Icelandic Language Blog

Expressing the Five Senses In Icelandic Posted by on Feb 28, 2018 in Icelandic grammar

In Icelandic, the “five senses” are called “skilningarvitin fimm,” which is, lovely enough, “the understanding/perception senses”.


The five senses are unchanged in Icelandic (although one might argue that the natives have a flair for seeing those pesky elves we talked about). They are:

  1. Sjónskyn – Sight
  2. Heyrnarskyn – Hearing, auditory
  3. Snertiskyn – Touch
  4. Efnaskyn – Sense of smell and the sense of taste (“the chemical senses”)
    1. Bragðskyn
    2. Lyktarskyn


With these sense you can:

Að sjá – to see

Að horfa á – to watch

að stara á – to stare at

að líta á – look at

að blikka – to blink

að líta einhvern (accusative) hornauga – look askance at something



Að heyra – to hear

að hlusta [á eitthvað (accusative)] – to listen [to somebody]

hár – loud

lágvær -soft

hljóð – NOUN – noise/sound and quiet – this is a peculiar word because it can mean either sound or quiet depending on the context.

hávaði – noise (noisiness)


Að snerta – to touch

This one is fairly straightforward, though often used with the preposition ‘á’. As you see below, one most often uses á when touching an object rather than a person. 

— að snerta á einhverju (dative) is to touch something.

–að snerta einhvern is to touch somebody)

að þreifa á e-u – to touch something

mjúkur – soft

hjúfur – rough


Að finna bragð af – to taste of something

This one is a bit strange because taste is expressed indirectly. So one doesn´t “taste” something so much as one finds/perceives a type of taste .

–Þeir finni beiskt og vont bragð af gúrkum

–Ég finn ekkert bragð af matnum.

Að bragðast – something tastes of (e.g., mjólkur bragðast súr – the milk tastes sour)

Súr – sour

Sætur – sweet

Beiskur- bitter

Saltur – salty

Hvernig smakkast þetta? – How does that taste?

Smakkar! – it´s good!


Að finna lykt af e-u, að þefa af e-u – to smell something

–Ég finn stanslaust lykt af salti! – I keep tasting salt!

–Hann finnur lykt af blóði – He tasted blood.

Einhverju (dative) lyktar vel/illa – something smells good-bad

— Blómið lyktar vel. – The flower smells good.

Lykt – F – smell

Ólykt – F – stench, odor

Angan – F – pleasant smell

Ilmur – M – aroma
–ilmvatn -N – perfume

Þefur – M – scent

Daunn – M – stench

Stækja – F – a powerful, unpleasant odor


Jacques Linard – The Five Senses and the Four Elements — Work in the public domain: PD-old-100



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About the Author: Meg

Hi, I'm Meg! I'm here to help you learn Icelandic, the language more than anything else in the world. I'm a former Fulbright scholar, with an MFA from Columbia, and I've published many translations into English from Icelandic and German. I currently study Icelandic, and translate poetry by trade. (If you have questions or comments on my entries, you can write them to me in the comments in either English, German, or Icelandic.)


  1. Linda Pastor:

    This is Great. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Armelle:

    Hi Meg,
    thank you for this very interesting post. Really good idea to look at words and expressions related to the five senses. Very useful.
    I enjoy reading your posts as they cover various aspect of the Icelandic language and culture and help in my learning process.
    I am looking forward to reading your future posts !

  3. Þórir Pétur Pétursson:

    One mistake I noticed: að hlusta á takes accusative, not dative (e.g. að hlusta á eitthvað, ég hlustaði á hann, etc.)

    Just letting you know. Have a nice day 😀