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The Danish vocabulary you’ll need to follow the election

Do you know your valgflæsk from your valgkort? The difference between Venstre and venstre? Here's a guide to the words and phrases you need to know ahead of the Danish election on November 1st.

The Danish vocabulary you’ll need to follow the election
A dog peers out from a Danish valgsted (polling stations). Photo: Claus Bech/Ritzau Scanpix

Danish politics is hard to follow even for those with a lifetime’s experience of the political system and fluency in the language. For foreigners trying to follow events, it can be extremely confusing.

But once you’re armed with a bit of background knowledge and some Danish political vocabulary, the country’s politics does get easier to understand (at least, most of the time).

With Denmark preparing for what could be a knife-edge election on Tuesday, November 1st, here’s our guide to the key phrases, terminology and names you’ll need.

READ ALSO: Denmark to hold election on November 1st

The basics

The word for ‘election’ is valg, which also means ‘choice’, just to make things extra confusing for Danish learners.

Denmark has three types of election: folketingsvalget (the election for the national parliament), regionalvalget (the regional election) and kommunalvalget (the municipal election).

These do not take place at the same time. The latter two, both local elections, were last held in 2021.

That leaves the country to fully concentrate on November 1st on voting for the next regering (government) to take its place in the folketing or parlament (parliament) at Christiansborg, the seat of the parliament in Copenhagen.

Danish citizens over the age of 18 have stemmeretten (the right to vote). But although the national election tends to get more attention, non-citizens should know that they may be able to stemme (vote) in the regional and local elections.

If you’re stemmeberettiget (eligible to vote), either as a Danish national or as a foreigner in local elections, you will receive a valgkort (voting card) in the post.

Prior to elections, you are likely to see increasing reference to meningsmålinger (opinion polls) showing which parties are ahead and which are lagging as voting day nears.

The campaigning

The valgkampagne (election campaign or election season) is already underway with the parties falling over themselves trying to present the most attractive valgløfter (campaign promises) or, if you want to be more cynical, valgflæsk (overly generous promises; literally ‘election pork’).

Broadcasters DR and TV2 have already shown the first partilederdebat (party leader debate), with several more presumably to come. During these debates, there’s a good chance one party leader will accuse another of saying things that are floskler (empty phrases or platitudes).

The voting

Voters are permitted to brevstemme (literally ‘vote by letter’ but meaning to vote in advance). On November 1st, valgdagen (the day of the election), valglokaler and valgsteder (polling stations) will presumably have long queues.

At polling stations, voters take the stemmeseddel (ballot paper) and sætter kryds (place a cross) next to their preferred parti (party), before placing it in the stemmeurn (ballot box).

In most valgkredser (constituencies) there will be the option to stemme personligt, which is when you tick the name of a specific candidate who you think should represent the party as folketingsmedlem (member of parliament). Voters can also just vote for the liste, meaning they give a general vote to a party.

Alternatively, people may choose to stemme blankt, which is when you do turn up at the polling station on the day, but instead of voting you put a blank slip of paper in the ballot box as a form of protest.

Denmark generally enjoys high valgdeltagelse (voter turnout). In the 2019 election more than 84 percent of more than 4.2 million eligible voters cast their vote.

The contenders

There are as many as 13 different Danish parties in parliament currently.

Their names are (deep breath): Socialdemokratiet (Social Democrats), Venstre (Liberal), Socialistisk Folkeparti (Socialist People’s Party, usually shorted to SF), Radikale Venstre (Social Liberals), Enhedslisten (Red Green Alliance), Det Konservative Folkeparti (Conservatives), Danmarksdemokraterne (Denmark Democrats), Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party, sometimes shortened to DF), Nye Borgerlige (no official English name but translates to New Right), Liberal Alliance (Liberal Alliance), Frie Grønne (Independent Greens), Alternativet (The Alternative) and Moderaterne (Moderates).

A number of members of parliament are meanwhile uden for folketingsgrupperne or løsgængere (independent).

You may have noticed that the Liberal party’s Danish name is Venstre, which is actually the word for ‘left’. Confusingly, Venstre are a højrefløjsparti (right wing party), even though their name suggests they are venstreorienteret (on the left).

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why do the names of Danish political parties have to be so confusing?

The current government is led by the Social Democrats, who are a venstrefløjsparti (left wing party) and part of the rød bloc (‘red bloc’) of allied parties on the left wing.

The traditional opponents are højrefløjen (the right wing), also referred to as blå bloc (the ‘blue bloc’) and sometimes de borgerlige (the bourgeois – which doesn’t automatically have the same strong connotations in Danish as in English).

This has the potential to change after the election. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has said she wants to form a bred regering (‘broad government’), meaning a centre coalition or a cross-aisle government. That would break with Denmark’s established ‘bloc politics’ system which sees the left- and right-wing parties in opposing factions.

READ ALSO: ‘Bloc politics’: A guide to understanding parliamentary elections in Denmark

The future

According to meningsmålinger (opinion polls), the two blocs could be very close following the vote on November 1st. That could mean lengthy post-election forhandlinger (negotiations), especially with Frederiksen adding to the intrigue by talking up a government which spans hen over midten (‘across the centre’).

The current government is a mindretalsregering (minority government), but this might not be the case if several parties come together to form a koalitionsregering (coalition government).

The siddende statsminister (incumbent prime minister) continues after the election if they have a majority of Denmark’s 179 MPs behind them – meaning their own party along with allied parties has an overall majority.

If the incumbent loses the election, a new prime minister must be found. This is done through a process known as a dronningerunde (literally a ‘Queen’s round’). Here, the leader of each party has an audience with the Queen. After this, the Queen nominates a person to lead the new government or lead negotiations to form it.

The leader of the losing bloc can also concede the election.

