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95 Core Concepts in Danish

What are the most basic, elementary, core concepts that virtually all languages express? Many linguists have put a great deal of effort into answering this question, and several short word lists have come out of it. The most famous are probably the Swadesh lists, based mostly on intuition and refined over time. Later lists like the Leipzig-Jakarta have used more stringent methods to determine which vocabulary items are most resistant to borrowing and change over time.

What I've done here is taken five such word lists (Swadesh 100, Ranked Swadesh 40, Swadesh-Yakhontov, Leipzig-Jakarta, and Woodward) and kept only the items that occur in at least two of the lists. Here is the Danish version. Enjoy!

c = common gender ("en")
n = neuter gender ("et")

1) name = navn (n)
2) water = vand (n)
3) blood = blod (n)
4) fire = brand (c)
5) stone/rock = sten (c), klippe (c)
6) dog = hund (c)
7) fish = fisk (c)
8) louse/flea = lus (c), loppe (c)
9) hand/arm = hånd (c), arm (c)
10) eye = øje (n)
11) ear = øre (n)
12) nose = næse (c)
13) tongue = tunge (c)
14) tooth = tand (c)
15) bone = knogle (c), ben (n)
16) horn = horn (n)
17) tail = hale (c)
18) egg = æg (n)
19) leaf = blad (n)
20) night/evening = nat (c), aften (c)
21) star = stjerne (c)
22) sun = sol (c)
23) moon = måne (c)
24) earth/soil = jord (c)
25) salt = salt (n)
26) mountain = bjerg (n)
27) tree = træ (n)
28) rain = regn (c)
29) wind = vind (c)
30) bird = fugl (c)
31) flesh/meat = kød (n)
32) liver = lever (c)
33) skin/hide = hud (c), skind (n)
34) knee = knæ (n)
35) breast/chest = bryst (n)
36) person/human = person (c), menneske (n)
37) man = mand (c)
38) woman = kvinde (c)
39) child = barn (n)
40) hair/fur = hår (n), pels (c)
41) mouth = mund (c)
42) neck = hals (c)
43) foot/leg = fod (c), ben (n)
44) feather = fjer (c)
45) grease/fat = fedt (n)
46) smoke = røg (c)
47) ash/soot = aske (c), sod (c)
48) sand = sand (n)
49) wood = træ (n)
50) root = rod (c)
51) rope/cord = reb (n), tov (n), snor (c)
52) path/road = sti (c), vej (c)
53) year = år (n)

54) die = dø
55) see/look/watch = se
56) hear = høre, lytte
57) know = vide, kende
58) drink = drikke
59) give = give
60) come = komme
61) stand = stå
62) sit/set = sidde, sætte
63) lie/lay = ligge, lægge
64) fly = flyve
65) eat = spise
66) bite = bide
67) burn = brænde
68) kill = dræbe
69) say/tell/speak/talk = sige, fortælle, tale
70) laugh = grine

71) new = ny
72) full = fuld
73) good = god
74) long = lang
75) red = rød
76) black = sort
77) white = hvid
78) green = grøn
79) yellow = gul
80) small/little = lille
81) big/large = stor
82) wide/broad = bred
83) heavy = tung
84) old = gammel
85) dry = tør

86) I/me = jeg/mig
87) you = du/dig, De/Dem, I/jer
88) what/which = hvad, hvilke
89) who/whom = hvem
90) one/a/an = en/et
91) two = to
92) not/no = ikke/nej
93) this/these = denne/dette/disse, det/de her
94) we/us = vi/os
95) all/everything/everyone = alle, alt

Please let me know if you spot any mistakes here. And if you take this list and translate it into another language, that would be awesome! I'd be sure to give you some lingots! More versions can be found here. (Be sure to check what's been translated already before posting your own.) And if you like this kind of thing, check out my website for more!

September 16, 2014



Nice list! I saw a small mistake: "give = gi" should be "give = give".

As a Dane, I have no idea what common and neuter genders mean — we simply don't think of the prefixes as genders in Denmark. So I would suggest writing the list using "et navn" instead of "navn (c)".

