More Danish words the world should start using

We asked our readers to send suggestions of their favourite Danish words that could make English or other languages even more expressive.

More Danish words the world should start using
File photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

In a previous article, in which we listed Danish words the world should start using, we asked readers to let us know if we’d missed any words that are so useful, they could become loan words in English – and maybe even end up fully adopted, as was famously the case with 'hygge'.

We received some great suggestions – thank you to everyone who took the time to get in touch! Here’s a selection of your contributions.

Tak for sidst

We’re playing loose with our own definitions here: ‘tak for sidst’ is a phrase, not a word. But we’ve decided to act like mavericks and include it anyway, since it is such a useful expression and entirely absent in English – used to warmly greet someone whose company you recently enjoyed during another evening or event, and literally meaning 'thanks for the last'.

How to use it: “Tak for sidst! Did you get home from the pub okay?”


Similar to the colloquial English “pull a U-turn”, kovending means to about-face or take an opposite stance or direction, either figuratively or literally. Its literal translation from Danish is 'cow turning' and has nothing to do with traffic, as far as we’re aware.

How to use it: “Their new policy of increasing tax is a complete kovending”.

Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix


This is a great one and doesn’t really have an equivalent in English. A compound of ‘menneske’ (person or human) and ‘syn’ (view or sight), its meaning is close to ‘world view’ but in reference to people or groups.

How to use it: “We could all learn a lot from Gandhi’s menneskesyn”.

Fætter, kusine

Another example of the ability of Danish to be very precise about who is who in your family. Danish has gender-specific words for ‘cousin’: for a male cousin, it’s ‘fætter’, while for a female cousin, ‘kusine’ is used. Danish is yet to follow the example of Swedish or French by introducing more gender-neutral terms, so the difference between these two words is important to remember for learners of the language.

How to use it: “My kusine Maria and my fætter Lucas are actually twins”.


A marvellous little word that is used to dismiss something that may not have gone according to plan, but should not be considered a problem. Often heard when somebody is trying to make someone else feel better about a minor error.

How to use it: “I forgot to buy milk.”

“Pyt, we’ll get some in the morning”.

Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix


From the Danish words for ‘work’ and ‘happiness’, this is a noun used to describe the feeling of contentment derived from one’s job satisfaction. We wonder whether the existence of this word has any connection with Denmark’s reputation as being one of the world’s happiest countries? Perhaps it’s just a coincidence.

How to use it: “She seems so relaxed these days. Her new job has given her much more arbejdsglæde”.


Our previous list had a couple of examples of Danish words that could replace entire phrases in English. This is an example of how Danish creates new nouns by putting two component words together – forlængerledning means ‘extension cable’ in English. We just think it’s a nice-sounding word.

How to use it: “Pass me that forlængerledning, will you? My battery is down to zero again.”



Why mastering English isn’t all good news for Danish workers and their companies

While learning English is clearly an advantage for Danish workers, mastering the language of Shakespeare isn't enough for companies that export to Germany.

Why mastering English isn't all good news for Danish workers and their companies
English language skills don’t cut it for Danish companies hoping to export to Germany. Photo: Maheshkumar Painam / Unsplash

The Danish business community is facing a major language problem – and it’s not with English.

According to Dansk Industri (DI), an organisation representing approximately 18,500 companies across Denmark, Danish companies are experiencing a shortage of employees with good German skills.

As more Danes opt to master English, fewer are mastering the German language than in the past. This is making it more difficult, DI said, to trade with companies in Germany. 

Although Danes are considered to be the best in the world at speaking English as a second language, DI Deputy Director Mette Fjord Sørensen said speaking English when doing business in Germany isn’t always an option.

“Germany is a big country and not everyone speaks English at a high level, so misunderstandings can occur that could have consequences for a business deal,” Sørensen told The Local. “Speaking in someone’s native tongue, in this case German, can have a positive effect.”

DI said that German skills are in “extremely high demand” in a wide range of professions, from trade graduates to engineers and craftsmen. 

“Our companies demand employees with dual competencies – for example the engineer or electrician who also knows German,” Sørensen said, adding that DI is worried as they see fewer and fewer students choose to study German. 

An analysis by SMV Denmark, an organisation representing small and medium-sized companies in Denmark, shows that the number of high school students graduating German at A-level fell from 11 percent in 2005 to less than 6 percent last year. Additionally, the number of students admitted to a higher German education last year was 30 percent lower than in 2010, according to Avisen Danmark

Sørensen thinks the long term solution is to expand German language studies within Denmark’s education system, but there are several solutions available in the meantime.

This includes language courses for working professionals, specific to the work they do. 

“German expats in Denmark could also play a vital role in the need for German language competence,” Sørensen said. “We have to dig into the possibilities expats can contribute.”