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Danish word of the day: Ø

The Danish language might be known for its lengthy compound words, but today we take a look at a word just one letter long.

What is Ø?

Today’s word of the day ø, meaning island, is also the shortest Danish word (well, tied with another single-letter word, å, which means stream).

It is also one of three Danish letters that don’t exist in English, along with the aforementioned Å and Æ. These letters are often split into oe (ø), aa (å) or ae (æ) when, for example, Danish names are written in English texts. Ø is also sometimes written as o, which is misleading, because o is a different vowel in Danish.

The pronunciation of ø is somewhere between the exclamation ‘oh!’ and the filler word ‘er’ in English, but given the letter ø cannot be found in the English-language alphabet, it’s hard to describe an exact match.

We think that, like the word ‘bed’ in English, ‘ø’ has the rare quality of looking like the thing it signifies. It has more than a passing resemblance to an island, right?

Why do I need to know Ø?

Apart from Jutland, Denmark is a country consisting of islands (there are 443 named ones), so it’s a word you’ll hear a lot.

You’ll spot it in the names of some of these islands, such as Læsø, Samsø, Æbelø, Bogø, and Sprogø. These are generally the smaller islands, while big ones have names without the ø — the obvious examples are Zealand (Sjælland) and Funen (Fyn), but Bornholm, Langeland, Lolland, Falster and Møn can also be added to this list.

There are some exceptions to this, like Endelave and Anholt, which are both somewhat smaller than our favouritely-named Danish island of all: Ærø.

An important linguistic point to remember is that you generally use the preposition på (on) with islands. For example, you would say ‘jeg bor på Fyn‘ (I live on Funen), but jeg bor i Jylland (I live in Jutland).

Although ‘på Fyn‘ is correct, this only applies when talking about the island, not towns or cities located on it, for example: jeg bor i Svendborg, en mindre by på Fyn (I live in Svendborg, a small town on Funen).

Likewise, when talking about a region within an island you switch back to (in). This is particularly relevant on the largest island, Zealand, which is often discussed in terms of its geography. Jeg bor i Hillerød, det ligger i Nordsjælland (I live in Hillerød, it’s located in North Zealand) is correct, for example.

It’s not a major faux pas to mix up  and i, however.

Finally, the Danish word for peninsula is halvø, literally ‘half island’. Worth knowing given that the only non-island part of the country, Jutland, is in fact a very large peninsula.


Jeg har lige været på Ærø og synes øboerne er utrolig venlige.

I have recently been to Ærø and think the islanders are incredibly friendly.

Intet menneske er en ø.

No person is an island.

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Danish word of the day: Overordnet

We'll try to give you an overarching explanation of today's word of the day.

Danish word of the day: Overordnet

What is overordnet?

While we covered the meaning of over previously (spoiler: it means “over”), you’ll also need the translation of the verb at ordne to get a sense of how to use overordnet.

Because it has its roots in Latin, at ordne (from the Latin “ordinare”) is easy enough to understand for an English speaker. When used in Danish, it signifies to sort, place in a correct order, tidy or fix something. It can also mean to take care of a problem, conflict or situation: Lejligheden sejlede da jeg kom hjem, så jeg ordnede den lige hurtigt (“the apartment was a mess when I came home, so I gave it a quick sort-out”).

Getting back to overordnet, which is an adjective in the form of a past-tense verb, the prefix suggests something ahead in a certain order. In other words, overordnet can be someone of a higher rank, such as in the military or at a work place.

It can also mean a higher meaning or context, similar to how you might use “overall” in English — an overordnet strategi, for example, can be a company’s long-term business model, around which it builds its more immediate aims.

Why do I need to know overordnet?

While it’s a good example of an adjective that is formed from a rarely-used verb (at overordne), it’s also a word that will help you to convey nuance and give sentences in spoken Danish a sense of articulacy (provided you don’t overuse it, then you might end up sounding like a proponent of ‘management speak‘).

You can some up your thoughts on a certain subject by saying overordnet set (approximately, “generally speaking”) or say that you have been thinking up an overordnet plan (“overall plan”).

Like all good “over” words, overordnet has and “under”-based antonym. Underordnet is an even more expressive word than its superior (in a literal sense) opposite, and is usually used to dismiss something as irrelevant: det er underordnet, om det tager fem minutter eller en time, bare jeg får tid til en gåtur hver dag (“it doesn’t matter whether it takes five minutes or an hour, as long as I get a chance to take a walk every day”).


Jeg forstår ikke, den overordnede betydning med universet.

I don’t understand the overall meaning of the universe.

Jeg kan desværre ikke svare på dit spørgsmål, inden jeg har talt med min overordnede.

I’m afraid I can’t answer your question until I’ve spoken with my superior.