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Curse words in Norwegian Posted by on Nov 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

Although I am fairly well versed in Norwegian banneord (curse words), I’m going to try my best not to share them all with you in this post, for I feel it may be inappropriate?   I’ll probably slip out a few though, so på forhånd (in advance), pardon my -ahem- norsk😉

Think about your own culture and what the origins of banneord are.  In the U.S., most are derived from excretory or sexual words, as well as religious terms.  We seem to create and use banneord based on what kinds of words are taboo in our language.  While religion is not necessarily taboo in Norwegian, it has lost much of its importance among a large portion of the population, and I think this must have something to do with the fact that a lot of Norwegian derive from religious words.


The devil, Jesus, and hell are the sources of many banneord.  Faen (pronounced fah-enn, connecting the two syllables quickly and emphasizing the first) is another word for the devil (or fanden in gammelnorsk-old Norwegian).  Djævelsk (pronounced dj-ave-elsk the ´j´ is like a ´y´ in English and ´ave´ like how you would say the abbreviation of avenue) which means devilish, is another word-in this case an adjective-that is used often to describe something negatively.  Like djævelsk, the words jævlig and jævla are adjectives as well that mean ´devilish.´ Satan (sah-tahn with the emphasis on the first syllable) means ´Satan´of course and is also used as a banneord.  You will often hear ´Reis til helvete´ or ´dra til helvete,´ which means ´go to hell.´  These are all very common Norwegian banneord derive from religious words, but have no religious meaning whatsoever.


There are, unsurprisingly many banneord på norsk that originate from sexual or excretory words, but I do not care to mention them in this post.  Simply google ´Norwegian curse words´or something of the like and you will surely find them.

What I have always found interesting about banneord in Norway is that is seems to be much more acceptable to use them in everyday conversation with people who I would never dare to use them in front of at home.  If I said what is kind of the English equivalent in front of certain people, I would get unhappy looks to say the least.  I mean elderly people, people in the workplace, a significant other´s family who you just met, etc.  Until recently, I was quite surprised by this seemingly appropriate use of banneord by most people.  I must say also that it seems much more acceptable to use banneord in northern Norway than it does elsewhere in the country, especially in the south.

Anyways, I recently came to understand that you can´t simply translate banneord from English to Norwegian or vice versa.  The Norwegian banneord that I have shared with you in this post would not carry the same weight if you said them in the US.  Would you agree that you wouldn´t flinch if someone said, ´that devillish woman!´ I know I wouldn´t.  To be sure, I might be a little confused about why the person used that term, but I wouldn´t the meaning wouldn´t quite get across.  So, I don´t think a lot of banneord in Norwegian are quite as harsh or carry the same strength that a lot of American banneord do.  I would be careful about using banneord that derive from sexual or excretory words though.  Those are rett og slett (plain and simple) inappropriate and most adults do not welcome those words.

Everyone needs a lesson in banneord when it comes to learning a foreign language;)

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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. PEter:

    What a cute article about my language!! FAENS SÆDTRYNE!

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