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Danish word of the day: Rugbrødsmad

Today’s Danish word of the day could be inspiration for a late lunch.

What is rugbrødsmad?

If you’ve lived in Denmark for any length of time, you may have found yourself a devotee of the national quick-and-easy meal: the rugbrødsmad.

Like many Danish nouns, rugbrødsmad is a compound of smaller words. Three, to be exact: rye (rug), bread (brød) and food or meal (mad).

If you choose to eat a rugbrødsmad (or ask if you may help yourself to one), you will be having a meal based on rye bread, the trusty staple of the everyday Danish diet.

It’s not the easiest word to pronounce and must also consist of a single slice of rye bread with one or more toppings or pålæg on top to qualify as a rugbrødsmad. If you use two slices in the style of a sandwich, then what you will have made is a klapsammenmad.

Why do I need to know rugbrødsmad?

To describe a meal which can act as either a main meal or a snack, but one that has to be based on stacking at least one topping on top of a slice of dark rye bread.

The English word ‘snack’ is also used in modern Danish, both as a verb and a noun, and is often used in similar contexts to rugbrødsmad. This can be confusing, since it sounds very similar to the verb at snakke (to speak): Jeg tager lige en eftermiddagssnack (“I’m going to have an afternoon snack”).

Rugbrødsmad is also often used when suggesting someone should make themselves something quick and easy to eat, with an implicit ‘make your mind up and stop complaining’. Jeg er slet ikke sulten nok til at spise ris, og jeg kan ikke nå at lave mad, inden jeg skal til undervisning. – Så tag da en rugbrødsmad! (“I’m not hungry enough to eat the rice, and I don’t have time to make anything else before I have to go to class. – Why don’t you just have some rye bread-based food?!”)


Jeg er ret småsulten. Jeg tager en hurtig rugbrødsmad inden vi går i gang med aftensmaden.

I’m feeling peckish. I’m going to grab a quick open rye bread sandwich before we make dinner.

Jeg kan slet ikke overskue at handle til aftensmad i dag. Jeg spiser bare en rugbrødsmad.

I have no energy to buy groceries for dinner today. I’ll just have a rye bread-based meal.

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Danish word of the day: Skadefryd

Today's word of the day might be recognisable as a close relative of a popular German loan word.

Danish word of the day: Skadefryd

What is skadefryd?

Skadefryd can be trace to the German word Schadenfreude. The term originated in the 18th century and has no direct English translation or equivalent — although it is commonly used in modern English as a loan word, so its meaning may not be too surprising.

The German word is a compound of Schaden, meaning (damage/harm) and Freude (joy). The Danish word is exactly the same: skade means harm or injury while fryd is an archaic which means great joy or a feeling of contentment.

While skade is common in modern Danish, fryd has gone out of use — although you might have come across it in the phrase fryd og gammen, roughly “joy and happiness”, which can be found in texts like old-fashioned literature and hymns.

Skadefryd — like Schadenfreude — is when you feel joy or satisfaction at somebody else’s misfortunate.

Why do I need to know skadefryd?

It’s probably worth knowing that Danish has it’s own version of skadefryd, so you don’t drop the German version into a conversation like you might in English.

I’m not to sure how often you might be use it though, as it seems a fairly alien in Danish society to take joy from someone else’s failures.

For example, feeling glad to find out a colleague you didn’t like has been fired is a good example of skadefryd — but I’ve never heard someone openly admitting feeling this way.

Feeling pleasure in smaller misfortunes — such as laughing at other people falling over — is perhaps a slightly more likely, if puerile, scenario.

Philosopher Theodor Adorno has defined skadefryd as “mainly unexpected joy at another’s suffering that is noted as everyday and/or appropriate”.