Earlier this year, the World Happiness Report named Finns the happiest people in the world for the third year running—and to celebrate the launch of their new Finnish course, Duolingo partnered with the website Very Finnish Problems to find out which words make the people of Finland happiest.
A thousand Finns submitted words. Those submissions were shortened to a list of the 20 most-mentioned words, and after that, more than 69,000 Finns voted to choose the top 10. Here’s what they decided.
The winning word means “cute,” and you’d use it to describe something incredibly adorable—think a baby or a tiny kitten. "I think the reason it won is because it sounds very soft and very typically Finnish with a double-ö," Joel Willans, founder of Very Finnish Problems, said. To pronounce it, purse your lips as if you’re saying “oooooh.”
This word, which means “bunny,” can also be used as a word for a loved one. "It has lovely connotations in addition to sounding cute," Willans said. To say it, pucker up your lips into kissing position; it’s pronounced sort of like “boo boo” or “poo poo,” sans the long vowels. You can hear Willans pronounce it here.
Lumi means snow. According to Willans, "It is quintessential to the whole Finnish life experience; it's pure and pristine, and brings light to the dark days of winter. Lumi means you can do so much: you can play with it, ski in it, sledge in it. Also, it probably has happy childhood connotations to the vast majority of Finns." It’s pronounced “loomee,” without the long vowels.
The Finnish word for “cottage,” usually one found in the woods or by a lake. It sounds just like the kind of place where you could be happy, and make happy memories.
This Finnish word, meaning “warmer,” is one of Willans’s personal happy words. “Not only is it beautiful how it rhymes, it’s very satisfying to say,” he said in the video announcing the Duolingo contest. And in a place where the temperature once reached a teeth-chattering -60.7°F, “When anything is warmer in Finland, this is a reason to be happy and celebrate.”
Finnish for “cotton wool”—another word that makes sense, given Finland’s cold climate.
The Finnish word for “mother”; you can hear how it’s pronounced here.
This word, meaning “one or the other,” is another that’s simply delightful to say: It’s pronounced a bit like “yompi-koompi.”
We’re not even going to try to tell you how to pronounce this one, which combines the words for ice cream (jäätelö) and cone (tötterö) to make, you guessed it, “ice cream cone.” You can hear how it’s pronounced here, or you can listen to players on the Chicago Bulls try to pronounce it in the video above while their Finnish teammate Lauri Markkanen cracks up.
Finland is known as “The Land of a Thousand Lakes,” so it makes sense that this word, meaning “lake,” would make the list. As Visit Finland explains, “Finns feel certain closeness to the element of water, and it is a source of livelihood for many.” Fun fact: There are way more than 1000 lakes in Finland—the actual total is 188,000!