Danish word of the day: Vovehals

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Danish word of the day: Vovehals

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash and Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

If you're someone who is a bit of a daredevil and doesn't always live by the rules, you'll soon find yourself acquainted with this Danish term.


What is vovehals?

Literally translated, a vovehals is a 'dare-throat', the word taking the verb 'to dare' (at vove) and throat (hals) and putting them together. The best English equivalent is probably daredevil, or someone prepared to take (sometimes unnecessary) risks. 

You might use the word for someone who likes to take risks to show how daring they are -- by jumping from the highest springboard at a swimming pool even though they can't dive, for example.


However, vovehals can also refer to someone who takes a step into the unknown and starts that business they’ve always dreamed of. As such, the term can be used both in admiration and derision, though the latter is arguably the more common. 

Why do I need to know vovehals

It's easy to think of Danes as being a pragmatic nation of people who don't take risks often, and that is perhaps reflected in the use of vovehals as well as an adjective, dumdristig (literally, "stupid-brave") to describe excessive risk taking. There are several other synonyms for vovehals, too: you might also hear chancerytter (literally, "chance-jockey") and the loan word desperado.

All of these words can be used to describe someone who is liable to throw themselves with abandon into life-threatening or dangerous, or merely risky, situations.

Incidentally, Danish also has a colourful antonym for vovehals: bangebuks (literally a "scared trouser") is someone who is a coward or without courage.


Maverick var kendt som en værre vovehals, men så lærte han at styre sine impulser og blev en bedre pilot.

Maverick was known as a serious daredevil, but he learned to control his impulses and became a better pilot.

En vovehals blev meldt til politiet af flere bilister onsdag eftermiddag efter han kravlede til tops på Storebæltsbroen.

A daredevil was reported to police by several motorists on Wednesday afternoon when he climbed to the top of the Great Belt Bridge.


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