Icelandic is a tremendously beautiful and resilient language. It gives its users plenty of opportunities to be creative by making up new words based in older ones and in fact, we have a committee dedicated to this very cause.
To be fair the Icelandic Language Council does a lot more than just make up new words but when new, foreign technology gets an Icelandic name, they are often the ones who decide on the appropriate one. Take for example the word “television”. Now, they could have just as well thrown an Icelandic accent on that and called it a day but instead, they came up with the gorgeous word “sjónvarp”.
To learn what that means, learn some helpful Icelandic phrases right here.
It’s made up of two words: “sjón” meaning “vision” and “varp” meaning “throw”. So in Icelandic, television is something that throws visions at its users. The committee had less success with words such as “automobile” and “app”. They tried “sjálfrennireið” – meaning “self-sliding-ride” – for the first one but it proved too long, the public would rather just say “automobile” and slowly the word got shortened and adapted to “bíll”. Meanwhile, “app” can’t get much shorter and since the public found a way to conjugate it (app-app-appi-apps) it’s managed to infiltrate the language. Certain English curse words have also made their way into the Icelandic dictionary, with the adapted spelling of course (think: “sjitt”).
Icelandic is spoken by less than 350.000 people. It has changed remarkably little since the first settlers arrived in the ninth century so modern-day Icelanders can still read the old sagas with relative ease. Iceland wasn’t exactly a prime vacation spot in the olden days you see. We didn’t have much outside influence until the 20th century but in the past decades' internationalization has exposed us to more and more slang. Many have become concerned about the state of the Icelandic language and while this concern is perfectly valid, most hold on to one quintessential Icelandic phrase: