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Swedish-English false friends


Answering a question got me thinking about false friends in Swedish-English context. For those who don't know what a false friend is, it's words the look alike but have different meanings in the languages concerced. I googled Swedish false friends and found a list on Swedish wikipedia that might come in handy :


Enjoy! /Emil

December 4, 2014



Interesting! Some of them were new to me. And I must confess that I use "illitterat" the English way.

PS. Guess that "fart" should be included :). It is a Swedish word for speed.


As a perpetual 12 year old at heart, that one never gets old.


I'd never think of the English meaning, but I might trip over the German meaning of 'drive', a vehicle trip! Some friend!


One of my favorites is gift, a homophone which means 'married' as an adjective and 'poison' as a noun.


It has a very slight accent change, though. It's not the exact same word. At least not in the Swedish I speak.


They have the same accent in the singular. But there’s a difference in accent between e.g. gifter (poisons) and gifter (marries). But all one-syllable words in Swedish always have the same accent in all dialects.


That's good to know. If I may ask, is Skånska your native dialect?


No, I'm from Lund, which is in Skåne, but it is a much less danish sounding dialect. Skåne actually has quite a lot of accents in different places. If you want to know more here's an old funny podcast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wc3-AyPLa6I


Sorry, I inadvertently deleted my previous comment. As far as I know, my Swedish immigrant ancestors mostly taught their children English. But several of their descendants learned Swedish as a second language later in life. My grandmother was the most recent one to do so. I've been interested in Sweden since childhood because of her.


Very interesting :D Well I hope you will continue learning it! And I'll be happy to answer questions.


Fun example of goat and kid – there's a discussion about them here.


Another hilarious false friend is "tack" ... at my workplace (in a pretzel shop), I have been teaching my coworkers some Swedish phrases, so I wrote a special order on a dry erase board: "1 original pretzel, lightly done. Tack!" ... one of my coworkers runs to the back and produces a pushpin. "Here's your tack!"


This is very helpful~ (and interesting) Tack så mycket!


Thanks! German seems to be closer to swedish, I am so lucky ;)


Swedish is essentially the bastard child of Low German and Old Norse. :p


With some French words thrown in, and English on later days...


"Dog" definitely needs to be included here. In Swedish, it means "died".


Is there a list somewhere online that's like the opposite of the Wikipedia link in the original post? Another words, is there a list somewhere that shows "true friends" between English and Swedish? I've just started learning Swedish, but I think such a list would help me realize how many Swedish words I already know without even knowing it. I didn't have any luck finding one after doing a quick google search. Thanks!


As far as I know, there is no such list. Words that aren't false friends are true ones, I suppose.


I hate false friends - both meanings


Very useful, thank you! I have been caught out by some of them in my time!


Some of these actually share meanings with the cognate. Example: Karaktär sounds like character; both mean quality but the english one also could mean a person. It's enough to help an aspirin salesman. ;-) And what in the nine worlds is a crisp?


'crisp' is British English; American would be 'potato chip'


You mean 'crisp' is English and 'potato chip' is American English ;-)


Exactly, Helen: Potato chip. They're crispy!


Du är Amerikansk?


Ja, jag är självklart Amerikansk.


fort: fast in Swedish, "A fortified defensive structure stationed with troops." in English


Two that caught my attention (from the Clothing lesson) but are not in the list:

rock, slips.

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