Danish Language Blog

Head, knee, toe Posted by on Feb 28, 2019 in Vocabulary

(Pixabay License.)

Without a physical body, learning Danish would be kind of hard. Not only do we use our tongue and lips to pronounce words – we also use our lunger (lungs) to breathe while we speak, our ears to listen, our hands to explain stuff… Let’s look at kroppen (the body).

There’s a nice children’s song about the body that you might already know in English. The Danish version goes: Hoved, skulder, knæ og tå, knæ og tå. Hoved, skulder, knæ og tå. Øje, øre, næse og mund. Hoved, skulder, knæ og tå. (Head, shoulder, knee and toe… Eye, ear, nose and mouth…)

As you can see, Danish words for kropsdele (body parts) are very similar to the English ones. Quite a number of body words have special plurals:

fod – fødder (foot – feet)

tå – tæer (toe/s)

hånd – hænder (hand/s)

tand – tænder (tooth – teeth)

øje – øjne (eye/s)

A few don’t even change in the plural: ben, knæ, lår, hår, næsebor, øjenbryn, øjenlåg (leg/s, knee/s, thigh/s, hair/s, nostrils, eyebrow/s, eyelid/s).

On the back side we’ve got a ryg (back) and a numse (butt). On the front side we’ve got a hals (neck), a mave (belly), a navle (navel) and a bryst (chest or breast – the plural bryster is used as in English). Of course there are also other bits, which I’m sure you can find in a dictionary…

On the sides of the body we’ve got arme (arms) with albuer, håndled, fingre og negle (elbows, wrists, fingers and nails). In ansigtet (the face) we’ve got kinder, hage, læber, tunge, pande (cheeks, chin, lips, tongue, forehead) – eventually a skæg (beard). And all over the body we’ve got hud [hooth] (skin).

Well, I hope reading this didn’t give you rynker i panden (”wrinkles in the forehead”) – or that you now har ondt i hovedet (have pain in the head = have a headache). Stay healthy and happy language learning! 🙂

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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.