11 Delightful Icelandic Words and Phrases
Hunting for new ways to express yourself that don't involve emojis? Look no further than these charming words and phrases hailing from the land of fire and ice.
1. "I COME COMPLETELY FROM THE MOUNTAINS."
Ég kem alveg af fjöllum. This phrase throws some shade at mountain dwellers, and means, “I have no idea what you’re talking about/what’s going on.”
2. "I WILL FIND OUT YOU ON A BEACH."
Ég mun finna þig í fjöru. If you're Icelandic, beware of the beach: This idiom (or threat) means, “I will get back at you,” “I’ll get my revenge,” or “Don’t make me hurt you.”
If you ever need to find your way out of a cave, or just navigate to the kitchen in the middle of the night to snack on some hangikjöt, this word will come in handy—it basically translates to “enough light to navigate.”
This word gets a lot of traction in Iceland: It means “window-weather.” As in, the kind of weather that’s nice to look at, but not experience.
5. "THEY SPLASH THE SKYR WHO OWN IT."
Þeir sletta skyrinu sem eiga það. Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt-like dairy product and it’s been used for sustenance as well as ammunition for years. This saying is analogous to “people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.” It’s used ironically when referencing people who think they can do anything just because they have money.
6. "THERE ARE SO MANY WONDERS IN A COW'S HEAD."
Það eru margar undur í höfuðkúpu. You might find occasion to say this anytime something strange or amazing happens. As an added bonus, it's much more elegant-sounding than “Man, the world is nutso.”
7. "TO LAY YOUR HEAD IN WATER."
Að leggja höfuðið í bleyti. While “on a pillow” might be the more logical place to rest your head, this phrase suggests you put it in water to soak when you need to spend some time working something out or coming up with a new idea. This is kind of like saying, "sleep on it."
8. "THE RAISIN AT THE END OF THE SAUSAGE."
Rúsínan í pylsuendanum. English speakers might say that a good and surprising thing that happens in addition to something that’s already awesome is a cherry on top of a sundae or the icing on top of the cake. The raisin at the end of a sausage expresses the same thought—it's a nice supplement to an already wonderful treat. Or something.
9. "NO MITTEN-GRABBING/MITTEN-TAKES."
Nú duga engin vettlingatök. When you want something done carefully and properly, this is the phrase to use.
10. "ON WITH THE BUTTER!"
Áfram með smjörið. One of Tim Gunn’s favorite phrases, “Carry on,” directly channels this Nordic saying. Keep doing what you’re doing, forge ahead, keep on keepin' on, get to work, keep moving—any of these could work on Project Runway, but “on with the butter” is definitely the catchiest.
Yep, this is a word, and it means "key ring of the key chain of the outer door to the storage tool shed of the road workers on the Vaðlaheiði" from which you might be able to glean that it’s largely (OK, pretty much entirely) for show. (Go ahead—try to use it in a sentence.) The Icelandic language has a reputation for lengthy words, and this one is one of the longest of them all. Others include landbúnaðarframleiðsla, hæstaréttarmálaflutningsmaður, fjárfestingarfyrirtæki, and byggingarverkfræðingur.
This piece originally ran in 2015.