This page is about the homophones and other tricky words that make you go ARGH in Danish language. A homophone is a word that has (nearly) the same sound as another word but has different spelling and meaning:
Vejr (weather) Værd (worth) Hver (each) Vær (the imperative of to be)
- Det er dejligt vejr i dag – It’s great weather today
- Hvad tror du, den er værd? – What do you think it’s worth?
- Jeg har en til jer hver – I have one for each of you.
- Bare slap af og vær dig selv – Just relax and be yourself.
Sooo ... could you tell them apart? 😉
Don't let homophones drive you insane
The above homophones can make almost any Danish language learner shudder. But before you convince yourself to give up on this entire language-learning thing, let us try to reassure you:
- All languages have homophones and they promote giggles but are rarely a problem in every-day conversation.
- Most Danes can’t hear the difference either.
- The context will usually let you guess the correct word.
We’ve listed a few true Danish homophones below. Can you tell the difference?
Jul (Christmas) – hjul (wheel)
Verden (the world) – værten (the host)
Bord (table) – bor (live or bit, drill)
Tykke (fat) – tygge (chew)
Lejer (tenant, lodger) – lejr (camp) – leger (play – as in ‘the children play in the garden’)
Danish words that make you go ARGH!
New language learners not only have to worry about the true Danish homophones. They might also struggle with words easily distinguished by native Danish speakers.
The words below are examples of similar words that can be a real challenge for our students: Try if you can identify the very slight nuances:
Fulde (drunk) – fugle (birds)
- Hold op, hvor blev vi fulde i går – We got really drunk last night.
- Jeg fodrer fugle på min altan – I feed birds on my balcony.
Lyder (sounds like) – Luder (whore - prostitute)
- Det lyder rigtig hyggeligt – That sounds really nice/cosy.
- Ordet luder er ikke særlig pænt – The word ’whore’ is not very nice.
Kul (coal) – Kål (cabbage)
- De bruger kul til at opvarme – They use coal for heating.
- Jeg kan ikke lide kål – I don’t like cabbage.
Spille (play a board game or instrument) – Spilde (Spill your cup of coffee)
- Skal vi spille skak? – Do you want to play chess?
- Du må ikke spilde mælken – Don’t spill the milk.
Skylle (rinse) – skylde (owe) - skulle (should)
- Du skal skylle tallerkener af – You must rinse the plates.
- Jeg må skylde dig 1 måneds husleje – I must owe you 1 month rent
- Vi skulle altid hjælpe mor - We always had to help mom.
Danish homophones - back to you ...
Could you tell the difference? And what other words confuse you in Danish? Leave a comment and let us know. Did you know that the little Danish word 'Nå' can be pronounced in up to 10 different ways?