Danish word of the day: Rugbrødsmad

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 28 Jun, 2022 Updated Tue 28 Jun 2022 16:15 CEST
Danish word of the day: Rugbrødsmad

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash and Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

Today’s Danish word of the day could be inspiration for a late lunch.


What is 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.

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


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.

It’s not the easiest word to pronounce and must also consist of a single slice of rye bread with one or more toppings or pålæg on top to qualify as a rugbrødsmad. If you use two slices in the style of a sandwich, then what you will have made is a klapsammenmad.

Why do I need to know rugbrødsmad?

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.

The English word ‘snack’ is also used in 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").

Rugbrødsmad 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?!")


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.


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