Find Us

The official Swedish dictionary has been completed after 140 years

Official Swedish dictionary completed after 140 years
Official Swedish dictionary completed after 140 years Copyright Richard Drew/AP
Copyright Richard Drew/AP
By David MouriquandAFP
Published on
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

The 39 volumes of the Swedish Academy Dictionary stands as Sweden's answer to the Oxford English Dictionary. And it's just been sent to the printers...


The final volume of a definitive Swedish language dictionary was sent to the printers last week. This marks the end of a 140-year journey of linguistic dedication, according to its editor.

The Swedish Academy, the prestigious body that awards the Nobel Prize in literature, has (finally) produced the Swedish Academy Dictionary, which contains 33,111 pages across 39 volumes. It stands as Sweden's answer to the Oxford English Dictionary.

With only 200 printed versions issued, the text will primarily be utilized by researchers and linguists, though it is also accessible online.

"It was started in 1883 and now we're done," said editor Christian Mattsson. "Over the years, 137 full-time employees have worked on it."

However, more work lies ahead, as the older volumes, A to R, will need updating to incorporate new, modern words. Mattsson explained that the word "allergy", which was introduced to the Swedish language in the 1920s, does not feature in the A volume, as it was published in 1893.

Words such as "Barbie doll", "app" and "computer" are among a list of 10,000 words that will be added to the dictionary over the next seven years.

Asked on Radio Sweden why the dictionary took so long to complete, Mattsson said: "It's a very complicated work, because this is a very detailed analysis and description of the Swedish language starting from the 16th century up to today's date.”

"That means that we have to cover all Swedish words that have been used under a period of 500 years,” he added. “So that explains why it has taken nearly 150 years to complete this huge dictionary."

While the Swedish dictionary has just been completed, producers of the Oxford English Dictionary are already halfway through completing a third edition, according to Radio Sweden.

"We have only about 15 staff, while English is such a big language, and they have more resources and money, and can employ more people," Mattsson said.

Established in 1786 by King Gustav III, the Swedish Academy was created with the purpose of nurturing Sweden's language and literature, striving for the "purity, vigor and majesty" of the Swedish language.

Share this articleComments

You might also like