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Swedish Curse Words Posted by on Oct 23, 2010 in Culture, Grammar

I’m not going to teach you any Swedish curse words. Sorry. They are easy enough to find online anyway, and to be perfectly honest, cursing in Swedish is such a common thing that it doesn’t carry nearly the same gravitas as it does in the English language. Which is what is so fascinating to me.

Cursing in Swedish tends to have religious connotations. There are of course the biological words that help to spice up the language, but as a general rule, the big words all have religious connotations. The devil makes several appearances. Considering the secular beliefs of the country, it does make for an interesting linguistic dichotomy.

Of course, they are just words. So much so that everyone uses them. They’re used on TV; in music, in literature, by old ladies, young boys and everyone in between. Many of the words seem to be used as an amplifier, something to spice up the language. There are those words and phrases that are meant to insult, meant to be aggressive, they wouldn’t be curse words if you couldn’t find those.

Cursing is so common in Swedish, that even English curse words have made their way into the common vernacular. I remember how shocked I was to hear little kids throwing around English swear words that I wouldn’t have dared say at that age. I remember how I shocked I was the first time I heard English curse words used on TV in Sweden. After so many years in the US I had become conditioned to expect the beep. Or beeeeeep beeeeep beeeeeep depending on the string of words put together by the person in question.

What’s it like in your country? Are curse words still stigmatized so much that they get censored out of various medias? Or are they just words?

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


  1. Shazzer:

    Naturally I didn’t notice the liberal use of Swedish expletives until after I’d learned the language myself, but of course I understood the English ones when I heard them…and I was SHOCKED at how often I heard “the F word”. Not just from young kids but in professional settings, too. And usually in what I considered to be rather casual conversations…not some heated exchange or argument.

    I now realize (based at the way I can so easily toss around Swedish curses) that swear words do not carry the same weight or emotional impact for a non-native speaker of the language. Still, I have cautioned my Swedish friends working in international environments not to use the “the F word” when interacting with native English speaking colleagues, because they will not come off well.

  2. Randy:

    I am in the US — Chicago to be exact. I have never understood why using a swear word on TV or radio has been a big deal. In my opinion, people worry about their children learning a swear word… it is JUST a word and they are going to learn it sooner or later.

  3. david:

    I absolutely agree with Randy. And for me as European it is just irritating to hear all those beeps on TV if it isn’t dubbed but violence is shown uncensored.
    On the other hand it is just as irritating that some films seem to be made with the intention that each sentence has to contain the f-word.

  4. Nikki:

    I’m 23 and English and in my generation, swearing isn’t a huge deal. I swear far too much! Only one certain word is ever beeped out on the TV after the watershed which I love, I think it’s ridiculous that -words- can carry such conotations for some people.
    As you said, they are an amplifier and can really help to get your anger/frustration/love across!

  5. Peter:

    Hej, I am having problems using the verb “will” correctly. Have you some easy to understand rules on using “Kommer”, Kommer Att”, “Ska” and “Vilja”. Any help would be mycket uppskattat!

  6. Kathi Keefe:

    When I learned Swedish years ago I remember being reprimanded for using “djävel” in conversation with a younger sibling. How times change! And as an English speaker, swearing in Swedish just didn’t have the same effect/

  7. Marcus Cederström:

    good comments everyone, it is really interesting and I agree that it gets a bit out of hand sometimes with how much weight we give words.

    And Peter, those are some of the classic helper verbs. I’ll see what I can put together and try to get something posted in the next week or two.

  8. Shazzer:

    I have to respectfully disagree with the commenters who say things like “they’re just words, what’s the big deal?” Words are incredibly powerful and clearly carry different weight in different cultures. We can be dismissive of that, but it doesn’t change the fact.

    I do agree with David that there is a double-standard in the US, with language (and sexual content) censored on prime-time TV while all kinds of violence gets a free pass. And because the “F-word” is used so liberally in theatrical releases, it’s easy for foreign audiences to get the impression that everybody in the States talks that way. Let me assure you that they don’t, especially in business and other professional environments.

  9. Marcus Cederström:

    words are quite powerful, however, I think that the american view of curse words has given them way too much power.