Danish word of the day: Forstad

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

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash and Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

Today’s Danish word is a trip to the ‘burbs.


What is forstad? 

A noun, forstad is a compound of the prefix for- along with an archaic word, stad.

For- means ‘pre-‘ and can be seen in various other words: forberedelse (preparation), forspring (advantage), and forfest (‘pre-party’) to name three.

Stad means ‘town’ or ‘city’ but is not used in modern Danish, where the word for both of these is by. Another word, sted meaning ‘place’ is closely related to stad, which borrows its meaning from the German Stadt which also means ‘city’.

A forstad is therefore a ‘pre-town’ or to give it a proper English translation, a suburb.

Why do I need to know forstad?

While a forstad does not have to be an affluent area, it is relatively likely to be. A boligområde or ‘housing area’ is equally likely to be situated on the outskirts of a major town or city but is much more strongly associated with underprivilege. It is the second of these terms that you might therefore use to describe a Danish equivalent of a ‘housing estate’ in British English.

A forstad is a more neutral term for a suburb but with connotations that lean towards detached houses, young families and leafy streets.

It may have originally been a separate town to the larger city before being swallowed up by it and is therefore likely to have its own ‘centre’ with shops and businesses.


This can distinguish it from a boligområde as well as from a satellitby (‘satellite town’), which remains physically separated from the city.

Forstad is occasionally used negatively when implying that people who live there are out of touch or provincial and not a ‘real’ part of the city. The best example of this that I can think of comes from football stadiums, where fans tell opposition fans they belong to a forstad of somewhere considered smaller or inferior to the actual location of their club.

To the tune of ‘Guantanamera’, I’ve heard I er en forstad til Hjørring (’You’re just a suburb of Hjørring’) directed at Aalborg fans, and perhaps even more humorously I er en forstad til Sverige (‘You’re just a suburb of Sweden’) at fans of FC Copenhagen.


Jeg savner livet i København meget, men vi trives meget bedre som familie i forstæderne.

I really miss life in Copenhagen, but it’s much better for us as a family to live in the suburbs.

Lystrup er ikke en forstad til Aarhus, det er en satellitby.

Lystrup is not a suburb of Aarhus, it’s a satellite town.


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