The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Swedish proverbs

Table of contents
1 A
2 B
3 D
4 E
5 F
6 G
7 H
8 I
9 K


  • "Alla vägar bär till Rom."
    • Translation: "All roads lead to Rome."
  • "Allt är inte guld som glimmar."
    • Translation: "Not everything that glimmers is gold."
    • Notes: Cf. "Man ska inte döma hunden efter håren."
  • "Arga katter får rivet skinn."
    • Translation: "Angry cats get scratched skin."
    • Translation: "Quarrelsome dogs come limping home."
  • "Alltid är det något sa flickan som blödde näsblod."
    • Translation: ""It's always something" said the girl with a nosebleed."


  • "Bäst att smida medan järnet är varmt."
    • Translation: "Strike while the iron is hot."
  • "Borta bra men hemma bäst."
    • Translation: "Away is good but at home is best."
    • Notes: Cf. "There's no place like home."
  • "Bränt barn skyr elden."
    • Translation: "Burned child avoids the fire."
    • Notes: Sometimes jokingly changed into "Bränt barn luktar illa." ("Burned child smells bad."). Cf. "Once bitten, twice shy."
  • "Bättre en fågel i handen än tio i skogen."
    • Translation: "A bird in the hand is worth more than ten in the bush."
  • "Bättre sent än aldrig."
    • Translation: "Better late than never."
  • "Bättre stämma i bäcken än i ån."
    • Translation: "Better to dam the brook than the creek."


  • "Dansa efter någons pipa."
    • Translation: "To dance according to someones pipe."
  • "Den enes död -- den andres bröd."
    • Translation: "The death of one -- the bread of the other."
    • Notes: What's bad for one person might be good for someone else.
  • "Den som gapar efter mycket, mister ofta hela stycket."
    • Translation: "Grasp all, lose all."
  • "Den som gräver en grop åt andra faller ofta själv däri."
    • Translation: "He/She who digs a pit for someone else, often falls into it him-/herself."
    • Notes: If you're trying to make things go bad for someone else, you yourself will probably be the one it'll go bad for.
  • "Det finns inga dåliga väder bara dåliga kläder."
  • "Det finns inget dåligt väder bara dåliga kläder" (older form)
    • Translation: "There is no bad weather only bad clothing."
    • Meaning: "wear your hat, just like mom told you to, and everything will be alright."
  • "Det gäller att smida medan järnet är varmt."
    • Translation: "You must take the chance to forge whilst the iron is hot."
  • "Det man inte vet mår man inte dåligt av."
    • Translation: "What you don't know doesn't hurt you."
  • "Det som inte dödar, härdar."
    • Translation: "What doesn't kill, hardens."
  • "Det var på håret."
    • Translation: "That was on the hair."
    • Notes: Meaning "that was close" in cases where something bad almost happened.
  • "Det är inte ens fel att två träter."
    • Translation: "It's not the fault of one, that two (people) are fighting."
  • "Det är inte ens fel, när två träter."
    • Translation: "It's not one person's fault if two people quarrel."
  • "Det är tanken som räknas."
    • Translation: "It's the thought that counts."
    • Notes: It doesn't matter if things didn't turn out right, as long as the intentions were good.


  • "En fluga gör ingen förnär."
    • Translation: "A fly doesn't harm anyone."
  • "Elda för kråkorna."
    • Translation: "Have a fire for the crows."
    • Note: Usually used about a house that is badly insulated.
  • "En gång, ingen gång -- två gånger, en vana."
    • Translation: "One time is no time -- two times is a habit."
  • "En olycka kommer sällan ensam."
    • Translation: "An accident rarely comes alone."
    • Notes: If something goes wrong, usually more things go wrong at about the same time.
  • "Man väntar aldrig för länge, när man väntar på något gott."
    • Translation: "You never wait too long, when you wait for something good."
  • "Ett mjukt svar stillar vrede."
    • Translation: "A soft answer calms the wrath."


  • "Friskt vågat, hälften vunnet."
    • Translation: "Daringly dared, half of it won."
    • Notes: Cf. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
  • "Full som en kaja."
    • "Drunk like a jackdaw."
  • "Först till kvarn får först mala."
    • Translation: "The first at the mill can grind the first."
    • Notes: Cf. "Early bird gets the worm"


  • "Goddag, yxskaft."
    • Translation: "Good day, axe-handles."
    • Notes: Usually said when someone says something that is totally off topic. The proverb originates from a story about a deaf man who used to sit outside his house, making axe-handles. Not hearing what people said he had learnt by heart the answers to what people usually asked him/said to him. Most people passing by would simply greet him and then ask him what he was making. But one day a stranger came along and asked him for the way to town, and so the answers turned into nonsense.
  • "Gräset är alltid grönare på andra sidan staketet."
    • Translation: "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."
  • "Gå som katten kring het gröt."
    • Translation: "Walk like the cat around hot porridge."


