Danish expression of the day: At tage en morfar

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Danish expression of the day: At tage en morfar

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash and Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

If it's about time for your afternoon nap, you'll be needing today's Danish expression.


What does 'at tage en morfar' mean?

Firstly, we need to explain morfar, which is one of six different Danish words that can be used to refer to a grandparent.

Unlike in English, the Danish language has different words for relations on the paternal and maternal side of one's family. This applies to aunts and uncles as well as to grandparents, but we'll stick to the task in hand here and just deal with the latter.

Grandparents, or bedsteforældre in Danish, can be called bedstemor (grandmother) or bedstefar (grandfather), but it's probably more common to hear the slightly shorter, but more specific, combination of mor (mother) and far (father) used in four different variations, a unique one for each grandparent.


For example, because your maternal grandmother is your mother's mother, she would be your mormor (literally, 'mother-mother') in Danish. Your grandad on that side would be morfar (mother-father).

On the paternal side, your grandma is your farmor (father-mother) and grandad is farfar (father-father).

Got it? Good.

At tage en morfar is to do something which the expression would suggest is common among maternal grandfathers: take a nap, have a snooze, grab forty winks, or doze off for a bit.

But why morfar?

We're unsure where the origins of the expression come from, apart from the stereotype of seniors needing a bit of shuteye in the afternoon or being likely to snooze in a comfortable armchair for a while.

Danish dictionaries suggest the phrase has been around since at least 1999, but we think it's likely to be longer. Get in touch if you know the origins of this phrase or have a story about it.

As for why a morfar is more likely to need some rest than a farfar, or even a bedstemor, we have no idea. But the other variants of 'grandparent' are never used in this expression, and attempting to do so (or doing it by mistake) is likely to result in some amusement.

How to use it

Jeg er helt smadret efter den lange cykeltur op ad bakken. Jeg tror lige, jeg tager mig en lille morfar.

I'm completely shattered after that long uphill bicycle ride. I think I'm going to have a little nap.

Hvor er Katrine? -- Hun har vist taget sig en morfar. Jeg vækker hende om en halv time.

Where's Katrine? -- She seems to have gone for a nap. I'll wake her up in half an hour.


An alternative, and more formal word for a short daytime sleep in Danish is lur. This is more likely to be used when talking about small children. You probably wouldn't describe a toddler as 'having a maternal grandfather', but would go with the simpler lur in this scenario.


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