Danish word of the day: Håndsrækning

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

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash and Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

We’re reaching out to you with another Danish word.


What is håndsrækning? 

En håndsrækning, literally “a reaching out of the hand”, comes from hånd, “hand”, and ‘rækning’.

‘Rækning’ does not exist as a standalone word but comes from the verb at række. This is an interesting word because it can mean both to reach out and grab something or to pass something to somebody else.

For example, you can say jeg rækker ud efter saltet (”I am stretching across to take the salt”) and hun rækker mig saltet (“she is passing me the salt”).


In both cases, the meaning is associated with a reaching or stretching motion. Række can also have more abstract meanings, such as in gaslagrene rækker nok ikke hele vinteren, (“gas stocks probably won’t last all winter”).

You can also række hånden op (“put your hand up”) or række fingeren i vejret (“put your finger up in the air”) to answer a teacher’s question at school.

At række fuckfingeren is a common way of saying “giving the bird” or “giving the middle finger”. It should be noted that the word “fuck” is a swear word in Danish but is considered a far milder form of curse than it is in English.

READ ALSO: Why you shouldn’t be surprised to hear Danish children say the F word

Why do I need to know håndsrækning?

The literal meaning of “reaching out a hand” is not how you are most likely to hear or use håndsrækning. Rather, it is usually deployed to describe help or support that is offered in a difficult situation.

This makes its meaning closer to “helping hand” in English, but not “holding out an olive branch” which is associated with reconciliation.

If you want to offer someone a hand with their work, however, it is probably better to more closely match the English phrase by saying vil du have en hånd? (“do you want a hand?”).

Håndsrækning is a usually used to talk about an offer of help, rather than during the actual process of making the offer.


The ‘å’ in this word is one of the Danish vowels that doesn’t exist in English, but is quite close to a strong ‘o’ like in the British received pronunciation of words like ‘hop’ or ‘bottom’ (first ‘o’). The ‘d’ is silent but followed by a glottal stop, like in an earlier word we described, hund.

Roughly, you can pronounce this word “hon-s rak ning”.


Regeringens forslag er en håndsrækning til borgere, der er ramt af høje energipriser.

The government’s proposal is a helping hand to residents affected by high energy prices.

Der skal mere end en håndsrækning til, hvis alle borgere skal have råd til de dyre energiregninger, mener oppositionen.

More than just a helping hand is needed if all the population is to be able to afford expensive energy bills, according to the opposition.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also