What the Faen? How to Swear in Norwegian

A Frog in the Fjord: One Year in Norway Book

Swearing in Norwegian is something one should do very carefully, probably like in any other language. The reason is that some swear words may not have a direct translation in your language, so you might not grasp the strength of the swear words. Or it has one but which should not be used in the same context. One example: I believed for many years that “Herregud” was not a swear word, it was just something I could say all day long, like “Oh my God”. Well no, it isn’t. Herregud is a word children for example are expected not to say, because it is a swear word, maybe weaker than Fy faen but still strong. In some areas it is a strong swear word which even adults don’t say that freely (like in the South).

Religion – All about the devil 

Every language seem to have their own genre of swear words, usually based on the tabu of their own culture. In French language from France it is all about sex and insulting one’s mother. Prostitute, brothel and so on are strong swear words. In English you would never say “Shit brothel” to swear, it just does not make sense. But then it is not just about the language, it is mainly about culture. In Québec (Canada) they also speak French, but their culture is much more about tabus in religion (Catholicism), so swear words are for example tabernacle, calice (chalice in English) etc. which are just regular words in France. Saying “Tabernacle” because one gets angry would just make people wonder why on Earth you are talking about that outside of Church.

In Norway, it seems the Protestant Church, Hell and especially the Devil are even more tabu and an endless inspiration for swear words.

Fy faen is a usual one, referring to the devil. If you want to say that without swearing you can say fy søren or fyttikatta. Satan and Helvete (hell),and of course the winning match Faen i helvete. Jævla is also used as an adjective (comes from the devil), to talk just about anything or anyone that makes you angry “Jævla nabo som boret hele natta”

I recommend listening to the song “Fy faen” by HKeem, which allowed many Norwegian kids to swear whilst making the excuse they were actually singing a song.

From English: Føkk

Norwegian language is, like most other languages, influenced by English. This means television shows like SKAM have used many swear words from English, bringing them into mainstream Norwegian language. Føkk, føkk deg, etc. Føkk den driten used in SKAM comes from F** this shit for example, says a language professor who researched the topic. Although keep in mind Norwegians, especially kids, repeat these swear words without really imagining the impact and the meaning for native speakers.

The very conservative Southern Norwegians

Southern Norway, also known as the Bible belt of Norway, is an area where you might want to take it easy on the swearing. There seems to be a Church at every corner of every street, although of course not everyone is that religious. But the christian parties are strong there, and you might want to lower the tone on all the satan and helvete talk. According to this book, teaching children in Southern Norway what they can and cannot say, fy fasttelefon seems to be an alternative to fy faen. Oh well, creativity never stops does it.

The very creative Northern Norwegians

The Norwegian masters at swearing are undeniably the Northern Norwegians. Every foreigner is told that story that hæstkuk (horse dick) is such a regular word in Northern Norwegian that a man was allowed to say it to a police officer without being condemned. They have a huge variation, and a high tolerance for what one can say without “crossing the line”, and it gets quite creative.

The winner of the National championship in swearing in 2010 was of course Northern Norwegian, with personal creations such as (see below) which I cannot really translate I’m afraid.

– Røsk mæ i skinnfletta di gorrhysa av en rottpung!

– Slogfetta!, Hysetryne!

So be careful when you swear in Norwegian, it is not that innocent!

13 thoughts on “What the Faen? How to Swear in Norwegian

  1. I’ve lived in Norway for two years, at first one year in the South, then in the North. I was so surprised when my friends from the South told me a bit shocked, that I apparently started to swear much more since I’ve moved to the North. I thought it was funny that this was the first change they noticed on me 😀
    My favourite swear word I learned in the north is “din jævla hestekuk!”. So creative 😀

  2. Among the T9 predictive text system for mobile phones more famous suggestions was “fafo” for “faen”. This lead to some people using fafo as a swearword. It is very seldom now, but the staff at the research institute Fafo, me among them, loved it.

  3. Actually fuck/føkk is a Norwegian Word in origin and has been adapted by the English.

    Ordet fuck har sitt opphav i det norrøne verbet å fokka, som tyder å slå. Ifølgje professoren var det eit ord vikingane brukte for å skildre mannen sine handlingar under samleie. Og i amerikanske fengsel oppstod uttrykket fuck you som eit trugsmål fangane imellom.

  4. Im from Bergen, and I promise that “herregud” is used exactly like “oh my god” here. Nobody cares.

    1. Christians care.. unfortunately so many people say it, even on TV, which I think is even worse… like, why even put it in the script??? My heart hurts every time I hear it!
      If people around me use it, I address it, as I don’t find it very respecting towards Christians.

  5. Thanks.

    Very educational… and I’m going to check these words with the Norse dialect used in my husband’s area – genetically, the Norwegian enclave of Northern England.

  6. Uff da- not a serious mishap
    uffa meg- more serious mishap with a possible willingness to help

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