Djöfulsins, andskotans, fjandans, skrambans. If you read that out loud, go wash your mouth out with soap! Those are Icelandic swear words, but what exactly does this profanity mean? Read on to find out.
In the year 1000 Iceland became a country of Christian faith by law. Christianity’s takeover of Iceland brought with it many cultural changes, including new curse words. Among them are the ones discussed in this article; djöfulsins, andskotans, fjandans, skrambans. Some of these words existed before Christianity but gained new meaning with the change of religion.
Today, many Icelandic people use foreign curse words when using crude language. Icelanders are known to liberally drop f-bombs in everyday speech. Perhaps this is because those words carry less weight for Icelandic people since they are foreign to us. It certainly isn’t for a lack of our own profanities that we use foreign ones.
There are, of course, many more Icelandic course words apart from the above string of words which all happen to mean the same thing. All four of those words are genitive forms of words used for the devil. Meaning, they describe other words as belonging to the devil or simply put; they mean “the devil’s…”.
A large proportion of Icelandic curse words are devoted to indicating that the devil owns something. Some of these words are minced oaths, which means they are variations of words misspelt to lessen their impact, like ‘heck’ or ‘darn’ in English. This happens a lot with the names of the devil since people believed the devil would come if you called its name, like a dog, or Lord Voldemort.
Djöfulsins is the most literal of these devil’s words. Djöfull quite literally means devil. It is likely derived from the Greek word diabolos, which means the devil or slanderer.
This is maybe the most common of all Icelandic swear words, second perhaps to Helvíti, which means hell. Those two are often paired together: Djöfulsins helvíti. Which obviously translates to “The devil’s hell”. You can often hear Icelandic people mutter this under their breath when they are minorly inconvenienced.
Also a common choice word in the arsenal of Icelandic speakers. In modern-day, andskoti is used in such a way that it’s interchangeable with djöfull. However, andskoti has a different history and existed in Icelandic before Christian influence.
The literal meaning of andskoti is “Someone who shoots at you”. And- meaning opposite or against, -skoti meaning a person who shoots. The opposing shooter has become the devil in the Icelandic language.
The words fjandinn and fjárinn are so closely related they’re basically the same word. They’re both derived from fjá, a word which means “to hate”. So, their literal meaning is “someone who hates you” or “foe”. These words have long been used for the devil, the ultimate foe.
Minced oath version of fjandinn and fjárinn include Árinn and paurinn.
Skrambans is the mildest version of the devil’s words on the list. Skrambi sounds like it could be related to the word skratti, which exists in many of the Nordic languages and can mean “demon”, “ghost” or “warlock”. But skrambi is its own word from Old Norse which means “a thin man or horse”.