What Does That Mean? Swedish Town Names Posted by Marcus Cederström on Feb 10, 2015 in Geography, 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