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27 Strange Icelandic Idioms and Phrases

August 19, 2017
Languages

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.

Icelandic Phrases

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.

3. RAÐLJÓST

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

Gluggaveður

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

Carry on!

11. It all comes with cold water

Kemur Allt Með Kalda Vatninu

Be patient! 

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.

| Voyaging VIking | Icelandic Sayings

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

Algjört rassgat

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

| Voyaging Viking | Icelandic Phrases

Want more on Iceland? You've come to the right place.

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Icelandic Insults

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Siggi Einarson

My name is Siggi-dubbed by my American friends because of the Icelandic yogurt-I am a writer, polyglot, and aspiring expat, not a cup of yogurt (unfortunately).

My love for travelling began with a trip to Iceland and Sweden to visit my family when I was just 15 years old. I spent so long dreaming of the possibilities of life abroad but I always figured these dreams were too far reached. Flash forward almost 10 years, here I am again, both cursing and thanking this damn travel bug.

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