Once a new prime minister and government is in place, they are formally nominated by the Queen at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen before emerging and facing the public on the palace square.

Can you think of any other Danish political words? Let us know and we’ll add them to the list.

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For members


11 very useful Danish words that are very difficult to translate

Some words in the Danish language are incredibly commonplace but do not have a 1:1 equivalent in English.

11 very useful Danish words that are very difficult to translate


This is a useful filler-word which can be used to mean “accordingly”, “thus”, “therefore”, “indeed” or “I mean”, but doesn’t exactly match any of them.

It is, however, also a much more articulate alternative to saying ”err”, which is how it often fits into sentences.

If you’re familiar with the German word also (which is not the same as “also” in English), altså will feel a bit more recognisable. The Danish word is formed of two adverbs: alt (everything) and så from således (“like this” or “in this way”).


Translated as “such”, sådan is related to således (see above) and can be used in many ways, including as a filler-word, to mean “there we go”, “like that”, “in this way”. It can also be used when you have finished something, to mean “done.”

You may hear it used as an exclamation to praise someone: Sådan, mand! means something akin to “way to go, man!”


Pronounced ‘yo’, it means yes, but can only be used in response to a negative question or statement.

Examples where it would be used to mean “yes” (rather than the normal Danish word, ja):

Tog du ikke opvasken i aftes? — Jo, det gjorde jeg inden jeg gik i seng.
Did you not wash the dishes last night? – Yes, I did it just before I went to bed.

Du tog altså ikke opvasken i går. — Altså, jo, det gjorde jeg.
You didn’t even wash the dishes last night. – Er, yes I did.

Jo can also be used in the middle of a sentence to add emphasis. This use is near-impossible to translate and will often be omitted in the English version of a sentence, with context hopefully filling in to add some natural emphasis.


This is a very satisfying word to say and is used as an interjection after a mistake or frustration. The closest English translation is “never mind”, “don’t worry”, “stuff happens”. But pyt also comes with a positivity, to express that you accept a situation is out of your control and there’s no need getting worked up about it.

Pyt is also used to comfort other people and diffuse situations. In 2018 it was chosen as Denmark’s favourite word.

Variations with the same meaning include pyt med det, pyt skidt and tage pyt-hatten på.

READ ALSO: The seven stages of learning Danish every foreigner goes through

Orke, gide

These two verbs are used to express the same thing; that you can’t be bothered to do something or that you don’t have the strength for it.

Jeg gider ikke tage opvasken (“I don’t feel like doing/can’t be bothered to wash the dishes”) is a phrase you might hear someone say at the end of a tiring day.

Orke is a slightly stronger version of gide. Commonly heard in the phrasing: “Jeg orker det simpelthen ikke” (I simply can’t be bothered).

It’s common to hear children say gider ikke in formulations like det gider jeg ikke, which would be the equivalent to “I don’t want to” in response to being asked to do a chore.

On the flip side, you can also gide godt when you are keen to partake in something. Skal vi ses til et glas vin på fredag? – Ja, det gider jeg godt (“Shall we meet for a glass of wine on Friday? – Yes, I’d like that”).


Træls belongs to local dialects in Jutland, although it’s also very common to hear it in Copenhagen. It is used to describe something annoying, tiresome, exasperating, inconvenient or just plain boring.

Jeg fik en bøde på 600kr fordi min baglygte var gået ud. — Ej hvor træls.
I’ve been fined 600 kroner by because my rear bicycle light wasn’t working. – Oh, how annoying.


Can be variously translated to shared, joint, common or together. But it also encompasses a feeling and concept of community and togetherness that is hard to describe in English.

It can be used in many variations, such as fællesskab, which means community, fælleshave, a “community garden”, and fællesspisning, an initiative to eat together as a community. This is becoming increasingly popular in Danish cities, as a way to bring people together, where the food is made en masse, served at the same time and is a chance for people to connect over food.


The literal translation of miljø, like the French milieu is “environment”, referring to the planet and green issues. But it can also be used when talking about different types of social circles and hobbies.

Studentermiljøet is used to describe the social aspect of student life. Venstreorienterede miljøer is “left-wing social circles” or “left-wing communities”. For hobbies, it can describe enthusiasts of most things: bilentusiaster (car enthusiasts) are part of the bilentusiast-miljø or “car enthusiast community”.

It is also used in arbejdsmiljø, (“work environment”), which relates to both the physical and mental affects of a workplace on its staff.


blik is a glance, view or momentary image of something, as the word øjeblik, literally “blink of the eye” but meaning “moment”, attests.

If you have an overblik over something, you have a view “over the top” of it or, more accurately described, a clear view of the whole thing. How this is used depends on context but usually it means something like “understand what is going on”.

Politiet har ikke flere kommentarer, indtil det har det fulde overblik over situationen.

The police has no further comments until it has a full picture of the situation.


While udgang means “way out” or “exit” and punkt is “point”, udgangspunkt is often translated to “point of departure”, but this term feels a bit awkward in English. It also seems a bit inaccurate given that “departure” in Danish is not udgang, but afgang. Confusing prefixes lead the way here.

When you hear someone say som udgangspunkt, i udgangspunktet or vores udgangspunkt er, what they are telling you is that they have adopted a given initial stance or position on an issue and that will be their default approach unless they are given good reason to change it.

Regeringens udgangspunkt er at vi skal skære i de offentlige udgifter.

The government is of the view that we should cut public sector costs.


We’re sure you’ve heard the word hundreds of times by now, but we had to include hygge on this list, despite the fact that it is technically now also an English word. Often mistranslated to “cosy” or a feeling of being together with loved ones, there is no direct equivalent English word to hygge.

Hygge is arguably the most translatable word on this list, however. In the vast majority of contexts in which it is used, it simply means “having a nice time”.