Norwegian to English | the best dictionary of them all? | Norway

Are you looking for a Norwegian-to-English dictionary that includes old-fashioned words and dialect words? Then Einar Haugen’s book is your best pick.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
Dear family ... | Photo: Solveig Lund - Norsk Folkemuseum DeOldify cc pdm.
Dear family ... | Photo: Solveig Lund - Norsk Folkemuseum DeOldify cc pdm.

Are you longing to translate cards and letters written by your Norwegian ancestors?

Worldwide, there are descendants of Norwegian emigrants in the millions. They are daughters and sons of the near one million people who emigrated to North America in the 1800s and early 1900s. Or maybe the offspring of Norwegian sailors who settled in countries as far away as New Zealand and Australia.

In the homes of many such descendant-families, there are diaries, letters, and postcards stashed away in old chests in the attic – historical documents that can no longer be read or understood by the new generations. The knowledge of the old mother tongue is long since gone.

The ability to read old letters gives the reader an insight into an ancestor’s life and personality. It is a link through time, which no old photo or handed down oral story can ever fully cover. An old letter is like a time capsule, bringing a long gone world to life once again.

A person interested in genealogy may often stumble across words in old records that require translation.

Did you see this one?
Wooden buildings one thousand years old | Norway

If you harbour a desire to translate an old Norwegian text into English, then Einar Haugen’s Norwegian-English dictionary may be just what you are looking for. The dictionary was first published in 1965 by the Norwegian publishing house Universitetsforlaget – and has been reprinted many times since.

The book is invaluable, as it also covers older style Norwegian words and words in dialect. Laup, tjuagutt, budrått and eldhus are examples that you would never find in the more traditional dictionary.

A few tips when reading older Norwegian text, which was closer to today’s written Danish

  • «aa» in old text becomes «å» in modern-day spelling | “skaale” → “skåle”
  • “d” sometimes becomes “t” | “maade” → “måte”
  • “b” sometimes becomes “p” | “læbe” → “leppe”
  • «æ» sometimes becomes «e» | “læge” → “lege”
  • «g» sometimes becomes «k» etc. | “klog” → “klok”

The edition that we use here at talkNORWAY.no is published by The University of Wisconsin Press and is available from several online bookstores (ISBN-10: 0299038742 | ISBN-13: 978-0299038748).

This is what the publishers say about the author and his book

Einar Haugen (1906 – 1994) was the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Scandinavian and Linguistics at Harvard University – and professor of Scandinavian studies and linguistics at the University of Wisconsin.

For more than forty years, the Haugen «Norwegian-English Dictionary» has been regarded as the foremost resource for both learners and professionals using English and Norwegian. With more than 60,000 entries, it is esteemed for its breadth, its copious grammatical detail, and its rich idiomatic examples. In his introduction, Einar Haugen, a revered scholar and teacher of Norwegian to English speakers, provides a concise overview of the history of the language, presents the pronunciation of contemporary Norwegian, and introduces basic grammatical structures, including the inflection of nouns and adjectives and the declension of verbs.

This title features more than 60,000 Norwegian words and their English equivalents. It includes more grammatical information than any other Norwegian – English dictionary. Both Bokmal and Nynorsk are included. It covers phonemic transcriptions. It provides extensive coverage and explanation of Norwegian idioms and word usage, including examples from standard and archaic speech, dialects, proverbs, literature, and professional texts. It contains common abbreviations, place names, proper names, and cultural references. It presents extensive coverage of verb phrases.

External link: Wikipedia says this about Einar Haugen

Did you see this one?
Bergen | historical city once plundered by pirates | Norway

Norwegian-English Dictionary by Einar Haugen.
Norwegian-English Dictionary by Einar Haugen.

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

The traditional Norwegians are drawn to their cabins, whether it be in the mountains, in the forest, or by the sea. Some would say that they are a people obsessed.
Do you know the name of Norway’s capital city? Test yourself, friends, and family in this 10 multiple-choice questions quiz vol. 1. See the correct answer below each photo.
The Black Death – mother of all plagues - ravaged humankind in the mid-1300s. A Norwegian scholar takes us through the lead up to the disaster.
In the coastal districts of the old Norway, a strandsitter was a beach dweller - who rented a small piece of land - but owned the house he built on it. His livelihood was usually connected to the sea.
It was midsummer 1895. An older man was found drifting in the fjord just outside Moss, Norway - shot in the temple with a revolver. Who was he?
As a first such an event in modern times: the Norwegian counties Sør-Trøndelag and Nord-Trøndelag have now merged.
The rose painted chests of Norway - a treasure that will live for centuries to come.
With this old photograph in my hand I have set myself a task: how much information can I find in Norwegian online archives based on what the photo tells me?
The wild ocean world of Værøy in Lofoten, Norway, was the birthplace of Mimmi Benjaminsen – born in 1894. Here are some of her childhood memories.
Lystring is a Norwegian verb that means catching fish or other water creatures in the dark, using a fire torch to attract the fish and a multi-pronged spear.
The word ski comes from the Old Norse language, with the meaning cleft wood. The old Norwegians were master hunters, and have been skiing for over 5000 years.
Some claim that porridge is the oldest hot dish in the Norwegian diet. Was it to our ancestors what bread is to the modern family of today?
Uff da! is a Norwegian interjection, often used to express sympathy. For example when a child falls over: Uff da! Slo du deg? - meaning Poor you! Did you hurt yourself?
In this period, Norway was still primarily a nation of farmers, fishermen and hunters. In AD 1801, 90% of the population lived in rural areas.
Kløvhest is a Norwegian noun that means packhorse. Well into our own time, the Norwegians used horses to help transport goods through a challenging landscape.
It is said that all people are equal in Heaven. But the historical churchyard shows us that no such equality applied here on Earth.
In Norway, the first traces of iron date back to 400-300 BC. The country has significant iron resources, and making tools and weapons from this new metal was a significant step forward.
The most significant sections of Norwegian productive soil can be found in the counties of Trøndelag, Hedmark, Oppland and Rogaland.
Budrått is a Norwegian noun that means the output of milk products on a farm - such as cheese and butter. The word is often associated with what was produced during the summer on the seasonal mountain or forest pasture farm - the seter.
The Fjord horse is one of today’s oldest and purest horse breeds. Its historical habitat is Norway's western coast, with its deep fjords and steep mountainsides.
When I was a boy, it was the workhorse that pulled the heaviest weight in agricultural life. And this had been the reality for as long as anyone could remember.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history