Swedish Language Blog

Into the Woods: Swedish Tree Vocabulary Posted by on Oct 22, 2021 in Culture, Science, Swedish Language, Traditions, Uncategorized, Vocabulary

Photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Trees deserve all the credit. They provide us with clean air, the material to wood to build and heat our homes, so why don’t we know their names? Seems like the least we could do. To keep the skog momentum going from last week’s mushrooming post, I thought we should spend some time catching up with the trees. As a language student, it may be easy for you to hop over technical vocabulary lists because you take one glance and think, “when will I really need to know the names of Swedish trees?” But imagine the moment when a seemingly simple Swedish fika conversation shifts focus to the type of wood used to build your coffee table, and all of the sudden, you’re stumped. (Ha!) This week, we’ll deepen our ordförråd (vocabularies) with common Swedish tree names, and cover some tree anatomy.

Bygg up ditt ordförråd / Build up your vocabulary

Engelsk bildordbok : svenska – engelska*

Whether it’s car parts, cooking ingredients, or in this case, trees, it’s always valuable to go on a vocabulary deep dive. I try to do this regularly to keep my language dynamic and fresh. My favorite resource is a bildordbok (picture dictionary) because as research shows, people have an easier time memorizing vocabulary when it’s tied to imagery. The specific one that I use is called Engelsk bildordbok – svenska/engelska, published in 2007* and consists of 576 pages of detailed illustrations of topics ranging from the djurriket (animal kingdom) to kärnvärme (thermal energy), to the features of a barockkyrka (Baroque church). It is DETAILED, and we’ll use it to guide us.

Ett träd, flera träd! One tree, several trees! 

The following vocabulary is featured from pages 68-71 of my bildordbok, starting with the Swedish noun for tree:

ett träd → trädet → träd → träden
a tree → the tree → trees → the trees

*OBS – don’t forget to include the d at the end of träd in your pronunciation. I hear a lot of beginners drop the d, and say trä, which means wood. Close, but not what you were going for!

Now, let’s meet two categories of trees, bärrträd (conifers) and bredbladiga (broad-leaved trees), also referred to as lövträd (deciduous) trees.

Umgås med bärrträd / Hang out with conifers

Ett bärrträd is a conifer. Let meet some common ones below:

en lärk → lärkar                               a larch/es, sometimes Tamarack
en cedar → cedrar                          a cedar/s
en gran → granar                            general word for fur tree, often used for types of spruce
en tall → tallar                                 a pine/s
amerikansk sekvoja → sekvojor    a redwood/s

Skaka med löven! / Shake with the leaves!

Okej, now for some träd with a different type of lövverk (foliage), the bredbladiga (broad-leaved):

en ek → ekar                 an oak/s
en björk → björkar       a birch/es
en bok    → bokar         a beech/es
en lönn  → lönnar         a maple/s
*bonus – lönnsirap is the word for maple syrup, mums!

en poppel → popplar     a poplar/s
en palm → palmar          a palm tree/s
en ask → askar                an ash/es
*ask is also the word for a small box or container, for example a box of matches – tändsticksask


Pages 68-69, Engelsk Bildordbok, QA*.

Ett träds uppbyggnad – The structure of a tree

Want even MORE detail? Super, you’ve come to the right part of this post! Let’s address the structure of a tree now, as it’s depicted on page 68 (see the imagery above):

en rot → rötter                  a root/s   
en stam → stamar             a trunk/s
*a person who is considered “a regular” at maybe a bar or a restaurant is called a stammis. Like a tree trunk, they are always found in the same place. Do they ever leave?

en krona → kronor            a crown/s
en gren → grenar              a branch/es
en kvist → kvistar              a twig/s

Which trees do you have where you live? And I’m always curious, do you have a favorite tree? I’ll post mine in the comments!

*Engelsk bildordbok – svenska/engelska, 3rd ed. Montreal: QA International, 2007.

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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.