Finnish Word of the Week IV


[ˈkænːykːæ] noun, nom. pl. kännykät

A mobile phone. Originally, this device was often called kenkäpuhelin (kenkä = shoe, puhelin = phone), a word referring to Get Smart, an American television series created by the comedy genius Mel Brooks, whose works were and continue to be very popular in Finland. This is particularly fitting, since Nokia, a Finnish telecommunications company, used to manufacture rubber boots (those boots are still made, but telecommunications, boots, tyres and other things are now manufactured by separate business entities).

This device has gone by many names. In the 80’s, it was called autopuhelin (auto = car), due to its popularity as an appurtenance in expensive vehicles. The “standard” word for mobile phone is matkapuhelin (matka = journey, trip), but kännykkä has become so popular a word that even most government agencies use it when reaching out to citizens. The word kännykkä was coined in 1977 by Aarne Visuri, a Nokia sales engineer. It is a combination of känny, a dialectal word for child’s hand popular especially in the Western parts of Finland, and -kka/kkä, one of the diminutive endings in Finnish, used to indicate the petiteness of an object.

Since Finland has been in the forefront of developing telecommunications devices, many mobile phones have features that were either created or refined in Finland. For instance, Finland was the first country to make an SMS a means of communication for ordinary consumers.

Finland is home to many a successful gaming company, including one that specialises in mobile games. Duo! Leave those pigs alone!

Finns are known for their taciturnity, but the invention of mobile phones has meant that it is difficult to avoid constant, meaningless babbling. Naturally, what Finns consider excessive talk, is still considered reticence by most other nations. To allow people to avoid listening to other people’s phone conversations train carriages and public spaces often have soundproof phone booths for the most slavish users of mobile phones. Most Finns still think that useless chatter is an inescapable nuisance that seems to enter almost every arena imaginable.

Well, as long as no one brings their kännykkä to the sauna, the situation will continue to be somewhat tolerable. Although, a mobile phone is a very useful thing to have nearby should you run out of firewood while heating up your sauna and your axe is nowhere to be found.

Duo would like to remind everyone that Finnish is now in the Incubator. You can find all Finnish Words of the Week by clicking on this.

Happy Duolingoing, everyone!


June 8, 2019


Although i don’t really have plans to learn Finnish, but it is very exciting to read your wonderful well organised post!

Best Contributor! No doubt :D

June 8, 2019

I didn't think about learning Finnish... but let's do it! why not?!

June 8, 2019

What happened to Finnish contributors? Weren't there more of them in the beginning?

June 8, 2019

probably chickened out

June 9, 2019

And now I'm interested in learning Finnish!

June 8, 2019

Ut i fra språkene du har lært, blir det ikke vanskelig!

Judging by the languages you have learnt, it wont be hard. ( in case you didnt understand my norwegian)

June 8, 2019

Hei! Er du fra Norge? :D

June 8, 2019

Well, at least I‘ll give it a try.

June 8, 2019

I hope I have the sisu to finish the Finnish tree when it comes on line!

June 8, 2019

The Finnish word for mobile phone reminds of German "Handy"! Also Hand+(English) diminutive!

June 8, 2019

Maxwell Smart and his shoe phone! Hilarious! Sounds like Fins have a great sense of humor. :)

Thank you for another informative as well as very funny post!

June 8, 2019

you can also say känny instead of kännykkä (but that is even more slang)

June 9, 2019

toi nokia 3310 siin vikassa kuvassa tekee tästä vielä paremman tbh ...ja nokian saappaat :'D

June 9, 2019
  • 1884

Tlfmf :-D

June 9, 2019

This is hilarious and great. What does it mean that Finnish is in the Incubator? :)

June 10, 2019

It means that there is a group of people building a Finnish course for Duolingo. :)

June 10, 2019

I'll be looking forward to that then. I'm 50% Finnish but I always struggled to find good shows or learning material for this language.

June 10, 2019

Another really enjoyable post, kiitos! I also enjoy trying to guess what will be the next word, even though I was rather far off the mark this time.

June 11, 2019

I was listening to a Yle podcast this morning (the subject was podcasts vs. radio) and one of the commentators mentioned that because cell phones are ubiquitous now, more and more people are simply saying puhelin. Is this true where you live?

June 12, 2019

Yes. This is a fairly recent development brought on by the radical decline in the number of landline phones. I would say that kännykkä is still slightly more common, but I doubt that that will last for very long. Personally, I refer to my phone as puhe-elin (speech organ; that would be organ as a part of the body, not the instrument), which is the etymological ancestor of the word puhelin. :)

June 17, 2019, 3:10 PM

Ha ha, hilarious the etymology of puhelin. Makes me wonder what the thought process was for coming up with the name. Maybe they were foreseeing a day when phones would be surgically implanted.

The same thing is happening here. No one really says cell phone or mobile phone anymore. They are just phones. Landlines are going away.

June 17, 2019, 3:55 PM
Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.