27 Strange Icelandic Idioms and Phrases
Every culture, country, and language have their own slang or colloquialisms. They are about as unique as the culture and the people within the country itself! Language is a weird thing, guys, especially when you have to translate your idioms or insults to outsiders. Here goes nothing!
Now, unless you want to insult the locals, I would avoid using some of these unless you are friendly with them. You'll know what I mean in a minute.
1. I come from the mountains
Ég kem alveg af fjöllum.
This phrase throws some shade at mountain dwellers, and means, “I have no idea what you’re talking about/what’s going on.”
2. I will find you on a beach
Ég mun finna þig í fjöru.
If you're Icelandic, beware of the beach: this idiom (or threat) means, “I will get back at you,” “I’ll get my revenge,” or “Don’t make me hurt you.” This is not an invitation.
If you ever need to find your way out of a cave, or just navigate to the kitchen in the middle of the night to snack on some hangikjöt, this word will come in handy, as it basically translates to “enough light to navigate.”
4. Window Weather
This word gets a lot of traction in Iceland: it means “window-weather,” as in, the kind of weather that’s nice to look at, but not experience.
5. They splash the skyr who own it
Þeir sletta skyrinu sem eiga það.
Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt-like dairy product and it’s been used for sustenance as well as ammunition for years (just ask the Reykjavik police). It's like “people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.”
6. To lay your head in water
Að leggja höfuðið í bleyti.
While “on a pillow” might be the more logical place to rest your head, this phrase suggests you put it in water to soak when you need to spend some time working something out or coming up with a new idea. This is kind of like saying, "sleep on it."
7. The raisin at the end of the hot dog/sausage
Rúsínan í pylsuendanum.
English speakers might say that a good and surprising thing that happens in addition to something that’s already awesome is a cherry on top of a sundae or the icing on top of the cake. The raisin at the end of a sausage expresses the same thought—it's a nice supplement to an already wonderful treat. Or something.
8. No mitten grabbing
Nú duga engin vettlingatök.
When you want something done carefully and properly, this is the phrase to use.
10. ON WITH THE BUTTER!
Áfram með smjörið
11. It all comes with cold water
Kemur Allt Með Kalda Vatninu
12. Blind is a Bookless Man
Blindur er Bóklaus Maður
Icelandic people read the most books in the world per capita. Reading is a huge part of the culture, and therefore this saying exists.
13. Totally Out Driving
Alveg Út Að Aka
If somebody is acting crazy or is completely off about something, Icelandic people say that that person is totally or completely out driving.
14. I took him out to the bakery
Ég tók hann í bakaríið
I sure told him!
15. I will show you the two worlds
Ég skal sýna þér í tvo heimana
Used as a threat
16. Is everything OK at home?
Er ekki allt í lagi heima hjá þér?
You are suggesting that there is something wrong with the person or that they may not be the sharpest tool in the shed
17. He’s on the wrong shelf in life
Hann er á rangri hillu í lífinu
When someone is not cut out for what they are doing
18. He doesn’t walk whole to the forest
Hann gengur ekki heill til skógar
When someone is unwell
19. I won’t sell it more expensive than I bought it
Ég sel það ekki dýrara en keypti það
If you're gossiping, say this so you can absolve yourself of any blame if the rumor isn't true
20. No one becomes a bishop without a beating
Enginn verður óbarinn biskup
Work hard to meet your goals
21. You are such a Latte-drinking wool scarf
Þú ert nú meiri lattelepjandi lopatrefillinn
Degrading term to someone that lives in Reykjavik
22. An absolute butt
If a baby, puppy, kitten, or something very cute then you would call it an absolute butt.
23. A butt in a Tub
Rassgat í bala
Used to mean "nothing at all!"
24. Just ten drops
bara tíu dropar
"just a little bit". If someone asks if you want coffee, you can see "bara tíu dropar" and they will know to only give you a bit.
25. Like a poorly made object
Eins og illa gerður hlutur
You would call someone this if they are just standing around doing nothing and very confused. You're not being very useful.
26. Bite the molar
Bíta á jaxlinn
Icelanders are known to be tough. When something is difficult ahead, we bite the molar, get over it, and get through it.
27. Give under the foot
Gefa undir fótinn
To flirt with someone