11 Delightful Icelandic Words and Phrases

Does this look like gluggaveður to you?
Does this look like gluggaveður to you? / ARUIZHU/iStock

Hunting for new ways to express yourself that don't involve emojis? Look no further than these charming words and phrases hailing from the land of fire and ice.

1. Ég kem alveg af fjöllum

This phrase, which translates to “I come completely from the mountains,” throws some shade at mountain dwellers. It means, “I have no idea what you’re talking about/what’s going on.”

2. Ég mun finna þig í fjöru

If you're Icelandic, beware of the beach: This idiom (or threat) translates to “I will find you on a beach” and means, “I will get back at you,” “I’ll get my revenge,” or “Don’t make me hurt you.”

3. Ratiljóst

If you ever need to find your way out of a cave (or just navigate to the kitchen in the middle of the night to snack on some hangikjöt), this word will come in handy—it basically translates to “enough light to navigate.”

4. Gluggaveður

This word gets a lot of traction in Iceland: It means “window-weather.” As in, the kind of weather that’s nice to look at, but not experience.

5. Þeir sletta skyrinu sem eiga það

Þeir sletta skyrinu sem eiga það translates to “they splash the Skyr who own it.” Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt-like dairy product and it’s been used for sustenance (as well as ammunition) for years. This saying is analogous to “people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.” It’s used ironically when referencing people who think they can do anything just because they have money.

6. Það eru margar undur í höfuðkúpu

You might find occasion to say this phrase—which translates to “there are so many wonders in a cow’s head”—anytime something strange or amazing happens. As an added bonus, it's much more elegant-sounding than “Man, the world is nutso.”

7. Að leggja höfuðið í bleyti

Að leggja höfuðið í bleyti translates to “to lay your head in water.” While “on a pillow” might be the more logical place to rest your head, this phrase suggests you put it in water to soak when you need to spend some time working something out or coming up with a new idea. This is kind of like saying, "sleep on it."

8. Rúsínan í pylsuendanum

English speakers might say that a good and surprising thing that happens in addition to something that’s already awesome is a cherry on top of a sundae or the icing on top of the cake. This phrase, which means “the raisin at the end of a sausage” expresses the same thought—it's a nice supplement to an already wonderful treat. Or something.

9. Nú duga engin vettlingatök

When you want something done carefully and properly, this is the phrase—which translates to “no mitten-grabbing/mitten-takes”—to use.

10. Áfram með smjörið

Áfram með smjörið, or “on with the butter,” basically means keep doing what you’re doing, forge ahead, keep on keepin' on, get to work, keep moving.

11. Vaðlaheiðarvegavinnuverkfærageymsluskúraútidyralyklakippuhringur

Yep, this is a word, and it means "key ring of the key chain of the outer door to the storage tool shed of the road workers on the Vaðlaheiði," from which you might be able to glean that it’s largely (OK, pretty much entirely) for show. (Go ahead—try to use it in a sentence.) The Icelandic language has a reputation for lengthy words, and this one is one of the longest of them all. Others include landbúnaðarframleiðsla, hæstaréttarmálaflutningsmaður, fjárfestingarfyrirtæki, and byggingarverkfræðingur.

This piece originally ran in 2015.