Also, you can format lists using a real list here on Duolingo using Markdown syntax:

<pre>1. foo 2. bar 3. baz </pre>


<pre>#. foo #. bar #. baz </pre>

both become

  1. foo
  2. bar
  3. baz


Thanks for the correction. I award you a lingot, sir.

As for genders, they are not so important in this kind of list (most useful for comparing the vocabulary of different languages), but learners have requested gender be marked in posts I've made like this for other languages. I don't want to add extra words like "et" and "en" because that changes the meaning and creates an imbalance across languages. Ideally, I'd color-code to indicate gender, but the parenthetical notes will do for now.

I actually took great care to avoid that kind of automatically numbered list in these posts. I wanted to separate the sections but not restart the numbering each time, and I don't think Duolingo's Markdown flavor can handle that. Plus, I want people to be able to copy and paste without losing the numbers. Using the numbers as a pivot point, you can find translations of a given word in 22 languages (and counting) besides English and Danish here. The formatting still needs to be cleaned up on a lot of them, but hey, this is a young project.


About the genders, then all I can say is that I (as a native Dane) think of the words including their gender. I think "en bil" and "et hus' when I think of a car and a house, respectively. So they're not really "extra" for me, but an integral part of the word.

I never think about the articles as being "genders" since they have no correlation to feminine or masculine words -- for me, they're just two words we use for the English words "one" or "a".

Good point about continuing the numbering, I hadn't thought about that!


"Gender" is a Euro-centric misnomer, in general, for grammatical classification of nouns. In some language, they have "genders" that include such concepts as "vegetables" and the like :P I can't find the reference for this right now, but it was some Australian aboriginal language, where this classification resulted in "a plane" having the grammatical gender of a vegetable, hehe.

It's called "gender" (or "grammatical gender" to be precise) because formal grammatical analysis started with Greek and Latin (or so I've read, correct me if I'm wrong) in which the grammatical genders are, at least somewhat, related to the (perceived) gender of an object.

So, now that Danish has gone ahead and combined the male and female gender into one, grammatical genders don't really make sense to us any more. But they're still called grammatical genders :)

I guess my point is that "gender" is just a name for a particular way of classifying words. Might as well call it "skabukallarak".


Well put. This type of "gender" is just a grammatical term, not to be confused with male vs. female, though there is a historical connection is many languages, including Danish.


I know that the Dyirbal language of Australia has an interesting set of "genders", including one class that contains women, water, fire, violence and a few animals. Is that the one you're thinking of?

Also, in the Bantu languages they have a similar system of grammatical genders, except they call them classes. Swahili has a separate class for fruits…


It might have been that one :)

I read about it in the book "The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention" (Guy Deutscher) -- A very good read for anyone interested in the (possible) evolution of modern languages!


I was just thinking about the similarities between classifier systems (common in East-Asian languages) and gender systems (common in European languages). I'm not sure, but I'd bet it's extremely uncommon for a language to have both.


Add four more and you're the Martin Luther of Duolingo, nailing these up on the forum wall.... Thanks, though! This is very helpful!


I think 95 is actually the right number. Coincidence? Well, yeah, a bit.


Ah, brain misfiring. I'm still laughing pretty hard, nonetheless.


There is still one mistake: Hear = Høre Listen = Lytte


Thanks for pointing that out. Actually, the English side should have been "hear/listen" since these are closely related concepts and represented by a single word in many languages.


You're welcome
Going through the list again i found one more:

We have one more word related to #69: Talk = snakke.

It is great that you have put them as a group, instead of individual translations, as we can sometimes use words that are not a direct translation but still within this same group.

E.g."Tell me your name": Here we can say: "sig mig dit navn"/giv mig dit navn" but rarely the direct translation "Fortæl mig dit navn"


Looks great! I found two mistakes: 2) water and 3) blood are both neuter genders, so they become vandet and blodet. Besides that the list looks really good. Great job!

Greetings from a dane


Awesome, thanks! Have a lingot!


70) laugh = grine/le

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