Norwegian Language Blog

Cognates Posted by on May 22, 2009 in Language

This post is a long time coming.  As you have likely noticed by now if you’ve had any experience with Norwegian, there are many cognates between the Norwegian and the English languages.  Several reasons account for this, such as the fact that Norwegian is a Germanic language and Norweigan grammar is probably the simplest grammar one can find in European languages.

When I began to think about just how many cognates there are, my mind happened to focus on the natural world.  I was on a bike ride in the country, riding alongside fields and trees, so I suppose that makes sense.  There are typically a few different ways beginning Norwegian learners can identify cogantes: either the words look similar, sound similar, the context gives a clue, or any combination thereof.  For many cognates, just one letter is different.  Maybe it is the first, the last, or one in the middle.  As Norwegian has several foreign characters that do not exist in the English language, sometimes this makes it less obvious that a word is a cognate.  Keep in mind that æ, ø, and å are all vowels.  The letter ‘y’ in Norwegian is also considered to be a vowel, so remember that too.  Knowing these things makes it easier to identify cognates.  So let’s look at some…

tre…..tree (a letter difference).  Tre is pronounced “tray” more or less, with the flipped ‘r’

busk…bush (a letter difference).  Busk is pronounced kind of like “boosk” but to get the ‘u’ sound, you have to make your mouth into a circle shape and say ‘u’

gress…grass (one letter difference).  Gress is pronounced “gress” just like it appears, but flip that ‘r’

hund…dog (think hound) is pronounced like it looks, but keep that ‘u’ trick in mind.

katt…cat (ok, a couple letters off) is pronounced like the English word “cot” but make sure the vowel is really short

mus…mouse (couple letters off) is pronounced as it looks, keep the ‘u’ trick in mind and it’s a long ‘u’

regn…rain (looks similar and sounds even more similar) is pronounced like the “Rhine” river

snø…snow (couple letter different) pronounced “snuh”

vinter…winter (one letter difference) pronounced exactly as in looks, with a flipped ‘r’

sommer…summer (one letter difference) pronounced sew-m (as in to sew a button on) mer with a flipped ‘r’

Were any of the above words difficult to identify?

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Sarah K:

    This is one of my favorite easy-to-remember Norweigan words… pronunciation is different (I think!) but the word itself reminds me of its English counterpart:

    I’m also fond of the word “sneglehus”, which is also easy to remember! 🙂

  2. Kari:

    Yes, “snegle” and “sneglehus” are really funny words, aren’t they? I’ve always liked “smakebit,” which means “a taste of.” And it always makes me think of “matbutikk”-grocery store because it’s kind of the opposite in terms of sound.

  3. Gareth:

    Got to love øyeblikk : )

  4. Matthew Toledo:

    dyp snø = Deep Snow