Learn Norwegian idioms – Part 1

En man svelger en kamel.

When you are learning a new language, the fun part starts when you go beyond the basics and start learning weird and funny idioms and sayings. In our mother languages, we don’t even notice when we are using idioms and figures of speeches, but in another language, these things can be quite funny if we use them wrong.

Like any other language, Norwegian has its share of strange, mystic idioms and phrases.  Some of these have their equivalents in other languages while others are Norwegian specialties.

In this post, we are explaining some of the phrases with their literal translation and real meanings. Learn these Norwegian idioms and sayings and use them in your Norwegian text or conversations to sound much more natural and fluent.   

1. Det er ugler i mosen.

Translation: There are owls in the moss.

Meaning: There is something suspicious going on.

You use this expression when there is something not quite right or when someone has a hidden agenda and is trying some secretive plan. It describes hidden danger.

2. Å få blod på tann.

Norwegian idioms: Å få blod på tann

Translation:  To get blood on one’s tooth

Meaning: To become more engaged in something, usually because of a pleasant experience.

Da jeg vant første runde i poker, fikk jeg blod på tann.

3. Å være pling i bollen.

Translation:  To be a ding in the bowl

Meaning: To be empty-headed/absent minded.

Er du helt pling i bollen? 

4. Å stå/sitte med skjegget i postkassa.

Translation: To stand/sit with the beard in the mailbox.

Meaning: To get yourself into a challenging situation that you could have avoided. To get stuck in a dilemma.

5. Å skrive seg noe bak øret.

Translation: To write something behind the ear.

Meaning:  To make sure to remember something.

Jeg må ha boka i morgen. Skriv deg det bak øret.

6. Man skal ikke skue hunden på hårene.

Translation: You shouldn’t judge the dog by its hair.

Meaning: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

7. Å ha is i magen

Translation: To have ice in the stomach.

Meaning: To keep calm. To have patience.

8. Å gjøre kål på noe.

Translation: To make cabbage of something.

Meaning: To fulfill something / To finish something completely.

9. Å være på bærtur.

Translation: To be on the berry-picking.

Meaning: To have no idea about something / To be lost.

Læreren min hadde ikke peiling på dette. Han var helt på bærtur.

10. Å være ute og sykle.

Translation: To be outside and bike.

Meaning: To be out of one’s capabilities. To have done something totally wrong.

11. Å være på pletten

Translation: To be on the spot.

Meaning: To be where one is needed.

Martin er alltid på pletten.

Drosjen var på pletten da vi trengte den.

12. Å snakke rett fra leveren.

Translation:  To speak directly from the liver.

Meaning: To speak with courage, to speak without sugarcoating.

13. Å ta beina på nakken.

Translation: To put the legs on the neck.

Meaning: To run fast.

When someone runs away or runs fast towards something, that person “tar beina på nakken”.  In English, you would say, “take to one’s heel”.

14. Å ha en finger med i spillet.

Translation: To have a finger in the game.

Meaning: To play a role in the execution of something.

Martin har skrevet en bok men jeg tror Lisa har også en finger med i spillet.

15. Det er helt Texas.

Translation: That is totally Texas.

Meaning: That’s crazy.

16. Hva er i veien?

Translation: What is in the way?

Meaning: What is wrong? What is hindering it?

17. Å svelge noen kameler.

Translation: To swallow some camels.

Meaning: To compromise. To unwillingly accept something to achieve something else.

18. Det er helt på trynet.

Translation: That is totally on the face.

Meaning: That’s is totally ridiculous.

19. Å snakke i munnen på hverandre.

Translation:  To talk in the mouth of each other.

Meaning: Talking over each other. When several people are talking at the same time, they “snakker i munnen på hverandre”.

20. Å holde tunga rett i munnen.

Translation: To keep the tongue right in the mouth.

Meaning: To concentrate hard on not making mistakes.

Which idiom do you find the most amusing? You might also like our article about how to swear in Norwegian.

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