When Swedes have diarrhoea

We’ve all been there. Those embarrassing moments when the belly rumbles and we have to race to the toilet to evacuate as quickly as possible. An all round unpleasant, and undignified, experience.

Well, February in Sweden is synonymous with sickness and right now there’s a stomach flu flying around the country. So last night at dinner, conversation moved onto sickness and landed on a colloquial Swedish word for diarrhoea.

The discussion was about where this word comes from. So, true to form, I researched it.

And I have the answer.

The word in question is the Swedish word ‘rännskita‘. One theory was that it originated from the word ‘takränna’ which is a gutter, and would reflect the speed at which the water runs down the drainpipe. But actually that’s not it.

The word is a combination of the old Swedish word ‘ränna’ which means ‘to run’ (often quickly) and the word ‘skita’ which means to shit. It’s directly translatable to the English ‘ to have the runs’.

Although it sounds like a new word, it actually entered the Swedish language in 1587! I guess it was a problem back then.

So there you go. Another fascinating foray into the Swedish language with ‘Watching the Swedes’.

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Top ten English words originally from Swedish


As we all know, language is organic and we constantly borrow and interchange words between languages. The word kiosk is for example originally Turkish, restaurant is French, gnu is African Knoisan and alcohol is Arabic.

But what words has Sweden contributed with that have been adpoted into English, and even into other languages?

Well, there are a few…

  1. Moped – comes from ‘trampcykel med motor och pedaler’
  2. Smorgasbord – from the Swedish ‘smörgåsbord’ meaning buffet
  3. Gravlax – from the Swedish ‘gravad lax’ meaning cured salmon
  4. Ombudsman – a Swedish word meaning representative
  5. Orienteering – from Sweden’s ‘orientering’
  6. Tungsten – Heavy stone in Swedish
  7. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday – ok, technically Norse but partially Sweden!
  8. To glean – from the Swedish dialectal verb ‘att glena’
  9. Gauntlet – from Sweden’s ‘gatlopp’
  10. Canoodle – debated, but likely to be from Sweden’s word for fornicate – ‘knulla’

This list is probably incomplete. Any other words you would like to add?