Swedish Language Blog

What Does That Mean? Swedish Town Names Posted by on Feb 10, 2015 in Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Since you’ve all been browsing IKEA’s website to improve your Swedish, you may have noticed that a lot of Swedish cities, towns, and villages have similar endings. Those endings actually mean something though. Let’s take a look at ten different endings that you may find while shopping IKEA or driving through the Swedish countryside:

Borg means stronghold or even castle. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that these towns and cities were at one point home to some sort of borg. Göteborg and Helsingborg are probably the best-known cities with the –borg ending. Fun fact, Göteborg is the only city in Sweden with a special English-language name. You might know it better as Gothenburg.

By means village in Swedish (although it means city in Danish and Norwegian) and a lot of the places with the –by ending are just that—villages. Osby in Skåne, for example, has a population just north of 7,000. Of course, there are places like Visby on the island of Gotland. Once an important Hanseatic trading city, today it is the largest town on Gotland with a population of about 22,000.

You’ve heard of this one before, right? Stockholm. So what does –holm actually mean? Holme is the word for islet—a small island. Stockholm is built on a whole bunch of little islands, hence the holm at the end there

You’ll find plenty of places down in Skåne and Småland with the –hult ending. Hult actually means forest. Head to Älghult and hope that you see the moose in the forest that gives the community its name.

Jönköping, Linköping, Norrköping. These are all cities with populations hovering right around 100,000 people. They are also all cities that boast the –köping ending. You should recognize a word in there köpa, to buy. Köping means trading center or market town. Norrköping is a northern trading center or northern market town. Very creative.

Mora comes from the word mor, which is the word for mother. It is also the word for moor or a swampy spruce forest and that’s what towns like Dannemora and Hedemora are named after.

Näs looks like it might be referencing a nose. It might be. But näs is the word for isthmus or promontory. Bollnäs, for example, is a small community in Hälsingland that juts out into lake Varpen.

Sala comes from the word sal, which has (or had, at least) a couple of meanings. One was hall, as in a great hall, and the other was a small building with one room. Chances are that places like Uppsala are referencing the former, a place where a ceremonial hall may have stood.

Torp means croft. The word has undergone a few changes over the years, mostly in the size of the farm being described. Originally it described a small, independent farm, but eventually came to describe what we know as a croft—a small farm that is usually worked by a tenant. For example there’s Anderstorp, Perstorp, and Staffanstorp.

Today, this word means marsh or swamp. It’s also an old word for lake, though, and especially common up in northern Sweden where you’ll find places like Bastuträsk and Klöverträsk.

Have you seen any of these endings in places around Sweden? If not, have you noticed any other endings that pop up again and again? Let us know in the comments.

And if you want to learn more about place names, check out this wonderful post on Wikipedia (in Swedish) titled: Svenska ortnamnsefterled

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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. linus:

    You forgot the Word sele. As in Lycksele and Åsele. I don’t personaly know what means

  2. Helen:

    röd…….Löberöd, Askeröd, …any reason?

  3. Mohamed Anshur:

    I will like to learn swedish please help me

  4. Marcus Cederström:

    Linus, there are a lot of prefixes and suffixes that we left off, you’re right. Sel is the part of a river where the water is nearly still.

    Helen, röd in that case looks to be a form of röjd or röja, which is referencing cleared land.

    Mohamed, keep practicing and hopefully posts like these will be helpful to you!

  5. Dennis Martorana:

    Stad… for example Karlstad!!!
    Å… such as Luleå, Umeå, Skellefteå!!!! 🙂

    • Marcus Cederström:

      @Dennis Martorana “Stad” means “town” or “city” and “å” means “river”

  6. Robert:

    I once heard that the word ‘sele’ refers to a bend in a river where the water overflows annually. And when I looked on the map I saw that the towns with that ending were always by a bend in the river Smith.

    • Marcus Cederström:

      @Robert very cool!

  7. Koxxo:

    Tälje (Norrtälje, Södertälje)? Thanks for this blog 🙂

    • Marcus Cederström:

      @Koxxo Tälje is a little tricky, but it probably refers to a peninsula or isthmus, or possibly an area next to a crevice of sorts.

  8. Sue T.:

    Another one: -fors, as in Bäckefors, Bengtsfors, Billingsfors, Gustavsfors, etc. (all of those towns are in the province of Dalsland, but there are other -fors places elsewhere in Sweden.) It means “rapids.”

  9. Marcus Cederström:

    Great addition!

  10. Sascha M.:

    What about -jaur (as in Arvidsjaur, Auktsjaur, Kittajaur etc.)? All found in Northern Sweden/Lapland. I know that place names in this region often are derived from Sami names (sometimes these are even given on signs, as in “Árviesjávrrie” for Arvidsjaur). So, -jaur seems to stem from Sami -jávrrie – but what does this MEAN?? Thanks 🙂

  11. Marcus Cederström:

    Jaur is derived from a Sami word for lake.

  12. Stefan der Grosse:

    Just a bit offtopic but I personally like the word “fick”…LOL

  13. Abrha:

    Fascinating and thank you Marcus.

  14. Jakub:

    -lund -> grove (Lund, Åbylund, ..)
    -ryd -> ? (I don’t remember exactly, some sort of settlement? Someone will correct me..)
    -hamn -> haven, harbor, port/dock (Ulricehamn, Köpenhamn)
    -sjö (Mullsjö, Nässjö, Växjö) note: Växjö probably comes from Vägsjö (A road crossing upon the lake)
    -dal -> valley (Dalsjöfors ~ valley lake rapids)
    -ås -> ridge (Västerås,.. )

  15. Pauline Löwenborg:

    Towns in Småland with ending ‘måla’, does it mean mill, sawmill, flour or?

  16. Ahmed Elgaali:

    Very interesting!
    Could you make one on swedish names endings?
    e.g, -berg, -ström, -fors ….

  17. Andrea J.:

    -rud? Such as Frykerud in Värmland?

    Thanks for an informative site.

  18. Jo Olson:

    Let’s not forget -gren and -lund. And what about -Sigtuna and Ekilstuna?

  19. hamid al:

    What does Strängnäs means? And Tyresö?

  20. Neil S:

    What about löv i.e. Eslöv, Svalöv, Arlöv , Glumslöv. I have been curious about this one for a while and have not found a convincing derivation. Nice site, Neil

  21. Judy:

    My maiden name is Holman, which we always thought was British. In Copenhagen I saw an ancient church named “Holman”.
    Am now thinking the family might have to rethink out roots!

  22. Lisa C.:

    What about “arp?” Such as Bönarp, Sibbarp, Toarp?

  23. Sandra:

    Yes, what does the -tuna ending mean, Vallentuna, Sollentuna?

  24. Cheri:

    Excellent posts, BUT, I am searching for street, road, etc., suffixes (and am frustrated). I have been reading the Stieg Larsson trilogy: The Girl Who…, and there are many Swedish street locations named; all, seemingly, with different street-type endings. Could/Would someone please help by listing many suffixes for street, road, lanes, courts, etc., for me. I’d really love for someone to provide a “The Girl Who…dictionary of Swedish words USED in the English translations of the books…They are intelligent books…I’d like to read them intelligently! Thanks. C

  25. skyval:

    Torp = croft .. small farm or even village …..