• Rebekah

How Norwegians Talk about Love

Updated: Feb 20

For Valentine's month this year, we're looking at how speakers of three different languages talk about love and first up is Norwegian!


Just like most languages, Norwegian has lots of ways of expressing love for people, places, and things. There are some important differences in when these words are used though - so read on to know just how best to express yourself ;)


Oslo, Norway

Key Words & Phrases


Liker, as in jeg liker deg.


Glad i, as in jeg er glad i deg.


Elsker, as in jeg elsker deg.


Kjære-, as in du er min kjæreste.





Liker


Liker is an easy one for English-speakers to remember as it's used similarly to like. For not super strong feelings for people or things, you can use liker, as in jeg liker deg (l like you).


It would be completely normal to say this to a friend or new love interest, which is where liker differs from like. In English, it might be weird to tell a friend or new boyfriend, I like you - doing so might even seem like intentionally avoiding saying I love you. In this case, jeg liker deg is more closely related to, I care about you or you mean a lot to me.



Glad i


Both glad i and the next word, elsker, translate into English as love, but they're used very differently and you definitely don't want to mix them up.


Jeg er glad i deg (I love you, lit. I am happy with you) is the kind of love you have for a family member, dear friend, or romantic partner to whom you're not quite ready to say elsker.


To add a bit of trickiness, you cannot use glad i with things- for that you'll have to use liker or elsker.



Elsker


This is the big one, the one Norwegians wait for, the whole kit and caboodle.


Though jeg elsker deg gets translated into English as l love you, for many Norwegians, elsker is reserved for a one-time event. Partners can be together for years before saying elsker and many can report having only ever used this word for one person in their whole life. It makes sense that this word shares a root with the verb for falling in love, å være forelska. Note, you cannot "fall in" liker or glad, only elska.


It might seem counterintuitive, but Norwegians are far less reluctant to use elsker for things. You can use jeg elsker for your favorite song, book, place to visit, or even food!



Kjære-

Kjære- is the root for many love-based words in Norwegian. In Bokmål, Kjærlighet is the noun form of love and it's kjærleik in Nynorsk. A kjæreste is a significant other. Å være kjæreste is to be someone's significant other. Kjærlighet ved første blikk is love at first sight. Kærlighetsspråk is love language.


And kjære is dear, the use of which is similar to English (maybe more so British English), in that you can use it to address letters and refer to someone who's very special to you.



Pet Names


Pups and kosepus (kitten), nuss (little kiss), elskling (loved one), hjertet mitt (my heart), and my personal favoite, lille venn (little friend), which is what my Norwegian boyfriend always called me when we were two 17-year-olds in love.



Don't miss Part II on how Russians talk about love here and Part III on Germans talk about love here!

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Hi, I'm

Rebekah

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I'm a linguistically-inclined writer, translator, and avid adventurer.

 

In Linguistics is all about

the paths we take to adventure

and the languages and cultures

we discover along the way.