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Danish word of the day: Skadefryd

Today's word of the day might be recognisable as a close relative of a popular German loan word.

What is skadefryd?

Skadefryd can be trace to the German word Schadenfreude. The term originated in the 18th century and has no direct English translation or equivalent — although it is commonly used in modern English as a loan word, so its meaning may not be too surprising.

The German word is a compound of Schaden, meaning (damage/harm) and Freude (joy). The Danish word is exactly the same: skade means harm or injury while fryd is an archaic which means great joy or a feeling of contentment.

While skade is common in modern Danish, fryd has gone out of use — although you might have come across it in the phrase fryd og gammen, roughly “joy and happiness”, which can be found in texts like old-fashioned literature and hymns.

Skadefryd — like Schadenfreude — is when you feel joy or satisfaction at somebody else’s misfortunate.

Why do I need to know skadefryd?

It’s probably worth knowing that Danish has it’s own version of skadefryd, so you don’t drop the German version into a conversation like you might in English.

I’m not to sure how often you might be use it though, as it seems a fairly alien in Danish society to take joy from someone else’s failures.

For example, feeling glad to find out a colleague you didn’t like has been fired is a good example of skadefryd — but I’ve never heard someone openly admitting feeling this way.

Feeling pleasure in smaller misfortunes — such as laughing at other people falling over — is perhaps a slightly more likely, if puerile, scenario.

Philosopher Theodor Adorno has defined skadefryd as “mainly unexpected joy at another’s suffering that is noted as everyday and/or appropriate”.

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Danish word of the day: Jævndøgn

The light and the dark side are now in balance.

Danish word of the day: Jævndøgn

What is jævndøgn?

Jævndøgn the term used to describe the spring (forårsjævndøgn) and autumn (efterårsjævndøgn) equinoxes.

On the day of an equinox, daytime and nighttime are of approximately equal duration (this is true at the same time all over the planet, not just in Denmark).

The word used in English, equinox, comes from Latin: aequus (equal) and nox (night). The Danish term is directly related to Old English and Norse. Jævn is an adjective similar to “even” and can be used to describe a physical quality (en jævn overflade is “an even surface”), as well as to mean “equal”.

While jævn is “equal” when talking about the equinox and in various other formulations related to measurement, a different word, lighed or ligestilling, is used to mean “equality”.

Døgn is a useful Danish word that doesn’t have an exact English translation but can both mean “a day” or “a 24-hour period”. It’s usually used in preference to the more common dag (“day”) when talking about the amount of time within a day, and not to the day in general.

For example, a store that is open 24 hours a day is described as døgnåbent, “24-hour-open”. If you arbejder døgnet rundt you work all hours of the day.

Putting jævn and døgn together gives you the Danish word for equinox, jævndøgn, literally “equal 24-hours”.

Why do I need to know jævndøgn?

September 23rd (sometimes 22nd) is the autumn equinox. From that date onwards, days include more dark minutes than light ones.

The longest night of the year will fall on December 21st, the winter solstice, when Denmark can expect 17 hours of darkness. The Danish word for solstice is solhverv, from sol (sun) and hverv, an archaic word for “turning”.

On March 20th the spring equinox or forårsjævndøgn, things switch back as spring approaches and there is once again more light than dark.


The “j” in jævn is pronounced like the “y” in “yellow and the “v” as a “w”, giving you “yæwn”.

To say døgn, imagine you are saying “boy” but replacing the b with a d. Then add an “n” at the end.


I dag er det jævndøgn, hvor dag og nat er lige lange.

Today is the equinox, when day and night are the same length.