Danish word of the day: Øm

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

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash and Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

The word of the day is a bit of a sore spot.


What is øm? 

It sounds like a filler word, but øm is actually an adjective and has a number of meanings. It sounds almost the same as øhm, the equivalent of “erm” in English, but the two words are distinct.

The general meaning of øm is something that is sensitive, but there are several ways it can be used as we’ll see below.


Its origins are thought to be from an Old Norse word meaning “poor” or “unhappy”, but this is uncertain according to the dictionary.

Why do I need to know øm?

You can say something is øm if it is physically sore, making it sensitive to the touch or painful. In this context you might see it used in medical descriptions: huden kan blive rødt, hævet og ømt means “the skin can become red, swollen and sore”.

There is also a figurative meaning to this, similar to the figurative “sore spot” or “sensitive spot” in English. Here, the “sore spot” could cause problems if “touched”, meaning spoken about, and the implicit message is that despite it being a sore spot it’s best to deal with it. Here’s an example:

Jeg sagde han skulle tage det op med arbejdsgiveren, selvom det nok er et ømt punkt.

”I said hes hould bring it up with his employer even though it’s probably a sensitive topic”.

A person can also be described as øm if they are sensitive or even sensual. This can also apply to a song or poem with very romantic themes.

Det her nummer er godt nok ømt. Vil du ikke sætte noget andet på?

”This song is so emotional. Can you put something else on?”

Finally, øm can mean “sensitive” about a person but with negative connotations, meaning they are easily offended or are touchy about a certain subject.

Du må endelig ikke nævne, at han er ved at blive skaldet. Han er meget øm over sit hår.

”Please don’t mention that he’s going bald. He’s very touchy about his hair.”


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