Swedish Language Blog

Exploring the Swedish Suffix -is Posted by on Sep 18, 2020 in Culture, Living in Sweden, Swedish Language, Vocabulary

A “loppis” in Göteborg. Photo: Faramarz Gosheh/imagebank.sweden.se

This week we’re going to take a look at the Swedish suffix -is. Originally, derived from Latin, Swedes use this ending to shorten nouns, transform verbs, and throw down some slang. This -is ending is everywhere, so let’s dig in!

Originally, Swedish adopted the -is ending from Latin. The Swedish word for “free” is gratis derived from the Latin gratia. In nouns, -is is used when a word has been adapted and shortened. For example, one of the Swedish words for friend is kompis and comes from the longer kompanjon. It is also used when shortening those pesky, long compound words in Swedish like these: 

ett daghem → ett dagis                  a daycare 

ett mellanmål → ett mellis            a snack 

en loppmarknad → ett loppis       a flea market or garage sale

ett fritidshem → fritids or fritis    youth center or after school program

And with professions like:

en vaktmästare → en vaktis         a custodian 

en skådespelare → en skådis        an actor

Other parts of speech have been transformed using -is as well. Some “slangy” adjectives that come to mind are populär → poppis for popular, and bakfull → bakis for hungover.

Derived from the verb gratulera, you congratulate someone by saying Grattis!

Instead of kompis, upgrade your friendship and become their bästis (best friend)! This noun is two words shortened: bästa and vän. Nouns based on adjectives are my favorite, here are some examples:

en känd personen kändis      a celebrity

en trött person → en tröttis        a tried person

en gullig sak → en gullis             a sweet person 

en feg person → en fegis             a cowardly person 

en god ting → ett godis               candy from the literal “a good thing”


Swedish nouns that end in –is follow this declination most often, but they are a couple of ett-words in there, too:  en potatis → potatisen → potatisar → potatisarna

The -is suffix is often used as a diminutive, when we’re simply trying to make words seem cuter, or sweeter. We definitely do this in English, too. Take dog and puppy for example – dog is the formal definition, and puppy is the cuter term! But sometimes the Swedish -is can be used in a condescending way, for example calling someone from the county en lantis “a little country bumpkin.”

We’re used to memorizing all of Swedish’s long, compound words. It seems like you could put nearly any nouns together and create a new word. But you can also do the same with shortening words and adding the -is. I challenge you to get creative and add your best -is word in the comments below!

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.


  1. Aaron B:

    Under min tid som utbytesstudent i Stockholm bodde jag i ett bostadsområde som heter Lappkärrsberget men oftast kallas för Lappis – en väldigt nyttig förkortning för alla de internationella studenterna som bor där!
    Tack för dina intressanta inlägg!