learn Danish. I hope I can practice it soon.Thank you.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Ahmad Tak! 🙂

      Good luck with your studies!

  2. miannaseem:

    dear sir iwant to learn free danish language level 1to 3 plz duide me,miannaseem_adv@yahoo.com

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @miannaseem Hello, have you tried Transparent’s courses? Take a look at transparent.com/lear-danish
      If you’re in Denmark, you should contact Lær Dansk (www.laerdansk.dk).‎
      Good luck!