Exploring the Swedish Suffix -is Posted by Chelsea B on Sep 18, 2020 in Culture, Living in Sweden, Swedish Language, The Swedish blog team, Vocabulary
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 person → en 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!