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An Impossible Word

It was the adjective hyggelig. I looked it up.According to Berlitz it’s pronounced “hew-ger-li,” and you have to make your lips taut and rounded for the first syllable, as if you were very, very chilly. As a frequently used word, hyggelig possessed both a range of meaning and connotations, which made it difficult to translate. When I asked Kaja about it, she huffed in exasperation. “Oh, hyggelig, hyggelig, hyggelig—it’s hyggelig this, hyggelig that. Everything’s hyggelig to us Danes.”

Dictionaries give “comfortable,” “snug,” “cozy,” “homelike,” “accommodating.”

Old Norse, it turned out, had three relevant words, hyggja (to believe, intend, “have a mind to”), hugan (care, concern), and huggan (comfort, consolation).

The sagas are full of the comforts of the mead hall, long house, and central household fireplace, while the weather rages outside.

-Roger Smith struggles to define hyggelig on

  1. thepursuitofhyggelig posted this