English has a fair number of words that come to us by way of the Scandinavian languages. Many of these came to us during the periods of colonization of eastern and northern England by various Northern interlopers, primarily between the years of 793 and 954. In all the hullabaloo, and given the lack of written English documents from this time period, it is difficult to tell what language to credit a word to; for example, the word 'skip' has close cognates in Old Norse, Middle Swedish, and even Proto-Germanic. While we certainly have hundreds of Scandinavian words originating from this time period, some of which may originally have been Swedish, it is near impossible to untangle this morass.

Eventually English settled down (about the same time as England grew out of the bad habit of being invaded by its neighbors), and we started to borrow words from Sweden in a more calm and controlled manner. Most of these were scientific terms in the areas of physics, chemistry, and biology. Most of these terms do use Greek or Latin roots, but were constructed and released into the wild by Swedish scientists. This is, of course, only a partial list.


Alcoholism, originally a medical term for alcohol poisoning. It was originally formulated in Modern Latin as alcoholismus by Swedish professor of medicine Magnus Huss, in 1852.

Ammonia, a term constructed in Modern Latin in 1782 by Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman; named for the sal ammoniac he obtained it from, salt from the area of the temple of Jupiter Ammon (AKA Amun) in Libya.

Angstrom, named for Swedish physicist Anders Ångström, coined in 1892.

Catalysis, in the specific sense of an agent that causes a chemical reaction but itself remains unchanged, coined in 1836 by Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius.

Celsius, from the name of Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius who developed of the centigrade scale in 1742.

Dynamite, from Swedish dynamit, coined in 1867 by Swedish chemist and inventor of dynamit, Alfred Nobel.

Gauntlet, specifically when referring to a hazing or punishment ritual in which a person runs between two rows of assailants, from the Swedish gatlopp, meaning 'street-run'.

Geopolitical, 1902, a translation of Swedish geopolitisk, used by Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kjellén.

Halogen, coined by Swedish chemist Baron Jöns Jakob Berzelius in 1842.

Lapland, from the Swedish word for the people of this region, Lapp. (The Lapps called themselves Sabme).

Lanthanum, coined in Modern Latin by Swedish chemist Carl Gustav Mosander, who discovered it in 1839. Named from the Greek lanthanein, meaning 'to lie hidden'.

Lithium, Coined in Modern Latin by Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius in 1818.

Moped, a complicated abbreviation of (trampcykel med) mo(tor och) ped(aler), Swedish for '(pedal cycle with) mo(tor and) ped(als)', coined in 1956.

Nickel, coined in 1754 by Swedish mineralogist Axel von Cronstedt, a shortening of Swedish kopparnickel, meaning 'copper-colored ore'.

Nobel prize, named after Alfred Nobel, Swedish chemist and engineer who set up the prize as part of his will.

Ombudsman, from the Swedish justitieombudsmannen, a person responsible for investigating complaints against the state; literally something like 'justice commission man'. First appears in English in 1959.

Rambo, originally a Swedish family name, perhaps indicating that a family comes from the area of Ramberget ('Raven Hill' in English).

Rutabaga, entered English in 1799, from the Swedish rotabagge, from rot meaning 'root' and bagge meaning 'bag'.

Smorgasbord, from Swedish smörgåsbord, literally 'butter-goose table'; smörgås comes from the roots smör meaning 'butter' and gås meaning 'goose', but is an idiom meaning 'a slice of bread and butter'. Bord means 'table'. The word was first abducted into English in 1893.

Tantalum, coined in 1802 by Swedish chemist Anders Ekberg, for the myth of Tantalus.

Thorium, coined in 1832 by its discoverer, Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius. Named after the Scandinavian god Thor plus a Modern Latin suffix.

Thulium, coined in 1879 by Swedish geologist Per Tedor Cleve.

Traps, to refer to an expanse of dark igneous rock, from the Swedish trapp.

Tungsten, coined in 1780 by its discoverer, Swedish chemist Karl Wilhelm Scheele; this is from Swedish roots tung meaning 'heavy' and sten meaning 'stone'.

Underclass, introduced into English in 1894 as an Anglicization of Swedish underklass.

Vanadium, named by Swedish chemist Nils Gabriel Sefström in 1830 after the Old Norse goddess Vanadis (AKA Freyja).

Varve, entering English in 1912 from Swedish varv, meaning 'layer'.

Ytterbium, coined by Swedish chemist Carl Gustaf Mosander in 1879, from Ytterby, the name of a town in Sweden where mineral containing the element was found.

AND Yttrium, coined by Swedish chemist Carl Gustaf Mosander in 1866, from Ytterby, the name of a town in Sweden where mineral containing the element was found.

AND Terbium, coined by Swedish chemist Carl Gustaf Mosander in 1843, from Latinized form of Ytterby, Swedish town near the place where mineral containing the element was found.

AND Erbium, coined by Swedish chemist Carl Gustaf Mosander in 1843, from the second part of the name of Ytterby, the name of a town in Sweden where mineral containing the element was found.

Oh, and Also: Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus coined the modern meanings of a few words, including, but not limited to, aphid, azalea, cactus, cotyledon, fauna, larva, lemur, Lepidoptera, Mammalia, Mollusca, and petiole.

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