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Swedish Vocabulary

The Swedish language itself dates back to the 13th century, when a dialect known as Old East Norse split into two, resulting in the earliest forms of Swedish and Danish. But as with all languages, especially in Europe, the Swedish vocabulary has developed into a melting pot of borrowed and adapted words and phrases. The variety of flavors you get with Swedish words is part of what makes the language unique, and learning Swedish vocabulary words can be informative and fun.

The Origins of Swedish Vocabulary

Swedish is a Germanic language, so the main core of their language derives from German and Middle Low German. However, Latin was a scholarly language in the region before Old Swedish itself originated, and you can still see its influence in religious and scientific terms. During the 18th century, most of the European aristocracy learned French as a second language, and so that influence on Swedish words also spread. Since the reign of notorious Francophile king Gustav III, French was common among the upper classes, and you can still spot French words in the Swedish vocabulary today, though they are often adapted to the Swedish alphabet in how they're spelled. Industrialization also brought the English language to the forefront. Today, English is a common second language for many Swedes, so English words have bled easily into their vernacular. Perhaps a more surprising influence is the Romani language, which many forms of Swedish slang are derived from!

Compounding Swedish Words

One of the trickiest things about learning Swedish words is mastering compounds, which can be enormously long and hard to pronounce. Putting new words together to form new words is a common trait of Germanic languages, but Swedish really takes it to a new level. The word sjukhus, which means hospital, is actually a combination of the words "sjuk" and "hus", which mean sick and house. Blixtlås, the Swedish word for zipper, is a combination of the words for lightning and lock. While the most commonly used and understood compound words are listed in the dictionary, Swedish words can technically be as long as you want, and you can learn when to compound as you go along. The longest word officially recognized by the SAOL dictionary is Realisationsvinstbeskattning, which is 18 letters long and means capital gain tax. But it's possible to create words with over 90 letters! While this is an interesting fact to learn about the language, it's not necessarily a common part of everyday speech. Still, simple compounding is something every Swedish speaker learns with practice.

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