Danish Word of the Day: genial

Danish Word of the Day: genial
Photo: EikoTsuttiy/Depositphotos
Today's word of the day is regularly heard in Danish but means something quite different to its English false friend.

Why do I need to know genial?

Genial or genialt is a common Danish word that has nothing to do with the English word genial. It’s often heard in conversation and has taken on a much broader meaning than its original use.

So what does it mean?

Genial literally means 'brilliant' as in 'of genius' (for example: det var en genial idé — 'that was an ingenious idea’).

But it's also come to mean a lot more than that. In Danish conversation, genial can mean 'great', 'awesome' or 'fantastic' or anything positive in exactly the same way as 'brilliant' has come to be used in English.

How do I use it?

Genial is an adjective, so you can use it to qualify any noun you want to describe as genial. Like most Danish adjectives, it can be switched to an adverb with the addition of -t.

For example:

Mine nye løbesko er helt geniale. ’My new running shoes are amazing’.

Det var genialt sagt! — 'That was a brilliant response!'

Ej hvor genialt, du har købt havremælk til kaffen. — 'Ah that’s great, you bought oat milk for the coffee.'

Du danser genialt. – ’You’re a brilliant dancer’ (literally, ’you dance brilliantly’).

In conversational Danish, genial can also be used on its own to respond to something or as an exclamation, again, just like 'brilliant' or 'great' is used in English.

I stedet for at mødes ved banegården, skal vi ikke mødes ved biografen?
Det er genialt – jeg bor fem minutter derfra.

'Instead of meeting at the train station, do you want to meet at the cinema?'
'Great, I live five minutes from there.'

Other uses

You may also hear genial being used with ‘ikke’ in front of it. The negation can be applied to describe an action that didn’t go well or was ill-advised.

Det var ikke så genialt, at han efterlod sin computer, da han skulle bestille kaffe.
’It was not great that he left his computer there when he was ordering coffee.’


Do you have any favourite or unusual Danish words you'd like to nominate as Word of the Day, or want us to explain? Let us know via email.

Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.