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Tricky Swedish idioms Posted by on Oct 5, 2012 in Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Idioms are probably one of the most difficult areas in learning a language, partly because most of these idiomatic expressions are not written down making them hard to find. But generally most people just expect speakers of the language to know them, and these are of course a huge reflection of a society and cultures development over a long period of time meaning that the logic behind the expression might be basically non-existent for somebody who hasn’t been taught them from a young age.


However, this blog post is a crash course on the most common ones, to take your language to a completely different level!

We’ll start off with some easy ones about animals, used almost all the time.

          Svenska English translation Use of animal in English Swedish version
Listig/slug som en räv Sly as a fox
Stark som en björn/oxe Strong as an ox
Hungrig som en varg Eat like a horse
Arg som ett bi Angry as a bull Busy as a bee Flitig som en myra
Klok som en uggla Wise as an owl
Envis som en åsna Stubborn as a mule
Fri som en fågel Free as a bird Eat like a bird *means: eat smallportions
Minne som en guldfisk Memory like a gold fish
Rädd som en hare Scared like hell Breed like rabbits *means: to have a lotof children
Kvick/snabb som en vessla Quick as a flash
Tyst som en mus Quite as a mouse
Vig/smidig som en katt Agile as a monkey Grin like a Cheshire cat


Just so you follow the organization of the table above I’ll explain why I have written things the way I did. Either you remember an idiom by the characteristic it is describing or the for example the animal used to describe. But if the animal is used to describe something different in Swedish than in your own language you’re in trouble right!?


Then there are a couple of others, very commonly used idioms in everyday life. Some are similar and others are quite different. Once you have heard them you’ll start hearing them all over the place, in films, books or conversations. Please share ones from you own language too!


English translation

Ful som stryk Ugly as hell
Gammal som gatan Old as the hills
Klart som korvspad Clear as a bell
Lika som bär As like as two peas
Sova som en stock Sleep like a log
Bakom flötet Not the brightest light in the harbor
Det gick som smort Work like a charm
Dick gick åt skogen Go haywire
Dra mig baklänges Blow me down


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  1. Gabriella:


    ….here’s a funny site, though maybe some of the idioms are older and less useful, still very colorful and make me laugh out loud.