≡ Menu

Quirky Icelandic phrases

Just for fun, I think I’ll start a series of posts called Quirky Icelandic Phrases.

Maybe throw in the odd idiom or two.

OK, here’s idiosyncratic phrase number one: whenever someone has been out in the sun and has developed a bit of a tan, people will say to him / her:

“You’ve taken some colour.”

/idiosyncratic phrase 1



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rik Hardy July 24, 2010, 12:41 pm

    I like “Viltu mjólk út í kaffið?”
    (“Would you like milk out in your coffee?”)

    But don’t even get me started on things like, “upp frá” and “niður eftir”, which are untranslatable because nobody knows what they mean.
    They do sound cool, though.

  • Luna_Sea July 24, 2010, 4:20 pm

    I have a suggestion, maybe you could also write it in Icelandic for those of us (me) who are trying to learn a little Icelandic. Takk.

  • Schnee July 24, 2010, 7:20 pm

    This is a great idea, and I second what Luna_Sea said. Please give us the Icelandic phrases, too, not just the translations / explanations!

  • idunn July 24, 2010, 7:25 pm

    “You’ve taken some colour.”

    Would that be: ‘Þú hefur tekið nokkrum litum.’

    Or is my translation way off?

  • hildigunnur July 24, 2010, 10:04 pm

    Luna_Sea, take a look at my blog – I’ve been writing my travel blog to Australia both in Icelandic and English. Don’t as of yet link on the Icelandic version of the blog post but can easily do that if someone’s interested 🙂

  • hildigunnur July 24, 2010, 10:06 pm

    Idunn – “Þú hefur tekið lit” or “Þú hefur tekið svolítinn lit”. Which even I have done this summer…

  • Mike Richards July 25, 2010, 12:38 am

    Great idea!

    Any chance of some links to MP3s so we can hear them pronounced? I still can’t hear the end of words in Icelandic – but I have a similar trouble with English.

  • Richard July 25, 2010, 1:44 am

    Proof of Irish links to Iceland? We often say ‘you’ve got a good colour’ which often really means sunburn.

  • Michael T July 25, 2010, 4:12 am

    We also use that saying here in northern New York, same meaning.

  • elín July 25, 2010, 1:25 pm

    this is also said in Minnesota … just figured it was a Scandinavian/Nordic thing carried over from the old countries. Usually, though, it is said a bit sternly by someone like one’s mother – as in be careful of how much sun you are taking.

  • Vikingisson July 25, 2010, 8:48 pm

    The foundation of my own blog:
    “Jæja, en áfram med smjörid!” (correct me if I’m wrong)
    “Well, on with the butter!”

    (and yes, I think “I come from mountain”)

  • Mike Richards July 25, 2010, 8:50 pm

    Where I grew up if you saw someone with a suntan you said ‘so, you’ve been abroad then?’

  • Diana July 25, 2010, 11:39 pm

    In Iceland, when someone asks you if you want milk in your coffee, you can answer: “Yes, only ten drops” (já, bara tíu dropar)

  • Dale Olafson July 26, 2010, 7:58 am

    I’m more than curious Alda about how this phrase is actually spoken in Icelandic, i.e: spelling and phonetics please. This would be a great addition to my Icelandic coarse.

  • Ned Ludd July 27, 2010, 7:18 am

    When I lived in Seattle, pale skin was the “Seattle tan”. Summer was beautiful, 70ºF / 21ºC and clear, sunny skies everyday, but it only lasted from the beginning of July to the end of August. The climate’s different now, so maybe summer has gotten longer; it’s definitely gotten hotter. May-June, as well as September, would be be a mix of rainclouds and sunshine – not too bad, really – but after six months of near-constant overcast skies, people looked a bit sun-starved.

  • hildigunnur July 27, 2010, 10:18 pm

    Diana, the ten drops is mainly used for the coffee itself, rather than the milk in it.

    My dad sometimes says when asked if he’d like some coffee: Tíu dropa – efst í bollann takk (ten drops – in the top of the cup, please)

  • Margrét Lukka July 28, 2010, 11:11 pm

    Quirky Icelandic Phrase: “It rains up his nose.”

    Það rignir upp í nefið á honum…. meaning someone is snobby or stuck up.

  • Mike Richards July 28, 2010, 11:27 pm

    Oh Margrét that is a *fabulous* phrase – I love it and will try it over here in the UK.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Tómas August 1, 2010, 8:17 pm

    Rik Hardy July 24, 2010 at 12:41 pm
    … “upp frá” and “niður eftir”, which are untranslatable because nobody knows what they mean.

    Well *I* know what they mean 😉

    When I lived in the West-fjords, where there is no flat land, there was no North or South, East or West – the four cardinal directions were (and still are) up/down (the mountain) and in/out (the fjord.)

  • Tom Harper August 8, 2010, 4:43 pm

    I enjoy the somewhat “meaningless” or “too many meanings” phrases. Some include “Það er nú það”, “Gjörðu svo vel”. I don’t now if there is ever a good single translation of either of these phrases that isn’t 100% context dependent.

  • 20 20 foxx episodes December 19, 2010, 9:45 am

    I really like people young and old who actually who blog regularly, it is actually hard to receive that method of understanding any other means. Extraordinary work.

  • Simon devonald November 29, 2011, 8:51 pm

    According to various annals , the great Jon Pall Signarsson used to say an icelandic phrase which goes something like ‘I’m in seventh heaven’, would you know that phrase?


  • Clive Eiles November 19, 2012, 12:15 pm


    A journey in which you do not know exactly where you are going, nor quite how you are to get there.

    Source: Ævar Sigdórsson, who ran/runs a company with this name, and who opened up Hornbjargsviti in Hornstrandir for accomodation.