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Danish word of the day: Rugbrødsmad

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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Danish expression of the day: At slå på tråden

Give us a ring and we'll tell you about the word of the day.

Danish expression of the day: At slå på tråden

What is at slå på tråden?

The literal meaning of this phrase is “to hit on the thread”. Of course, it has nothing to do with making flirtatious advances towards a piece of string, or striking some yarn, but figuratively means to make a telephone call.

Given the informal, familiar tone of the expression, it can be thought of as a Danish equivalent to “give you a call”, “ring me”, “give me a bell” or any other way you can think of saying “make a telephone call”.

Why do I need to know at slå på tråden?

It’s a phrase that is still used in everyday conversation, although perhaps more so by older generations. But what makes at slå på tråden (in my opinion) a charming expression is the fact that it is technologically obsolete.

This is because it comes from the use of cables (another meaning of the word tråd, although kabel is also used for “cable”) in old-fashioned telephone connections, or even from pre-telephone times.

The expression is said to have its roots in times when a telegraph operator would send a message by tapping morse code signals, which were transmitted as electrical impulses through cables. So you would have literally had to “hit a cable” if you wanted to send a message.

The modern equivalent of morse code — an SMS — is now wireless, just like phone calls. But the phrase at slå på tråden endures despite the fact it will make little sense to those who have only seen a cable attached to a phone when it is charging.


Vi kan lige mødes til en øl på fredag. Jeg slår på tråden, når jeg får fri.

We can meet for a quick beer on Friday. I’ll give you a ring when I get off work.

Slå lige på tråden, når du er kommet godt hjem.

Give me a quick call when you’ve arrived home safely.