"Lege" vs "spille" (verbs and nouns).

The following is a reply of mine to a question in a sentence discussion. If something is unclear, please don't hesitate to ask about in the comments, and I will clarify the post.

A Learner Asked: What is the difference between leger (infinitive lege) and spiller (infinitve spille)?

Leger is generally an unorganized, unstructured, spontaneous game (such as kids might play in the yard) while spiller is the opposite: structured, planned, with rules (such as a board game, a video game, etc).

The same goes for the equivalent nouns en leg and et spil which both translate to a game. Notice that these are used in strict pairs to describe doing the activity:

  • Vi leger en leg, but
  • Vi spiller et spil, both of which mean we play a game.
September 14, 2014


Sorted by top post

And 'at lege' is where Lego got its name! That always helps me remember the difference between lege and spille. Children play with Lego bricks. Easy.

October 1, 2014

It's also easy to remember, when you know, that 'spiller' is very simmilar to German 'spielen'. And in Germany there is nothing unorganized. xD

July 5, 2016

I've heard that "Lego" is from "leg godt", "play well".

May 8, 2015

I understand that "dyrke" is commonly used also, as in, "vi spiller tennis, men vi dyrker sport."

September 25, 2014

You are right :) Also for vi dyrker motion -> we exercise. I can't think of any others right now, but there might be more.

September 25, 2014

Mange tak! I have another question: How do we say "play" in the sense of playing a musical instrument?

December 30, 2016

It is "spil" according the the following: When we get to instruments, performances, etc. it is still "spiller" in Danish. Here, unlike "play" in English, the noun "spil" for "performance" has fallen out of use, you would simply use the word for "performance": "forestilling". In english "a play" is strictly a performance not a game, in Danish "et spil" is (not quite as strictly) a game, not a performance. (

January 9, 2017

Mange tak! Det hjælper meget!

September 16, 2014

Yeah, good you post this. I am Norwegian, and would have just said that "leke" is something children do.

September 17, 2014

I generally understand the usage of leg vs. spil but the following seems to be an exception. Why do we have "De Olympiske Lege" and not "De Olympiske Spil?"

September 18, 2014

I looked up the etymologies, and it seems that lege is from Old Norse, while spil is an import from Low German. So lege has been in the language longer, I'm guessing. Maybe, when the Olympics where given that name in Danish, people liked the Old Norse word better. What do I know :)

September 18, 2014

Sure good explanation :)

September 18, 2014


May 22, 2016
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