Swedish Language Blog

Swedish swear words Posted by on Jan 27, 2012 in Culture, Living in Sweden, Swedish Language

The first words many foreigners learn in a new language are usually swear words. I don’t think this is uncommon for anybody, no matter where you come from or what language you want to learn.

The point of this post is not to encourage swearing but to explain the degree of different swear words in Swedish vs. English.

In Swedish there are four “real” swear words. Jävlar, Satan, Fan and Helvete. All of these are religiously related words. Jävel (Jävlar), Satan and Fan are all synonyms for the devil. Helvete is the Swedish word for hell. All these have become down-toned over the years but can still not be used by politicians in public for example.

“Jävla bords-jävel”

“Damn table devil” To be roughly translated. Probably something you might say when having trouble with a table.

Excrement bases words are also common. For example; skit (shit) can be used not only as a swear word but as an emphasis like “very”. Skit-snygg (very good looking) or skit-ful (very ugly).

Then there are sex based swear words, which are the foulest of the used swear words in Sweden. Very many foreigners learn and over-use these without really understanding to what extent they insult somebody. These and words relating to ethnic background.


In Sweden however, F*** You is not at all as severe as in other, English-speaking countries, and even the Swedish equivalents are used a lot among younger people. This can be quite a shock for especially English speakers, when they hear young people, even kids, using the phrase without concern.

There are therefor many other, much less offending, words that you can learn instead. Honestly, who doesn’t need a couple of words to express the pain after stubbing your toe or something like that?!

The milder and mostly harmless (even among the grandparents) swear words are:

Swedish word / English literal translation (or as close you can get, feel free to give better translations if you know of any)

Fanken – darn

Fasiken – darn

Järnspikars också – iron nails

Söte göte – dear göte

göta petter – göta petter (Just a name)

Jösses – dear me

jäklar – darn

förgrymmat också – damn it

förbaskat (också) – darn it

tusan – shoot

förbövelen (this is yet another religious word but not as severe) – literally it means executioner

Sjutton också – sjutton means seventeen but religiously the number meant more than it does today

järnvägar – railroads

attans – darn

attans bananer – darn bananas

sjutusan – seven thousand

det var som sjutton – that was like seventeen (this is a pure literal translation since there are no English equivalents)

fy katten – darn cat

nedrans – darn

rackarns – shoot

hujeda mig – dear me

fy bubblan – my gosh

milda matilda – gracious Mathilda

Bomber och granater – bombs and grenades

These milder words were thought of because the first syllable is the same as many other more harsh words, giving the impression you are going to say something vulgar but changing your mind at the last minute.
Good luck, and try to chose appropriate language when speaking in Sweden 😉
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  1. Jared:

    Hey so this website was really interesting but can you translate this… Livet är för att leva inte leva upp snäva? i put a englih phrase into google translator and just wanna see how close it actually translates. Any help would be appreciated!

  2. Jenna:

    Yep, we had quite the lively discussion about this last summer when I was in Sweden! We (a group of both Americans and Swedes)were talking about how disconcerting it was for us as Americans to hear a song using the word F*** while walking around in a local grocery store, and how shocking it was to hear 10 year olds using the same word. A 19 year old Swede had a hard time understanding the severity of that word to a native English speaker, until another Swede gave her the Swedish equivalent and she immediately blushed and understood! 🙂 I think it causes many misunderstandings. That particular word is extremely offensive to many native English speakers, but in a culture like Sweden it is tossed around casually in mainstream conversation, which is a receipe for trouble when the two begin conversing but aren’t on the same page. Easy to offend people without intending to do so!

  3. Jennifer:

    So Veronica Maggio’s “Satan i Gatan” would be considered offensive to some degree then?

    • Katja:

      @Jennifer I don’t think it would be by Swedes, but maybe some old grandparents might not be thrilled… many swear words have lost their impact even though 15-20 years ago people would have reacted. Well spotted though 😉

  4. Minty:

    I think that Josses more directly translates to Geez (derived from Jesus). I use this (geez) around my parents and grandparents and noone is ever offended though, so I think it has lost the religious feeling.

  5. MichiganLady:

    So the Swedish get some unintended mental imagery with Helvetica–Switzerland? Hm.

