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Icelandic words with no English translation

By Tarli Cameron | August 20, 2021 | Word Geek

Icelandic words with no English translation

Word Geek has taken the summer off to explore some ‘green list’ countries and find foreign words that have no direct translation in English. Earlier this week, she headed to one of the youngest landmasses on the planet and home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe, Iceland.

Consistently referred to as an insular language, Icelandic has been developed in geographical isolation from other languages. This has meant that Icelandic has not been influenced by other languages and still maintains its complex grammar structure. Word Geek was interested to learn there are only 340,000 native Icelandic speakers, making it one of the smallest “nation-state” languages in the world.

After marveling at the wonder of the untouched language, Word Geek picked four of her favourite Icelandic words that have no English equivalent.


When you’re cosy at home with the central heating on, it can be pleasurable to watch and listen to the not-so-good weather (such as biblical proportions of rain) through the comfort of a window. It is reassuring to know that you are protected from getting soaked through or blown sideways! Well, gluggavedur literally means “window weather” and describes weather that is better viewed than experienced first-hand.

Petta reddast

Stuck in traffic on the way to work? Petta reddast. Been made redundant? Petta reddast.

The Icelandic colloquialism petta reddast can be translated to ‘things will all work out alright’ and has long been described as Iceland’s motto in life. It’s a popular, quintessential phrase in Iceland that is there to comfort those facing problems, no matter how big or small they may be. Word Geek is a big advocate of this optimistic phrase.


Don’t you hate it when something that should be simple is made overly complicated? You’re trying to park and, before you can do so, you have to spend 10 minutes downloading an app and entering your life story – it’s so long-winded when it doesn’t have to be!

In Iceland, the word for describing overly complicated situations is vesen (pronounced veh-sen). Word Geek feels vesen should be adopted in all languages, especially when dealing with the tax office!


Sometimes we all have days when we need to carry out an errand or escape the woes that life can throw our way. Skreppa is a term that roughly means ‘run off for a little while’ and can be used in many different scenarios such as telling your boss you need to skreppa to visit the dentist or take care of personal business.

If you use the term too often, however, you could find yourself with a less than favourable reputation!