Danish word of the day: Regelrytter

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

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash and Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

Read today’s word of the day or we’ll tell on you.


What is regelrytter? 

A regel is a ‘rule’ or something you must obey. (A ‘rule’ or ‘ruler’ as in the item of stationery is a lineal).

Rytter can variously mean ‘rider’ or ‘jockey’ but not ‘knight’, which is usually translated to knægt, for example when referring to the chess piece.

The first of the above meanings is arguably the most commonly used as it is the term used for professional cycling athletes, and in Tour de France-mad Denmark there’s plenty of interest in riders or ryttere.  


A regelrytter on the other hand is not usually someone who is idolised, because they have a tendency to make life difficult for others by their habit of strict adherence to the rules: they are a ‘rider of the rules’ or perhaps a ‘rule jockey’.

Why do I need to know regelrytter?

A person who obsesses over the rules and insists everyone around them abide by them will often be accused of being a regelrytter. Sometimes this will be levelled at them directly, in other instances they might build a reputation for it.

It’s a term not too far removed from ‘pedant’, which is the same in English and Danish but perhaps less commonly used in the Nordic country.

Similarly, it can also be used where you would sometimes say ‘killjoy’ in English, depending on the context. If someone is being a ‘killjoy’ but by some other means than being petty and enforcing the rules, you can also call them a lyseslukker (literally, ‘extinguisher of the light’).

A final related word is paragrafrytter, literally ‘paragraph rider’. This is less common than regelrytter and is most likely to be used when it is legal clauses or paragraphs that are being stringently obeyed or forced upon others. Swedish and German speakers are probably well acquainted with the equivalent words in those languages.


Det er godt at være regelrytter, når det gælder sikkerhed i trafikken.

It’s good to be a stickler for the rules when it comes to road safety.

Hun er en grammatisk regelrytter. Jeg kan ikke sende en eneste SMS til hende, uden at hun retter den.

She’s a real grammar pedant. I can’t send a single SMS to her with it being corrected.


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