Danish Word of the Day: rugbrødsmad

Danish Word of the Day: rugbrødsmad
Photo: EikoTsuttiy/Depositphotos
Today’s Danish word of the day could be inspiration for a late lunch.

Why do I need to know 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.

So what does it mean?

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

So 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.

How do I use it?

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.

Be warned, though: it’s not the easiest word to pronounce.

A luxury rugbrødsmad. File photo: Sofie Mathiassen/Ritzau Scanpix

For example:

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.

The word 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?!


The English word ‘snack’ has crept into 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.

Jeg er ikke sulten. Jeg har snack’et chips hele aftenen.
I’m not hungry. I’ve been snacking on chips/crisps all evening.

READ ALSO: More Danish words of the day

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.

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