Last week we published a post entitled “Elgnytt (Moose News): The White Moose of Sweden.” Readers might be forgiven for thinking that “elgnytt” was a word we had to look up in a dictionary, but the truth is we just made it up: elg (moose) + nytt (news) = elgnytt (moosenews). You get to do that a lot in Norwegian.
As a general rule, in Norwegian, if you have a word that’s made up of two or more parts that can stand alone as independent words, you have to write them as one single, unbroken word. Sometimes we do this in English and sometimes we don’t. As far as we know, there isn’t really a reason why we write “baseball” or “basketball” as one word and “bocce ball” as two. In this respect Norwegian is much simpler – you’ll pretty much always write one word if you can, with maybe an extra “s” or “e” in there as a kind of linguistic adhesive when necessary. For example:
- hus (house) + arbeid (work) = husarbeid (housework)
- konge (king) + familie (family) = kongefamilie (royal family)
- forretning (business) + s + mann (man) = forretningsmann (businessman)
- folk (people) + e + tallet (the number) = folketallet (the population number)
miljø (environment) + over (over) + våking (monitoring) + s + systemer (systems) = miljøovervåkingssystemer (systems for monitoring the environment.
You can learn more about this in Sons of Norway’s online language program Norwegian for Reading Comprehension.
To non-native speakers like us, these one-word compounds somehow sound like more than the sum of their parts. For example, here are our two favorite Norwegian compounds:
kjærlighetssorg – (SHAR-lee-het – sorg): the feeling of heartbreak resulting from disappointment in romantic love
støvsuger (STUV-soo-gerr): vacuum cleaner, literally “dust-sucker”