  • "Ha många järn i elden."
    • Translation: "To have a lot of irons in the fire."
    • Notes: To be involved in many activities. (Close, but not identical, to "Hålla många bollar i luften.".)
  • "Har man sagt ä får man säga ö."
    • Translation: "If you have said ä, you have to say ö."
  • "Hellre en fågel i handen än tio i skogen."
    • Translation: "Rather one bird in the hand, than ten in the woods." (The English equivalent would be "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.")
  • "Hålla många bollar i luften."
    • Translation: "Keep several balls in the air."
    • Notes: Being able to do many things at once. (Close, but not identical, to "Ha många järn i elden.".)
  • "Högmod går före fall."
    • Translation: "Pride goes before fall."


  • "I de grundaste vattnen går de fulaste fiskarna."
    • Translation: "In the shallowest waters, the ugliest fish swim."
    • Notes: "Ugly fish" usually means a suspicious person, possibly with criminal tendencies.
  • "I nöden prövas vännen."
    • Notes: Cf. "A friend in need is a friend indeed."
  • "Inga nyheter är goda nyheter."
    • Translation: "No news is good news."
  • "Ingen rök utan eld."
    • Translation: "No smoke without a fire."


  • "Köpa grisen i säcken."
    • Translation: "To buy the pig in the bag."
    • Notes: To do something without knowing what may be the consequences.


  • "Lika barn leka bäst."
    • Translation: "Alike children play the best."
    • Notes: Cf. "Birds of a feather flock together."
  • "Liten tuva stjälper ofta stort lass."
    • Translation: "Small tuft often overturns a big load."
    • Notes: It's often a small problem that eventually makes something go wrong.
  • "Lova runt, hålla tunt."
    • Translation: "Promise freely, fullfill sparingly."
    • Note: Said about someone who promises a lot but doesn't fulfill his/her promises.
  • "Lätt fånget, lätt förgånget."
    • "Easily caught, easily lost."


  • "Man får ta seden dit man kommer."
    • Translation: "Take the custom where you come."
    • When in Rome...
  • "Man kan inte lära gamla hundar sitta."
    • Translation: "You can't teach old dogs to sit."
  • "Man saknar inte kon förrän båset är tomt."
    • Translation: "You don't miss the cow until the stall is empty."
  • "Man ska inte döma hunden efter håren."
    • Translation: "Don't judge the dog from its hairs."
    • Notes: Cf. "Allt är inte guld som glimmar."
  • "Man ska inte gråta över spilld mjölk."
    • Translation: "Don't weep over spilled milk."
    • Notes: Don't mourn what went wrong, try to look ahead instead.
  • "Man ska inte gå över ån efter vatten."
    • Translation: "Don't cross the brook for water."
    • Notes: You shouldn't make things more complicated than necessary.
  • "Man ska inte kasta pärlor för svin."
    • Translation: "Don't throw pearls to the swine."
  • "Man ska inte måla fan på väggen."
    • Translation: "You should not paint the devil on the wall."
    • Notes: You shouldn't talk about what can go wrong, or it will go wrong.
  • "Man ska inte ropa hej, förrän man är över bäcken"
    • Translation: "Don't celebrate until you are across the brook."
  • "Man ska inte skåda given häst i munnen."
    • Translation: "Don't look a horse that was given to you in the mouth."
    • Note: Don't scrutinize a gift too closely, just be happy for it. (It doesn't matter what you get, what matters is that someone wanted to give it to you.)
    • Note: Cf. "Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth."
  • "Man ska inte såga av den gren man sitter på."
    • Translation: "You shouldn't saw off the branch you're sitting on."
    • Notes: Cf. "Don't bite the hand that feeds you."
  • "Mister du en så står dig tusen åter."
    • Translation: "If you loose one, there are a thousand more to choose from."
    • Notes: Usually used concerning broken hearts. There is also a continuation for it: "Väljer du en så är det tusen som gråter." ("If you choose one, a thousand will cry.").
  • "Morgonstund har guld i mund."
    • Translation: "Morning hour has gold in its mouth."
    • Notes: The strange spelling of mouth ("mund", in modern speech spelled "mun") is an old way of spelling it. "Mund" has been used since 1523 according to the Swedish Academy's dictionary.
  • "Mycket snack, lite verkstad."
    • "Much talking, little workshop."
    • Notes: Said to or about someone who talks a lot but doesn't do much.
    • Notes: Cf. "Talk is cheap."
  • "Många bäckar små blir till en stor å."
    • Translation: "Many small brooks will form a big river."
  • "Många bäckar små gör en stor å."
    • Translation: "Many a little makes a mickle."
  • "Måste böjas i tid det, som krokigt ska bli."
    • Translation: "Best to bend while it is a twig."
  • "Måtta två gånger, hugg en."
    • Translation: "Measure twice, cut once."


