Icelandic is an Indo-European language from the North Germanic branch and is one of the oldest, still spoken, languages in the world.  Icelandic is also the original Scandinavian language. Swedish, Norwegian and Danish developed from the Icelandic language.  Here are a few phrases that might sound odd & funny when translated:

  • Icelanders don’t tell you to “get on with it”. They say “on with the butter!” = Áfram með smjörið
  • When Icelanders have no clue what so ever they say “I come completely from the mountains” = Ég kem alveg af fjöllum

Read more: Weird facts about Iceland

  • The Icelandic hot dogWhen Icelanders say “the best part of it” they often say “that’s a raisin at the end of the hot dog!” = Það er rúsínan í pylsuendanum
  • The Icelandic version of “Good things comes to those who wait” is “it all comes with the cold water!” = Kemur allt með kalda vatninu
  • When a job/project needs more than the regular effort, they say ”No mitten grabbing will do now” = Nú duga engin vettlingatök
  • Instead of saying “Stop whining”, they say “bite the molar!” = Bíta á jaxlinn
  • When weather is nasty outside but looks fine from the inside Icelanders call it “Window weather” = Gluggaveður

Words in Icelandic

  • When someone is flirting with someone, Icelanders often say someone is “giving under the foot!” = Gefa undir fótinn
  • Aljgört rassgatIf a baby/kid is utterly adorable, Icelanders often say he/she is an “absolute butthole!” = Algjört rassgat
  • If someone is “on the wrong track” in life, they say “on the wrong shelf in life.” = Rangri hillu í lífinu
  • If someone is stupid, they say the person “doesn’t walk whole to the forest.” = Gengur ekki heill til skógar

Test your Iceland knowledge: Iceland Quiz

  • One of the more newer phrases is when people outside zip code 101 (downtown Reykjavik) are unhappy and calls the people living there a “Latte sipping downtown rat” = Lattelepjandi miðbæjarrótta
  • When you need to do some serious thinking, it’s suggested you “lay your head in water” = Að leggja höfuðið í bleyti
  • Most people say “You’re welcome” after receiving a thanks for dinner. Icelanders say “Hope the food will do you good” = Verði þér að góðu

To this line up should be added the word that officially was in 2013 chosen as the most beautiful word in the Icelandic language and that is the word for midwife which is ljósmóðir.  As often, the word is put together with two words. In this case it’s ljós meaning light and móðir meaning mother. The mother of light.


There is one word that demands its own chapter and that is the Icelandic word Jæja.  It would be hard to find a word equally as versatile as Jæja. We will do a brave attempt to cover all the meanings of the word:

  • Icelandic for travelersJæja? – Are you done/coming/going/finished/ready?
  • Jæja? – What’s the meaning of this?
  • Jæja? – Yeah, sure!
  • Jæja? – What’s new?
  • Jæja? – Really??
  • Jæja! – Ok, let’s begin!
  • Jæja! – Ok, let’s begin NOW!
  • Jæja! – Stop it!
  • Jæja! – That’s weird!
  • Jæja! – I am DONE!
  • Jæja! – I am finished!
  • Jæja! – I want to go now!
  • Jæja! – That was really lousy

So there are a few of the meanings of that little word. It all depends on how you say it, where the pronunciation lies.

The key to learning any new words or phrases in any language is to have fun and not to be afraid to sound weird like we all do when learning a new language. There are a few pronunciations that takes awhile to learn here like often, not always, when two of the letter L are together, it is often pronounced as T & L together like for example the word kalla (to call) is pronounced like it would be written as katla. But then you have the nickname Kalli which becomes Kalla in some grammatical situations but is never pronounced as Katla. The volcano Katla is pronounced as it’s spelled.

Another pronunciation is many words that has -ng in it like the word löng (long). That is pronounced lönk with a clear k sound.


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