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Danish expression of the day: At få blod på tanden

Why do Danes compare painting their apartments to tasting blood?

What is at få blod på tanden?

At få blod på tanden literally means ‘to get blood on your tooth’.

The blood in question refers to a predator’s prey, although the expression itself is figurative and has little to do with actual teeth and blood, but is rather about being motivated. 

Specifically, at få blod på tanden refers to the special kind of determination that a wild animal gets after smelling blood.

Why do I need to know at få blod på tanden?

A Dane saying jeg fik blod på tanden (“I got blood on my tooth”) is really saying that they really got into something and couldn’t stop until it was finished: Det var planen, at vi skulle male ude på badeværelset, men så fik vi blod på tanden og endte med at male hele lejligheden (“We meant to paint the bathroom, but then we got carried away and ended up painting the whole apartment”).

At få blod på tanden is not something you say if you indulged or splurged, however.

A Dane would not, for example, say Jeg tog én lille chip, fik blod på tanden og spiste hele pakken (“I had one small crisp, got my teeth into it and ate the whole bag”). That is because at få blod på tanden is not really about excess.

As well as passively getting “blood on your teeth” a person or thing can also give someone else blood on their teeth.

For example, if you try out rock climbing for the first time and the experience gives you such as taste for the sport that it becomes your biggest hobby. Or if your best friend encourages you to try writing that short story you’ve been talking about, and you listen to them and throw yourself into the task: they gave you “blood on your teeth”.

At få blod tanden, then, expresses determination and drive. Like when you start cleaning your apartment, realise how filthy it is and keep on going until it’s all bright and shiny.


Jeg løb mit første 10-kilometers løb i København i 2017. Det gav mig blod på tanden og jeg begyndte at træne til marathon.

I ran in a 10-kilometre race for the first time in Copenhagen in 2017. It gave me a passion for the sport and I started training for a marathon.

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Danish word of the day: Selvfed

The word of the day can help you not to get carried away by your own success.

Danish word of the day: Selvfed

What is selvfed?

Selv (“self”) and fed (“fat”) combine to create a composite word that has a figurative, rather than a literal, meaning (thankfully).

To be selvfed, though it literally means “self-fat” or “fattened on oneself” to translate slightly less directly, means to “perceive oneself as being smart, good, clever or similar”.

It is normally used in a derogatory manner, so you wouldn’t usually say it about yourself but might hear someone describing another person (perhaps behind their back, but perhaps not) as being selvfed.

A possible English translation might be “smug”, but this doesn’t always quite fit. “Self-satisfied” is a good option, while the more colloquial “full of oneself” (“he’s so full of himself, the way he always interrupts and thinks he knows everything”) is arguably a closer equivalent, with the added benefit of evoking similar imagery.

Why do I need to know selvfed?

Admonishing someone for being selvfed, or complaining to somebody else that a person is selvfed, feels like it fits well with a well-known aspect of Danish culture: humility. Even though making such an assertion might be a bit outspoken in itself.

The mindset of not excessively building up one’s knowledge or achievements, and instead remaining modest is a known Danish social more, and one we’ve alluded to in earlier words of the day.

As such, someone who’s a bit drunk on their own success risks being seen as selvfed, which is arguably a more negative thing in Denmark than it might be elsewhere.

READ ALSO: Five Danish social norms that might be new to newcomers


Han laver hele tiden latterlige opslag på Instagram. Jeg synes han er lidt for selvfed.

He’s always posting ridiculous things on Instagram. I think he’s a little bit self-satisfied.

Liam Gallagher er lige så selvfed nu, some han var i 90’erne.

Liam Gallagher is just as arrogant now as he was in the nineties.