  • "När man talar om trollen så står de i farstun."
    • Translation: "When you're speaking about the trolls, they're standing in the entrance hall."
    • Notes: Usually said when someone you were just speaking about enters the room. The expression is often shortened to just "När man talar om trollen..." ("Speaking about the trolls...").
    • "Speak of the devil..."
  • "Nöden har ingen lag."
    • Translation: "In distress there is no law."


  • "Om en blind leder en blind, så faller de båda i gropen."
    • Translation: "If a blind man leads another, they both fall together."
  • "Ont krut förgås inte så lätt."
    • Translation: "Evil gun powder doesn't go away easily."
    • Notes: This proverb is a misunderstanding of the german "Unkreut vergeht nicht." ("Weeds don't go away.").


  • "Sakta men säkert."
    • Translation: "Slowly but surely."
    • Notes: Usually said when a work is progressing slowly, but still is heading in the right direction. The word "säkert" has several meanings (surely, certainly, safely, securely), somewhat broadening the use of the proverb, though most Swedes probably would agree that it is mainly used to express certainty about the progress of the work.
  • "Skrattar bäst, som skrattar sist."
    • Translation: "He laughs best who laughs last."
  • "Slicka uppåt, sparka nedåt."
    • Translation: "Lick upwards, kick downwards."
  • "Slå två flugor i en smäll."
    • Translation: "Hit two flies with one smack."
    • Notes: Cf. "Kill two birds with one stone."
  • "Skomakare bliv vid din läst."
    • Translation: "Shoemaker, stick to your last."
  • "Skrattar bäst som skrattar sist."
    • Translation: "He/She who laughs the last, laughs the best."
    • Notes: Usually said when someone tricks you and you intend to pay back.
  • "Skynda långsamt."
    • Translation: "Hurry slowly."
  • "Slå ned som en bomb."
    • Translation: "Hit like a bomb."
    • Notes: Usually used about surprising news.
  • "Slutet gott, allting gott."
    • Translation: "The end is good, everything is good."
    • Notes: Cf. "All's well that ends well."
  • "Som man bäddar får man ligga."
    • Translation: "The way you make your bed, that's how you'll lie down."

Or, "The way you make your bed, is the way you'll lie."

  • "Som man ropar i skogen får man svar."
    • Translation: "As the question so the answer."
  • "Stor i orden, liten på jorden."
    • Translation: "Big in the words, small on the ground."
    • Notes: Said about someone who wants to give the impression of being better than he/she in reality is.
  • "Surt sade räven om rönnbär."
    • Translation: "'Sour' said the fox about rowanberries"
  • "Sväva på små moln."
    • Translation: "Float on small clouds."
    • Notes: To be in seventh heaven, to be very very happy.
  • "Sådan herre sådan hund."
    • Translation: "Like master like dog."
  • "Sälj inte skinnet förrän björnen är skjuten."
    • Translation: "Don't sell the fur until the bear has been shot."


  • "Tala är silver, tiga är guld."
    • Translation: "To speak is silver, to keep silent is gold."
  • "The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected."
  • "Tomma tunnor bullrar mest."
    • Translation: "Empty barrels are the noisiest."
  • "Trampa i klaveret."
    • Alternative:
      • "Göra ett klavertramp."
    • Translation: "To step in the harmonica."
      • "To make a harmonica-step."
    • Note: To make a mistake (usually by saying or doing something inappropriate).
  • "Trägen vinner."
    • Translation: "Persevere and never fear."
  • "Tron kan förflytta berg."
    • Translation: "Belief can move mountains."
  • "Tänk efter före."
    • Translation: "Reflect on beforehand."
    • Notes: Meaning "think through the consequences before you act". The proverb is also somewhat of a word game, since the Swedish expression for "reflect" litterally is made up of the words "think after" and "on beforehand" litterally is "before", rendering the sentence "think after before".


  • "Ur askan i elden."
    • Translation: "Out of the ashes into the fire."
    • Notes: Going from a bad situation to an even worse. English equivalent might be "Out of the frying pan, into the fire."


  • "Vill man vara fin får man lida pin."
    • Translation: "If you want to look good, you have to suffer."
  • "Väck inte den björn som sover."
    • Translation: "Don't wake the bear that sleeps."
    • Notes: Cf. "Don't wake the lion."


  • "Även en blind höna kan hitta ett korn."
    • "Even a blind hen can find a grain."
  • "Även små grytor har öron."
    • Alternative:
      • "Små grytor har också öron."
    • Translation: "Small pots also have ears."
    • Notes: Even though kids are small, they do hear (and understand) a lot.
  • "Även solen har fläckar."
    • Translation: "Even the sun has got spots."
    • Notes: No one is perfect.


  • "Övning ger färdighet."
    • Translation: "Practice gives skill."
    • Notes: Cf. "Practice makes perfect."

See also: List of proverbs.

Last updated: 10-26-2005 03:52:15