Danish Language Blog

Danish Is A Zoo! Posted by on Oct 19, 2016 in Vocabulary


(Photo courtesy of Neil McIntosh at Flickr, CC License.)

Isn’t it fun that @ is called elephant’s trunk A (snabel-a) in Danish? 🙂 While I’m sure that other languages use animal expressions too, I love the way dyr (animals) keep popping up in dansk:

  • If something costs en hund (a dog), you’ll have to betale (pay) et hundrede kroner (100 Kroner). Did you get the pun? 🙂
  • A tudse (toad), on the other hand, is slang for et tusinde kroner (1000 Kroner), as in Det kostede kun en tudse (It only cost 1000 Kroner).
  • Pay attention if your friend har en ræv bag øret (”has a fox behind the ear”). That means she’s probably up to some tricks… If she’s got en bjørn på (a bear on), however, she’s merely drunk.
  • If you want to help somebody install an app and end up making a mess of everything, you’re really doing them a bjørnetjeneste (bear service = ”disservice with good intentions”). Some old folks complain that some young folks have flip-flopped the word, making it mean ”friendly favour” instead. (But that’s still not ”official Danish”!)
  • When something spooky’s going on, you can say Der er ugler i mosen! (”There are owls in the bog!” When there were still packs of wolves roaming Denmark, I’ve heard, people used to say ”there are ulve…” – which makes a bit more sense!)
  • Do you like to make dog-ears in your bøger (books)? In Danish, for some reason, they’re called ”donkey-ears” (æselører).
  • Gåsevin (goose wine) is a fun way of saying vand (water). According to media, the Danish PM Lars Løkke would rather drink a fadbamse (draught [teddy] bear), which is slang for ”draught beer”.
A fadbamse and some food. (Photo courtesy of Benno Hansen at Flickr, CC License.)

A fadbamse and some food. (Photo courtesy of Benno Hansen at Flickr, CC License.)

My own favourite animal expression in Danish is hestens fødselsdag (the horse’s birthday). It’s sometimes used as a fun remark to someone who’s cut a slice of rugbrød (rye bread) so thick that only a horse can chew it! 🙂 Birthdays and rye bread and humour combined – can anything be more Danish?

Do you know some fun expressions involving animals, in Danish or your own language?

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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. Jens Søeborg:

    Fuglen er fløjet – the bird has flown – the criminal has disappeared
    Jeg hørte en fugl synge om – I heard a bird sing about – I heard the rumor
    Han har rotter på loftet – he has rats on the attic – he is crasy
    Der røg en rotte i fælden – A rat was trapped – We got a customer
    Han var hønefuld – he was chicken-drunk – he was totally drunk
    Fuld som en allike – Drunk like a Jackdaw – the same as above
    Pingvinerne danser på gulvet – Pinguins dancing on the floor – Here is very cold
    Her er hundekoldt – Here is dogs-cold – Here is very cold
    Han er stæreblind – he is starling-blind – he is totally blind
    Hun er en kropsdue – She is a body-pigeon – She is good looking but a bit chuppy
    Det var kattens! – That was the cats – I am really surprised
    En hønemor – a chickens mother – one who cares a lot and worry a bit for her children

  2. Tina Amalie Christoffersen:

    “Der er ingen ko på isen”…….. “There is no cow on the ice”………… Meaning: There is no danger. But also used when “This is no issue/problem to me”..

    “Klap lige hesten”.. “Clap the horse”…… Meaning: Take a break. But can also mean shut up.

    “Så er den ged barberet”.. “Now the goat is shaven”… Meaning: There is nothing more to discuss.

  3. Mars:

    If you have come far out in the country, you are “hvor kragerne vender” (where the crows return).

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Mars @Mars, Jens, Tina – Thank you for all the nice animal expressions! 🙂 Tak for alle de fine udtryk med dyr!