Swedish Nouns Can Be Very Long

by Erik Wilhelm Gren

Combined Nouns

In English, we can find some combined nouns such as “firefighter” (i.e. “fire” + “fighter”). However, the most common way of combining nouns in English is by using a space or a hyphens.

For example: strategy game, forest fire, coffee mug, dog-friendly, etc.

The Swedish approach to nouns is, however, a bit different. Swedish grammar thinks more along the lines that a noun should be just that, A noun. Hence, in Swedish, all combined nouns are converted into one single, long noun.


  1. Ett strategispel

    A strategy game

  2. En skogsbrand

    A forest fire

  3. En skogs brand [1]

    A forestfire

  4. Ett parkeringshus

    A parking house

En or Ett?

Even though these long words technically should be studied as their own separate glossaries (because they are), the rule of thumb is that the “last” word decides the noun’s

Let’s look at the above example again:

Ett strategispel

A strategy game

A strategy is, in Swedish, En strategi, whilst a game is ett spel. Since the word spel is at the end, and that spel happens to be a t-ord, the entire noun itself becomes a t-ord.

If we were to change the order of the words…

En spelstrategi

A game strategy

…the noun would change into a n-ord since “strategy” happens to be a n-ord in Swedish.

Is There a Limit?

Theoretically, a Swedish word could be infinitely long. Swedes usually gag about this fact by making extremely long and somewhat nonsensical words.

However, it would be ridiculous to have an infinitely long dictionary, so the SA has decided that the longest word in the official dictionary of the Swedish language (the SAOL/SAOB) is the following noun:


Realization-capital-gains-taxing (A kind of tax evasion/fraud)

This word is not particularly useful nor common, but it is what it is.

Those Weren’t Too Bad

I promised you infinitely long words, and if that’s what you want then that’s what I will provide. Here are some extremely long words I’ve come across when joking with friends:

Joke Examples

  1. Flaggstångsknoppsrengöringsmedel


  2. hyperneuroakustiska diafragmakontravibrationer [2]

    hyper-neuro-acoustic diaphragm-contra-vibrations

  3. Nagellackborttagningsmedelsradioreklam


  4. Undervattensbåtseldsläckningsupphängningskroksfäste



A challenge would be to try and decode all these words. I’ve tried my best to translate them word-by-word into English. Though, they might not be perfect.

If you feel like it, you can analyze these words thoroughly. (However, if learning Swedish is your goal, it might be more effective to just move on to another article… )

But hey! Why would you learn Swedish if you can’t have a bit of fun with it?

  1. The act of writing combined nouns incorrectly in Swedish is called "särskrivning" (lit. separate writing). This is a common error for all Swedish beginners, native or not (Younger self included, of course).

  2. This is a scientific/joke word for "drunk hiccups". The term used in real life is "fyllehicka".

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