Norwegian Language Blog

Norwegian Stress Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

Word stress is all about on which syllables to focus… But don’t get stressed about it! 🙂 (Photo courtesy of mitchell haindfield at Flickr, CC License.)

If you want to talk with the natives, you have to hit an uttale (pronunciation) that is not too far off. 🙂 Of course, having a bit of accent is okay, as long as people don’t need to guess whether you meant hat or head. Stress is one of those little details that do matter in this respect. (While alle [ALLeh] means ”everybody”, allé [aLEH] means ”avenue”…)

Most Norwegian words are stressed on the first syllable:

SOla, MAmma, MENNeske, Eventyr, NYDelig (the sun, Mom, human being, fairytale, gorgeous)

Of course, it’s hard to tell if one-syllable words are stressed on the first or last syllable:

IS, SNØ, FJELL (ice, snow, mountain) 😉

Small grammatical words that don’t really refer to anything in the outside world, often get no stress at all: Jeg liker å prate med Ola og Kari. (I like to talk with Ola and Kari.)

Then there is a number of prefixes that tend to lose their stress, including be-and for-. (Prefixes are ”semi-words” that are put in front of other words to change their meaning, like ”pre-” in prepaid.) As a result, the words they front end up getting stressed on the second syllable:

å beSØKe (to visit), beTALing (payment), å forSTÅ (to understand), forELDre (parents), forNUFTig (reasonable)

(Of course there are unntak, exceptions, like FORtau, pavement.)

Other prefixes keep their stress, while the words they’re attached to also retain a bit of theirs – it almost sounds like a double stress, even if the first syllable is the strongest:

MIS·TANke (suspicion), U·LYKKe (accident), UT·MERket (outstanding)

Yes, you maybe guessed it – when words are jammed together to create new words (compounding), the main stress usually lands on the first syllable, while the other original stresses remain as ”secondary stresses” (pronounced a bit more forcefully than entirely unstressed parts of the word):

RYDDedag, LASTebil, MENNeskerettigheter (cleaning day, truck, human rights)

Finally, many everyday words are stressed on the (second-)last syllable. That’s because they were originally taken from other languages. You just have to learn them by heart. 🙂

milJØ, sjåFØR, banAN, benSIN, staSJON, turIST, minerAL, geograFI, sjokoLAde, banDASJe famILie (evironment, driver, banana, petrol/gasoline, station, tourist, mineral, geography, chocolate, bandage, family)

Sometimes this special stress is marked by the letter é: idé, kafé (idea, café)

Fun fact: Some East Norwegians ”Norwegianize” foreign words by moving the stress to the first syllable. So, instead of banan [banAHN] and bensin [benSEEN] they say BANNan and BENNsin. 🙂

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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. Maggie:

    Thanks for clearing up why ide’ has an accent! I wondered! Takk!

  2. Jared Bernstein:

    Is there vowel reduction in unstressed final-syllable vowels as in Lille or Turkis?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Jared Bernstein @Jared When I studied Nordic languages, we were told that the final E of a Norwegian word like ”kjære” was a schwa (ə). So, yes, vowel reduction of final Es seems to occur. I don’t know a lot about it, though. To me the Norwegian final vowels sound a lot clearer than the final vowels of Danish (my childhood language). The Trøndelag dialects would interest you – they drop lots of final vowels entirely.