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Danish Word of the Day: Genial

Today's word of the day is regularly heard in Danish but means something quite different to its English false friend.

What is genial?

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

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

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” (i.e. friendly, pleasant, cheerful). You’d probably say venlig (“friendly”) in Danish if you wanted to replicate the English “genial”.

You may also hear genial being used with the negation ikke in front of it. This 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 wasn’t a great idea to leave his computer unattended when he was ordering coffee”.

Genial is often heard in conversation and has taken on a much broader meaning than its original use.

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 kun fem minutter derfra.
(“Instead of meeting at the train station, do you want to meet at the cinema? — 
Great, I only live five minutes from there.”)


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”].

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Danish expression of the day: At slå på tråden

Give us a ring and we'll tell you about the word of the day.

Danish expression of the day: At slå på tråden

What is at slå på tråden?

The literal meaning of this phrase is “to hit on the thread”. Of course, it has nothing to do with making flirtatious advances towards a piece of string, or striking some yarn, but figuratively means to make a telephone call.

Given the informal, familiar tone of the expression, it can be thought of as a Danish equivalent to “give you a call”, “ring me”, “give me a bell” or any other way you can think of saying “make a telephone call”.

Why do I need to know at slå på tråden?

It’s a phrase that is still used in everyday conversation, although perhaps more so by older generations. But what makes at slå på tråden (in my opinion) a charming expression is the fact that it is technologically obsolete.

This is because it comes from the use of cables (another meaning of the word tråd, although kabel is also used for “cable”) in old-fashioned telephone connections, or even from pre-telephone times.

The expression is said to have its roots in times when a telegraph operator would send a message by tapping morse code signals, which were transmitted as electrical impulses through cables. So you would have literally had to “hit a cable” if you wanted to send a message.

The modern equivalent of morse code — an SMS — is now wireless, just like phone calls. But the phrase at slå på tråden endures despite the fact it will make little sense to those who have only seen a cable attached to a phone when it is charging.


Vi kan lige mødes til en øl på fredag. Jeg slår på tråden, når jeg får fri.

We can meet for a quick beer on Friday. I’ll give you a ring when I get off work.

Slå lige på tråden, når du er kommet godt hjem.

Give me a quick call when you’ve arrived home safely.