Being dugleg/duglegur is considered a prized characteristic in Iceland, despite the word itself proving difficult to translate concisely into English. So what exactly does this strange Icelandic word mean?

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From our previous lessons studying the complex and poetic Icelandic language, one thing has become glaringly clear; some words are harder to translate than others. Duglegur is one such word, with no direct translation in English. Due to Icelandic grammar rules, Dugleg is used when referring to females, and duglegur when referring to males.

If one is duglegur, they are considered to be hardworking, capable and resilient, committed to the task and willing to see it til fruition. In this vein, it is not uncommon to describe employees of a company as duglegur, be it individual praise or collective.

For instance, remember back to last year when the Icelandic football team made it, for the first time, to the World Cup? Describing the team as duglegur is more than satisfactory.

The Icelandic football team about to face Croatia.

Iceland earning a place, for the first time, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup was ‘duglegur’ on part of the team. Credit: Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Светлана Бекетова

The word can also be directed to children as praise. For example, potty training or teaching a child to walk will often end with an exclamation of duglegur! upon them completing the task at hand.

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Alternatively, one could describe animals as duglegur… if indeed they’ve earned such affirmation. For instance, if your dog fetches a stick you’ve just thrown, it’s duglegur. If your Icelandic horse has journeyed for hours across the tundra to successfully deliver you to your destination, it’s duglegur. Its a verbal reward, a means of saying “well done, buddy! Good job!”.

Diligent doesn’t quite cover it—though it is undoubtedly an aspect of being duglegur. Other interpretations might be that duglegur means durable, robust or accomplished.

Now that I’ve finished this article up, I’m waiting on the editor to describe me as duglegur, though it might be a long time coming. Regardless, this is one Icelandic word that, if directed towards you, should bring forth a feeling of well-deserved pride.

Which are your favourite words from the Icelandic language? Which words or phrases would you like us to explore next? Make sure to leave your thoughts and contributions in the facebook comments box below.