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12 Weird Icelandic Phrases and Sayings

Learn the lingo of Iceland with these hilarious phrases

|October 19, 2020
Sofie is a nomadic journalist who loves to write about people, places, and food. In her free time, she can be found twirling around in her dancing shoes.

Icelandic is famous for its lengthy tongue-twisting words so it makes sense the language would also produce some pretty crazy expressions. As one of the oldest languages in the world still used, Icelanders still like to throw in some old-fashioned phrases that don't make much sense today. So to help you out we've compiled a list of the weirdest sayings both old and new that will have you speaking like a local in no time.

As an isolated island, Icelandic has remained an almost pure language, not changing much since its creation in the 9th century. Icelanders are extremely proud of their language and the country boasts a 100% literacy rate. Still, even with its strong linguistic roots, new words are invented all the time. In fact, there is a special word committee in charge of inventing new words for new inventions and modern slang.

Because most words and phrases are pretty similar to old Norse, they can sound pretty funny to the ear. Still, just like new words, Icelanders have created some pretty bizarre new sayings that you'll want to add to your travel dictionary. Scroll down to brush up on your language skills!

Icelandic Horse Showing Tongue Iceland

1. The raisin at the end of the hot dog (Rúsínan í Pylsuendanum)

A phrase used to describe a pleasant surprise or the highlight of a day or experience.

Example: “Glacier hiking to the ice caves was the raisin at the end of the hot dog.”

Happy Hiker Enjoying Nature Ocean Cliffs in Iceland

2. On with the butter (Áfram með Smjörið)

This phrase is used when you want to tell people they need to get back to work or really need something to get done quickly.

Example: “Hey everyone this project is due today so get on with the butter!”

Deadline Working Office Iceland

3. I come completely from the mountains (Ég kem alveg af fjöllum)

A phrase that may come in handy during your trip, this saying means you have no idea what people are talking about. It can also be used when you feel out of the loop and don’t know what is going on. 

Example: “Where did the rest of our tour group go? I come completely from the mountains!”

Confused Man Looking At A Map in Iceland

4. Blind is a bookless man (Blindur er Bóklaus Maður)

Reading is a huge part of Icelandic culture. Icelanders read the most books in the world per capita so it makes sense they would have some literary expressions. ‘Blind is a bookless man,’ suggests that those who don’t read are ignorant to the world around them.

Example: “He can be so ignorant sometimes. But we all know blind is a bookless man”

Reading A Book Autumn Nature Sunset Sunrise in Iceland

5. Totally out driving (Alveg Út Að Aka)

Icelanders use this phrase when someone is acting crazy or completely wrong about something.

Example: “Did I make the right decision or am I totally out driving?”

Crazy Brainstorming Office Working Hard in Iceland

6. Nobody becomes an unbeaten bishop (Enginn Verður Óbarinn Biskup)

To understand this phrase you have to be familiar with Icelandic religious history. The expression essentially means that it takes a lot of work to reach your goals, (or in English “no pain no gain,”) Bishop Guðmundur Arason. The 12th century bishop was said to have faced extraordinary hardship to reach his position.

Example: “I have been staying up late all week studying for finals but nobody becomes an unbeaten bishop.”

Bishop Playing Chess Board Game in Iceland

7. It all comes with the cold water (Kemur Allt Með Kalda Vatninu)

The next time your friend complains about waiting on you tell them that it all comes with the cold water. This fun expression means that if you are patient everything will fall into place or that good things come to those who wait.

Example: “Just be patient, it all comes with the cold water.”

Zen Peaceful Woman Meditating in Iceland

8. Thank you for last time (Takk Fyrir Síðast)

Talk about taking politeness to the next level. When Icelanders had fun the last time they hung out, the next time they see each other they will say, “thank you for last time.” So the next time you leave a friend’s party don’t forget to thank them that night and the next morning.

Example: “Thank you for last time, it was a wonderful night.”

Happy Friends Meeting Talking City in Iceland

9. Lay your head in water (Leggja Höfuðið í Bleyti)

Can’t make up your mind? Just lay your head in water. This phrase is also used when you have to think long and hard about something.

Example: “I haven’t decided where I want to go to school next year. I need to lay my head in water before I choose.”

Confused Two Ways Choosing Between Options in Iceland

10. Give under the foot (Gefa Undir Fótinn)

If you see someone cute at a bar in Reykjavik, make sure you tell your friends you’re going to go and give under the foot. This funny phrase means you’re going to go flirt with somebody.

Example: “He was definitely giving you under the foot last night.”

Flirting At A Bar Man Woman in Iceland

11. Bite the molar (Bíta á jaxlinn)

When life gets tough, Icelanders just bite the molar and move forward. This phrase is used when you are facing something difficult but you are going to push ahead anyway.

Example: “I’ve already worked out for an hour, but I’m going to bite the molar workout for 30 more minutes.”

Working Hard Multitasking Office Computers Deadline in Iceland

12. Window weather (Gluggaveður)

Iceland is the land of unpredictable and extreme weather so it’s only natural there is a phrase about it. Window weather is when from inside the weather outside looks perfect but when you leave it's actually very cold. So don’t get fooled by window weather and always remember your layers!

Example: “It looked like today was the perfect for an outdoor picnic, but when we left the house realized it was just window weather.”

Rainy Day Sad Man Walking In A City in Iceland

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