20 Norwegian Sayings That Make No Sense In English

Norwegian brown cheese (dont be born behind it)
Norwegian brown cheese (don't be born behind it) | © Arnstein Bjone / Wiki Commons
Louise Older Steffensen

Sayings and idioms are part of what make languages fun, surprising and unique, and they often say a lot about the culture that they come from. Below are some of the best and strangest Norwegian sayings – sit down comfortably in the middle of the butter eye, bury your battle axes and write one or two of these behind your ear.

Å ha bein i nesa

Translation: To have bones in your nose

Meaning: To be determined and capable.

Jeg har en høne å plukke med deg

Translation: I have a hen to pluck with you

Meaning: To have an issue with someone that you want to discuss with them; to have a bone to pick with someone.

This guy looks like he has a hen to pluck with you

Å være født bak en brunost

Translation: To be born behind a brown cheese

Meaning: To be stupid (brown cheese or “mysost” is a Norwegian national treasure, a type of almost caramel-like goat’s cheese).

Å være midt i smørøyet

Translation: To be in the middle of the butter eye

Meaning: To be in a great place (the smørøye is the lovely buttery hollow left by the melting scoop of butter atop a warm bowl of porridge such as risgrøt).

Risgrøt, hot rice porridge, with a delicious smørøye forming

Å koka bort i kålen

Translation: To boil away/into nothing in the cabbage

Meaning: When an idea or plan comes to nothing through waffling. It is thought to come from meat being reduced to nothing when cooked in cabbage stew for a long time.

Å tråkke i salaten

Translation: To step in the salad

Meaning: To make a faux pas.

Å grave ned stridsøksen

Translation: To bury the battle axe

Meaning: To bury the hatchet. And similarly…

A Viking burying his battle axe

Å røyke fredspipe

Translation: To smoke a peace pipe

Meaning: To make up with someone following a disagreement.

Å være pling i bollen

Translation: To be a ping in the bowl

Meaning: To be empty-headed/stupid (from the “ping”-like noise an empty bowl makes when you tap it).

Å få blod på tannen

Translation: To get blood on your tooth

Meaning: To become inspired/driven to do something.

This man is very inspired indeed

Å stå med skjegget i postkassa

Translation: To stand with your beard in the post box

Meaning: To have ended up in a stupid situation, possibly cheated into it.

Å være helt Nils

Translation: To be completely Nils

Meaning: To be silly/stupid (Nils is a male name. No idea what poor Nils has ever done).

Man skal ikke skue hunden på hårene

Translation: You shouldn’t judge the dog on its hairs

Meaning: You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

This dog has so much hair to judge

Å skrive noe bak øret

Translation: To write something behind the ear

Meaning: To make a mental note of something; to make sure to remember something.

Å snake rett fra leveren

Translation: To speak directly from the liver

Meaning: To speak plainly/truthfully without sugar-coating.

Der er ugler i mosen

Translation: There are owls in the bog

Meaning: There is something secretive/sinister about a situation. Originally “Der er ulver i mosen” (there are wolves in the bog).

There are definitely owls in the bog here

Å sette det lengste beinet foran

Translation: To put the longest leg in front

Meaning: To hurry/run.

Å ta beina på nakken

Translation: To put your legs on your neck

Meaning: To run away from something.

Å ha en finger med i spillet

Translation: To have a finger included in the game

Meaning: To play a part in something (often something sneaky).

Det er helt Texas!

Translation: That’s completely Texas!

Meaning: That’s crazy! (From associations with the Wild West from old Western movies.)

Completely Texas

Many Norwegian sayings are the same or similar to ones in Danish or Swedish. To stay within Norwegian borders and get to know this ski-loving, Viking-like, polar bear-infested nation, take a peek at stereotypes that Norwegians hate.

Featured image by Arnstein Bjone.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article