  6. Dave S:

    I’d be interested to hear more details about this usage of “sjutton” and “tusan”. I’ve often wondered about how these numbers could stand on their own as curses. This post’s brief mention that 17 used to have religious significance is more than I’ve found anywhere else, but it still doesn’t really explain it at all. What was that significance? And what’s up with 1000?

  7. Charles:

    I’ve found several explanations to “sjutton”.
    Two examples:

    Sjutton is derived from the Turkish word for the devil “satan”, pronounced “sjajtan”.

    The number sjutton (17) has a magical meaning i the Swedish folklore. (The most probable explanation to me)

  8. Anna H:

    Sjutton, sjutusan etc is an euphemistic abbreviation of “sjutusen/sjuttontusen djävlar” (seven thousand/seventeen thousand devils).

  9. Cecilia:

    And if you would like to know some more swear words there’s always Magnus&Brasses Svordomsvisa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUaap0fRzXs.

  10. dalignella:

    Very Usefull, Thanks

  11. Linn:

    According to Språknämnden regarding “sjutton” and “tusan”:

    “Vi ”svär” också med hjälp av andra siffror: sju (sjuhelvetes), arton i den äldre formen attan (det var väl attan, attans också), hundra (för hundra gubbar), tusen i den äldre formen tusan (det var väl tusan, tusan också) och i kombinationer: sjutusan, sjuhundrade m.m.
    Det är typiskt skandinaviskt att svära vid siffror.

    Bakgrunden är förstås att vissa tal är heliga eller magiska. När man ville undvika att använda riktiga svordomar (som oftast har att göra med djävulen och helvetet), så hittade man på lite mildare kraftuttryck. Och då kunde man ta till sådana här heliga eller magiska tal. Attan (18) ansågs ganska farligt för det var Odens tal. Då var det lite mindre farligt med sjutton. Och sjutton har vi därför att sju ingår i det, och siffran sju har sedan urgammal tid uppfattats som helig och magisk. Bland annat var de rörliga himlakroppar som babylonerna räknade med sju: solen, månen och de fem himlakropparna man kunde se med blotta ögat.”


    Also, I’d like to suggest the English phrase “I’ll be damned” as a translation of the Swedish “det var som sjutton” in the sense of someone being surprised to hear about something.

  12. Gaviota:

    Hej! I’m learning Swedish and this is a very good post! Tack!
    Having said that, I have to be honest. If you are a non-native speaker of whatever language, you will automatically switch back to your mother tongue when it comes to swearing, no matter how many years you’ve been living in another country (believe me, I know).

  13. tt:

    My favourite is Vad i hela helvete?

  14. Eirik:

    Angående det här med sjutton:
    This is probably a throwback to the old tradition of certain numbers having magical significance, but I’ve heard that the old stone gallows which were built in medieval Sweden (such as the one overlooking Visby) were constructed with an eye to certain numbers.
    The gallows in Visby consists of three stone pillars in a triangle, upon which they would place three wooden crossbeams, which criminals were hanged from. An old man in Gotland told me they would build these pillars 17 stones high, and so people in Visby would swear upon the “seventeen [stones of the gallows]”.
    Of course, that could very well just be local legend with no basis in fact.

  15. jacob:

    Hello, could you please tell me what he is saying as all I can hear is ‘fy fan’ . I’ve been trying to brush up my Swedish but this is difficult because he speaks so fast!I’m guessing he is basically swearing and being frustrated with all the good damn snow that he is sick of shuffling.If I could get Swedish version I would be very greatful.


    • Bleh:

      @jacob He’s basically cursing and swearing because there’s too much snow.

  16. Markey:

    Does anyone know who Pewdiepie is?

  17. Anyomous:

    but PewDiePie said forvobolen was damn it (in a very angry tone), not “executioner”

  18. Tali:

    Not sure about 17… but as much as I learn from Hebrew language (or from Christian-Jewish religion) there are seven circles of hell.
    “I as going through seven circle of hell” – will mean in Hebrew “worst time ever”) – maybe that is related?

  19. Vienn:

    What is meaning of javvlahadilevetteh ?

  20. huggable pony:

    Livet är för att leva inte leva upp snäva means Life is for living not living up tight

  21. Otto:

    What does “helvete vitae” mean?